We've never had a supply disruption on this scale: Bill Harris
Gas prices in Ontario are soaring — sitting at $1.60 or higher and set to keep rising — and the Opposition New Democrats are urging regulation of the cost of petroleum, a move the energy minister said wouldn't save drivers money.
The NDP introduced a private member's bill Wednesday on gas price regulation that they have tried to get passed on two previous occasions, saying it would prevent "gouging" at the pumps.
"We have other provinces in this country, other states in the U.S., that are regulating gas prices to make sure that they don't gouge you when a long weekend is coming, and that when you're travelling through, for example, northern Ontario or even through parts of the GTA, you're not seeing a huge discrepancy between gasoline prices," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"What the bill indicates is that you can't just increase it willy nilly before a long weekend...So the price would be set, for example, on a Monday, and it would stay in place until the following Monday so that there's certainty about what the gas price is going to be."
The bill from New Democrat Gilles Bisson would give the Ontario Energy Board power to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up on petroleum products.
Energy Minister Todd Smith said the OEB has studies showing that regulation wouldn't actually lower gas prices. Instead, he said, gas prices should be lowered by the federal government cancelling a planned increase to the carbon tax.
"If we drop the price of a litre of gas in Ontario, there's nothing to say that the federal government or the gas companies (won't) fill that void," Smith said.
The Ontario government is giving drivers a break by eliminating the $120-a-year fee for licence plate renewal, he said.
But the government doesn't appear to be cutting the provincial fuel tax by 5.7 cents, as promised by Premier Doug Ford as recently as November.
The Progressive Conservatives promised in the 2018 election to cut gas prices by 10 cents. Ending the previous Liberal government's cap-and-trade system was to lower prices by 4.3 cents and the rest would come from lowering the provincial fuel tax.
They did end cap-and-trade, but that meant the federal carbon tax backstop kicked in, negating savings at the pump. Ford's government tried fighting it in court, but lost.
The provincial fuel tax rate remains unchanged from 2018, and the government is now saying it will follow through with that 5.7-cent cut if the federal government matches it.
"The (federal) government should also not go ahead with the planned increase to the carbon tax on April 1 this year, which will add another 2.2 cents a litre," Smith said.
"It doesn't sound like a lot, but that's 11 cents a litre in federal carbon tax. That's not only affecting you at the pumps, but it's affecting the price of the groceries that you buy and everything else that you consume."
Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault told The Canadian Press in an interview that there is no discussion about delaying an increase to the carbon price in April.
"And in fact he knows better, that we're sending the revenues back to households in Ontario of carbon pricing. So this idea that somehow Ontarians are worse off because of carbon pricing is not true."
The high demand for oil combined with a shortage of supply has been pushing oil prices, and consequently, gas prices up for weeks. There is also still much uncertainty around how Russia's invasion of Ukraine will lead to a loss of oil supply.
In response, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne told reporters on Parliament Hill on Wednesday that he has asked the Competition Bureau to keep an eye on prices at the pumps and has spoken to companies about boosting domestic production to counteract any possible shortages.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
Rubik's cube is going digital as Spin Master buys out game studio
Jamie Murray's Top Picks: August 10, 2022
What to know about insurance in 'summer of travel hell'
Flight issues? What you need to know about compensation
Canadians seeking side hustles amid cooling jobs market: Nextdoor CEO
David Baskin's Top Picks: August 9, 2022