Premier Doug Ford’s government has fired the opening salvo in its advertising blitz against Ottawa’s controversial new carbon-pricing scheme.
As first disclosed by the Star, Queen’s Park is launching a taxpayer-funded campaign on television and radio, in print and on social media targeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan.
In the radio ad that hits airwaves Wednesday, a female narrator outlines the cost of the measures that took effect two weeks ago.
“With the federal government’s carbon tax, you’ll pay more for heating your home, for driving your kids to school and for groceries,” she intones against a backdrop of the sound of clinking coins.
“This will result in the average family paying $648 a year by 2022,” the narrator continues, referring to an estimate by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario.
The 30-second spot does not address the federal tax rebate that is designed to offset higher fuel costs. For a family of four, it is set to rise from $307 now to $718 annually by 2022 for a net gain of $70 per household that year.
While the rebate is subsidized by industrial polluters, the provincial government insists consumers will pay more.
“Ontario has a better way, holding the biggest polluters accountable, reducing trash, and keeping our lakes clean,” says the narrator.
“A carbon tax isn’t the only way to fight climate change.”
Ottawa’s promotion of the federal plan is similarly bankrolled by the public.
Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, who are also fighting the federal Liberals in court, will air their first TV and digital ads next month. It’s all part of a multi-pronged, $30-million effort in advance of this fall’s federal election.
On Tuesday, the premier defended the rollout of Tory-blue stickers highlighting the cost of the federal carbon pricing. The stickers must be placed on every gas pump in the province, under threat of fines up to $10,000 a day for gasoline stations that don’t comply.
“You slap a sticker on there to inform the public, this is why the gas prices are going up,” Ford said in Markham.
“It’s going to be terrible for the economy, so we have to make sure that people are aware how they’re getting gouged by this federal government.”
At Queen’s Park, Energy Minister Greg Rickford underscored the thinking behind the decals.
“We’re going to stick it to the Liberals and remind the people of Ontario how much this job-killing regressive carbon tax costs,” Rickford told the legislature.
But NDP MPP Taras Natyshak (Essex) said the Tories are effectively warning private businesses that “they risk a fine of up to $10,000 a day if they fail to pledge their allegiance” to the Ford government.
“There’s no grey area here … It’s just plain wrong. Will the Ford government pull this ridiculous plan today?” Natyshak asked.
“Spending millions of public dollars to produce partisan ads and millions more to force private businesses to either display them or pay fines of up to $10,000 a day … is pretty indefensible.”
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie