As British Columbians struggle with record-high gas prices, the provincial government is fighting an internal battle over how to ease pain at the pumps.
Speaking on Focus BC Friday, members of the NDP and Liberal parties argued over the best solution to lowering fuel costs, which have risen well past $1.70 in most parts of Metro Vancouver.
B.C. Liberal House Leader Mary Polak said a cap on prices is desperately needed for short-term relief.
“It should have happened a year ago,” she said. “The premier said a year ago that he would take action if the prices got too high. Well, guess what? They’re too high.”
Gas price caps have been put in place in Nova Scotia’s government, which regulates the price of gasoline to protect from frequent shifts.
Polak said Premier John Horgan should also consider a temporary reduction in gas taxes to provide additional relief.
“He has control over 35 cents a litre of those taxes, and he could step in tomorrow and cut some of them,” she said.
“You have to act immediately to help people who are really feeling that pain in their pocketbook, and then look at the number of circumstances that are causing this unprecedented price. But we can’t escape the fact that we pay the highest prices for gas in North America, and we have the highest taxes on gas in North America.”
But NDP MLA for Delta North Ravi Kahlon said long-term solutions are needed to fix a complex issue, and any immediate fix will take time to consider.
“If it was as simple as waving a magic wand and this problem would be solved, well, quite frankly, the previous government would have done the same thing,” he said.
“A lot of these taxes that were put in place were put there by [the B.C. Liberals], and they had opportunities to take these actions.”
Horgan has repeatedly said more refineries are needed in British Columbia to break the province’s ties to suppliers south of the border, but also suggested Friday that Alberta could be a better location as the province has more expertise.
He also encouraged newspaper mogul David Black, who, in 2014, proposed a $13-billion oil refinery to be built on B.C.’s northern coast, to bring that same plan forward to go through the regulatory and environmental process.
Kahlon said policy makers have been directed to find solutions, including locations for a new refinery and more public transit infrastructure is needed to get people out of cars.
He added Horgan has acknowledged he’s begun calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other members of the federal government to try and find solutions to bringing more supply to the province and to combat oil company gouging.
“The prices have gone up by 30 cents a litre in the past few months, but only one cent of that is the carbon tax,” Kahlon said. “So 29 cents of these increases are going to these oil companies. We’re concerned about that.
“We need thoughtful solutions here, and it can’t be what the B.C. Liberals have proposed.”
Polak said the NDP is wasting time saying the issue is complicated instead of acting in the interest of British Columbians.
“There are a number of different ways to look at this, but it can’t just be the long term,” she said.
“We need to act quickly to stop the pain right now, and then we need to have some forward-thinking vision to get us to greater capacity, and I’m sorry John Horgan, it’s not a refinery.”
— With files from Richard Zussman and the Canadian Press
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