MPP Michael Mantha supports member’s bill to regulate gas prices

QUEEN’S PARK—Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha supports the private member’s bill put forward by Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson to protect consumers from ‘gas price gouging’ by allowing the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to regulate the retail price and wholesale markup of petroleum products in Ontario.

“Oh absolutely, it’s a step in the right direction to bring back fairness to consumers in Ontario,” said Mr. Mantha, on Monday.

Mr. Mantha explained that in the Algoma-Manitoulin riding, “depending where you are you will see a difference of between as much as 30-35 cents per litre of gas on the same day. Even for locations that are say 100 kilometres apart the daily price per litre of gas can be 8-10 cents per litre. Why is this the happening? And why is it that can buy beer or a bottle of wine in Toronto and pay the same price in Mindemoya? What Mr. Bisson is proposing is definitely something Ontario would benefit from.”

Mr. Bisson’s bill, the Fairness in Petroleum Products Pricing Act, 2017, would allow the OEB to regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products in Ontario. The Lieutenant Governor in Council would be given power to govern the board. The Bill will guide the OEB and Lieutenant Governor in Council to: protect the interest of consumers with respect to the predictable and consistent retail pricing of petroleum products; prevent pricing practices that undermine the stability and competitiveness of retail markets for petroleum products, including retail markets in remote, rural and northern areas; and ensure transparency and reasonableness with respect to the prices of petroleum products.

Mr. Bisson announced his new bill earlier this week. “Gas companies and refineries have been gouging Ontario families for far too long,” he said in a release. “They are currently an unregulated commodity and they can charge us whatever they want. This is just wrong and it needs to end.”

On November 23, according to GasBuddy, gas sold for 101.7 cents/litre in Hagersville while in Thunder Bay it sold for 139.9 cents/litre–almost a $0.40 per litre difference. “Even within the same regional markets, we are seeing gas price swings,” said Mr. Bisson. “Thursday, the price of gas in Timmins was 128.9 cents/litre while less than two hours away on Highway 11, the price in Kapuskasing was 114.6 cents/litre.”

“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,” Mr. Bisson said in the release. “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.”

Mr. Bisson said there would still be some regional differences under the proposed regulation, to account for fuel transportation costs, but not nearly as large as drivers see right now.

The OEB recently studied the gasoline market and it found that In some jurisdictions that regulating the sector prices were actually higher. For example, there is evidence that in Newfoundland, retailers were setting their prices at the regulated maximum. Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault, who is also Sudbury MPP, pointed to that report in a statement Friday and did not express support for Mr. Bisson’s bill. He was quoted by the Canadian Press as saying “the report confirms that regulating gas prices, as the NDP is calling for, would hurt consumer’s right across the province.”