Getting enhanced, anyone?

Csatlegar News bi-weekly columnist looks at difficulty faced by locals in getting the new enhanced drivers'licences

Gord Turner

Gord Turner

I’ll bet this situation is one that many of you have faced recently. Your five-year driver’s licence has expired, and it’s up for renewal. In fact, a month before renewal, you get a letter from the Insurance Corporation of B. C. stating you are eligible to get an “enhanced” driver’s licence.

Being able to get an enhanced driver’s licence has been happening for awhile, but it only became clear to me now because of the need to renew my driving credentials. An “enhanced” driver’s licence will allow me to cross into the United States and return to Canada without having to carry a much bulkier passport. So this new card should be a real boon to all British Columbian travelers.

So I drove to my local insurance office and told them to process an enhanced driver’s licence for me. I told them I cross into the United States several times a year and a plastic wallet-sized card of this type would be quite handy.

The insurance-company lady looked at me apologetically and said she couldn’t do that. She informed me she could renew my ordinary driver’s licence and add in my B.C. Care Card information as that’s a new combination, too. However, for the “enhanced,” I would have to make an appointment at one of a number of “Federal” offices around the province.

I thought I would get right to it, so I asked to make an appointment in Nelson or Trail, but it turns out those places are not allowed to set up the “enhanced” driver’s licences either. Apparently, the West Kootenay federal outlets are only “regular” agencies.

As I discovered, the closest centre for getting this new licence is in Kelowna. Oh, yes, there are offices in Kamloops, Prince George, Vancouver (3), Burnaby (2), Abbotsford, Victoria (2), Surrey (2), Port Coquitlam, Richmond, and Nanaimo. As usual, the Lower Mainland is well looked after. Where are the nearby enhancement centres for those of us in the eastern part of British Columbia?

Here we are in the Kootenays—East and West—living close to the border, but we have no easy access to getting an “enhanced” driver’s licence. It occurred to me that if I were upset about this in Castlegar, what about someone living in Fernie, even farther away?

Indeed, these location choices have disenfranchised three or four hundred-thousand people around the province. The government has not made acquiring this licence easy for some of us.

If you look at the costs, you’ll see that the “enhanced” licence only costs $35 in addition to the $17 standard licence fee. However, that’s only if you live close to one of the “enhanced” licencing centres such as Vancouver Centre.

If I make an appointment for Kelowna next week, it will cost me about $100 extra for gasoline to and from there. If I stay only for the day, I’ll still have additional costs of about $50 for meals. If I have to remain overnight at a Kelowna hotel, I’ll pay out another $100 or so.

It’s clear that with no “enhanced” licencing office east of Kelowna, my costs for this licence could conceivably be as high as $285.  I don’t believe that’s fair to me or the many drivers in this part of the province.

I’ve been told that the issue is one of security.  In that case, because we have a federal centre for passports in Nelson, why not add the appropriate security personnel to that office? At the very least, we should be able to set up our “enhanced” driver’s licence in Nelson and have the documentation sent to a major centre for completion—as happens now with passport applications.

Castlegar News