Parti Quebecois upset that Quebecers allowed car vanity plates in English

Vanity car licence plates will be legal in Quebec within weeks but the Parti Quebecois says drivers should be banned from inscribing statements or slogans on them in any language other than French.

The governing Liberals and Quebec's automobile insurance board, which enforces the highway safety code and auto insurance act, say the new law on vanity plates adheres to the province's strict language legislation.

Pascal Berube, the PQ's opposition critic for identity and language, was irked when he learned Quebecers would be free to have their cars adorned with vanity plates in any language they wanted.

"It's unacceptable,'' he told La Presse. 

"It's a disappointment and we invite the (automobile insurance board) to reconsider.''

When reached by phone Friday, however, Berube refused to talk further about the issue.

"I said what I had to say, it's up to the transport minister to comment on it...My earlier comments reported in (La Presse) are accurate.''

Quebec's French Language Charter stipulates public signs, posters and commercial advertising must be in French only, barring certain exceptions.

Berube's position is that the law permitting vanity plates goes against the spirit of Quebec's language legislation.

"(Past) legislators clearly wanted personalized licence plates to fall under the (language) charter,'' he told the news organization.

Marie-Pier Richard, a spokesperson for Transport Minister Andre Fortin, said in an email the vanity plates respect the charter because they are considered personal and non-commercial.

"English expressions are accepted, as are other languages, in the extent to which the vehicle is registered to a physical person and used for non-commercial means,'' she said.

Mario Vaillancourt, a spokesman for the automobile insurance board, said as long as the plates are in Roman script or Arabic numerals, the 
standard letters and numbers used by most western countries, then everything is fine.

"It's a driver's choice,'' he said in an interview.

There are still restrictions on what can be written on the plates, however.

The law stipulates vanity plates cannot express "an obscene or scandalous notion'' or promote "the commission of a criminal offence,'' among various restrictions.

They will sell for $250 and renewal will cost drivers $34.50, which falls within the range charged elsewhere in Canada.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the last jurisdiction in Canada where vanity plates aren't available.

Quebec's plates will be available for purchase online as of July 27.