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Ontario Chamber of Commerce asks government to abandon gas pump sticker plan

Forcing gas station operators to display Ontario government stickers on the federal carbon tax violates their rights and freedoms, the province’s chamber of commerce said April 25, as it asked the Progressive Conservatives to reverse their decision.

OCC president Rocco Rossi

OCC president Rocco Rossi

In a letter to the Energy Minister Greg Rickford, chamber president Rocco Rossi said the group’s members are concerned about the “political nature” of the decals, which were unveiled earlier this month as part of the Tory government’s fight against the federal levy.

“Our members—including gas station operators—have expressed concerns regarding the political nature of the stickers, viewing them as a violation of their rights and freedoms,” Rossi said.

Ontario has introduced legislation that requires stickers—in English and French—to be put on gas pumps showing that the tax has added 4.4 cents a litre to the price of gasoline and that will rise to 11 cents per litre by 2022.

The government said earlier this month the stickers will cost taxpayers approximately $5,000 to print 25,000 decals but that does not cover the cost to distribute them to the province’s 3,200 gas stations.

Gas station operators who don’t display the government-mandated stickers could be subject to fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Rossi called on the government to scrap the section in the legislation, which mandates the stickers.

“This initiative is an example of unnecessary red tape: it is both a new administrative burden and an increased cost to business thanks to the punitive and outsized fines for non-compliance,” he said in the letter.

Rickford defended the stickers, saying in a statement that the federal carbon tax will have a negative impact on every one in the province.

“Ontario families have the right to know exactly what the Trudeau carbon tax costs them every time they fill up at the pump,” he said in a statement. “The carbon tax will kill jobs and raise the price of nearly everything across our province, hurting every member of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.”

The letter is a rare example of the chamber publicly disagreeing with the Ford government on policy since it came to office last year. Rossi points out that the chamber has supported the Tories on a number of pieces of legislation and the government’s ongoing work to reduce Ontario’s deficit and debt.

The carbon tax is expected cost to a typical household $258 this year and $648 by 2022. Residents of provinces with the tax will be getting rebates on their income tax returns that start at $128 annually and increase for people with spouses or dependents at home. The federal government says a family of four in Ontario would get $307 this year.

Ontario is one of four provinces, including Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where Ottawa imposed the levy because they opted not to impose their own pricing schemes on carbon emissions.


Canada banning oil, gas and mining from marine protected areas

The oil and gas industry has worn out its welcome in Canadian marine conservation areas. Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced a total ban on oil and gas work, as well as mining, waste-dumping and bottom-trawling, in all of Canada’s marine protected areas. Wilkinson was at an international nature summit in Montreal where Canada is pushing other countries to do more to protect the global environment.

The changes apply recommendations made last fall by a panel the government asked to provide advice on the best way to improve standards in marine protected areas. The ban on industrial activities brings Canada up to international standards recommended by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The bans apply only to marine protected areas, which are specific areas within bodies of water that are granted protected status by federal, provincial or territorial governments. Until now, activities like oil and gas exploration and exploitation were only banned in these areas on a case-by-case basis.

Marine refuges, which are more numerous areas where governments impose fisheries closures often to protect just a single species, will still allow oil and gas operations.

The ones that do will not be counted towards Canada’s commitment to protect 10 per cent of the country’s marine and coastal areas by 2020.

Canada had hit nearly eight per cent by the end of 2018, but more than half of that amount is marine refuges. It’s not clear yet what effect discounting refuges that are still open to oil and gas work will have on the total.

The World Wildlife Federation of Canada said last fall it was concerned about the exemption for marine refuges.

Oceana Canada, a charity devoted to protecting ocean life, also raised concerns that four months after Canada named the Northeast Newfoundland Slope Conservation Area — a 47,000-square-kilometre section of the Atlantic Ocean — as a marine refuge in 2017, it agreed to allow oil and gas exploration in the same area. That decision also angered local fishers since the designation barred all fishing in the name of environmental protection.