Suspected gas pump price squeeze prompts Alberta Prime Minister to demand investigation

Alberta’s Prime Minister is demanding an explanation for the continuing skyrocketing gas prices in the province.

In a Friday afternoon press release, Jason Kenney said he is launching an investigation into possible price pushes.

“First, I met with the Canadian Fuels Association this afternoon to express the frustration of Albertans over recent gas price developments and to request an explanation as to why this is happening,” Kenney said in a statement.

“Secondly, I will ask the Competition Bureau of Canada to investigate possible gas price fixing in Alberta. Below the competition law, it is illegal for competitors to set prices among themselves. Albertans deserve to know if this is going on.

Kenney further said he has instructed Service Alberta to investigate all tools available to the province under the Consumer Protection Act.

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“With Alberta no longer collecting fuel taxes at the pump, Albertans deserve to know why they are suddenly paying as much for gasoline as drivers in Toronto, when they paid a lot less two weeks ago.”

On Friday, the average price of regular gasoline in Toronto was about $1,689 a gallon, according to GasBuddy.

In Calgary and Edmonton, the average price was $1,769 per liter — historically, Albertans have paid much lower prices than people in Ontario because of taxes and proximity to refineries.

One energy analyst calls it a “Category 5 Flecking”.

Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, says Alberta gas station operators are taking advantage of drivers and should immediately start passing on savings.

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He said the Shaye Ganam service stations of 630 CHED and 770 CHQR are reaping profits on consumers’ backs even as the price of crude oil falls.

“Their retail margins, which used to be very competitive in the 10, 12 or 13 cents a liter range, are now 40 cents a liter, which is wrong and unacceptable,” McTeague said.

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“Whoever runs those gas stations should be ashamed of themselves, because what they’re doing is creating an environment where people will rightly ask for regulated gas prices. There’s no way they can justify that.”

Gas prices in Calgary have fallen slightly in recent days, ranging from 147.9 to 178.9 cents per liter.

But McTeague says that’s not enough. He calls for an immediate reduction of 20 cents per liter.

“I think the first thing we need to focus on is who is abusing consumers here. And not the person who works behind the counter, but gas stations are group owned… those are the people you should go after.

“Those are the people who are basically committing murder at the expense of the public, and I’m not talking about a small amount.”

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University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe thinks it’s probably a lot more complicated than gas stations just pocketing profits.

“Margins are very high – historically high – so it needs an explanation. I think we’ll see more information come out, more analysis to hopefully shed light on what’s been happening over the past few weeks,” Tombe said.

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“If it was a lack of competition or some sort of corporate greed… we would expect diesel prices to not have fallen as much as they are now. So I think it’s really a market specific factor. There have been some challenges for retail stations that have resulted in higher costs for them and that means higher costs for us.”

But opposition NDP leader Rachel Notley is targeting the provincial government, saying it isn’t doing enough to ensure savings are passed on to drivers.

She says the Alberta government needs to carry out regular audits to make sure the provincial tax freeze introduced in April stays off the top.

“I think if you created a legal requirement for that – if there were penalties for not reporting it – and if there were a regular system of on-the-spot checks to make sure that was kept up, I think that these are tactics and strategies that can be used to protect Albertans and ensure they have more cash in their pockets at the end of the month,” Notley said Friday.

Global News contacted Shell, Husky (which is owned by Cenovus) and Petro Canada (Suncor Energy’s retail arm) about the gas leak allegations but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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In the meantime, McTeague said consumers can fight back by contacting their MPs and MLAs.

“Let them split the numbers. And let them call Parkland, let them call Imperial Oil, let them call Shell.

“This is unacceptable and they know it. I think it will take wider public condemnation and rejection, especially by elected officials.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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