NDP accuses Ford government of violating federal election law with mandatory blue gas-pump stickers

NDP accuses Ford government of violating federal election law with mandatory blue gas-pump stickers
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The provincial New Democrats have complained to Elections Canada that the Progressive Conservative government’s mandatory gas pump stickers may violate federal campaign laws.

NDP MPP Taras Natyshak has written to Canada’s chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault about the Tory-blue decals that will soon appear at every gasoline station in Ontario under threat of fines of up to $10,000 a day.

The Progressive Conservative government plans to put these stickers on gasoline pumps that show motorists the cost of the federal government’s carbon-pricing measures.  (Government of Ontario)

The stickers highlight the impact of the federal Liberal government’s carbon-pricing measures on gasoline, but they do not mention the offsetting rebates Ottawa is sending back to those affected.

“I am writing to you concerning what I believe could be a violation of Canada’s election advertising rules,” wrote Natyshak (Essex).

“As you are aware, Part 16, section 319 of the Canada Elections Act, 2000 defines elections advertising as: … ‘the transmission to the public by any means during an election period of an advertising message that promotes or opposes a registered party or the election of a candidate, including one that takes a position on an issue with which a registered party or candidate is associated.’”

The New Democrat MPP is concerned the 20-by-15-centimetre stickers will still be on pumps during the campaign period this fall.

Tories launch radio ads attacking federal Liberals’ ‘carbon tax’

“In recent weeks the premier of Ontario has announced his intention to force Ontario gasoline retailers to display ‘anti-carbon tax’ notices on their gas pumps,” wrote Natyshak.

“These stickers are clearly advertising within the definition of the Act. They are also, clearly, partisan in their aim. In the words of the premier’s colleague, Minister of Energy, Mines, Northern Development and Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford: ‘We’re going to stick it to the Liberals and remind the people of Ontario how much this job-killing, regressive carbon tax costs.’”

Natyshak noted it remains “unclear how much this advertising campaign will cost.”

“The government has not been forthcoming on the cost to Ontario’s treasury of producing and distributing these advertisements, much less the cost of ensuring compliance with new legislation that will see gas stations fined up to $10,000 a day for failing to post them,” he wrote.

In total, Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives are spending $30 million, including a court challenge, fighting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal administration over the levy.

“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. This is clearly election advertising as defined by the Act.”

The MPP wants the federal Tories to “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 ... the act.”

Rickford defended the stickers on Thursday, insisting the Tories are merely countering the federal Liberal government’s claims about carbon pricing.

“This is a job-killing, regressive carbon tax. We won’t stand for it,” the minister said, criticizing federal postcards that tout the rebates to families.

The Canadian Fuels Association, which represents the industry, has declined to comment.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner has warned the decals are misleading.

“These stickers only tell you one-third of the story. They don’t tell you how much climate change is costing — $1.2 billion in insurable losses last year. Or they don’t tell you that most people are going to get a rebate ... that’s actually higher than the amount they’re paying,” Schreiner said.

“It sounds like something a dictator would do, not a democratically elected government — particularly a Conservative government.”
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