Is B.C. being gouged for gasoline, or are the region’s country-leading prices at the pump a result of unique market factors?
British Columbians will have a clearer answer to that question come Aug. 30, the deadline that the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) has been given to return a report on a probe of the province’s volatile fuel prices.
The debate has raged over the source of the record-setting price hikes in recent months, with some arguing that a lack of competition is allowing oil companies to take windfall profits, while others argue that a lack of pipeline capacity, taxes and a shortage of supply have all pushed prices to their current levels.
Earlier this month, NDP Premier John Horgan asked the regulator to delve into gas prices to establish a “common set of facts” about the fuel market.
Under the terms of reference released Tuesday, the BCUC will now have the power to compel oil companies to explain prices.
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The commission is being asked to look at market factors underpinning both wholesale and retail prices and to look at price fluctuations along with the possibility of price fixing or gouging.
The commission has also been tasked with explaining the difference in refining margins between B.C. and the rest of Canada.
A 2018 study by Navius Research found refiners’ margins for gas sold in the Metro Vancouver area were about double the Canadian average.
The BCUC will also review retail margins and has been asked to look at regulatory models used elsewhere in North America to “enhance transparency about how prices are determined.”