Canada

Corporation of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association v. Attorney General of Ontario

Jurisdiction: Ontario Superior Court of Justice


Side A: Corporation of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (Corporation ngo)


Side B: Attorney General of Ontario (Government)


Core objectives:

Whether local law requiring stickers on gas pumps about "carbon tax" violated free speech.


Summary
On September 4, 2020, an Ontario court struck down legislation requiring gas pumps to post notices informing customers that Canada's carbon pricing scheme will "cost" them.

In 2018 Canada enacted the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which imposed a nationwide price on carbon. In May 2019, the Ontario Legislature enacted the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act, which required that a notice explaining certain fuel charges be posted on every gas pump in every gas station in Ontario. The notice stated "the federal carbon tax will cost you," with a graph showing costs to consumers rising through 2022. Corporation of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) brought suit seeking a declaration that the legislation violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Court concluded that CCLA had public interest standing to bring the action, particularly because the group had tried to find a gas retailer to act as a co-plaintiff. The Court then concluded that the required notice adversely affected expression. Moreover, the Court reasoned, the notice was "inaccurate in a way that the Ontario government well knows" because the carbon pricing act serves a regulatory rather than a revenue-raising purpose, and so it is not a tax. Finally, the Court held that the notice's infringement on free speech was not justified because it served more to advance a partisan message than to share information with the public. The Court ordered the gas retailers may but do not need to keep the notices on their fuel pumps.
Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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