OTTAWA (NEWS1130) – Gas companies, you’ve been warned.

Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement wants gasoline refiners, distributors and retailers to show up in Ottawa and answer questions about volatile gas prices.

“No one can explain to me, how this is. How they arrive at these prices.  What are the factors – what are the domestic factors, what are the international factors?” asks Clement.  “The first step to understanding and perhaps helping is, get answers to these questions.”

“For most Canadians — including this Canadian — how they come about their pricing is not very transparent,” he argues.

“Last year, we were at something like $140 a barrel and the pricing was around $1.37,” he says. “Now we’re well-below $98 a barrel, and we had prices yesterday of about $1.41.”

Clement says he has received 500,000 letters and emails from people complaining about gas prices, but hasn’t said when meetings between the government and fuel producers would take place. The meetings likely won’t begin until Parliament resumes, and it could be several months before any clear answers come forth.

One thing Clement has made clear is that he does not intend to cut the amount of tax on gas. However, gas-price watcher Dan McTeague says the government should, at the very least, give Canadians a rebate of the GST charged on gas when prices get this high.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Gregory Thomas with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation joined us on the News1130 Morning Show and says taxes make up a big portion of what we pay at the pump. “You’re looking at about 40 cents a litre. In British Columbia, we also have a carbon tax… we have TransLink tax, federal excise tax, provincial fuel tax…”

He says most of that money is going into roads and transit, but by the time the government takes its cut, there isn’t much left over.

“There’s a lot of gouging that’s hidden in the price of gas,” says Thomas. “We think governments should come clean about it, make it more obvious to motorists as to what exactly they’re paying for.”

Consumers take

Bruce Cran with the Consumers’ Association of Canada thinks Clement is serious about his warning.  He adds the oil industry has been getting away with not explaining gas prices fluctuations for decades.

“I’m aware that the Competition Bureau’s looked at this five or six times but don’t forget that they do so under a limited or joined [mandate] anyway.  I think there’s more information here that we need to be satisfied.”

Cran adds consumers seem to be weathering the latest gas price spike better than before, but perhaps because they hope prices will eventually come down, since oil is trading at about 100 dollars a barrel.