Gas prices in Yellowknife continue to defy market forces

While the cost of crude oil has has dropped to the lowest its been in three years, regular unleaded gasoline in Yellowknife is still selling for the same price it's been at for years.

Government says no price regulation needed because nobody is complaining

Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins is urging the government to regulate the price of fuel, and publicize its complaints division. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

Fuel prices in Yellowknife continue to defy market forces.

The cost of crude oil has been falling, but regular unleaded is still selling for the same price it's been at for years. At the same time, heating fuel prices are climbing.

When crude prices were up, regular unleaded gas was selling for $1.389 at the city's three biggest gas stations.

It's still the same price, though world crude oil prices have plummeted to the lowest they've been in three years.

Yellowknife MLA Robert Hawkins has called for the government to regulate fuel prices in the N.W.T.

"Even Yellowknife is considered a small, almost closed market where typically the everyday family or consumer is held hostage," says the Yellowknife Centre MLA.

"In a large, robust community that has a very active business community, folks will vote with their dollars. In other words they will go from one gas station to the next because they're not happy with the price. You don't have that type of competition here."

Fuel prices are regulated in four Atlantic provinces and Quebec. The territorial government rejected the idea of gas price regulation, saying it's received no complaints about fuel prices. 

But Hawkins says there may be another explanation for the lack of complaints.

"The government has a consumer affairs division and it's really designed to take complaints, but unfortunately they don't publicize it. It's not a storefront and a lot of people don't even know where to go if they did have a complaint."

An official at consumer affairs confirmed the division has not received any complaints about gas prices in the city. He said any complaints must be backed up by facts.

Consumers can file complaints online.

Card-operated pump price is $1.19.9

Drivers who have credit cards and don't mind putting up with a bit of inconvenience can get cheaper gas. Prices are significantly lower at two card lock stations — essentially a couple card-operated gas pumps next to a large fuel tank.

According to the distributors, this week at the Shell card lock in the Kam Lake industrial area, regular unleaded was selling for $1.199 a litre. At the PetroCanada one on Old Airport Road, it was $1.308

Though there are bargains to be had on gasoline, there are none for heating oil, which is essentially diesel fuel.

The three largest local distributors raised prices this week. They charge $1.23 or $1.24 per litre depending on which on you buy from.

An official with one of the distributors said the change was prompted by a change in wholesale diesel fuel prices which are inexplicably rising despite the drop in crude prices.