Drive Clean Program Redesign
Ontario's air quality has been improving, with significant reductions in emissions from all sources of pollution, including vehicle emissions.
The Drive Clean light-duty vehicle program has, in past, been effective at reducing vehicle pollution. More stringent industry vehicle emissions standards and technology has drastically improved since the program was created in 1999.
This has resulted in a steady decrease in passenger cars that fail the emissions test. 16% of vehicles failed the emissions test in 1999 compared to 5% in 2017. This trend is only expected to continue as newer vehicle models are introduced.
As reported in the Auditor General's 2012 Value for Money Audit of Drive Clean, "...emissions were reduced by steadily increasing amounts from 1999 through 2007."
The Auditor General stated that prior to the Drive Clean program, vehicles were the top domestic source of emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Each year between 1998 and 2010, the vehicle sector experienced either the largest or the second-largest decrease in emissions for each of these pollutants. Total vehicle emissions decreased more than 50% in that time.
The Auditor General also noted the retirement of older vehicles, the introduction of vehicles with cleaner emissions control technologies and fuel improvements were significant contributing factors that helped reduce emissions from light duty vehicles.
The cancellation of the Drive Clean program will save Ontario taxpayers upwards of $40 million annually.
Vehicle Emissions Testing in Other Jurisdictions
Ontario is the only Canadian jurisdiction that currently has a mandatory light duty vehicle emissions testing and repair program.
British Columbia ended their mandatory light duty vehicle testing program in 2014 because it determined that vehicles were no longer one of its primary contributors of pollutants. The province then refocused resources on on-road heavy duty vehicle inspection and enforcement.
New Program to Focus on Heavy Duty Vehicles
Emissions from heavy duty vehicles have not decreased as rapidly, in part due to less stringent vehicle emission standards, and a slower replacement rate of older, higher emission vehicles. Heavy duty vehicles remain a significant source of nitrogen oxides, a smog forming pollutant, and fine particulate matter, a carcinogen that causes heart and lung disease.
The proposed changes to the Drive Clean Program will shift the focus to heavy duty vehicles with full cost recovery for government. This change will lead to better environmental outcomes at a lower overall cost, meaning better value for taxpayer dollars.