Protesting Gas Pump Politics

The Ford Government is getting set to roll out its controversial gas pump stickers. The stickers, like the ads it is already running on radio and television, tell us the average payment in 2022 under the federal government’s carbon price without adding that most of the payment would be rebated.

To implement the sticker policy, the government is proposing regulations under its Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act — a truly Orwellian title. The government is accepting online comments about the regulation until July 9. Finding the page to comment is not easy, as it is several levels down on the Ontario government website together with many other regulatory proposals. Here is a link to the page. Here are the comments I submitted:

“This proposal is a travesty of democratic governance. The province is using taxpayer money to disseminate propaganda and lies and forcing third parties (gas stations) to be its agent. If implemented, this proposal will bring the government into increased disrepute and reduce its popularity to a lower level than it already is. It is a triumph of ideology and obstinacy over common sense and good governance.”

I encourage my readers to use the link and, if they agree with me, to submit similar comments. I am hoping that so many people will submit comments attacking the gas pump stickers that the government will change its mind. The government has on several occasions withdrawn proposals that have elicited widespread public opposition. But I don’t expect it will happen this time. The Ford Government seems totally committed to its war against the federal government’s carbon pricing policy. Therefore, I expect it will not make public the results of the consultation, but just go ahead printing gas pump stickers and requiring gas stations to display them.

While the advertising campaign against carbon pricing is objectionable for using taxpayer dollars to fund advocacy of government policy, and dishonest advocacy at that, at least the advertising is a commercial transaction with media willing to sell broadcast time. In this case, gas station operators are being forced to display government advertising on their property, without any compensation, and indeed will be penalized for failing to do so.

It appears that the government is expecting opposition to its stickers because the Act says that any individual who contravenes the mandate to display the stickers would be subject to a $500 fine for a first offence and $1000 for a second offence. This appears to apply to both individuals working at gas stations and customers or passers-by who might deface the stickers (possibly with marking pens or spray paint) or apply alternative stickers with a different message. Perhaps the government expects gas station operators to run surveillance tapes of all activity at the pumps and use the tapes to identify miscreants or turn the tapes over to the government.

Forcing gas station operators to serve as the agents for government propaganda is unprecedented. It would be comparable to forcing schools to post propaganda about the government’s educational policy or hospitals to post propaganda about its health policy. I expect the constitutionality of this mandate will be challenged.

I hope that citizen protest will compel the government to back down from its gas sticker campaign. But I won’t mind if it doesn’t. I expect the sticker campaign will prove tremendously unpopular and diminish the government’s public support, as well as that of the premier, below their current basement levels. My attitude towards the Ford Government is encapsulated by the Marxist slogan, “the worse, the better.” The more the Ford Government insults the public’s intelligence and values, the more likely it is to be defeated in the next election. So, bring on the stickers. And let’s see what happens when the Ford Government tries to enforce a misguided and indefensible law.

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