Some Edmonton area gas stations drop prices after Kenney asks for price fixing probe

The price of gas decreased at a few Edmonton area gas stations Saturday, a day after Premier Jason Kenney said he would ask Canada’s competition bureau to investigate potential gas price fixing in the province.

In April, the province suspended the collection of the 13-cent per litre provincial fuel tax to help relieve consumers from high energy costs.

Kenney said the gas tax holiday helped Alberta to enjoy the lowest prices in Canada until recently when the “gas price advantage Albertans” enjoyed “disappeared.”

“It now appears Albertans are no longer benefitting from the tax cut,” Kenney said. “As I said when we announced this measure in March, we won’t accept any games being played with this.”

As of publication, some gas station prices in the region fell to between $1.60 and $1.70 per litre. According to the Canadian Automobile Association, the average gas price in Edmonton was 176.3 per litre — a three-cent decrease from Friday.

B.C. had the highest average gas price in Canada on Saturday with 198.4 per litre, while Ontario’s average hovered around 172.6 per litre.

The savings from the tax cut were expected to be passed on from gas retailers to drivers, with former finance minister Travis Toews assuring Albertans the province would be “paying attention to the pricing behaviour” of gas retailers.

On Friday, Kenney said he met with the Canadian Fuels Association to “express Albertans’ frustration” with high gas prices and that he would ask the Competition Bureau of Canada to probe if any price fixing was occurring.

He also directed Service Alberta to “explore” if the province has any tools to use through consumer protection legislation to protect gas affordability for consumers.

“With Alberta no longer collecting fuel taxes at the pump, Albertans deserve to know why they are suddenly paying as much for gasoline as motorists in Toronto when as recently as two weeks ago they were paying far less,” Kenney said.

Some experts suggest gas stations could have a 10 to 15 cent per litre margin and still bring in a profit.

“What we’ve seen though, as the market has shown a shift away and gas prices have dropped, that’s for refiners and gas stations rather than passing on that decrease over time, they’ve hardly moved from passing on those savings to consumers,” said Dan McTeague, Canadians for affordable energy president.

“The entire tax is now being absorbed by retail margins and not lowering prices for consumers,” said Trevor Tombe, an economist. “That’s a new development and an interesting one.”

“I think maybe what the government can and should consider is something along the lines of just greater information collection and reporting,” Tombe added. “That could allow Albertans to better understand what is happening when gas prices rise and fall.”

When the gas tax collection pause was first announced, Toews conceded that the province did not hold any legal means to force retailers to reduce prices other than putting “pressure” on providers.

The gas tax holiday is expected to remain in place until the end of September.  

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Sean Amato and Diego Romero

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