Experts say refineries, not taxes, are taking billions from B.C. drivers at the pump

Experts say refineries, not taxes, are taking billions from B.C. drivers at the pump

WATCH: Everyone on the road knows. The prices at the pump are at record highs and only set to go climb higher. As Kori Sidaway tells us, that has many appealing to the B.C. government to step in.

The sticker shock is all too real.

“It’s ridiculous how high [gas] is,” said Sam, a regular commuter, on Tuesday.

“I actually can’t afford to drive my car into work anymore!” said Janeen, another passerby in downtown Victoria.

The price of gas is gouging the pockets of many British Columbians. And looking coast to coast, the difference we pay at the pump, is painful.

British Columbia pays anywhere from 20 to 35 cents more per litre for gas than any other province.

According to Gas Buddy’s Tuesday statistics, Alberta’s average as of Tuesday was at 120.7 per liter. Ontario, Manitoba, and PEI are also in the 120’s, while Quebec and the Northwest Territories are in the 130’s.

B.C’s average was 155.3 per litre.

And many say the high prices here, are being driven not by taxes, but by industry.

“The margin or the markup going to refiners has grown substantially from about 20 cents per litre to about 55 cents per litre as of last week,” said Marc Lee, Senior Economist with Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

“That’s far in excess you would see in other cities.”

According to CCPA, over the past three years, the price of fuel has gone up 55 cents in B.C.

The new carbon tax and federal GST comprise 6 cents of that increase. But the CCPA says a whopping 49 cents of that 55 cent increase, is due to refineries and gas stations increasing their own profit margins.

It’s something Premier John Horgan says the federal government should be looking into.

“The margins here are greater than they are in any other jurisdiction, and that’s fact,” said Premier John Horgan.

“The federal government has a consumer protection agency that should be looking at that. I will raise it with the prime minister the next time I have the opportunity.”

According to CCPA, there are only four major refiners that supply B.C. with fuel, and with no other competition, they’re gouging consumers simply because they can.

“We’re looking at over a billion dollars a year of excess profits that are being harvested out of the region,” said Lee.

“That’s money that’s leaving the pockets of drivers and is going into the pockets of Alberta oil companies.”

Lee says it’s enough to effect local economies in Vancouver and Victoria, so he says it’s time for the province to step in.

“Really if the four refineries supplying the market can’t get their act together and effectively meet that demand, that’s even a stronger case why they should be regulated,” said Lee.

In the interior of B.C., the District of Sicamous is also poised to start petitioning the provincial government at the end of April, to regulate the gas industry.

And the idea of provincially regulating gas wouldn’t be new to Canada. The Maritimes have been regulating the maximum allowable profit margin for refineries for decades.

But some economists say we should be careful about what we wish for.

“Regulation is going to be something that’s going to invite more bureaucracy,” said Rob Wickson, a local economist.

“You can blame the government for the price of gas instead of the producer.”

Something Horgan, whose already facing backlash for the provincial carbon tax, isn’t ready to take on.

“I don’t believe that the Maritimes are having any more success than we would have here with pure regulation,” said Horgan.

“I believe it’s a demand and supply question and we don’t have enough refined product for the traveling public.”

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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