Winchester ServiceOntario Centre gets very busy

The June 3, 2020, lineup at the ServiceOntario Centre in Winchester. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — In another sign of these COVID-19 times, the lineup outside the Dawley Drive ServiceOntario Centre snaked across the front of the building and into the west end of the parking lot yesterday.

Many ServiceOntario sites remain closed across the province, leading to long queues at others under the added pressure of reduced hours of operation.

Officially, the provincial government still urges Ontarians to not visit such Centres — having waived the requirement to renew expired licence plate stickers, drivers licences and health cards 12 weeks ago. The government also highlights the online option for consumers eager to secure those things anyway, along with some other services.

However, buying plates for new and unplated vehicles does require a trip to a Centre. So does renewing the licence on a commercial vehicle, such as the 18-wheeler driven by Andy Bell of Greely, who was making his second attempt in two days to get into the ServiceOntario Centre. “I thought I could do it online … but no, I had to come in,” said Bell, eager to put his truck back on the road after parking it over the winter.

“I came by Friday at 2 p.m., and they said they closed at 4,” said Bell, one of the first in line when the door opened 10 a.m. Monday, June 2. “There were only two people here at quarter to eight this morning, so I figured I better get in line now.”

“In Embrun, it’s on appointment only. You can’t get in there until next Tuesday,” he observed, adding the wait time at the Merivale Road Centre in Ottawa would have been three hours.

“It’s just too bad. They could be working longer hours,” said Judy Neville of Finch, wearing a mask and planning to renew her driver’s licence and health card.

Similarly masked, Winchester resident Faye Coons explained that she had an appointment in March to take her written driving test, mandated when she turned 80. Then the pandemic hit and the test was kiboshed before the scheduled date. “So they sent me this temporary licence, but it’s done on June the 10th,” said Coons, adding she followed the document’s advice to call the indicated phone number within two weeks of the expiry date. “But they don’t answer.”

However, the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has clarified for NVN that even temporary licences that have expired, as of March 1 or later, remain valid until further notice.

The ministry also points out that many ServiceOntario locations are privately run businesses — with about 70 percent of those currently open. “Some offices have chosen to close, others have reduced their hours. We are seeing a positive trend with more private centres opening each day,” says the ministry, adding that 95 percent of the publicly owned ServiceOntario sites are now open.

The ministry also released the following statement to NVN on the situation:

To help ensure the safety of employees and customers, we are reminding Ontarians to please limit their ServiceOntario visits to when absolutely necessary.

The vast majority of services do not require an in-person visit right now as they are either available online or have had their validation period extended. This validation period has been extended for health cards, drivers licences, and licence plate stickers, among others. Additionally, more than 40 of the most common transactions are available online.

A full list of services with extended validity periods is available online:

A full list of ServiceOntario’s online services is available on the ServiceOntario website:

We appreciate Ontarians patience during this time as the situation continues to evolve. Our government is actively involved in recovery plans to open centres when and where possible.

This article was updated to include the ministry’s statement, and updated again to include the clarification that expired temporary driver’s licences remain valid.


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