Poetic Licence

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There was a great deal of conjecture and confusion regarding the legal requirement for driving in Ontario. Some people told us we needed to get an Ontario licence, and others told us we would be OK to drive on an International licence. The problem was that people told us that “you should be right with an International licence”, or “I think you may need an Ontario licence”. I wasn’t interested in the “should be” and “I think” stuff… I like to know the truth about these things, and not just what others may have gotten away with. So I tried to get the definitive answer. Ha!

I rang the Ministry of Transport Ontario (MTO) from Sydney and spoke to a very helpful young lady who was only to pleased to be of assistance. Problem was, nearly everything she told me was incorrect. Her story explicitly told me that I should expect to pay around $5000 for insurance, that I was legally required to get an Ontario Licence, and that I could not drive at all on an Australian licence. Wrong on every count. You can hear a recording I made of that conversation in a previous post. So I arrived here expecting that I would have to get an Ontario licence. We got a rental car for a few days when we first got here using my International licence and had no problems with that. Then I went to the MTO and tried to sort it out properly, and was told that I did indeed have to get an Ontario licence. Not having the necessary documentation with me at the time, I went home, but just to double check I rang the MTO’s info line and spoke to a guy who told me I was definitely OK to drive on an International licence all year! I asked him to double check that for me, so he came back after speking to his supervisor and the story had changed to me definitely needing an Ontario licence again!

This was giving me the shits by now, so I asked where I could read the actual regulation for myself and was told it was Section 15(i) of the Highway Traffic Act of Ontario. He was unable to supply a copy of the HTA, so I Googled for it and found a copy online and bugger me if I could see how it required me to get an Ontario licence, so I now had serious doubts that anybody at the MTO had a clue what they were actually talking about. So, I went back to the MTO’s DriveTest centre the next day and was told, no, you CAN drive on your International licence! This time I stayed and asked lots of questions to nail down the fact that I was in fact getting the truth, and it became clear that YES, you CAN drive all year on your International licence. The rules say that if you are moving to Ontario you can only drive for 60 days before needing to get a local licence, but the thing is that it only applies to people permanently moving to Ontario. As an exchange teacher, you are not moving here, but when they find out you’re here for a year they try to assume that you are. Bottom line, you DO NOT need a local licence.

Word of advice for future exchangees, bring a letter from the exchange board stating that you are on an official exchange, and that you will be returning to Australia at the end of the 12 months. You are entitled to drive on your International Permit, and don’t any crap from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Also, get your International Permit as close as possible to your departure date as it is only valid for a year, and will probably expire before you leave anyway. They can be renewed and extended, but I haven’t had to do that yet. Better yet, it seems you can drive on just an Australian licence for up to 60 days, so it may even be better to get your International permit postdated to start 60 days after you arrive in Canada, so you can then drive for the first 60 days on your Australian licence, then after 60 days your International permit kicks in and takes you to the end of your exchange period and beyond.

In amongst all this nonsense, I did actually start the process of getting my local licence… something I apparently didn’t really need to do. But that’s a whole other story...

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