B.C. Premier John Horgan’s bid to expose gasoline price gouging hasn’t found evidence of that, and taxpayers are left with a costly government-duplicated version of private sector fuel price monitoring websites, B.C. Liberal finance critic Mike Bernier says.
After B.C. gasoline prices hit the highest levels in North America in 2018, Horgan tasked the B.C. Utilities Commission with investigating the price difference in Alberta and other jurisdictions. Three years later, the independent BCUC has followed its legislated instructions and extracted more information from producers, but it doesn’t show the excess retail and refinery profit taking that Horgan claimed.
Regular gasoline prices again hit $1.70 per litre in Metro Vancouver this month, with Victoria and other B.C. communities not far behind. A new BCUC website and newsletter on fuel prices uses proprietary company information to show that in July and August, retail gas station costs per litre were actually higher in Alberta than in B.C. Refining margins are significantly higher in B.C., which has few refineries left and has to import crude and refined fuel from U.S. sources to meet demand.
BCUC tracking shows that in August, the average regular gasoline price was $1.34 in Alberta and $1.53 in B.C. Part of that gap is taxes, which are on average six cents higher in B.C.
“Perhaps the premier should take a look at the provincial taxes, like the no longer revenue neutral carbon tax, that contribute to people’s pain at the pumps rather than spending more money on an NDP government website that fails to bring down fuel costs like he promised British Columbians he would do.” Bernier told Black Press Media Sept. 23.
Bernier pointed to B.C.’s audited public accounts, which show the government paid $641,937 to the BCUC in 2020-21 to carry on its fuel price investigation and monitoring. That includes a price monitoring “dashboard” that shows the average price in Kelowna, Abbotsford, and other B.C. communities, which most people find using popular private services such as GasBuddy.com.
“John Horgan promised to do something about high gas prices over three years ago, but has done absolutely nothing to relieve pain at the pumps,” Bernier said. “Instead, we learn that he’s spending over half a million taxpayer dollars to copy gas price tracking websites, like GasBuddy, that already exist and do nothing to bring down costs for British Columbians.”