Mandatory gas pump stickers unconstitutional: civil liberties association
Ontario gas station owners who refuse to display carbon tax warnings face daily fines of $10K
The provincial government's mandatory gas pump stickers warning about the cost of the federal carbon tax is unconstitutional, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which is threatening to mount a legal challenge.
Former attorney general and CCLA executive director Michael Bryant said the stickers, which gas station owners must display by Aug. 30 or face a maximum fine of $10,000 a day, amounts to "forced speech," a violation of free speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"The government, using its legal powers, are forcing individuals and corporations to adopt a particular political message that the government is pushing," Bryant told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.
Bryant said there are cases where forced speech is justified, such as health warnings on cigarette packets, but that doesn't apply to the carbon tax stickers, which he considers political.
"There's a political debate, and that's something that shouldn't have laws that require people to take one side or the other," Bryant said.
According to Sydney Stonier, press secretary for Ontario Energy Minister Greg Rickford, the maximum fine, approved in this spring's budget bill, won't be applied right away to gas station owners who refuse to display the stickers.
"The legislation has always been clear that a first offence would not be fined more than $500 for individuals," Stonier said in an email.
Stickers 'a great idea'
Joe Saab, owner of Saab Gas Centre in Ottawa, is in favour of the stickers.
"It's great, it's a good idea. There is nothing wrong with it, and I hope everybody will have [the stickers]," he said.
Saab said he thinks the public should know that the increase in gas prices is going to the federal government and not to gas station owners.
"People are thinking we're making extra money. We are not making extra money, that money goes to the government."
Bryant said Saab is more than welcome to put up the stickers if he wants, but other owners shouldn't face a penalty if they refuse.
"He's certainly allowed to tell everybody and put up signs all over his gas station," Bryant said. "The issue is whether or not the government should be able to force anyone to adopt a particular political message."
Bryant said his organization has heard from multiple owners who are concerned about the penalties.