Public inquiry into B.C. gas prices finds “unexplained differences” of 13 cents a litre

Public inquiry into B.C. gas prices finds "unexplained differences" of 13 cents a litre
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WatchBC's inquiry into gasoline prices found B.C. drivers are paying at least 13 cents a litre too much. But the BC Utilities Commission didn't find any evidence of collusion among the major industry players. Mary Griffin reports.

Nothing found

“It just makes me mad. But there’s nothing we can do about it. We need gas.”

Drivers are mad at the high price of gas in Victoria, and Vancouver.  Just as prices surged ahead of the Labour Day long weekend, an inquiry by the B-C Utilities Commission into gasoline and diesel prices found consumers in southern BC are paying 13 cents a litre more than other parts of the Pacific Northwest.   The chair of the Commission, David Morton, said although the public believes there is collusion and price gouging in the market, the Commission could not find any evidence.

“Prices in the Metro Vancouver area are higher by an unexplained 13 cents a litre.  And they are higher than would be expected under more competitive conditions.  And the higher price differentials cannot be explained by economic theory.  Or justified by known factors in the market,” Morton said.

That translates into unexplained price differences costing BC consumers $490 million annually. The NDP, who called the inquiry after taking heat for months over high prices, say this is vindication.  Bruce Ralston, the minister of jobs, trade and technology, said the money is going to the companies that control the market.

“13 cents a litre.  That’s the unexplained difference in the price due to market forces.  Where the gouging is taking place.  That’s where the rip-off is taking place. that’s the part that they focused on,” Ralston said.   But he wouldn’t commit to regulating gas prices, a suggestion from the commission that could be explored  “I’m not in a position to offer a solution on a regulatory basis today,” Ralston said.

The BC Liberals were quick to slam the report, and its findings.  Peter Milobar, critic for the environment and climate change, said British Columbians need relief after two years of record high gas prices.

“We’ve been calling on the government to temporarily freeze and reduce provincial gas taxes. Help bring some relief to the pump for people.  It would result in a five to six dollar reduction for a commuter car in the metro areas of Vancouver, and Victoria.  But the premier is unwilling to do anything to try to help people get around in their daily lives,” Milobar said.

The BC Utilities Commission did not review government policies or taxes, which add up to as much as 40 cents a litre in some parts of the province.

 

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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