Repeat car thieves may face lengthy licence bans under proposed changes to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act.

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner provided details of new measures aimed at preventing violent auto theft at a news conference on Tuesday morning.

The Ford government wants to attach a 10-year driver’s licence suspension to a first conviction of auto theft that involved violence, use of weapon, force, or where the theft was motivated by financial gain.

The suspension could extend to 15 years for a second offence, and a lifetime driving ban on a third.

"It is unacceptable that people are being forced out of their vehicles at gunpoint and forced to look over their shoulders while pumping gas or pulling into their driveways," Sarkaria told reporters Tuesday.

Sarkaria described car theft as a cowardly crime that can traumatize its victims. The government says a car is stolen every 14 minutes in Ontario.

In mid-March, Toronto’s Chief of Police revealed that in 2023, a vehicle was stolen in the city every 40 minutes.

Myron Demkiw said that in the first few month of 2024, the number of carjackings had more than doubled over the same period the year before. The number of home break-ins to steal cars have already surpassed all those counted in 2023.

"The joke is on criminals if they think Ontario is going to stand by and not do our part," Sarkaria said. "Everyone has a right to feel safe in their communities."

When asked whether this will be an effective deterrent given how many car thieves do not have valid drivers' licences, Sarkaria said the province must do what it can to send a "strong message to people" that government is taking this issue seriously.

He noted that the province would like to see "tougher penalties" imposed by the federal government when it comes to auto theft.

"It’s important for us to do everything in our toolkit to ensure communities are safe," he added.

In legislation to be tabled Thursday, the provincial government will also toughen penalties for street racers. A first conviction could come with a mandatory licence suspension of at least a year. On a third conviction, a driver could lose their licence for good.

Stunt driving includes driving at high rates of speed, racing, and other dangerous manoeuvers. The government says 12,000 roadside suspensions were issued in 2023 for street racing and stunt driving, the highest number since the COVID-19 pandemic.