Volume 93, Issue 78

Thursday, February 17, 2000


NEWS

White Paper talks reveal concerns

Breast cancer study pays off

Research projects rake in funds

Harris speaks out on gun control

City task force targets housing

Gas prices lead to finger pointing

Internet use decreases social interaction

Stuff

Caught on campus

Gas prices lead to finger pointing



By Clare Elias
Gazette Staff

The fluctuations in gasoline prices have caused frustration all over the province.

An Ontario task force, designed to review gas prices, met last Monday in an attempt to remedy these large increases by taking in responses from the public and private sectors, said Terry Simzer, senior communications officer for Bob Runciman, Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations.

Simzer explained the task force existed to answer concerns the public had about gasoline prices which have risen too quickly. However, Simzer said a gas tax is not going to solve the issue.

"We understand that oil retailers purchase at a certain price and these prices in the oil industries are constantly fluctuating. However, the cost is passed on to the consumers and that is circumspect."

Simzer also said while it was too soon to articulate the specific plans of the task force, it is making its recommendations to the provincial government to ensure lower gas prices. He added the main source of the price increase was a lack of competition among gasoline companies, putting the onus of re-evaluating the Competition Act on the federal government.

"Parliament needs to toughen their Competition Act. They have not done anything at all to increase competition and to make the market competitive," Simzer said.

At the federal level, Cynthia Grant, media relations officer for the Commissioner of Competition, explained the Competition Act promoted business competition in Canada while ensuring equal opportunity for businesses.

Petro Canada's manager of communications, Donna Hildebrant, said she vigorously disagreed with the provincial government's statement of a lack of competition. The meeting between the task force, oil companies and their shareholders has left the provincial government on the defensive, Hildebrant explained.

"The provincial government is getting a lot of heat over gas prices and they're blaming the oil industry. This hurts and it's completely inaccurate."

Hildebrant added there is a lot of competition in the industry and there are many places to find gasoline. "We're very sympathetic towards the consumer, however last year we made $233 million and this represents a five percent return on capital. That's not a lot," she said. "We have an obligation to our corporation as well as to the customer."

Grant said the federal government, however, disagreed with the task force's estimation. "The provincial government has the authority to regulate the price for gas," she said. Grant added oil prices increased due to world oil prices.

Yet John Palmer, a professor of economics at Western, said the federal government has almost wiped out competition.

"They took out Texaco and Gulf. The federal government has caused reduction in competition."


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Copyright The Gazette 2000