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The Problems with the Ontario Carbon Tax Stickers

First published on 30 August 2019 by Jordan Bussanich

Regardless of how one feels about the Federal Carbon Tax coming into effect in Ontario on 1 January 2019, you may have noticed stickers from the Ontario Government at your local filling station. While it is clear that the provincial government is not happy with the imposing of the Federal Carbon Tax backstop on the province, the stickers that they themselves imposed on gas stations contain a number of problems in how they visualise the carbon tax rate. As a result, Ontarians are mislead as to the true impact of the carbon tax on fuel prices.

Below is the English version of the sticker:

The English version of the carbon tax sticker. Retrieved from https://files.ontario.ca/gps-final-print-en.jpg on 30 August 2019.

Immediately two problems with this sticker are apparent: the bars in the chart do not accurately reflect the rate of the carbon tax, and the red arrow does not correspond to the rate at which the Federal Carbon Tax rate increases.

The problem with the bars:

The most glaring problem with the bars are that they are not drawn to accurately reflect the rate of the carbon tax. According to the Government of Canada, the rates for the next four years for one litre of gasoline are as follows:

  • 2019: 4.65¢
  • 2020: 6.98¢
  • 2021: 9.30¢
  • 2022: 11.63¢

Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/technical-paper-federal-carbon-pricing-backstop.html on 30 August 2019.

Graphing these rates in Excel gives the following chart:

A bar chart showing the Federal Carbon Tax rates over time.

From the above chart we can clearly see that, contrary to what the sticker shows, the carbon tax rate increases linearly over time.

The problem with the line:

Like the bars, the sticker does not accurately reflect the rate at which the carbon tax increases. The sticker suggests that the carbon tax rate increases exponentially, when in reality it increases linearly as demonstrated by the following chart:

A bar chart showing the Federal Carbon Tax rates over time using an arrow similar to the sticker.

The Federal Carbon Tax is no doubt a contentious piece of legislation. With the governments of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and New Brunswick all challenging the constitutionality of the legislation at the Supreme Court, I have no doubt that in the coming months and years we'll be presented with potentially misleading data from both sides of the aisle.

Without saying whether or not I support or oppose a price on carbon (more on that later), I do not support what the Ontario Government is doing with these gas pump stickers. While it is valid for the government to inform the public as to how the carbon tax is impact their gas prices, such a thing needs to be done in a way that does not mislead the public with inaccurate representations of data.

When governments release misleading data, it calls into question the validity of all past, and future data that they may release. Trust between the public and the government is a key component in the functioning of our country, and it is the responsibility of whichever government is in power to release data that is both accurate and presented in a clear and consise way.