Ontario’s Superior court has ruled the Ford government’s law on requiring carbon tax stickers at all provincial gas stations is unconstitutional.
“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 in an election campaign or otherwise,” Justice Edward M. Morgan wrote in a decision that was shared by the plaintiff in the case, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), Friday afternoon.
“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.”
The decision said the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act – dubbed the Sticker Act – violates section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, ruling it is of “no force or effect.”
“Gasoline retailers are at liberty to keep the stickers on their fuel pumps or to remove them as they see fit,” it said.
The Progressive Conservative government brought in the legislation as part of its failed legal battle with Ottawa over carbon pricing ahead of the 2019 federal election.
The federal scheme imposes a charge in those provinces that don’t have a carbon-pricing system of their own – currently 4.4 cents a litre in Ontario.
Ford consistently denounced the federal legislation as a “tax grab” and said the government wants consumers to know what the federal charge will cost Ontario drivers.
The act forcing gas stations to put up the stickers took effect on Aug. 30, 2019. Failure to do so can carry a fine of $5,000 a day for a first offence, rising to $10,000 a day for subsequent offences.
The CCLA argued the Act violates free speech provisions of the Constitution, and asked for the law to be thrown out.
In a response to the decision released on Friday, Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford slammed the federal carbon tax.
“We respect the decision of the court, but our government will always stand up for the people of Ontario when it comes to matters that make everyday life more expensive for hardworking families.”
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called on the Ford government to “accept the decision” and to not appeal the decision.
“Doug Ford wasted Ontarians’ money on these ridiculous propaganda stickers that don’t even stick,” she wrote in a post on Twitter Friday afternoon.
“We absolutely can’t afford for him to waste another dime of public money or a second of the courts’ time appealing this partisan fiasco.”
— With files from The Canadian Press