There's now a war over gas station stickers in Toronto
With all of the hullabaloo surrounding transit, gambling and access to booze in Ontario's 2019 budget, you may have overlooked a new, seemingly low-key piece of legislation about stickers at gas stations.
Called the "Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act," the law mandates that gas station operators display government-issued stickers at every pump to, as the PCs put it, "warn Ontario families of the hidden federal carbon tax that will add more than 11 cents per litre to the price of gasoline by 2022."
It may seem petty, but the sticker campaign comes along with steep penalties for those who choose to abstain: As much as $10,000 per day for corporations caught by government inspectors.
Yes, the government is paying inspectors to ensure their stickers are properly posted at gas station pumps all over Ontario.
The mandatory sticker program has been criticized in recent weeks as "propaganda" by policy experts, environmentalists and Ontario residents.
Just two days ago, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association publicly declared the carbon sticker tax scheme "unconstitutional," arguing that forcing gas station owners to display partisan messages violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"The provincial government has managed to require private companies to advertise for them and, more specifically, advertise against the federal government of a different political stripe," writes CCLA's Director of Fundamental Freedoms Program, Cara Zwibel.
"Not only is this advertising free for the government – they can earn money for every retailer who fails to comply (retailers who fail to post the notice face fines of up to $10,000 per day). They have turned gas retailers into their PR firms and turned compelled speech into a revenue stream."
Doug Ford's administration doesn't seem keen on playing along.
"Our government is taking measures to ensure that all Ontarians know the full impact of the federal carbon tax every time they fill up at the pump," said Energy Minister Greg Rickford in response to the CCLA's letter. "It's unfortunate that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association doesn't share these values for Ontario."
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has similarly spoken out against the stickers, as have opposing political parties, but so far the government has yet to budge on the issue.
So, in the spirit of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," Ontario's Green Party has designed some stickers of its own.
The Premier's taxpayer funded stickers being forced on gas stations fail to mention the costs of the climate crisis.— Green Party Ontario (@OntarioGreens) May 2, 2019
So we fixed them.
Find out more at: https://t.co/mtNg39NKc7 #onpoli pic.twitter.com/UTU31UFGgz
These parody carbon tax stickers look just like the originals in terms of colour, font, layout and graphics — but instead of "the federal carbon tax will cost you," they read "climate change will cost us more."
Unlike Ford's stickers, they also contain some research points about the predicted impacts of climate change upon the future of our entire species. A URL included at the bottom of each sticker expands on the horrors we can expect in Ontario, in Canada and globally.
"Climate change could cost us over 91 billion annually by 2050," reads one of the bullet points on the Green Party's stickers. "Extreme floods, fires and storm will get worse, harming our children and grandchildren."
Public reaction so far has been quite positive, if not only because of the Green Party's creativity and snarkiness.
The Ontario Green Party is offering up a different kind of sticker for gas stations https://t.co/lounmPwh8r the one on the left is from the Ford government, the one on the right is from the Greens 👇🏻 #onpoli #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/jrQoFLNetE— Marieke Walsh (@MariekeWalsh) May 2, 2019
"It's outrageous that (Premier Doug Ford) is forcing businesses to be complicit in his anti-climate misinformation campaign," said the party's leader, Mike Schreiner, to reporters on Thursday at Queen's Park.
"We’re inviting gas stations to make use of the stickers if they want to inform the public about the full costs of the climate emergency."
"The premier is on the wrong side of history, and the people of Ontario cannot afford his scare campaign," continued Schreiner. "We all deserve better, and I will continue standing up to defend our children and grandchildren."
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