(Version française disponible ici)

Thousands of Quebecers stood in long lines in March 2023 to renew or obtain their driver’s licenses or other documents linked to driving and owning a vehicle.

The Société d’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) is bogged down with applications for driver’s licences and licence plates due to a botched update of its computer services. The magnitude of the crisis has forced the Deputy Premier and Minister of Transport Geneviève Guilbault to cut short a trip to Europe.

Some of these problems are self-inflicted, beyond computer glitches: in Quebec, while the physical card is used for up to eight years, the permission to drive attached to it must be renewed and repaid every year.

In other Canadian provinces, driver’s licences are generally renewed and valid for five years, except in New Brunswick, where the licence lasts four years, and Alberta, where the usual length can vary depending on age.

Approximately 5.7 million Quebecers hold a driver’s licence, which means nearly 500,000 people must renew their permits each month.

The Quebec government has responded by allowing an extra 90 days to renew a licence until the problems at the SAAQ are resolved.

By extending the duration of licences to five years, as in other provinces, Quebec could greatly reduce the pressure on its administrative services and improve service for millions of Quebecers.

Sources for a driver’s licence duration, by province:

British Columbia






New Brunswick

Nova Scotia

Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador

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Patrick DĂ©ry
Patrick DĂ©ry is a deputy editor of Policy Options and a freelance columnist and public policy analyst. His interests include heath care policy and democratic institutions. You can follow him on Twitter @patrickdery.

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