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Ontario’s provincial government has a proposition for its citizens: How about a new look for your licence plates?
Last week, it was reported the slogan “Yours to Discover” would be replaced on the plates with “Open for Business,” a phrase intended to reflect the new Progressive Conservative government’s economic policies. Signs bearing the slogan have already been erected at some provincial border crossings.
On social media, however, some Ontarians quickly pointed out the slogan might sort of imply something: that the person inside the car is available for … services? “As a woman, ‘Open for Business’ on my licence plate wouldn’t just be obnoxious; it would also make me a target of harassment,” tweeted Ottawa activist Julie Lalonde, a self-described “feminist killjoy.”
Thursday’s budget followed through with a new slogan for personal vehicles and it was no less euphemistic: “A Place to Grow.” That might sort of imply something, too.
As a person whose mind is often in the gutter, this got me thinking — honestly, quite a bit — about the degree to which our provinces and territories are already nudging and winking via their vehicular sloganeering.Based on my totally objective, inarguably correct analysis of their innuendo quotient, here is a definitive ranking of Canadian licence plate slogans, from sterile to spicy.
13. New Brunswick: “New Nouveau Brunswick Canada”
Look, I’m sorry to all the New Brunswickers out there, but your province is so unsexy they had to put both official languages on the licence plate, and so forgettable they had to remind you which country you are in. Following protocol to this degree is only arousing to certain public servants in the Ministry of Canadian Heritage (they know who they are). Still, New Brunswick could have ranked higher had it not changed its plates in 2011, removing the suggestive invitation to “Be … in this place.”
12. Newfoundland and Labrador: “Newfoundland and Labrador”
11. Nunavut: “ᓄᓇᕗᑦ Nunavut”
Nunavut is only better than New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador because it features Inuktitut and, granted, a pretty cute polar bear. That doesn’t make it spicy. I’d have had more to work with if the slogan mentioned Coral Harbour or any of the territory’s many inlets.
10. Saskatchewan: “Land of Living Skies”
This licence plate invites me to pack a picnic basket and sit on a checkered blanket several feet away from my betrothed as we exchange promise rings in front of our chaperone. It says, “Would you like some lemonade” and “Don’t forget to wear sunscreen.” But Saskatchewan has it tough, because any potential catch phrase it comes up with is unlikely to be able to compete with the suggestiveness of the name of its capital city. As Mick Jagger put it last time the Rolling Stone performed there, Regina “rhymes with fun.”
9. B.C.: “Beautiful British Columbia”
A person can be physically beautiful, sure, or have a beautiful personality. You can be in a beautiful spot, listening to beautiful music. But isn’t “beautiful” a little … bland? It’s like calling something “nice.” You’re almost damning with faint praise. Again, what would’ve done more for me is a previous slogan. “The best place on earth,” a special edition B.C. licence plate, would make for a bold, if cocky, pick-up line. Possibly even a pick-up line.
8. Northwest Territories: “Spectacular Northwest Territories”
I hope we can all agree that “spectacular” is a great word to associate with an intimate experience. But the shape of the plate itself — it’s a polar bear! — might throw you off, unless you’re familiar with some of the seamier entries in the CanLit canon. Like New Brunswick, this might have ranked higher had the previous slogan, “Explore Canada’s Arctic,” still been in use.
7. P.E.I.: “Birthplace of Confederation”
This licence plate could be construed as an invitation to conceive of a union — nay, a sacred duty to do so. It says, “Enter, for here, you can join together in nationhood” — which, not to knock it, but it’s more holy matrimony than torrid affair.
6. Quebec: “Je me souviens”
It translates as “I remember,” an attempt to evoke in Quebec’s people a recollection of painful historical moments. But reflecting on those words — in the language of romance, no less — could entice any sweet memory to come flooding back. Some will recall the former slogan, “La Belle Province,” or “The Beautiful Province.” From young and beautiful to aged and wistful? Quebec’s licence plates are an entire world of nostalgia and longing.
5. Manitoba: “Friendly Manitoba”
It is entirely possible the folks in the Winnipeg boardroom who decided on “Friendly Manitoba” had it in mind to convey that, gee, are Manitobans ever nice, dontcha know. But it’s a playful word with many meanings. It might occur to someone who’s thought about it that the slogan appeals to getting real friendly. It’s the licence plate equivalent of “Netflix and chill.” Looks innocuous. Isn’t.
4. Yukon: “The Klondike”
If you want to feel a rush, go to the Yukon, where you can mine deeper and deeper to strike gold. You may have to do some exploring, enter a cave or wade through a river. You may have to bring your hammer. (You get the thrust.)
3. Nova Scotia: “Canada’s Ocean Playground”
Coming in third is Nova Scotia, with this playfully wet little licence plate slogan. Nova Scotia harbours desire. It just wants to have some fun.
2. Alberta: “Wild Rose Country”
No slogan more succinctly evokes the bodice-ripping passages of a Western romance. “Take me hither into the barn, cowboy,” it says. Picture some lovers clad in hats, staring off into a rosy sunset, breathing deeply in the Alberta air, standing close to one another, full of anticipation.
1. Ontario: “Yours to Discover”
Hands down (hands all the way down, if you will), Ontario’s current licence plate is the most flirtatious. “Yours to Discover” says “feel free to explore” and “do what you want.” It’s been going around the block since the early ’80s and has no doubt learned a thing or two. Wouldn’t you like to find out? “Yours to Discover” is inviting, but not transactional — and for that matter, it’s not just “a place,” it is “yours.” This province isn’t just open for business — it is open to business.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019