Gas Price Clue Mystery Game

Author: Kris Sims 2019/12/31

By Kris Sims


A funny thing is happening with the province’s investigations into soaring gas prices. It’s like a game of Clue, but some pieces are missing so nobody can prove it was Colonel Mustard in the library with the lead pipe. For the gas-price investigations, key pieces are off the table to make sure nobody finds the real answer: it was the premier, in the legislature, with bad policies.

Motorists in British Columbia know they are getting hosed at the gas pumps and they know it’s mostly because of government.

Premier John Horgan has jacked up taxes on fuel and his NDP-Green team has been fighting against expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline, a piece of infrastructure that supplies gas products to the Lower Mainland and stops along the way. Then the premier wonders why the fuel prices are so high.  But everyone knows what happens when you hike taxes and choke supply.

Horgan goes much farther than on-camera soliloquizing at Victoria’s legislature. He ordered the British Columbia Utilities Commission to play a game of Clue with gas prices while taking key pieces off the board. Taxes, special fuel regulations and pipelines are all out of bounds. Investigators weren’t allowed to examine the real evidence.

The utilities commission released its summertime report on Aug. 30. It couldn’t explain why prices were on average 13 cents per litre higher than they should be. Then they put out another report in November, for some reason, saying the same thing.

But this isn’t an unsolvable mystery. As petroleum experts have explained, factors such as supply and demand play a role. And government is a major factor.

Gasoline and diesel are in high demand and relatively short supply in the Lower Mainland, with the small Burnaby refinery not able to produce enough to fill the area gas stations to the point where retail prices would drop. More pipeline capacity would expand supply.

An even bigger factor is taxes. In Metro Vancouver, taxes eat up about 54 cents per litre of gasoline. The carbon tax is now 8.9 cents per litre, and the TransLink tax is 18.5 cents per litre. Both recent tax hikes are Horgan’s doing.  The rest of B.C. forks over about 40 cents per litre in taxes. B.C. also has the provincial excise tax at 8.5 cents per litre. Horgan has the power to lower or scrap them, but instead he increases taxes and conjures crippled inquiries to chase wild geese.

What’s perhaps most mysterious in this caper is motive. What is Horgan driving at with these handcuffed inquiries and reports? Aren’t unaffordably high gas prices something he wants?

Horgan and his NDP-Green team have repeatedly said that a high carbon tax is needed to reduce peoples’ use of fuels, so they will “alter their behaviour” – that’s fancy political speak for “jack up the gas price, so people can’t afford it.”

And yet, when Metro Vancouver routinely has the highest fuel prices in North America, often at about $1.60 per litre, Horgan wrings his hands and beats his breast, wondering what’s causing the unaffordable prices for the people of his province.

Which Horgan is the real one? The one who says the jacked up taxes are necessary so people alter their behaviour or the person who says he cares about the working class and wants to make life in B.C. more affordable?

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation delivered 504 shiny Gas Price Detection Tools – mirrors – to the premier this summer so he could get a good look at the person pushing up gas prices.

After he identifies the culprit, he needs to do the right thing for British Columbians: lower taxes on fuel and stop blocking the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Kris Sims is the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation



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