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Amid soaring gas prices, British Columbia set to announce relief next week

Click to play video: 'B.C. to announce gas relief plan next week'
B.C. to announce gas relief plan next week
Many have been calling on the province to provide some relief at the pumps as gas prices reach record highs. Our neighbours in Alberta have paused the provincial fuel tax, and Premier John Horgan is hinting at some kind of benefit coming to B.C. next week too. Richard Zussman has more. – Mar 18, 2022

The B.C. government is expected to announce a plan to support drivers next week, after weeks of soaring gas prices.

In an extensive interview with Global BC, Premier John Horgan said the province has taken its time to assess the gas price situation before unveiling a plan.

Read more: ‘Everything is going up right now’: B.C.’s high gas costs driving consumer costs higher

“We are going to present a plan. We are going through the process now so we don’t make it worse, quite frankly,” Horgan said.

“We don’t want to give false hope until we have gone through the process. It is important to be consistent. We have managed the economy that way. Saying something off the cuff, because it is popular is not the way to go.”

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Click to play video: 'Focus BC: One-on-one with Premier John Horgan'
Focus BC: One-on-one with Premier John Horgan

The B.C. government has been under increased pressure to respond to rapidly rising prices.

Prices at the pump have broken North American records amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But prices are higher in B.C. than anywhere else on the continent.

The government has already ruled out two measures: cutting gas taxes and capping prices. The province says doing either would distort the market.

“We have tools. Some people say it is the taxes. It is not the taxes,” Horgan said.

“I do think people are amending their behaviour. They are looking at carpooling. Looking to fit an extra kid in the car for soccer practice. That is what communities do in a crisis.”

Click to play video: 'Truckers upset over soaring cost of fuel hold rolling protest'
Truckers upset over soaring cost of fuel hold rolling protest

The B.C. Utilities Commission is currently doing a review of gas prices, looking at a period between February 2021 and February 2022.

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Horgan said if there is evidence of gouging, there will be consequences for any companies involved.

“The prices are not coming down at the same rate as the price of a barrel of oil. We want to make sure there is not gouging there,” Horgan said.

“That is cold comfort to those who say I have to put gas in my tank this weekend. We are looking at ways of putting money back in people’s pockets.”

Click to play video: 'Heated debate over gas prices during question period at B.C. legislature'
Heated debate over gas prices during question period at B.C. legislature

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) suggests that even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, industry profits had rebounded strongly in 2021 after the COVID-induced slowdown of 2020.

CCPA economist Marc Lee noted, for example, Canadian Natural Resources saw a record $7.7 billion profit while Suncor had an all-time high of $4 billion.

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Lee is calling on the federal government to team up with the provinces to implement a windfall tax.

Read more: Rising gas prices drive Canadians to bike-buying and public transit

Click to play video: 'Inflation forces North Vancouver restaurant to raise prices'
Inflation forces North Vancouver restaurant to raise prices

But it is unclear how quickly a tax could be put in place or how quickly the money could be in the hands of those affected.

“Ideally the tax would be national and revenues redistributed back to households, as transfers to those with low to medium incomes or be used to support reductions in transit fares and investments that move us off fossil fuels,” Lee said.

“It’s not fair that ordinary Canadians are told to sacrifice when shareholders and executives garner massive unearned income.”

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Editor’s note: This is a corrected story. A previous version reported that Alberta had cut its gas tax in an effort to lower prices for drivers. That cut takes effect on April 1. 

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