Licence plates in Canada come in two basic shapes: a rectangle for most of Canada and a polar bear for the Northwest Territories.  But what varies most from coast to coast is how many plates you need.  A handful of provinces and territories — British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Northwest Territories and New Brunswick — require plates front and rear, much to the chagrin of enthusiasts who prefer a clean look to the front of their cars.  Especially since the front fascias of some cars do not lend themselves to having a plate in place.
The rest — Nunavut, Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador — are happy with just one, at the rear.  (To be sure, if you were able to see a Nunavut plate, you might see a polar bear. The territory had polar bear-shaped plates up to 2013. Since there are no roads between the rest of Canada and Nunavut, seeing a Nunavut plate is quite unlikely.)  Interestingly, most of the jurisdictions that abandoned front and rear plates did so largely because of economics, the move essentially halving the cost of licence plates.
“Albertans have adapted to the current system, which has been in place for 25 years,” said Tina Faiz, press secretary to the Minister of Service Alberta Stephanie McLean. “Many cars in Alberta are not particularly equipped to hold a front plate.  “It keeps registration fees lower, we don’t need to print as many plates and it keeps recycling costs lower. Alberta has adapted, as have our law-enforcement partners.”  The story is the same in Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia also requires only one plate.  “I’m told we had two plates up until the early 1980s, when we reduced it to requiring just the rear plate, as a cost-saving measure,” said Ron Ryder, senior communications officer for PEI’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy ministry.  Quebec discontinued front plates in 1978, again as a cost-saving measure, according to a government spokesman.
Manitoba, however, went the other way, returning to a two-plate system in 1997.  “This was done with the support of law enforcement to increase the opportunities for vehicle identification,” said Matt Schaubroeck, spokesman for Manitoba Public Insurance, which regulates all vehicle insurance, registration and driver licensing in Manitoba. Four years later, Manitoba adopted photo radar speed and red-light enforcement technology, but regulations require police to capture only the rear plate, according to a spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Police Service.  Another theory about front plates, which seems to be debunked by the number of provinces whose police don’t complain about not having them, suggests a front plate is a favoured target for speed detection, being highly reflective to both laser and radar signals.
Lasers and radar detectors
On the subject of laser, which bounces a beam of light off a vehicle and calculates the time it takes for the reflection to return, it seems some enterprising companies have developed laser jammers, sold in the guise of a laser-based parking aide.  According to the website for, the AL Priority Multipurpose Laser Defense (sic) and Parking System watches for laser, warns the driver when it sees one and then emits pulses of laser light to jam the officer’s laser unit.  The company claims the device isn’t illegal — it’s sold as a parking aide — but a lawyer would have to answer whether the laws in some provinces against radar detectors are limited to radar, or are broadly worded enough to include any device designed to detect speed enforcement.
Radar detectors are illegal in all provinces but three, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and the company’s site warns police have the means to detect radar detectors, and points to products it says are immune from detection.  There is no technology yet that can detect laser detectors. If you were, however, the only car within sight and were jamming an officer’s laser speed device, he might be wise enough to pull you over, however.

I love the Chronicle Herald.