The Ontario NDP wants Canada's federal elections watchdog to look into whether Ontario Premier Doug Ford is violating federal election advertising rules with his anti-carbon tax sticker campaign.
The Ontario budget included something called the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act, which requires all gas stations in the province to display a sticker on their pumps saying the federal carbon tax will cost Ontarians 4.4. cents more per litre, rising to 11 cents in 2022.
Gas stations that fail to properly display the stickers can be fined up to $500 a day for a first time offence or $1,000 a day for repeat offences. Corporations face fines ten times that amount.
Ontario government inspectors are tasked with ensuring the stickers are displayed. Interfering with an inspector while they are doing their job can result in a fine of up to $10,000.
Taras Natyshak, the NDP MPP for Essex, wrote Yves Cote, commissioner of Canada Elections, asking him to look into the matter. Cote's job is to enforce the Canada Elections Act.
"If the government of Ontario is taking an official position to promote both Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party of Canada's position on carbon pricing, and these stickers will indeed be in full display across the province for the duration of the election period, then Elections Canada must take action to enforce the Canada Elections Act, 2000," he said.
"The Conservative Party of Canada should either assume the total costs of the production and enforcement of these stickers across the province of Ontario as a campaign expense, or the Government of Ontario can register themselves a Third Party under Section 17 of the Act."
The federal environment minister called the sticker regime "Orwellian" and said Natyshak has raised an important question that merits legal examination.
"I'm just really concerned, as all Canadians should be, at the level of misleading information that's being perpetuated not just by Premier Ford [through] his Orwellian sticker campaign but also by [federal Conservative Leader] Andrew Scheer," Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told CBC.
"You have Premier Ford's stickers that talk about the cost of putting a price on pollution, without talking about the Climate Action Incentive Rebate that Ontarians will get back."
Based on federal figures, the carbon tax in non-compliant provinces will result in an approximate cost increase of 4.42 cents per litre for gasoline, 5.37 cents for light fuel oil (home heating fuel), 3.91 cents per cubic metre for natural gas and 3.10 cents per litre for propane.
Those costs are expected to rise each year as the carbon tax increases by $10 per tonne until it hits $50 in 2022 — meaning those costs will more than double in less than three years' time.
To compensate for the cost of living increase, the federal government has vowed to return every single dollar it collects from the carbon tax to the people in the province in which it was collected — an attempt to make household budgets whole on the money they'll shell out as part of the emissions reduction scheme.
The cost pricing pollution
Here's what the average household (defined by Ottawa as 2.6 people) will receive from the federal government:
- In Ontario: about $300 a year.
- In New Brunswick: $248.
- In Manitoba: $336.
- In Saskatchewan: $598.
The amount will vary by province and by the number of people in the household, but the federal Liberals say 80 per cent of Canadians will get more back in the rebate than they pay through the tax. The payment is not a means-tested benefit, does not depend on income levels and will rise over time as the price on carbon rises.
Ford dismissed the notion that the sticker campaign goes beyond his government's authority and said his only intention is to tell consumers which levels of government are responsible for the taxes on gasoline.
"It's about transparency and accountability," he said this week. "People in our province have to know how the federal government is gouging them on the worst single tax you could ever put on the backs of people, the backs of businesses and its no different than the other stickers you've seen over the years."