Transportation ministry scrambles to address DriveTest backlog

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An Ontario transportation ministry official on Tuesday said efforts are being made to address the massive backlog of more than 420,000 DriveTest in-vehicle passenger road tests across the province that were cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


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But local MPP Lisa Gretzky (NDP — Windsor-West) believes not nearly enough is being done to alleviate the problem — especially in the Windsor area.

Locally, that backlog includes 8,916 road tests in the Windsor-Essex region – 8,772 at the Windsor DriveTest centre and 144 at the Leamington Travel Point location, according to the transportation ministry.

Gretzky on Tuesday said her office has heard from hundreds of frustrated area residents who in most cases are only able to book tests well into 2022 and in some cases “as far out as 2023,” she said.

“You have some whose current class of license is expiring, seniors turning 80 who are required to do a road test or lose their license and people who need a certain class of license for their job,” Gretzky said.


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No one should be forced to travel hours to the next available testing centre

“The government needed to come up with a plan. It’s lost on me that this government knew that 420,000 tests were cancelled, yet didn’t plan for reopening in a way that addresses the backlog. There is still no plan and the problem is just getting worse.”

As part of their efforts to address the backlog in Ontario, the government in June under Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney did announce the opening of nine temporary road test centres in Burlington, East Gwillimbury, Guelph, Niagara, Mississauga, Markham, Ottawa, Oshawa and Sarnia.

Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, seen in a Jan. 16, 2020 file photo.
Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, seen in a Jan. 16, 2020 file photo. Photo by Postmedia News /Windsor Star

Additional temporary driver examiners were hired with extended weekday operating hours for passenger road testing, including on weekends, said Simi Ikotun, issues management coordinator for the transportation ministry on Tuesday.


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“At this time, Ontario is not currently planning to open more temporary road test centres,” she said.

And that has especially angered Gretzky who has written a letter to both Mulroney and Premier Doug Ford requesting a temporary centre be opened in the Windsor area.

“There has been a suggestion this area doesn’t have the population to support a temporary drive test centre,” the local MPP said. “Sarnia does have one and there is just 140,000 in all of Lambton County. That’s less than just the city of Windsor, not including the county.”

Some frustrated residents have resorted to booking tests in Sarnia — a two-hour drive on the Canadian side — while others have booked even farther away in the Niagara or GTA, she said.

Gretzky raised the issue Tuesday in the Legislature during question period, requesting a temporary centre in Windsor be opened with adequate staffing.


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“No one should be forced to travel hours to the next available testing centre,” Gretzky said.

Her response came from House Leader and Minister of Legislative Affairs Paul Calandra who said the government “is working to ensure additional resources” are in place for road testing across the province.

“Obviously more work needs to be done,” he said, noting the driver test issue is just one of many challenges created by the pandemic the government is dealing with.

Lisa Gretzky, Windsor West MPP, on the grounds of The Village at St. Clair, a long-term care home under Schlegel Villages, on Dec. 17, 2020.
Lisa Gretzky, Windsor West MPP shown on Dec. 17, 2020. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Options the government should also be considering include extending license expiration dates and prioritizing those people who were booked for a road test and had them cancelled due to the pandemic, Gretzky said.

The ministry has taken some further action beyond the temporary centres, Ikotun countered.


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“Our government is investing more than $16 million to increase road testing capacity at all DriveTest centres,” she said. “Our aggressive plan to address the backlog includes hiring 167 additional new temporary driver examiners. This new round of hiring is on top of our addition of the 84 temporary examiners announced in fall of 2020.”

Weekday operating hours for passenger road testing have been extended with Saturdays and Sundays available at select locations, she said.

For those seeking a road test, Ikotun noted new road test appointments are being added throughout the week.

“We encourage customers to check regularly for new appointments as they are released,” she said.

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