Why is gas so expensive in Powell River and the North Island?
That was the burning question at yesterday afternoon’s town hall meeting at the Evergreen Theatre in Powell River.
Panellists included Nicholas Simons, the MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, and North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney.
Residents had a chance to vent their frustration on the pain they’ve been feeling at the pump in the region.
Even at $1.49.9, Powell River’s gas prices are still far higher than anywhere else in Canada.
Blaney said the issue of sky-high gas prices isn’t exclusive to Powell River.
“I’ve definitely had multiple conservations on the island-side, as well, especially the real north part of the island in Port McNeill, Port Alice, Port Hardy, and all those communities in that region are really challenged with some of the highest gas costs in Canada,” she said.
Last month, provincial legislation passed, that will force gas suppliers in B.C. to reveal how prices are set.
Blaney said she’s pleased that the B.C. government created a bill that will force more transparency among gas companies.
“Once the information is there, I think it will really open up opportunities for us to look into this further,” she said.
“I really appreciate that there are a lot of independent gas stations here. I’m going to be honest, I don’t think it’s people who are part of the community, who are part of the problem. But we have to understand where the problem is and what we can do to make these communities get a better opportunity.”
She said accountability is important.
“I’m excited that (the) bill was presented, and looking forward to the next step that the provincial government does.”
For his part, Simons called it was a very successful meeting.
“We were able to explain the Fuel Transparency Act that the government of British Columbia just passed a couple of months ago,” he said.
“I think overall, the purpose was to raise awareness of the unfairness of the pricing and to look for some solution that might be able to at least explain how gas companies price their gas here in Powell River, (where) consistently (they’re) the highest prices not only in British Columbia but across the country.”
In the last Parliament, Blaney wrote a letter asking that the Federal Competition Bureau be alerted to the fact that some of these communities in the riding pay some of the highest gas prices in the nation.
Blaney said her constituents want answers.
“That’s what I’ve heard largely from constituents,” Blaney said. “If there is a rationale (as) to why the costs were so high, they wouldn’t be happy, but at least they’d understand. It is the lack of understanding that is really the biggest issue.”
Just over 100 people came out to the meeting.
“I think we left with a feeling of ‘Let’s work together.’ We had a petition that asks the minister to take some action and we had a lot of people signing that. I’m looking forward to seeing what the response from the federal minister is.”
Simons said people in the audience were as frustrated as the people on the stage, about the soaring gas prices.
“We all agreed that is is something that we collectively needed to address,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that governments and utilities commissions and competition bureau were aware of the concern and that we weren’t forgotten in the discussion around gas prices. We’ve seen gas prices up at $1.59 (per litre) for a long period of time where everywhere else in the province it was in the low $1.30s.”