THUNDER BAY – In southern Ontario, lines running 75 people deep have plagued the reopening of Service Ontario offices this week.
Lines are also forming at Thunder Bay’s two privately-operated locations, but it appears at much more manageable levels. By 8:45 a.m. on Friday, 15 minutes before the Red River Road location was set to open, only a handful of people were standing in line.
While the province has asked the public to only visit Service Ontario offices if absolutely necessary and has extended the expiry date on a number of products including license plates, local Liberal MPP Michael Gravelle said it’s good to see the sites reopening.
“I’m glad that they have reopened. I think they’re doing it very carefully, as they’re reopening everywhere very carefully,” Gravelle said.
“Service Ontario is a very important part of the operation for the average citizen in Thunder Bay and certainly across the province. So to have a Service Ontario office open here I believe is a good thing. People still need to renew their driver’s licenses and do a number of other things that can only happen at Service Ontario.”
The province has been criticized, particularly in southern Ontario, for not opening enough locations or reducing hours, resulting in lengthy waits.
According to the Ontario government website, all three Thunder Bay locations are now open. Two of the locations, Red River Road and Balmoral Street, are open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the third, on James Street, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The latter location did not close during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is operated by the province.
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford was asked about the situation and said he’d like to see more locations opened.
"Let's open these up. Practise social distancing. (People) have to get their sticker, they have to get their pictures for their licence. Let's start opening them up," Ford said.
Service Ontario offices reopened on Tuesday.