B.C. gasoline prices are still higher than other parts of the country, Premier John Horgan says, and he intends to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help find out why.
Horgan was asked about gasoline prices Tuesday, after the B.C. Utilities Commission released a follow-up report on its investigation into the province’s motor fuel market. That report, by independent experts who regulate electrical and natural gas utilities and ICBC, continues to describe an “unexplained difference of 10 to 13 cents per litre” for gasoline.
The commission said the extension to allow more submissions from fuel companies after last summer’s hearings didn’t resolve the reason for pump prices running higher than neighbouring Alberta and Washington state, and there still hadn’t been time to drill down into the dynamics of wholesale sources.
Gasoline prices in B.C.’s Lower Mainland dropped sharply last week, and by Tuesday pump prices in Surrey were hovering around $1.40 per litre according to monitoring service GasBuddy.com.
Horgan said the utilities commission was the appropriate first step in seeking answers. It was prevented from examining taxes, environmental regulations or other B.C. government actions that may contribute to higher prices. If the B.C. commission has done all it can, Horgan said Ottawa’s watchdog, Competition Bureau Canada, has the legal tools to protect consumers.
“[The BCUC] did that in the summer, and it highlighted about a 13 cent-a-litre increase, or a gouge, on local drivers, which translates into hundreds of millions of dollars and more, out of the pockets of the travelling public of the Lower Mainland and British Columbia versus other locations,” Horgan said at an event in Richmond Tuesday.
“I’m going to reinforce this [gasoline price gap] with the prime minister when I meet with him,” Horgan said. “The federal government has an ability to look at competition in markets. Clearly there’s something wrong with the gas market in British Columbia, and we want to get to the bottom of that.”
Trudeau is meeting premiers as he prepares to announce the cabinet for his minority government. He met Tuesday with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, one of four premiers who are challenging the Liberal government’s national carbon tax as an intrusion into provincial jurisdiction over natural resource production.
Horgan said his government will be presenting its own proposed solution in the B.C. legislature, which resumes sitting next week until the end of November. And he hinted that his meeting with Trudeau will continue to press the B.C. NDP’s opposition to expanding the Trans Mountain oil pipeline as it resumes construction.
“It’s not just about supply, although we need more gasoline,” Horgan said. “We need less diluted bitumen. That won’t move your automobile, but gasoline will, and we only have the one refinery in Burnaby.”
B.C. also has a second refinery in Prince George that processes natural gas liquids into motor fuels.
The B.C. Liberal opposition resumed its political battle over gasoline prices, which has included “Blame John Horgan” billboards placed for viewing by Metro Vancouver commuters.
B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson issued a statement saying the NDP government “rigged” the BCUC review to avoid looking at its own policies, such as opposing the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that brings refined fuel as well as crude oil from Alberta to B.C.
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