B.C. premier shrugs off calls to ease gas taxes

Premier John Horgan blamed supply and demand for high gas prices on Thursday, as legislators and anti-tax campaigners called for a gasoline tax reduction.

Premier John Horgan blamed supply and demand for high gas prices on Thursday

With gas prices rising in B.C., attention is turning to the taxes that are added to fuel at the pump. (The Associated Press)

As British Columbians head toward a long weekend, with all the time at the beach, camping, long drives and steep gas prices that entails, B.C. Premier John Horgan rebuffed calls on Thursday to ease up on the tax motorists pay at the pump.

"This government has options to provide temporary tax relief," said North Vancouver-Seymour MLA Jane Thornthwaite in question period, suggesting that Horgan, or Michelle Mungall, the minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, could reduce the motor fuel tax or the carbon tax.

"[Horgan] hasn't done a thing except pick fights over pipelines and increase taxes," said Thornthwaite, adding that gas prices in the province had gone up 32 cents per litre since the same time last year.

According to the website Gas Buddy, which tracks gas prices, average prices in the province have increased by about 25 cents since last May.

Motorists pay a variety of taxes on fuel, all included in the price you see at the pump.

There's 8.5 cents per litre in two separate motor fuel taxes and 7.78 cents per litre in the carbon tax. In the Vancouver area, there's an additional tax of 17 cents per litre that goes to TransLink. In the Victoria area there's a 5.5 cent tax for public transit — and then there's the tax the federal government collects.

Horgan shrugged off Thornthwaite's statement in question period on Thursday.

"Gas prices are unacceptably high. Unfortunately, this is happening right across North America — critically important here in British Columbia and higher than any other part of the continent, but we also have to keep in mind that the challenge is one of supply and demand," said Horgan.

B.C. Premier John Horgan blames high gas prices in the province on market forces. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

"If there is evidence of collusion, if there is evidence of price gouging, we certainly want to hear about that from the members of the opposition or the travelling public," he said.  

"We're doing our due diligence to make sure that the industry is providing the lowest cost possible for consumers, as we go into the summer months."

Meanwhile, the advocacy group Canadian Taxpayers Federation staged a "Gas Tax Honesty Day," reminding people how much of the gas price goes to tax.

The group's B.C. director, Kris Sims, said for a litre of gas costing $1.61, 51 cents is tax.

"All we usually see when we're filling up at the pump is litres and cost. That's it," said Sims, who wants the provincial government to cut the carbon tax, and the federal government to cut the 10-cent-per-litre excise tax, as well as the five per cent GST that's added on top of everything.

Kris Sims, the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, glances at a pie chart she has brought to a news event to show the breakdown of taxes consumers pay for gas in Metro Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Mungall, asked by reporters about the high cost of gas, said the government has done other things to address the affordability crisis in B.C.

"In terms of the gas prices, that's more of a free market system that influences, in terms of what those gas prices are," she said, adding that the private markets and issues with refineries are to blame.

"It's not necessarily the over-taxation, so would [reducing the tax by a few cents] even be solving the problem? Likely not," Mungall said.


With files from Megan Thomas

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the combined total of two separate motor fuel taxes in B.C. is 7.5 cents per litre. In fact, the two taxes total 8.5 cents per litre.
    May 18, 2018 6:42 AM PT