B.C. government announces gas relief rebate of $110 for ICBC customers
Customers should receive their money as soon as May, B.C. premier says
British Columbians who have been feeling the pinch at the pump will be receiving a rebate of $110 from the provincial government meant to ease the financial burden of increased gas prices.
Premier John Horgan and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced the money during a Friday morning press conference. Both officials reiterated the move is needed because of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its impact on global fuel prices.
Horgan said the rebate is "absolutely related" to Russian aggression overseas, which he said could continue for quite some time.
"We are not out of the woods yet," said the premier.
The government has set aside $395 million to dole out to B.C. drivers — both personal and commercial.
Most ICBC customers who had a basic auto insurance policy during the month of February are eligible for the $110 amount. Commercial drivers will receive $165 because, according to Horgan, their expenses are usually higher.
Show me the money
There is no need to apply for the rebate; it will be issued to eligible ICBC customers starting this spring.
Drivers who are registered with the insurance corporation for direct deposit can expect a deposit or credit card refund in May. All other customers should look for a cheque in the mail in June.
Farnworth said ICBC is in a healthy position to cut the cheques.
"This is another opportunity to put money back in the pockets of the hardworking people who make this province a great place to live," said Farnworth.
The insurance provider also issued two COVID-19 rebates with a combined average of $300 last year due to a reduction in claims.
Horgan said there could be more help on the way as provincial officials continue to monitor and respond to the situation abroad and its impact on British Columbians' bottom lines.
"We have other tools at our disposal that we are looking at," said the premier. He did not elaborate on what his tool kit could include.
"We have capacity to make other announcements in the future. ... We are always ready to step in if the need arises," said Horgan.
Rebate doesn't tackle affordability crisis, say critics
B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said the one-time rebate fails to address the broader issue of affordability, which affects everyone in the province, not just drivers.
"People are struggling to pay rent, to pay [their] mortgage or even get a home, to buy groceries, to cover their basic costs," she told CBC's B.C Today.
"Gas prices are a part of that. They're a symptom of this greater affordability crisis."
Provincial dollars, Furstenau said, would be better spent to address the lack of public transit in part of B.C.
New Westminster Coun. Patrick Johnstone said via social media that giving drivers a rebate one day after TransLink's board of directors approved a fare hike for July 1 sends the wrong message during a climate emergency.
Addendum: the current BC Gov't is investing more than ever in Transit expansion, and has already stepped up in a valuable way to fill the pandemic revenue hole. Good stuff! This isn't about the $, its about the message being sent during a climate emergency.—@PJNewWest
Bleak backdrop of climate change
Not only is public dread over gas prices taking place in the wake of war, it is also happening against a bleak backdrop of climate change and the related wildfire, flooding and extreme heat disasters to hit B.C.
A United Nations report published earlier this month paints a dire picture of the future state of the planet and all life forms if greenhouse gas emissions are not urgently cut, including those coming out of a tailpipe.
High gas prices and global warming are motivation to switch from fossil fuel burners to electric or zero emission vehicles, supply issues notwithstanding.
Marc Lee, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, suggests also charging oil companies an excess profits tax and redistributing that money back to the public and to zero emission initiatives.
With files from Karin Larsen