Excerpt from debate during Question Period in the B.C. Legislature on Monday, April 29, 2019:
A. Wilkinson: In the two weeks that this Legislature has been in recess, we have seen all-time high gasoline prices in British Columbia. In Vancouver, we see the spectacle of empty gas stations at full price and a rush on gas stations with even a few cents discount. Overnight, we sees queues at 11 p.m., when people spot a deal, word travels quickly, and people rush out to buy gasoline.
The response from the Premier has been a series of ineffectual and often non-credible answers, ranging from conspiracies to federal jurisdiction to “Let’s have a refinery in the Lower Mainland,” which obviously raises the question: how would the fuel get there without a pipeline?
What we’re left with is a retail disaster for small businesses. They’re simply running out of cash flow. Their margins are disappearing as they pour it out into the gas pump.
In response to this, this government has done absolutely nothing. That’s what governments are for — to try and make peoples’ lives better and to take action when their livelihoods are at risk.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Thank you.
A. Wilkinson: Here’s what the Premier had to say on March 21, 2018: “We are monitoring gas prices, and we’ll take steps if necessary. We have talked about a range of options.”
The question, obviously, goes to the Premier. People are hurting out there. This has been going on for weeks. All of the options put forward by this government are empty promises, ten-year plans or simply implausible. To the Premier: in the next 30 days, what are you going to do to bring down the price at the pumps?
Hon. J. Horgan: It’s nice to know, as we start another few weeks in this Legislature, that we can start question period where the Leader of the Opposition and I agree. Gas prices are ridiculously high in the Lower Mainland. Where we tend to diverge is to figure out just how that happened. I know the member would be aware….
Hon. J. Horgan: Well, we got into, what, six seconds there before a heckle? The new approach of the Leader of the Opposition.
The member will know that over the past three or four months, the price of gasoline in the Lower Mainland’s gone up in the range of 40 cents a litre. He will also know that, during that time, government policy has led to a 1-cent-a-litre increase. Instead of being concerned about the 1 cent a litre, we should all be concerned about the 39.
A good chunk of the answer comes from the refining margins in the Lower Mainland versus the refining margins in other parts of Canada. The average refining margin in Canada is 20.8 cents; in British Columbia, it’s 42.7. That’s a problem not created by government but created by the market. We need to work together to fix it.
Mr. Speaker: The Leader of the Official Opposition on a supplemental.
A. Wilkinson: Well, the members of the media are having none of this. Let’s look at some of the reviews of the Premier’s performance in the last 10 days.
Keith Baldrey of Global TV: “Outright desperation. This issue’s getting away from him.” Mike Smyth of the Vancouver Province: “He’s flip-flopping around on it. The pointing finger starts to look desperate when you scratch the surface of some of his pretzel logic.” Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun repeatedly, consistently pointing out: “Any day now he’ll be blaming the United Nations.”
The Premier’s dancing around this has done nothing for people at the gas stations. It has done nothing for millions of British Columbians, who just can’t handle this level of gas pricing.
The obvious question that comes to mind for this government, who are supposed to be primarily — fundamentally, as a top priority — worried about affordability for the middle class: what are you going to do?
Hon. J. Horgan: For those who missed that, that applause was for the sentiment. It wasn’t for the Leader of the Opposition. The sentiment is that we do want to do everything we can to bring costs down for citizens, but I think the fundamental difference between this side of the House and that side of the House was evident in the member’s question. It’s all about performance. It’s about: how did you do in the performance today? Did you perform well? Did you flip this way or did you flip that way?
Citizens are concerned that there’s a 22-cent difference in the average refining margin and the real refining margin in British Columbia. I didn’t make that. The Leader of the Opposition didn’t make that. The industry made that. So when we propose solutions to help the industry find a better way…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. J. Horgan: …to bring a product into the Lower Mainland, we get ridicule from the other side. Instead, their solution is: “Cap the price, and then start giving taxes back.” Well, that is an invitation to companies to take more, not an invitation for them to drop prices.
Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Official Opposition on a second supplemental.
A. Wilkinson: Well, it’s no comfort to motorists in this province to hear the Premier’s theories about petroleum economics, because he has demonstrated he has done nothing to solve their problem.
Premier, let’s get down to business. There are two immediate things you can do. There is nothing standing in your way as a government. You can deal with the 35 cents a litre of gasoline tax that people are fed up with paying when they’re paying all-time high prices, and you can get on a plane to Alberta and make peace with Jason Kenney so we have a reliable supply of fuel.
Source: BC Hansard