With gas prices continuing to remain at an all-time high in BC – particularly in the Lower Mainland – BC Premier John Horgan has now officially asked the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) to investigate the reasons behind the “high, volatile gasoline prices” in the province.
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“The rapid increase in gas prices in BC is alarming, increasingly out of line with the rest of Canada, and people in BC deserve answers,” said Horgan, in a press release. “We asked the BCUC to conduct a fair, transparent and comprehensive independent investigation.”
On Tuesday, the provincial government laid out its terms of reference for the report and the BCUC has been asked to:
- Examine the market factors that affect wholesale and retail prices in British Columbia;
- Investigate gasoline price fluctuations, including the extent of possible competition concerns, such as price fixing and gouging;
- Explain the difference in refining margins between British Columbia and the rest of Canada, including why in recent months refining margins for Vancouver were more than double the Canadian average;
- Explain the difference in retail margins between British Columbia and the rest of Canada, as well as regional difference within British Columbia; and
- Review the potential of regulatory measures used in other jurisdictions across Canada and North America to enhance transparency about how prices are determined.
“High and wildly fluctuating gas prices in BC are hurting people and BC’s economy,” said BC Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston, in the release. “Speculation and misinformation will not lead to solutions.”
The BCUC, he added, “is a respected independent regulator and the appropriate body to investigate gas prices in the best interest of British Columbians.”
The investigation comes following a letter to the BCUC from Horgan requesting the gas price situation in BC be investigated further.
“Across the province, but particularly in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island, people are alarmed at the rapid increase in the price at the pumps,” wrote Horgan. “British Columbians want to know why refining margins are so much higher than in other parts of the country.”
However, Horgan also added that provincial taxes are not to blame.
“Over the past three months, gasoline prices in some regions increased by 40%, while provincial taxes have risen by just 1%,” he wrote. “Cutting taxes would amount to the public subsidizing oil companies, as there is nothing to stop companies from raising prices in response.”
The terms of reference require the final report to be delivered by August 30, 2019.
We look forward to the report and recommendations,” concluded Ralston.