By John Rafferty
My offices received a number of calls last week about the price of gas in our riding.
There are two real problems with the price of gas in our area: the fact that our gas is over 20 cents a litre more than in other parts of Ontario and Manitoba, and that the price seems to rise with the price of oil but never goes down when the price of oil drops.
For a good part of last year, the price of oil was above $130 a barrel and the price of gas skyrocketed to around $1.50 a litre. No one I know was happy about the price of gas at that time, but there was at least some apparent reason to explain the rise.
But gas these days still tops 90 cents a litre yet the price of oil is around $35 a barrel. Simple math tells us that the price of oil has dropped by nearly 75 percent, but the price of gas at the pump has dropped by just 35 percent.
Why is this?
The other issue—the difference between our gas prices and others throughout Ontario and Manitoba—is another serious problem. A quick check on any day of the week of a gas price monitoring website (I prefer www.ontariogasprices.com) will show that the highest prices in Ontario are almost always in our riding.
I’m writing this on Thursday, Feb. 12 and of the 15 highest station prices in Ontario, nine are in Thunder Bay and one is in Fort Frances.
The highest price in the province—99.4 cents/litre at a Thunder Bay station—is 26 cents more a litre than the lowest price in Gananoque, along the 401 in the eastern part of the province, and other stations in Winnipeg.
Now, I know we are a little out of the way, but why are we paying a full 30 percent more for our gas than other communities in central Canada?
I think we all know the answer to the above questions, but what can be done about it? In the last election, the New Democrat platform offered one idea.
On page 31 of our platform was the following commitment: “[In keeping with these principles, in the next Parliament, we will work on the following key initiatives] . . . Introduce legislation to create an independent watchdog on oil and gas prices that will report to Parliament, to help protect against future gouging by the big gas and oil companies.”
However, we can all thank Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal caucus for ensuring that we continue to have a Conservative government whose base of support is in the oil patch and that thinks that “big business” can do no wrong.
Moving forward, I assure you this issue will stay front and centre on my agenda. In the next few days and weeks, I will be writing letters to the oil companies and a number of federal ministers that will ask them to explain why gas prices always head up with the price of oil but never down, and why families in our riding must pay 30 percent more for their fuel than other families in Ontario and Manitoba.
I will keep you informed about what possible reasons they offer.
Last but not least, you have my word that I will support any bill in Parliament that specifically focuses on reducing gas price gouging.
And if there isn’t a bill tabled on the matter soon, then I will table one myself to ensure all of us get a fair price at the pump.
By John Rafferty