Gas prices jump across country due to weak loonie, warmer weather

Spring is here, the mercury is rising — and so are gas prices. In some parts of the country, prices have jumped almost 10 cents a litre, literally overnight.

Pump prices in Toronto area are approaching $1.22, while Montreal is peaking at $1.27

Gas prices were up in Montreal on Wednesday as this sign at a filling station shows. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Spring is here, the mercury is rising — and so are gas prices.

According to gas price tracking firm GasBuddy, the average price today for regular unleaded in the country was almost $1.15 per litre, up 19 per cent from a year ago.

Dan McTeague, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy, said a combination of higher ingredient costs for summer fuel and the lower value of the loonie have caused prices in Eastern Canada to hit their highest level since October 2014.

Gas becomes more volatile in warmer weather, so from mid-April to mid-September, refineries change the composition of their gas blends to make them more stable.

Pump prices in the Greater Toronto Area are approaching $1.22, while Montreal is peaking at about $1.27.

McTeague sees prices rising another three to five cents per litre in Eastern Canada.

He said the highest average gas prices in Canada, aside from the Far North, are $1.39 in Vancouver, and the lowest prices are in the Prairie provinces, at about $1.03.

'I don't think it's over yet'

Phil Flynn, a senior energy analyst at the Chicago-based Price Futures Group, said increases are normal this time of year.

"The first sign of spring is rising gasoline prices," he said.

But even with the usual increases, he said prices could get much higher than usual this year because refineries are behind on their summer gas production. He said this backlog could be due to the fact that the U.S. has a large supply, but the demand may have been underestimated.

That means refineries didn't have much of a reason to kick their production into high gear, he said.

"[Reserves have] fallen pretty dramatically over the last seven to eight weeks, so we've seen those supplies really tighten up."

And now, the consumer is feeling the pinch.

"That tightness is going to continue, which could add another 10 to 15 cents over the next 30 days. So I don't think it's over yet," said Flynn.

Tips to cut costs

While a few cents may not seem like much, it can add up, according to Jeffrey Schwartz from the Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.

"The extra $10 or $20 or more [families] spend on gas on a weekly basis could mean the less they have to spend on other household expenses," said Schwartz.

He offered some tips for cutting costs, such as driving with a light foot.

"If you enjoy driving over the posted speed limit and then brake really hard once you see the stop light, you're burning way more gas than you need to," said Schwartz in a statement.

Following the posted speed limits or using cruise-control can cut down on the amount of gas your vehicle uses.

The organization also recommends that drivers make sure their tires are full, to avoid idling, and to avoid loading up their cars with unnecessary cargo that can slow them down.

With files from CBC News