'A second mortgage': Record gas prices strain consumers struggling with rising cost of living

The cost of living is ticking upward across Canada with inflation, food and fuel prices skyrocketing to record highs through 2021. 

Gas increased by 5.5 cents per litre in N.L.

Gas and oil product prices are up across Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

The cost of living is ticking upward across Canada — inflation, food and fuel prices all skyrocketed in 2021, and now into 2022.

As gas prices set another record in Newfoundland and Labrador, some drivers are struggling to afford the cost of just getting to work. 

"Basically it's a mortgage payment," said Jane Harvey. "There should be some kind of control on it."

Harvey lives in Hare Bay but commutes to Gander five days a week — roughly a 130-kilometre round trip each day.

As of Thursday morning, she's paying $1.71 per litre to fill her vehicle's gas tank.

"You're going to have to cut back on your food, you got to cut back on your bills in order to be able to put gas in your car to go to work," Harvey said

In January, Statistics Canada reported grocery prices had risen by 5.7 per cent — the biggest annual increase since 2011.

In December, CBC News reported food price inflation is projected to increase between five and seven per cent this year. 

Harvey's comments come the same day a litre of regular gasoline rose by up to 5.5 cents across N.L., as part of the Public Utilities Board weekly fuel price adjustment.

Jane Harvey drives from Hare Bay to Gander five times a week. (Google maps)

Customers can expect to pay $1.68 in eastern Newfoundland, $1.71 in central, $1.69 in the Corner Brook and the Gros Morne area, and $1.70 on the Northern Peninsula for self service gas at the pumps. 

In Labrador those prices reached $1.76 in the south, $1.59 in central, $1.75 in the west and $1.77 in Churchill Falls.

Fuel prices have broken records on multiple occasions throughout 2021, mirroring a national trend.

Government looking at options in next budget: Coady

Opposition finance critic Tony Wakeham is calling on the provincial government to intervene. 

In a media release Wednesday, Wakeham said he wants to see a reduction in the provincial gas tax, a cancellation of future increases and the implementation of a home heating fuel rebate.

"Not only do Newfoundlanders and Labradorians feel the pressure at the pump, they feel the pressure every time they touch the thermostat or consider their next grocery trip," said Wakeham.

"High gas prices means higher shipping costs, which businesses often have no choice but to pass onto the consumer. For those living on fixed incomes, especially our seniors, that means choosing between heat or food more and more."

Finance Minister Siobhan Coady spoke to reporters Wednesday at Confederation Building about the latest Newfoundland and Labrador budget. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada )

Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said the rising price of crude oil has an impact on how things shake out at gas stations. 

"You've got to add transportation, marketing and refining, so when you pull all that together, of course, that raises the price at the pump," she said.

"Everyone in the province knows the financial situation of the province. We have to pay for our health, and our education and our support services, but I do think that we recognize how difficult it is for people in their cost of living when they're paying a high price for gasoline."

In the 2021 budget, the provincial government raised the carbon tax, in turn raising the cost of gasoline. The federal government also plans to gradually increase its own carbon tax to $170 a tonne by 2030 as part of its strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Coady said the provincial government is considering what it can do to provide some relief for high gas prices.

"We're in a financial challenge in the province, but we recognize the people of the province are having a financial challenge as well," she said. 

"We will be looking at how much we will be able to, or if we're able to, lower gas tax."

All other oil products increased on Thursday as well, with diesel spiking 5.4 cents per litre, furnace heating oil up 4.1 cents, stove oil up 4.64 cents and propane heating fuel up 0.9 cents. 

The following chart shows how gas prices have changed recently at Newfoundland and Labrador retailers, as reported by users of the website.

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