It’s been a bumpy start for legislation from Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government that orders gas station owners to display stickers attacking the federal carbon pricing plan.
At some Toronto stations, the stickers were unaccounted for Saturday, while evidence that the they are peeling off on their own could be found in photos posted online by bemused customers, and at least one business reported receiving the stickers even though it doesn’t sell gasoline.
Jennifer Keesmaat, the former chief city planner and one-time Toronto mayoral candidate, tweeted a photo of a peeling decal on a gas pump Saturday afternoon. “Even the gas pumps themselves are rejecting these ridiculous anti-carbon tax stickers,” Keesmaat wrote.
The government initially threatened fines of up to $10,000 per day against stations that did not post the decals. It has since changed course and now suggests that businesses that don’t co-operate with the legislation will be subjected to “written warnings” and potentially fined. In the letter provided to business owners, it is not specified what the fines might be.
The order has not come without its share of backlash, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association complaining after the announcement that the stickers could constitute compelled speech.
More than 25,000 stickers have been printed so far. They were issued to businesses in August, with a requirement to have them placed on gas pumps across Ontario by Friday.
At two gas stations visited by the Star on Saturday, stickers were prominently displayed at the pumps according to the rules, with a sticker displayed in the top two-thirds of each pump, facing customers.
At one of these stations, there was evidence that a pump had recently had its sticker torn off. Other pumps had decals that were beginning to peel away on their own.
The legislation only requires that one decal be posted, regardless of language. At some pumps viewed by the Star, only French-language stickers were displayed, with no English translation.
Two other stations did not display the stickers, nor was there evidence that the stickers had been posted and subsequently torn off or defaced.
None of the stations visited had staff available to speak about the stickers’ rollout.
A spokeswoman for Energy Minister Greg Rickford said gas stations are expected to keep stickers on the pumps regardless of what happens to them.
“In the case that a sticker is needs to be replaced, stickers can be ordered free of charge on the Publications Ontario website,” said press secretary Sydney Stonier. “For the first few months, inspectors are focusing on education and helping gasoline retailers come into compliance.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the stickers are disappearing because they are a laughingstock and accused Premier Doug Ford’s government of inappropriately passing the law in a bid to help the federal Conservatives under Andrew Scheer in the Oct. 21 national election campaign.
“There’s a massive eye-roll going on all around Ontario. If there’s one thing that folks see, it’s that this is a blatant partisan effort that Mr. Ford is using public money for and knuckling down on private businesses to carry partisan propaganda,” Horwath told reporters.
“It’s completely the wrong thing to do and Mr. Ford should have walked it back a long time ago …. the whole ball of wax should be gone, including the stickers, which are apparently falling into the trash on their own.”
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Green Leader Mike Schreiner said “all these stickers do is remind people that the premier cares more about fighting climate solutions than fighting climate change.”
The Greens have their own stickers with the “full story” for gas stations available at www.climatecosts.ca, added Schreiner.
“Doug Ford is furiously printing stickers and bullying businesses into participating in his misleading, anti-climate crusade. We all know that without a price on pollution, climate change is going to cost us, and I am delighted that some gas stations want to tell the full story by requesting our stickers.”
Across the GTA in Hamilton, Kyle Negus says that he found 20 stickers in his mailbox at Piil’s Tire and Auto Service last Wednesday.
However, his Kal Tire franchise is not a gas station, and never has been.
Negus said the package he received included 10 English-language stickers and 10 printed in French. There was also a letter outlining how the stickers must be displayed and potential repercussions should the retailers not display the stickers.
“What a waste of money, especially considering that … arguably, carbon taxes actually do work to reduce emissions, that’s been proven over and over again.” said Negus in a phone interview. “It’s just propaganda — and now they’re sending it to more than just gas stations.
“They’re using laws to spread their (political) message,” he added. “The government should not be allowed to do this.”
Negus said that if his tire shop were in fact a gas station, he wouldn’t post the stickers. He said he sent an email to the government asking for an explanation as to why his tire shop was flagged to receive the decals, but he has not received a response aside from an acknowledgment that his email was received.
The address where his business is located had fuel pumps in the 1950s and 1960s, but it has been several decades since the address has hosted pumps of any kind, he said. When he called another tire shop in Hamilton, Negus said he was told staff there received the same packet of stickers — despite not selling fuel.
Asked what he planned to do with the stickers, Negus said the decals are “probably going to go in the garbage.
“What am I going to do with them?”