PCs defend fining gas stations on carbon tax stickers; unveil driver's license, plates details

The Ford Government is dismissing criticisms of hypocrisy over its plan to fine gas stations if they don't put up government stickers showing the price of the carbon tax at the pump. 

Included in the provincial budget is a system of fining both individuals and companies who either refuse to put up the stickers or obstruct inspection. 

Individuals can face a maximum fine of $1,000 per day if it's a second offence, whereas companies can face fines of $10,000 per day. 

"Here we have this premier who runs around and says he's all for free speech and now he's going to impose his own speech onto businesses and threaten them with a $10,000 fine," Ontario Green Party Leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner said.

Environment Minister Rod Phillips defended the move Monday, saying he doesn't see resistance coming from gas stations. 

"I am confident that we are going to see small businesses, including gas retailers, implementing this program," he said, and was then pushed on whether they should be forced to implement the stickers. 

"I don't believe that this is going to be a problem," he said. "We are going to use all of the tools that we have." 

The PCs have also promoted themselves as being the party of smaller government intervention, but Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy said in this case, the government's approach is warranted. 

"We think it's important to let the people of Ontario know the impact," he said, while asked even if that means fining private businesses. 

"This is a government for the people and we'll continue to let the people know that we've got their backs." 

Interim Liberal Party Leader John Fraser called the plan egregious. 

"Using taxpayer money for a political campaign to prop up Andrew Scheer and then on top of that forcing gas station owners and companies to put that on their pumps by law, it's never happened before," he said.

The stickers do not include other information from the carbon tax, including the rebates Canadians get from the levy. 

"The full story on the carbon tax is that it's unnecessary," Phillips said. 

The defense came the same day the government unveiled new details about provincial license plates and licences, with the redesigned Ontario logo and slogan. 

The plates will begin to go on cars on February 1st, 2020, while the licences will be available this fall. 

Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said the licenses were last updated 12 years ago, whereas the industry standard is five to seven to prevent fraud and identity and theft. 

As for the plates, Government and Consumer Services Minister Bill Walker says the new plates will save money in the long run because they're using technology to prevent peeling and flaking. 

"But if you're old plate is good and you want to keep with that and stick with that, that's totally fine," he said. 

There had been reports the government was considering removing the front license plates from vehicles, but Yurek said Monday the plan for now is still for both front and back to remain. 

Schreiner called the entire process unnecessary. 

"We're spending tax dollars fighting climate solutions and on a vanity project for the premier to rebrand the province," he said.