Quebec drivers flock to Ottawa in search of cheaper gas

Gatineau, Que., residents are heading across the provincial border to fill their gas tanks as prices in Ottawa have plunged in recent days.

Prices as much as 20 cents lower on Ontario side of the border

Two electronic signs show the price of gas, with the one on the left much cheaper than the one on the right.
Gas prices were between 20 and 40 cents cheaper Saturday in Ottawa than in Gatineau, Que., as these two Petro-Canada signs show. (Olivier Periard/Radio-Canada)

Western Quebec residents lined up at Ottawa gas stations on Saturday to take advantage of fuel prices that were between 20 and 40 cents per litre cheaper than in their province.

Several people who spoke to Radio-Canada said they made the journey to Ottawa this weekend just to fill up their tanks.

"Everything is higher [in cost] now, so if we can save money, we will come," said Gatineau, Que., resident Suzanne Tanguay, as she filled up at a Petro-Canada on Montreal Road.

For the first time in six months, prices dropped below $1.60 a litre this weekend, with some Ottawa stations selling gas for as low as $1.54 a litre.

It's a stark drop, given that less than two months ago on June 11, stations in Ottawa hit a record-high price of nearly $2.16 a litre.

Meanwhile, gas prices at some Gatineau stations hovered at about $1.86 a litre on Saturday. 

Gatineau, Que., resident Suzanne Tanguay was one of several western Quebec residents who said they travelled into Ontario to fill up on Saturday. (Olivier Periard/Radio-Canada)

Quebec prices could drop, says expert

According to Jean-Thomas Bernard, a professor at the University of Ottawa with expertise in the analysis of energy markets, distributors of gas in both Quebec and Ontario share the same suppliers, who price them equally.

But in Ontario, the provincial government's decision to cut the gas tax rate from 14.7 cents per litre to nine cents per litre last month has driven down the gas prices across the province.

This means that the margin of profits for Ontario distributors is also reduced, according to Bernard.

"So the distributors in Quebec make more money than the distributors here in Ottawa," he said. 

But Gatineau residents may soon no longer need to come to Ottawa for their gas: Bernard said he expects prices in Quebec will come down as distributors try to stay competitive with Ontario and avoid losing customers.

"I think the consumer in Quebec should face a lower price in the not-too-far future," he said.


Avanthika Anand is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. You can reach her by email