ServiceOntario fail

I fucking knew something like this would  happen. I just knew it.

My Ontario driver’s licence expired in May, while I was still in Australia.  I still have an Ontario driver’s licence: I’m still a resident of Ontario. I’m in Australia temporarily, for 10 months from arrival to departure, almost 6 weeks of which were spent in Ontario anyway.  I pay taxes in Ontario.  But I don’t have a ‘residence’ in Ontario, having moved my stuff into storage (also in Ontario, I might add), so it made this tricky.

I explained all of this to the person behind the desk at ServiceOntario.  I explained to him where I most recently lived, and where I wanted my mail to go, as I have all my mail going to a PO Box in Concord that is being checked by a friend that I trust.  It was a bit of effort to explain it all, and for him to understand it, but he eventually (I had assumed) got his head around it all.

He told me the licence would go out in the mail in about two weeks. That was June 10th, shortly before the Canada Post lockout.  I waited, patiently, for the lockout to end and for my licence to come in. It didn’t.  I waited another week or two after leaving Toronto, and it still hasn’t arrived.  So I called ServiceOntario today.  They told me they have nothing to do with anything, and gave me the number for the Ministry of Transportation.  When I spoke to the rep there, he informed me that my mailing address had been used as my residence address and vice-versa.  Oh, and that my driver’s licence had been mailed to the mailing address they had on file, being the apartment I no longer live in.  That new people live in.

Dumbfounded, I elaborated to explain I was out of the country for the next couple months and needed my licence (my temporary one that was issued when they took the pictures for the photo card expires in September).  I was told my options were to send a fax and request an “extension” (to what, I’m still not sure), or not to drive until I got back to Ontario.  There was NO process to go about requesting a correction to what was a clear error. No explanation as to how to deal with the fact that someone else now has my driver’s licence (except to say that even if it had been returned, they don’t even bother to track it!)  No way to ask that they do what they were supposed to do in the first place and send the photo card to the correct address.  Finally, no way to report to anyone that the person who did the initial processing made a really big fucking error that could easily lead to identity theft.  On the last point, I was told that I could go in in person to a ServiceOntario office and ask to speak to a manager.  In person? I can’t even write a letter?  Well, I guess blogging about it is just as good.

I sent off the fax they asked for (also, seriously? fax? Is this the 80s?).  I can only hope they receive it, send me whatever they could possibly send me (in enough time to actually make it to me), and that it’s valid for Avis car rental – I have  a car booked for three weeks in New Zealand, and my entire trip is fucked without it.

I’m not sure what’s worse — that they made such a fucking glaring error, or that they were completely unwilling to do ANYTHING to fix it. Ugh.

[Update: @Ont_Ombudsman informs me there IS a way to report problems – through his website! :)]


It’s a long story, but the head of privacy at ServiceOntario saw this blog entry (via the @ServiceOntario Twitter account, I believe), and commented here.  A long series of emails later, I have my drivers’ licence card.  The error was confirmed to be on their end (there’s no way a PO Box can / should ever be entered as a “residential” address, for obvious reasons), which was acknowledged.  Since it was clearly a mistake, the addresses were corrected in my file, and they kindly agreed to send the licence to me by registered mail and it arrived yesterday.  They even sent a staff person to the address where the licence was sent (unfortunately the people there claimed not to have seen it).  Thank you, Peter, for being so proactive about this.

The Ombuds office, for their part, were incredibly diligent in following up with me on the matter. I asked them to hold off on my complaint as it appeared things were being resolved. They regularly followed up with me, only stopping after I had the card in hand and confirmed that the problem had been resolved.

Guess the system works, after all.

5 responses to this post.

  1. well at least the Ontario Ombud does something, the BC ombud could care less in simular situations…oops, we fucked up…so sorry…pfffft!


  2. Posted by Peter Hope-Tindall - ServiceOntario on 2011/07/27 at 4:22 am

    Can you contact me by email regarding this issue. (or email me a phone number to reach you?)

    Peter Hope-Tindall
    Head of Privacy

    +1 416 326-5757


  3. For anyone tracking this entry’s comments, I’ve posted an update above on the resolution of this!


  4. I’m glad everything worked out – and you received your DL!

    Have a safe drive through NZ.

    Best Regards,



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