Oil companies may be 'compelled' to testify in B.C. gas price investigation

Chris Campbell

B.C. Premier John Horgan is trying to look like he’s doing something about high gas prices, even though those high gas prices are actually pushing people to drive less – which is a positive for the planet.

The province has released terms of reference this morning – Tuesday - that will “guide the British Columbia Utilities Commission's (BCUC) investigation into what is driving high, volatile gasoline prices in British Columbia.”

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The news release came with some tough talk from Horgan, who wants to be seen as a hero of the people.

"The rapid increase in gas prices in B.C. is alarming, increasingly out of line with the rest of Canada, and people in B.C. deserve answers," said Horgan. "We asked the BCUC to conduct a fair, transparent and comprehensive independent investigation. These terms provide the broad reach it needs to find answers and give recommendations to inform the path forward."

One part that will please people – especially if it’s televised – is that the BCUC “may exercise any of the powers provided to it under the Utilities Commission Act, including compelling oil companies as witnesses to explain their prices to the commission.”

I think we’d all like to see that. Then again, the news release only says “may” and not “will definitely, so who knows what will happen.

Through the review's terms of reference, the BCUC has been asked to:

* examine the market factors that affect wholesale and retail prices in British Columbia;

* investigate gasoline price fluctuations, including the extent of possible competition concerns, such as price fixing and gouging;

* explain the difference in refining margins between British Columbia and the rest of Canada, including why in recent months refining margins for Vancouver were more than double the Canadian average;

* explain the difference in retail margins between British Columbia and the rest of Canada, as well as regional difference within British Columbia; and

* review the potential of regulatory measures used in other jurisdictions across Canada and North America to enhance transparency about how prices are determined.

The terms of reference require final report to be delivered by Aug. 30, 2019.


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