VERNER, ONT.—After running a label company for years, Premier Doug Ford says his staff had to “pull me off the ceiling” when he heard his government’s controversial gas pump stickers were peeling off.
“Could you believe that? It’s like the shoemaker’s daughter not getting shoes,” Ford said Tuesday at the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo near this largely francophone hamlet an hour’s drive west of North Bay.
The premier pledged a new batch of stickers attacking the federal government’s carbon pricing will be ordered from a different company — and joked the result would have been different if the Ford family firm in Etobicoke had done the job in the first place.
“They didn’t use Deco Labels, that’s why,” said Ford, whose Progressive Conservative government has been mocked for the snafu first reported by the Star.
“If I was allowed to donate them, I would, believe me. But I’m not allowed to.”
The irony of the “stickergate” fiasco, as Green Leader Mike Schreiner called it, has not been lost on Ford’s political rivals.
“I think somebody’s sending him a message. Maybe it’s from above,” interim Liberal leader John Fraser quipped before party bosses tried their hand at plowing furrows under bright blue skies in the warm later summer sunshine.
Ford’s government passed a law earlier this year ordering gas stations to display stickers on their pumps warning motorists “the federal carbon tax will cost you.”
But they have been easily vandalized and peeled off.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has criticized the stickers as a burden on businesses and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has launched a court challenge of the constitutionality of requiring businesses to post a political message.
Opposition leaders at the 102nd annual rural fair said the adhesive problem is a sign Ford should drop the sticker plan, with the NDP’s Andrea Horwath calling it “completely wrong-headed.”
“To use public money on this kind of partisan effort for the purposes of trying to help (Conservative Leader) Andrew Scheer in the ongoing federal election that is now underway is a despicable use of public funds.”
A company named Astley Gilbert printed 25,000 stickers at a cost of $4,954. Each gas station in the province got 10 in English and 10 in French and face minimum daily fines for not posting them. Gas stations can only order 10 replacements at a time through Publications Ontario, a government department.
Ford, who received a mostly warm reception at the plowing match and did not encounter protesters as he did at least year’s plowing match near Chatham, said he will be speaking to Energy Minister Greg Rickford about the sticker troubles.
“That company messed up and we’re going to get it fixed,” Ford charged. “I saw the specs. Outdoor. Laminated. And so on and so forth.”
There was a handful of boos for Ford as political leaders spoke to a crowd of several hundred at the opening ceremony of the rural expo, where MPPs come every September to mingle with farmers for a day.
The premier blamed New Democrats for engineering the catcalls, which were minor and nowhere near the level of booing he received at the Raptors NBA victory celebration or the opening of the Special Olympics in recent months.
Get The Lead newsletter
Start getting your whip-smart guide to Canada’s 2019 federal election in your inbox.
“I’m so disappointed with Andrea Horwath and her team,” he told reporters, several of whom did not hear any booing from the section where New Democrat MPPs were sitting. “It’s absolutely uncalled for.”
Horwath laughed off Ford’s accusation and said any boos from the audience were from people concerned about PC government cuts, including $225 million to the ministry of agriculture, food and rural affairs.
“I don’t know why the premier thinks that had something to do with us,” said Horwath, who met up with federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh when he arrived at the plowing match.