How does a government botch something as simple as changing your provincial license plate?

Apparently, it’s a lot easier than it seems, because our moribund PC government has done exactly that.

You may have heard that the province has decided to jettison its ages old ‘Wild Rose Country’, white-and-red license plates in favour of something more colourful (and, by mere coincidence, more expensive). Some big thinkers in the government thought it would be a really cool idea to offer up three versions of the plate, and put them online for the public to vote on. Simple, right? A bit of summer fun to fill in the lazy days.

Didn’t quite work out that way, did it? Everything about the plate rollout was wrong.

The three (yawn) choices.
The three (yawn) choices.

First, we have the designs. Mountains and wheat, iconic images of Alberta, right? Sure. But mountains figure prominently on Colorado’s plates, too. But that’s the least of the problems. The designs are, at best, mediocre. Pedestrian, if you will.  Mind you, a license plate is hardly a sprawling creative canvas, so I suppose you can’t expect much.

Then there’s the slogan, or more accurately, the lack of slogan. For decades, we’ve had Wild Rose Country, which is nice if a little dull. But the government decided to get rid of Wild Rose Country in favour of the much more lyrical and evocative “”. Yep, a website. The government apparently thinks that non-Albertans would have to be directed to a website to find out more about the province, because people today can’t figure out how to access this new fangled Internet thingy, and need to have the website spelled out. It’s clearly just coincidence that the Wild Rose slogan is identical to the name of the opposition party that is on track to dethrone the PCs. Yes, coincidence.

Now things get even worse. It turns out the plate designs come from an AMERICAN firm. And not just any AMERICAN firm, but 3M, q multi-national monster. A government spokesman said the decision to use an American firm was a cost saving decision, but that’s simply beyond credibility. How many design firms are there in Alberta? Dozens? Hundreds? There’s not a single one of them that wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to design something that will adorn every single motor vehicle in Alberta.

At least one firm has. CBC Edmonton reported on an Edmonton firm, Graphos, that quickly designed a plate that is far superior to the slapdash 3M version. And better yet, it incorporated the mountains into the plate in the same way the

Graphos design for Alberta plate.
Graphos design for Alberta plate.

NWT plate uses the polar bear, making a plate in the shape of the mountains. Simple, and brilliant.

So how could this have been handled better? It’s so simple: announce a contest open to design firms in Alberta to create a new plate. To ensure real applications and not just a flood of haphazard designs, add a submission fee for each design, say $100 or something.  Once the submissions are in, convene a panel of design experts to pick the three top designs, then offer it up to the public. Winning design gets a cash prize.

This method would have engaged the Alberta creative community, and got the public involved. But instead, we have a bureaucratic snafu that makes no one happy.



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