Carbon tax stickers on Ontario gas pumps attacked as political

Sep 13, 2019

American travelers filling up at gas stations in Ontario will likely see a sticker at the gas pumps. It outlines the cost to Ontario taxpayers of the federal carbon tax.


But the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed a lawsuit against the Ontario government for ordering gas station owners to place those anti-carbon tax stickers on gas pumps. The association says the stickers are a political message and violate freedom of speech.

A Canadian Tire Gas station in Bowmanville, Ontario
Credit Dan Karpenchuk

The Conservative government of premier Doug Ford has vowed to fight the new federal carbon tax and denounced it as a tax grab. But Ford’s government failed in its legal challenge to the tax, so it came up with its own law that forces gas station owners to display anti-carbon tax stickers on the pumps. It has developed enforcement plans, including an education campaign, written warnings, compliance orders and fines of up to $10,000 a day for gas station operators who don’t comply.

The stickers show that the federal carbon tax has added about 16 cents a gallon to price of gasoline and will almost triple by 2022. But the stickers don’t mention carbon tax rebates. Critics call the move a farce and an abuse of power. Greenpeace says the stickers ignore the federal rebates as well as the increased cost of floods, heatwaves and wildfires from climate change.

These stickers at Ontario gas pumps outline the cost to Ontario taxpayers of the federal carbon tax. But some say the stickers are a political message and violate freedom of speech.
Credit Dan Karpenchuk

Cara Zwibel of The Canadian Civil Libeties Association says the stickers are part of Ontario’s political campaign against Ottawa and no one should be forced to display them.

"The carbon tax stickers are not a cost transparency measure. They’re not a health and safety warning. They are a political message and it’s perfectly fine if the Ontario government wants to convey that political message itself, but it’s not fine to use the law to force other people to convey that message for them," Zwibel said.

Critics also say the stickers don’t mention the hefty provincial taxes on gasoline. This week a judge ruled that the fines imposed would be $150 a day, not $10,000. The CCLA says freedom of speech would protect those gas station owners who don’t agree with Ford’s message and don’t want to display the stickers.