Civil liberties association files challenge of anti-carbon tax sticker law

Gas Pump carbon tax sticker

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has officially filed a legal challenge to the provincial law requiring gas stations to post an anti-carbon tax stick or potentially face fines up to $10,000 a day.

The CCLA argues that Ontario's Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act violates the Charter rights of gas stations owners by forcing them to convey political messages on behalf of the provincial government.

"Especially given the timing that we're about to be in an election period at the federal election, it's really concerning to have a law that forces private individuals and corporations and private individuals to convey the government's message for it," says Cara Zwibel, Director of the CCLA Fundamental Freedoms Program. "The government has lots of opportunity to convey that message for itself."

The province has said it wants consumers to know what the federal carbon charge will cost Ontario drivers.

The CCLA isn't sure when Ontario's Superior Court might hear the case but Zwibel thinks it would be "optimistic" to expect a decision before the country-wide vote in October.

Last month Premier Doug Ford said fines would be enforced, though not at the maximum levels.

A spokesperson for the provincial energy minister has said inspectors won't be focusing on enforcement right away. She says most of their efforts in the next few months will go towards education and compliance.

But Zwibel doesn't think that's much comfort.

"If I'm a retailer assessing my kind of assessing my risk, I think that I probably have to rely on the law, rather than some unattributed comments coming out of different political offices about how strict enforcement will be."

(with files from the Canadian Press)