The Progressive Conservatives’ gas-pump stickers attacking federal carbon pricing are easily vandalized because the government’s decals apparently have the wrong adhesive, the Star has learned.
In a source of embarrassment to Queen’s Park, the mandatory provincial messages warning “the federal carbon tax will cost you” are being peeled off across Ontario because they are not sticky enough.
A petroleum industry source, speaking confidentially out of fear of retribution, said the Tories appeared to have botched the decals.
“For whatever reason, the government got indoor stickers with an adhesive designed to be applied on metal surfaces,” said the insider.
“But gas pumps are outdoors and are covered in vinyl coating so they are being stripped off faster than they can be replaced,” he said, adding “it’s whack-a-mole” for gasoline retailers who face minimum $150 daily fines for not posting the stickers.
“People are vandalizing the property of private businesses because of these stickers,”
Gas stations were each issued 20 stickers — 10 in English and 10 in French — and are only permitted to order 10 replacements at a time from Publications Ontario, a government department.
Retailers are not charged for the cost of the decals.
Printed by Astley Gilbert for $4,954, 25,000 stickers were mailed to to every gas station in the province and, as of Aug. 30, must be posted on each pump.
A spokesperson for Astley Gilbert initially said the company would comment, but did not follow up.
In recent days, a Star reporter visited gas stations in Toronto, London, Kawartha Lakes, and Durham and discovered many pumps were stripped bare of the decals.
Energy Minister Greg Rickford, whose department is responsible for the stickers, brushed past reporters on his way into a cabinet meeting Thursday at Queen’s Park.
Informed by journalists there are adhesion problems with the decals, Rickford said: “I’ll brief and get back to you.”
Later, his office said the energy ministry “received quotes from seven companies, with the successful bidder meeting the specifications for ‘outdoor glossy laminate’ stickers with ‘aggressive adhesive.’”
“We will continue to monitor the situation to determine if there are significant issues with the adhesive,” said Rickford’s press secretary Sydney Stonier.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek wondered if there were technical issues.
“I don’t know how they’re applied if they had to use…acetone or something (to clean the pump surface) to make it stickier or what have you,” said Yurek.
Get The Lead newsletter
Start getting your whip-smart guide to Canada’s 2019 federal election in your inbox.
“Those stickers are up across Ontario and they’re giving people information on the implications of the carbon tax in Ontario,” the minister said.
“We’re going to continue our fight as a province to ensure that we get that carbon tax removed for Ontarians,” he said.
A senior Conservative, who was not authorized to speak for attribution, said the snafu is apparently the result of the government not wanting to pay too much for the stickers and seeking a lowball bidder.
“The decision was made by people who no longer work here that we didn’t want a big price tag (for the decals),” the Tory official said, noting that’s what led to procuring products that cost 20 cent apiece.
Still, the petroleum industry insider said the decal debacle could reflect poorly on Premier Doug Ford.
“We have a premier whose family runs a sticker business, so it’s pretty bad,” he said, referring to Deco Labels, a firm co-founded by Ford’s late father.
Deco is not involved with the gas-pump stickers.
The initiative has been widely criticized with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association launching a legal challenge about the constitutionality of forcing private businesses to post a political message.
Both the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association, which represents gas stations, have also been critical of the Tories placing such a burden on business.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner has printed similar stickers that warn “climate change will cost us more.”