Court finds PC’s anti-carbon-tax gas-pump stickers unconstitutional
The stickers, they are a-peeling.
That may be the case after Ontario’s Superior Court sided with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in ruling that the Ford government’s mandatory anti-carbon-tax gas-pump sticker law is a form of “compelled speech” that violates the charter.
In his decision released Friday, Justice Ed Morgan called the stickers “inaccurate” and “misleading” because they mentioned the rising costs of the carbon backstop but failed to note the tax rebates. “That kind of half-truth is not very truthful,” he wrote.
Morgan also determined Energy Minister Greg Rickford gave away the stickers’ “partisan” intent in the legislature, when he said the government wanted to “stick it to the Liberals” and remind Ontarians how much the levy would cost.
“A government or political party can, in the words of Ontario’s Minister of Energy, ‘stick it to’ another tier of government or political party as a matter of free speech,” Morgan wrote. “But a government cannot legislate a requirement that private retailers post a sticker designed to accomplish that task. The mandatory fuel pump sticker is an unconstitutional attempt to do just that.”
Morgan ordered gas stations to keep or remove the stickers “as they see fit.”
It isn’t yet clear if the government will appeal the decision.
The CCLA challenged the mandatory sticker law, arguing, as many critics did, that the decals were misleading and overtly partisan in the run-up to last fall’s federal election, during which the carbon tax was a hot-potato issue.
NDP Energy critic Peter Tabuns wants an “immediate commitment” from Premier Doug Ford that he won’t waste more taxpayers’ money on “stickers that don’t stick” by appealing the court’s decision.
As Queen’s Park Today first reported, the decals cost Ontario at least $30,000 — a much higher sticker price than the $5,000 initially earmarked.
The province still plans to fight the carbon tax at the Supreme Court; hearings were scheduled to begin in March but were pushed to September because of the pandemic.