B.C. introduces gas price transparency law forcing companies to reveal data

It's time to reveal to drivers in British Columbia how the price of gasoline is set, says provincial cabinet minister Bruce Ralston.

If passed, legislation introduced Monday would legally force oil and gas companies to make known how gas prices are set.

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Ralston, the jobs, trade and technology minister, told the legislature the bill is in response to a recent investigation by the B.C. Utilities Commission, which found "considerable markups on the price of gasoline."

Premier John Horgan tasked the independent utilities commission to examine fuel prices in the province as gasoline costs in Metro Vancouver were consistently the highest in Canada, reaching $1.70 per litre and above.

In a report released last August and a follow-up one issued last week, the commission said it couldn't explain why B.C. drivers pay about 13 centres more per litre for gas than residents in similar jurisdictions.

Ralston said the Fuel Price Transparency Act would allow the commission to collect information from fuel companies on market conditions involved in setting prices.

"This legislation brings us greater transparency at the gas pumps and sends a message to the oil and gas companies that the days of setting your prices in secrecy are coming to an end."

No one from the Canadian Fuels Association, the voice of transportation fuels industry in Canada, was immediately available to comment on the proposed legislation.

The association said in a statement in May 2018 in reaction to volatile gas prices that the rising demand for gasoline and a decrease in supply through the Trans Mountain pipeline have created a greater reliance on fuel imports using higher-cost transportation modes.

It also noted that Vancouver had much higher tax rates on fuels than elsewhere in North America, by nearly 50 cents per litre.

Ralston said if the legislation passes, the information would be available to the public as well as consumer and watchdog groups.

The unexplained premium results in residents and businesses in B.C. paying an extra $490 million every year for fuel, Ralston said.

The goal, he said, is to improve public confidence and competitiveness in the fuel market and perhaps lead to lower and more predictable gas prices for drivers in B.C.

"It's time to pull back the curtain to get some answers for British Columbians on how the price of gasoline is set."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.

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