If you speak up in favour of the fossil fuel industry, NDP MP Charlie Angus wants to send you to jail.
The MP for Timmins-James Bay, an area that relies on fossil fuels to stay warm this time of year, just introduced one of the craziest private member’s bills that I’ve ever read.
Angus tabled Bill C-372, “An Act respecting fossil fuel advertising” on Monday, comparing it to the ban on cigarette advertising.
“The Big Tobacco moment has finally arrived for Big Oil. We need to put human health ahead of the lies of the oil sector,” Angus told the House on Monday.
At a Tuesday news conference, he repeatedly made similar references to Big Tobacco and claimed that his bill was about stopping the spread of falsehoods by the oil industry. The reality, though, and it appears Angus is not overly familiar with reality, is that this would criminalize true statements even by ordinary Canadians.
“It is prohibited for a person to promote a fossil fuel, a fossil fuel-related brand element or the production of a fossil fuel,” the bill reads.
That part would make it illegal for any advertising or sponsorship or any event by an oil company, gas station or natural gas company. Say goodbye to ads from Petro-Canada or Shell about buying at their service stations and forget about Esso sponsoring minor hockey, that won’t be allowed in Angus’ world.
Breaking this edict in the law would see fines of up to $1 million and jail for up to two years.
As for collecting loyalty points, or getting a gift or bonus with a fill-up, it’s all banned in the bill. If C-372 were law, any sales promotion would be illegal, including for a gas station to “provide or offer to provide any consideration for the purchase of a fossil fuel, including a gift to a purchaser or a third-party, bonus, premium, cash rebate or right to participate in a game, draw, lottery or contest.”
Anyone caught running an illegal gas sales promotion would see retailers facing fines starting at $3,000 for the first offence but producers would face fines of $500,000 and jail of up to two years.
Here’s where the bill gets really crazy, as if this weren’t crazy enough.
Anyone could be found guilty of an offence if you say something which “states or suggests that the fossil fuel, its production or its emissions are less harmful than other fossil fuels, their production or their emissions.” That means that if you say heating with natural gas is better for the environment than heating with oil — a true statement of fact — you would be guilty.
State a fact in Charlie Angus’ world and it could cost you $500,000, two years in jail, or both.
His bill also calls for the regulation of signs at businesses like gas stations, which would still be allowed to exist, but would face new rules on their size, how their trademark could be displayed and how the price would be displayed. He even gets into regulating how a Canadian or Canadian company could advertise their brand in foreign media.
Even companies advertising how they are reducing their emissions and environmental impact would be banned under this bill. Angus calls such ads propaganda and says it’s “like Benson and Hedges telling you that they can help end lung cancer.”
He’s passionate about this issue, but the bill is also utter nonsense — and thankfully has no chance of passing.
It has received favourable write-ups from CBC, the Toronto Star and activist publications, but what Bill C-372 really deserves is ridicule.
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