How B.C. gas prices became continent's highest: Politicians

The Province 
May 2, 2019, A12 
Mark Milke 

If you live in B.C. and are thinking of getting a line of credit to help pay for rising pump prices, you're not alone. But don't look to Premier John Horgan to help out. Rather than be frank about what successive B.C. governments have done over two decades to drive up fuel prices, Horgan instead blames high gasoline prices on - you guessed it - oil companies.

Problem: Horgan's government, along with previous ones, have always aimed for high energy prices as a matter of government policy. To now blame others for the highest pump prices in North America is akin to the ghoulish joke about the young man who kills his parents and then complains he's an orphan.

Horgan argues that he is not responsible for the recent dramatic rise in pump prices - partly correct, given his government's annual carbon tax increases on April 1 only added one cent a litre each year.

But that sidesteps the two-decade-long government-imposed trend. It also overlooks that higher fuel prices and no "dependency" on oil and gas is exactly the future the NDP government and their Green party allies want for British Columbians.

Today's high gasoline prices - the result of higher taxes over decades, a lack of extra Trans Mountain Pipeline capacity, plus greater dependence on the current re-retooling of two Washington state refineries - are but a foretaste of much higher fuel prices to come, thanks to government policy.

Local and provincial B.C. governments have for years raised taxes on motorists whenever they could. When proposed tax increases were defeated by the public - like the hated TransLink tax, twice rejected - they instead hike taxes at the pumps.

Today, gas taxes are stacked one atop another: B.C. carbon tax (which is twice the Canadian rate), B.C. Transportation Finance Authority tax, TransLink tax, provincial motor fuel tax, plus the federal taxes that all Canadian pays. All of this has made B.C. gasoline more expensive. In Washington State, where a carbon tax was defeated last November in a statewide referendum - taxes as a percentage of a fill-up amount to 17 per cent, compared to nearly double that (33 per cent) in B.C.

That, along with a lack of pipeline access, are why per-litre prices in Metro Vancouver were 169.8 cents per litre in mid-April compared with converted per-litre prices as low as C$1.01 (Costco, in Spokane) or C$1.23 in Blaine, Wash., right near the Canadian border.

To put this in provincial context, when TransLink adds another 1.5 cents on July 1, Metro Vancouver motorists will pay nearly 36 cents a litre in provincial and local taxes - 80 per cent more than per-litre provincial taxes in Alberta.

The panoply of higher and new fuel and carbon taxes serves to drive up the price of everything, given that transport trucks are the main way every British Columbian receives most of their food, clothing and other necessities.

And then there is this irony: A lack of pipeline capacity - specifically the stalled expansion of Trans Mountain due to the Horgan government's opposition - has also led to higher B.C. gasoline prices. As Jason Parent, vice-president of the Kent Group that tracks gas prices told one reporter, "The problem with Trans Mountain is it's been basically under-apportioned - meaning it's full - for the past three, four years," and that "You can't send any more fuel down than is already coming down that (pipeline)."

Higher energy prices are what Horgan, his colleagues, the previous provincial government and too many local politicians from Vancouver to Burnaby have wanted for years. It's a little late for any of them to blame-shift and claim to be innocent after drowning motorists in ever-higher gas taxes and other high-cost energy policy.


Mark Milke is a contributor to Canadians for Affordable Energy. His latest book is Ralph vs. Rachel: A Tale of Two Alberta Premiers. Photo credit: Pixabay

Mark Milke