If we can sell a case of beer or a bottle of wine for the same price in Cornwall and Kenora, certainly we should be able to bring fairness in the price of gas.
In last week’s column, readers may recall that I raised concerns about the disparity between winter maintenance levels on highways in Southern Ontario and Northern Ontario. Unfortunately, under successive Liberal and Conservative governments, this has been an ongoing issue to which neither government would give even brief consideration. I raised this issue recently in the Legislature and in last week’s column because of how much Northerners have to travel each year and how important it is to our survival to keep our highways safe and clear in winter.
Because of how much Northerners rely upon transportation, my office and those of my fellow Northern MPPs receive so many complaints about fuel prices. The prices are high, yes, but that is not the complaint. Instead, the calls and letters are from people who are fed up with the extreme ongoing range in price from town to town and region to region. There does not seem to be any discernable reason for such ranges in price.
Distance for shipping is not the cause because sometimes people find lower prices per litre in places further away from distribution centres than ones closer to the supply. For example, on the day that this column was written, prices ranged from as low as $1.285 in Windsor, $1.45 Sault Ste. Marie and $1.569 in Wawa. When you look at the range between the highest and lowest prices across the province, there is a difference of $0.284 per litre.
The people of Algoma–Manitoulin are reasonable, understanding that oil refineries need to recoup some of the added expense for shipping long distances. However, there is also the cost of doing business that the supplier should expect to come into play. But, consider how small a single litre of gas is in one of those huge tanker trucks. So it is pretty hard to swallow when you are told that it costs the supplier an extra $0.284 to ship a single litre to our communities.
Canadians are concerned about significant increases in the cost of living these days. We know that gasoline and home heating are included in the official cost of living expenses. As we see the price of gasoline and home heating fuel soar across Northern Ontario, it is absolutely galling that after over three years under a Conservative government, Northerners are no further ahead on this issue than they were under the Liberals.
The Ford government has had three years to help Northerners who are paying the highest prices for gasoline in the province, and there is no end in sight. Premier Ford should have used the tools he has had in his hands since he stepped into office back in 2018 to help make life more affordable for northern families, but he has refused.
The tool already laid out for Doug Ford to implement is in the form of an NDP bill that would regulate gasoline and home heating fuel prices across the province. As well, it would prohibit gas price spikes in Northern Ontario. We just can’t afford to continue paying higher prices than those in other parts of the province, especially during this COVID crisis. It has come to the point where gas and heating costs are seen as disincentives for our young families to work and stay in the North.
During the 2018 provincial election, Doug Ford promised to lower the price of gas at the pumps. In June of that year, he said, "I told the people that we’re reducing gas tax by 10 cents a litre.” Once in power, the Conservatives cancelled the cap-and-trade system established to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fairness, this did lower the price of gas by 4.3 cents per litre, but only very briefly. As soon as Ford axed the cap-and-trade program, the federal government followed through on their commitment to institute a carbon tax. This immediately nullified Ford’s reduction in gas prices. So Ontarians were right back paying the higher price again. Doug Ford never did drop the price of gas by the ten cents that he promised.
Timmins-James Bay NDP MPP Gilles Bisson pointed out to the premier, "The average price of oil has been between $50 and $55 per barrel, yet the retail price of gas per litre does not reflect the barrel price. If we can sell a case of beer or a bottle of wine for the same price in Cornwall and Kenora, certainly we should be able to bring fairness in the price of gas."
The NDP's bill, Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act, 2018, would allow the Ontario Energy Board to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario. That means that gas prices in Ontario will not fluctuate and could only change once a week. The NDP bill will stop the spikes in gas prices at the pump and provide relief and stability to drivers in Northern Ontario and right across the province. If passed, it would allow the Ontario Energy Board to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario.
As mentioned above, soon after coming to power, Doug Ford cancelled the cap-and-trade program. This initiated a continued lack of respect for the environment. The Auditor-General recently released a scathing report on the Ford government’s record in which she condemns the Conservatives for not being transparent with the public on environmental issues.
Ontarians know the climate crisis is THE GREATEST THREAT that our world faces. Yet Premier Doug Ford continues to do whatever his buddies want, no matter what it costs the rest of us. He routinely rubber stamps his friends’ requests to pave over Ontario in the form of Minister’s Zoning Orders and highways that don’t help commuters, such as the planned Bradford Bypass and Highway 413— shutting out community members, even though it’s our kids and grandkids that will pay the price.
Instead of making big polluters pay for 78,000 toxic spills that they are responsible for, Doug Ford is forcing Ontario families to pay millions in clean-up costs, letting big industry off the hook. With Doug Ford as premier, it is quite certain that Ontario will not meet its emission targets. Remember, this is the same premier who ripped electric vehicle charging stations out of the ground across Ontario. Now, just days ago, his government issued a media release that announced they are spending millions to reinstall a network of new electric EV stations in time for this summer. And this is the same premier that paid extra to have nearly-complete wind farms torn down.
We can’t afford any more of Ford’s big cuts and bad decisions.
It doesn't have to be this way anymore. Ontarians know it is time to go in a new, more responsible and transparent direction that serves the interests and meets the needs of all people in this province.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député
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