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The brakes are being slammed on the controversial Drive Clean auto emissions plan.

Premier Doug Ford announced Friday that as of April 1 of next year, the “outdated” mandatory program for passenger cars and trucks will end.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford (centre), Minister of Transportation John Yakabushi (left) and Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Rod Phillips, at a Friday announcement ending Drive Clean. The three were on hand at a press conference at a local Etobicoke garage.   (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

Instead, the Progressive Conservative government will clamp down on big commercial polluters by enhancing the smog checks on transport trucks and other industrial vehicles.

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Ontario Drive Clean emissions program: where are we now?

“By ending Drive Clean tests and repairs for passenger vehicles, this government is reducing the burden on residents and families who own a car,” Ford said at a service garage on Martin Grove Rd.

“They no longer need to take time out of their days to take their vehicles in for unnecessary tests,” the premier said, adding the government will save $40 million a year.

That’s because the previous Liberal government eliminated the $30 test fees last year, but Queen’s Park still had to foot the tab.

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Do you think ending the Drive Clean auto emissions plan is a good idea?
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Created by former Tory premier Mike Harris in 1999, Drive Clean has long been a bone of contention for motorists because most vehicles passed the emissions tests.

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Cars and trucks are responsible for one third of all emissions of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.

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Green Leader Mike Schreiner said while “the Drive Clean program is no longer as relevant as it once was,” the new Tory government has done nothing to reduce pollution since taking office 12 weeks ago.

“When you look at the list of things this government has done on the environment file, all you see are cuts,” said Schreiner, pointing to the decision to exit the cap-and-trade climate accord with Quebec and California.

“They have axed pollution pricing, clean-energy contracts, energy retrofits and (electric vehicle) rebates, in addition to repealing climate-change laws,” he said, noting the proceeds of those changes have gone toward “shaving a few cents off gas and making it easier to pollute.”

“Everything this premier has done shows he wants more pollution, not less. Leaders around the world know the future of transportation is not in gasoline-powered vehicles.”

But Frank Notte, of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, praised Ford for delivering “good news.”

“It cuts red tape, and saves time and money,” said Notte. “What started out as a temporary program in 1999 to clean the environment turned into a permanent program that eventually cleaned out taxpayers’ wallets instead.”

Transportation Minister John Yakabuski said details of the new anti-smog push for heavy-duty vehicles will be unveiled in the coming months.

“These changes will make a real, long-term difference for our air quality while respecting taxpayer dollars today,” he said.

Environment Minister Rod Phillips noted that over the past 19 years, Drive Clean has outgrown “its usefulness” because there was a steady annual decrease in the number of cars that failed tests.

Around 2 million vehicles are tested annually. In 2014, 135,000 cars and trucks failed the test.

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

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