Near-record gas prices in Winnipeg affect lower-income families disproportionately

A large jump in the price of gas is disproportionately affecting low-income households in Winnipeg, including a mother of two who is talking about cutting back her food intake to ensure she can pay for her commute.

Some pumps in Winnipeg saw spike of 11 cents in 1 day as overall gas prices have effectively doubled in a year

Jennifer Spence says gas has jumped to such a high price in Winnipeg that she's concerned she won't have enough money to meet all her needs. She's worried that low-income people will be affected by the price hike. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

When gas prices jumped to more than $1.40 per litre in parts of Winnipeg, Jennifer Spence's heart sank.

The family support worker and mother of two young children drives a lot for work and can't afford to fill up until next Friday.

"I see everything going up, but my wage stays the same, so I have to make it work. I have to stretch it to make it work and I know other people do too," she said.

Spence last spent about $80 to fill her tank and anticipates it will be close to $100 to fill it now that prices have risen so sharply as Manitoba sees near-record highs of the average gas prices.

The highest recorded average of fuel prices in Manitoba was set in 2008 when it was 142 cents per litre, according to GasBuddy data. The average recorded in Manitoba at 5 p.m. on Wednesday was 140 cents.

Gas prices in Winnipeg reached near record levels this week. In 2008, the highest recorded average for gas prices was 142 cents per litre. As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the average was 140, although some gas stations were above that average. (Rudy Gauer/CBC)

Some gas stations are 142.9 per litre, up by 11 cents from earlier in the week.

"That's a lot of money. That's groceries for the week," Spence said.

The working mother says she's known poverty and has given up meals so her kids are fed. Now she's working and has more resources, but that money only goes so far. 

"I am not alone in having to consider eating less so my kids can eat more, or making sure that I always have enough gas to do my daily job."

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives say many families here are in the same boat. 

The pandemic affected supply chains around the world, and prices for goods have been rising. Those who make less money feel the biggest pinch. 

"Any change in prices is very difficult to manage because so many households here in Manitoba are living right at the breaking point already," said Josh Brandon, the acting director of CCPA's Manitoba office.

Brandon acknowledges that some people within the lowest income bracket can't afford their own car and rely on public transit and other forms of transportation.

However, high fuel prices affect many other items on the supply chain, he says. 

"We all depend on gas prices. It affects the price of food, it affects the price of all kinds of goods," he said.

"We need to make sure that people have income security because these prices are going to fluctuate and households need to be able to manage those fluctuations."

Without income security, families like Spence's will continue to suffer.

"It's harder to find healthier foods that are more affordable. I've done an inventory over the last 24 hours of how much protein and how many things that we eat [are] this really empty stuff, and the empty stuff seems to cost less," she said.

"It's causing me to pause and really evaluate how healthy I want my family to be."

Low income Manitobans bearing the brunt of soaring gas prices

1 year ago
Duration 2:03
Gas prices are soaring at the pumps in Winnipeg and with the rising cost of goods, it's forcing some low-income Manitobans to make difficult decisions.

With files from Peggy Lam