US embassy cable - 07TORONTO81

ONTARIO PURSUES DRIVERS' LICENSES AS PASSPORT ALTERNATIVE

Identifier: 07TORONTO81
Wikileaks: View 07TORONTO81 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Toronto
Created: 2007-03-07 09:54:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: CPAS PBTS PGOV PINR PREL CA
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO8330
RR RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHON #0081/01 0660954
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 070954Z MAR 07
FM AMCONSUL TORONTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1859
INFO RUCNCAN/ALCAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TORONTO 000081 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O.12958: N/A 
TAGS: CPAS PBTS PGOV PINR PREL CA 
SUBJECT: ONTARIO PURSUES DRIVERS' LICENSES AS PASSPORT ALTERNATIVE 
 
Sensitive But Unclassified - protect accordingly. 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  Ontario plans to issue a secure drivers' license 
by the end of 2007 that provincial officials hope can be used to 
document identity and citizenship in lieu of passports for travel 
across the U.S. border.  The initial, informal plan for use of the 
card to cross into the U.S. would require the creation of a new 
database, dependent on Canadian federal citizenship information, to 
which American authorities would have access.  The plan is 
sufficiently complex that its quick implementation is unlikely.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
McGuinty Politicizes Long-Planned License Upgrade 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
2. (SBU) Ontario will begin issuing new drivers' licenses with 
upgraded security by the end of 2007.  The new licenses will have 
new security features, including holograms, high-quality printing, 
and laser engraving.  As their current five-year licenses expire, 
Ontario's 8.7 million licensed drivers will receive the secure 
licenses.  Ontario has reportedly contracted with an outside vendor 
to produce the new licenses; previously, Ontario produced all 
licenses in-house.  The new licenses are expected to cost drivers 
the same as the old licenses - C$125 for new applicants and C$75 for 
renewals. 
 
3.  (SBU) Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty wants Ontarians to be able 
to use these licenses in lieu of passports for travel across the 
U.S. border.  McGuinty reportedly expects other provinces and 
territories to follow Ontario in a national movement to push the 
Canadian and U.S. federal governments to accept secure drivers' 
licenses in place of passports. 
 
4. (SBU) An Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MoT) official told 
us that the secure drivers' license initiative has been planned for 
a long time, and will be implemented regardless of whether the 
licenses are accepted as a border-crossing document.  He said 
Premier McGuinty, rather than Ministry officials, wanted to also 
push the secure license as a border-crossing card.  MoT is following 
the British Columbia-Washington State pilot program closely.  Our 
contact also said that the MoT had been in talks with Michigan about 
a pilot project, but that Michigan's governor's office and its 
transportation division disagreed between themselves about whether 
to move ahead. 
 
Showing Citizenship:  Federal Help Needed 
----------------------------------------- 
 
5. (SBU) The MoT source said that Ontario has not decided how to 
reflect drivers' citizenship on the new licenses.  The determination 
of citizenship is a federal issue, and though Ontario has initiated 
discussions with the federal government, agreement on the issue will 
take time.  In any case, he said that it was unlikely that 
citizenship would be printed on the license because of concerns 
about privacy and the potential for profiling by the police. 
 
6. (SBU) Under the preliminary plan, our MoT contact indicated that 
drivers who wished to use their secure drivers' licenses as a border 
crossing card would have to fill out a separate application and pay 
an additional fee of C$5-C$10.  The Ministry of Transportation would 
then send the applicant's information to the Canadian federal 
government for a determination of citizenship and eligibility.  If 
the applicant qualified, their information would be entered into a 
NEXUS-type database, to which U.S. and Canadian authorities would 
have access.  When an Ontario resident tried to use the drivers' 
license to cross the border, the border security official would 
query this database to confirm the crosser's identity. 
 
Is Ontario's MoT Up To The Task? 
-------------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) A 2005 report by Ontario's auditor general uncovered a 
number of problems with Ontario's licensing system, not all of which 
have been corrected.  For example, the MoT is still using outdated 
computer technology; though there have been intermittent updates, 
the core system reportedly dates from the 1960's.  Also, though 
Ontario has recently tightened its identification requirements, it 
formerly issued licenses to applicants identified only by non-secure 
documents, like shopping club cards. 
 
8. (SBU) COMMENT:  Using new secure drivers' licenses as an 
alternative to passports under the WHTI is a politically motivated 
initiative.  Premier McGuinty is under pressure from constituents 
and business groups to derail or significantly modify the passport 
requirement.  If he succeeds in getting the drivers' license 
accepted, he will score a public relations coup.  The complexity of 
the preliminary plan, the overlapping jurisdiction of the provincial 
and federal authorities, and the MoT's technical problems make it 
unlikely that the secure licenses will be ready for use crossing the 
border anytime soon.  END COMMENT. 
 
TORONTO 00000081  002 OF 002 
 
 
 
NAY 

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