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Is it time to regulate gas prices in B.C.?

Last Updated Apr 29, 2019 at 3:32 pm PDT

(iStock, Photo)

As gas prices continue to rise across the Lower Mainland, many drivers are heading south to fill up their vehicles

If you fill up jerry cans of gasoline, Vancouver Fire is reminding you of limits as well as safety concerns

You are allowed to bring gasoline across the border from the U.S. to Canada, but CBSA says there may be duties

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Another Monday, another day of gas prices hovering above a $1.70 per litre for much of Metro Vancouver.

A new report is calling on Victoria to regulate gas prices in this province to help provide relief to drivers.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which claims the oil industry is gouging us. Economist Marc Lee with the left-leaning think tank says gas consumption in Metro Vancouver has only gone up by eight per cent over the past 10 years, and talk about a supply crunch at refineries is misleading.

“I think these are just excuses to jack up prices as much as they can,” he argued.

RELATED: Cross-border shoppers getting a bit less of a deal on gas in WA state

He claims oil companies are taking every opportunity to take all the profits they can — using excuses like routine maintenance or bad weather to hike prices.

“It makes a lot more sense, when you look at it through the lens of companies trying to increase profits for their shareholders. That means that a lot more money is leaving the pockets of Metro Vancouver drivers than in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, or Halifax.”

Lee says almost 90 per cent of the 55-cent-per-litre increase in prices since 2016 is from higher crude oil prices, higher profits going to refineries, and higher mark-ups taken by gas retailers. “Because we have an uncompetitive market, there’s a lot of problems, in terms of unfair pricing. I think basically, we need to regulate this market.”

He says in the Maritimes, where gas prices are regulated, gas is 30 cents cheaper in Halifax — when you exclude taxes.

The realities of cross-border fill ups as gas prices continue to spike

The painfully high price at the pump has some people scrambling to save money by resorting to apps, long-distance driving and — in some cases — even stockpiling.

It’s no secret that fuel prices are significantly cheaper in Washington state than in Metro Vancouver and a man from Coquitlam has created a smartphone app called “Worth the Drive” that crunches the numbers and lets you decide if you want to make the trek to Blaine to gas up.

“I am tired of overpaying for what I call the ‘Overpriced Vancouver Gas’. Vancouver gas is expensive, it doesn’t have to be. So I created this app with a single solution in mind,” says Gilson Tsang.

Worth the Drive” takes into account time spent driving, distance, the exchange rate and price differential before you consider investing in the effort of cross-border travel.

Should you bring along some portable gas containers to fill up as well? The Canada Border Services Agency has no problem with jerry cans in personal vehicles.

“In accordance with the Customs Act, there is no limit to the value of gasoline that can be imported,” says the CBSA in an emailed statement. “That said, should the value exceed a travellers personal exemption limit they will be subject to duties and taxes.”

There is a limit, however, on the volume of gas that Transport Canada allows you to haul.

“There are exemptions for personal use and personal transportation,” says Captain Jonathan Gormick, public information officer for Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

“People can transport up to 150 kilograms of gasoline in a personal vehicle in containers only as large as 30 kilograms each. That would be about a 25 litre jerry can.”

RELATED: Gas prices, municipal vehicle fleet costs could impact next tax bill: CTF

Even so, Gormick doesn’t endorse it because of the elevated risk associated with hauling that much extra fuel in your car or truck.

“That’s still a lot of gasoline. It would have to be transported and secured safely in your vehicle in a way that, if you were in an accident, the containers couldn’t break free and cause a problem in the car,” he explains.

“Once at home, the gasoline would have to be stored in approved containers — nothing makeshift or recycled — outside the home. They can be stored in a garden shed, or something like that, but not in an enclosed garage or in a home and certainly not in a parkade.”

Gormick adds that stored fuel also needs to be kept away from ignition sources, out of direct sunlight and not in areas subject to large swings in temperature.

“I really think that the dangers outweigh the dangers of stockpiling fuel like that.”

By the way, GasBuddy suggests the price of gas in Metro Vancouver may continue to sit near a record high in the near term.

“For the week ahead, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland could see prices finally crest in the $1.71 range before falling in the weeks ahead to the $1.63 threshold,” predicts the tech company’s Dan McTeague.