How soaring gas prices and inflation are hitting Hamilton-area small businesses and workers

Record high gas prices and inflation are hitting the bottom line for many. Here's how the costs have impacted the lives and businesses of a housekeeper, a farmer and a funeral home director in Ontario.

Petroleum analyst says gas prices are poised to keep rising due to conflicts in Europe and trucker shortage

Erin Dermody, P.X. Dermody Funeral Home's director of operations, said the gas prices and inflation have been "sad." (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Everything seems to be getting more expensive. Food, gas and housing prices are on the rise while paycheques are slow to keep pace. The CBC News series Priced Out explains why you're paying more at the register and how Canadians are coping with the high cost of everything.

For the past three years, Lindy Bouwer has provided housekeeping and child care services for Ontario families in Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville, but says she might stop.

Not because she's tired of the work and not because she's sick of driving more than 100 km per week — the 57-year-old Hamilton Mountain resident says it's because the cost of gas prices and impact of inflation are too high.

"The cost of living has gone up ridiculously ... I'm beginning to think, 'Is it really worth my while?'" Bouwer said.

She said public transit isn't good enough to get her to places like Oakville quickly, so she may stop working and try to live off of life savings until she turns 65 and can apply for the Old Age Security pension.

Other alternatives — not easy to come by — are to find more work or find jobs closer to home.

WATCH: The impact of the rising cost of everything

The impact of the rising cost of everything

9 months ago
Duration 2:52
Canadians are being hit hard by the rising cost of all goods, from housing to groceries to gas, and experts have different opinions on how to reduce that impact.

Inflation has affected her expenses enough that Bouwer has changed how she cooks, trying to make food in bulk and freeze it.

"I almost feel like I want to give up," she said.

It's part of a trend reflected across Canada that has seen the price of just about everything increase.

Why are gas prices so high?

Gas prices have spiked throughout the country in recent months. Where Bouwer lives, in Hamilton, they hit record highs in late January, passing 150 cents per litre. 

On Thursday, the average retail price for gas in the city was 154.175 cents per litre, according to data from GasBuddy. 

Patrick De Haan, the company's head of petroleum analysis, said he expects the historically high gas prices won't fall soon, especially as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalates.

Speaking before Russia invaded Ukraine, De Haan said such a military incursion could "set off a chain of events that escalates to the point where potentially Russia could decide to limit the amount of oil it's exporting," he said. That would cause prices to spike and supply to drop, De Haan added, saying Russia has done so in the past with natural gas.

Another factor behind the spike in gas prices is a truck driver shortage, he said, which means gas stations don't have as much access to fuel.

But De Haan noted if Iran strikes a new nuclear deal with the U.S., it could get more oil back into the market, which would reduce prices.

Businesses are 'just taking the hit' of inflation

James Richardson, who owns Richardson's Farm and Market in Dunnville, Ont. near Lake Erie, said he is impacted by the cost of fuel and tries to reduce his expenses by being more efficient while delivering food or reducing the number of times he tills over fields.

But he said fuel is just "one piece of the puzzle" when it comes to rising costs.

"We're also facing labour increases, fertilizer prices have gone up, anywhere from 20 to 80 per cent, just all our packaging — people don't think about the cardboard or plastic containers, egg cartons ... all those prices have gone up as well," he said.

Richardson said besides a carbon tax rebate on fuel used on the farm, there isn't much to help him reduce expenses.

WATCH: Following rising food costs from the farm to the store

Following rising food costs from the farm to the store

9 months ago
Duration 2:38
Increasing expenses along the supply chain and even the weather are some factors behind rising food costs Canadians are seeing at the grocery store.

Erin Dermody is the director of operations at P.X. Dermody Funeral Home in Hamilton. She said fuel expenses have nearly doubled in the past two years. In January, 2020, she said the business paid $695.74 to fill up its fleet's gas tanks, but this January, it cost $1208.82.

While gas prices have risen, so has the price to pay the business's suppliers, she added.

For example, the cost to get caskets into the funeral home has gone up. The cost of third-party suppliers to transfer the deceased from their place of death to the funeral home has also increased.

She called recent inflation "sad."

"We probably aren't losing money but we certainly aren't making money … we're just taking the hit," Dermody said.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.


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