Lawsuit says illegal to force gas stations to paste carbon-price stickers

TORONTO — An Ontario law forcing gas stations to display stickers showing the cost of federal carbon pricing is illegal and should be thrown out, a new lawsuit asserts.

The unproven lawsuit from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association says the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act — dubbed the Sticker Act — violates free speech provisions of the Constitution.

“The sticker imposed by the Sticker Act constitutes compelled political speech,” the lawsuit asserts. “Under threat of significant fines, it legislatively requires gas station owners to express the (government’s) position.”

The liberties group says in its filing it was unable to find a gas station owner willing to fight the law despite its “diligent attempts.”

The Progressive Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford brought in the legislation as part of its failed legal battle with Ottawa over carbon pricing ahead of next month’s 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 has consistently denounced the federal legislation as a “tax grab” and has said it wants consumers to know what the federal charge will cost Ontario drivers.

“We’re going to stick it to the Liberals and remind the people of Ontario how much this job-killing, regressive carbon tax costs,” Energy Minister Greg Rickford, who is named in the suit, told the legislature in April.

The association, however, says the stickers are part of Ontario’s political campaign against Ottawa and there’s no good reason to force anyone to display them.

“The Sticker Act requirements do not relate to any technical standards or any concerns about safety,” the lawsuit states. “Comments Ontario has made about the Sticker Act in the Ontario legislature and to the public demonstrate that the content of the stickers are political in nature.”

The Ontario government had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

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