Premier Doug Ford’s defective decals have left his Progressive Conservative government in a sticky situation.
A day after Ford said he was outraged that the government’s gas pump stickers were peeling off, Energy Minister Greg Rickford office was noncommittal on finding replacement stickers.
“The premier and Minister Rickford had a productive conversation on the matter. There has been no commitment to tender a new request for proposals,” said Sydney Stonier, the minister’s press secretary on Wednesday.
“We as the client are in the process of monitoring the situation and we will undertake followup action if necessary,” said Stonier.
As first revealed by the Star last Friday, the controversial gas-pump stickers warning “the federal carbon tax will cost you” can be easily peeled off, which has led to rampant vandalism.
While the Tories ordered 25,000 “outdoor glossy laminate” stickers with “aggressive adhesive,” the faulty decals have Ford demanding answers from Rickford.
On Tuesday, the premier, whose family runs a sticker business that did not have the printing contract, conceded the fiasco was embarrassing.
“Can you believe that? It’s like the shoemaker’s daughter not getting shoes? They have to pull me off the ceiling when they hear the stickers are coming off,” Ford told reporters at the International Plowing Match in Verner, Ont.
“Things like that happen and we’re going to make sure we get the proper stickers made. But hey, I agree 100 per cent. I got to talk to Minister Rickford, but again that company messed up and we’re going to get it fixed,” he said, referring to vendor Astley Gilbert, which has not commented on the debacle.
With no replacements coming anytime soon it would seem the same problematic stickers will continue to be distributed to Ontario gas stations, whose operators have complained that it’s like “whack-a-mole” trying to keep up with replacing them.
Because operators face minimum daily fines of $150 as of three weeks ago — though government inspectors are sticking to written warnings for the next few months — there is concern about them being so easy to destroy.
Ford, whose father co-founded Deco Labels, said he “saw the specs” for the $4,954 government order.
“They were laminated and so on and so forth. Never happened, so anyways we’ll get it fixed. If I was allowed to donate them I would, believe me, but I’m not allowed to,” he said.
Last week, a senior Conservative, who was not authorized to speak for attribution, said the screw-up appears to be the result of the government not wanting to pay too much 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 insider said, noting that’s what led to procuring decals that cost 20 cent apiece.
In the wake of the mandatory government messages, which do not explain any benefits from carbon pricing, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association launched a legal challenge about the constitutionality of forcing private businesses to post political slogans.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association, which represents gas stations, have also criticized the Tories for placing such a burden on business.
Gas stations were each issued 20 stickers — 10 in English and 10 in French — and are restricted to ordering 10 replacements at a time from the government’s Publications Ontario.
They are not charged for the cost of the stickers or postage charges.
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Green Leader Mike Schreiner, whose party printed parody warnings that say “climate change will cost us more,” has dubbed the imbroglio “stickergate.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the scheme is a “completely wrong-headed” attempt by the provincial Conservatives to boost Tory candidates in the Oct. 21 federal campaign.
“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 … is a despicable use of public funds,” Horwath said Tuesday.