Surrey-Whalley NDP MLA Bruce Ralston says cutting fuel taxes to lower thumping gas prices at the pump would only create a price gap that gas companies would then fill.
Ralston, now B.C.’s minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation, said in a press statement in 2019, following the release of a BC Utilities Commission investigation into gas prices, that British Columbians are being “ripped off” at the pumps.
“People feel like they’re being ripped off when they fill up at the gas station. And they’re right,” he said at the time.
But gas prices today, as any local commuter knows too well, have soared much higher than they were even back then.
Ralston noted the Fuel Price Transparency Act gives the utilities commission, an independent energy watchdog, the power to monitor wholesale and retail prices “to make sure fuel companies aren’t taking advantage of the current conditions.
“And some of the price increases are part of, reflection of the rise in the world price and the government doesn’t have control over that and neither do the local suppliers,” Ralston pointed out.
The government, however, does have control over fuel taxes.
“Yeah, yeah, but what is very clear and I think there’s been a lot of discussion about this, but what would happen if we were to take off or take away the fuel tax, for example a carbon tax? The gas companies would just fill that and take the money for themselves,” he countered.
Ralston cited “a very good example” contained in the utilities commission’s most recent report comparing gas prices in Squamish with those in West Vancouver.
“In West Vancouver they pay the TransLink, 17.5 cents per litre and in Squamish they don’t. And guess what the gas prices in Squamish are? They’re higher than in West Vancouver. So they just fill it in, and they just take the money.
“So we don’t think in the long-term it’s good policy to take away the carbon tax. I mean, we’re in a climate crisis,” Ralston said. “I get that small businesses, whether you’ve got a delivery business or you’re driving your kids to soccer, any of that kind of stuff, it is an additional financial burden, there’s no doubt it, but taking away the taxes won’t result in any relief it’d just be more money for the gas companies.”
Meantime, Premier John Horgan is expected to roll out a plan soon to tackle high gas prices.
“We’re working on that, I mean I can’t get ahead of the premier’s office on that – there’s internal discussions and processes that are going through,” he said. “We understand that that the crisis is now and the prices are up now, so don’t think there’s any effort to delay it, but you can’t do these things at a snap of the finger.”
How does Ralston feel about paying more than $2 per litre at the pump?
“I’m not crazy about it,” he replied.