Betty Hinton, MP Masthead
Member of Parliament for Kamloops Thompson Cariboo
[Columns]
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Betty Hinton MP Column

March 10, 2004

Gasoline Prices In Canada

My Canadian Alliance colleagues James Rajotte, Dave Chatters and Brian Fitzpatrick drew some conclusions after listening to witnesses who appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry Science and Technology. As high gasoline prices have dogged Kamloops and region vehicle owners for many years I thought this information would be of interest to many of you.

As the text of the committee’s report points out (the report is available on the web) over the long term, the price of gasoline, excluding taxes, increased 50%, while taxes increased 67%. Therefore, taxes are the fastest growing component of gasoline pricing. Once you strip out the taxes and do the exchange rate, the price of gasoline is very similar around the world according to Richard Taylor, Acting Deputy Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Criminal Matters Branch, Industry Canada.

During the Fall Session of the House of Commons the Liberal members of the House finally agreed to share the federal gasoline tax dollars with Canada’s cities, the money to be used for roads and transportation infrastructure. When that will happen we do not know. No action has been taken, at this point and drivers continue to be hit with fluctuating gasoline prices - without any rationale.

My three colleagues do believe, after listening and reading the evidence, that there has been no collusion in pricing of gasoline. What they heard was, in spite of investigating the issue of collision 19 times, the Competition Commissioner did not find any evidence of collusion except at a very local level, usually a group of stations that get together and tried to maintain the price at a certain level against an outside competitor.

Although a few witnesses did testify to the committee that they believed collusion is possible in gas pricing they were not able to offer any concrete evidence. My colleagues tell me there appears to be no proof of collusion but this does not eliminate the responsibility of the oil and gas sector to be more forthcoming about the way they set their prices and their reasons for price fluctuations. It is a complicated matter but reaching out to the consumer with answers that give them a certain level of comfort would be advisable they say. The Canadian Alliance is recommending that the Minister of Industry write to the oil and gas industry in Canada to encourage them to immediately appoint a Petroleum Information Commissioner to provide information to Canadians and help address consumer concerns.

None of these committee members would suggest that there doesn’t need to be investigations into the continual mystery surrounding the pricing of gasoline but the Canadian Alliance is suggesting there be a move to modernize Canada’s “Competition Regime” mainly because of the volume of complaints and current method of investigating is eating up the Commissioner’s budget and resources at an ever accelerating rate. – with little new information coming forth.


 

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