May 27, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 02  

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Gas prices becoming an election issue

MONTREAL (CP) — Prime Minister Paul Martin says he will raise the issue of sky-high gasoline prices at an international summit next month but couldn’t promise Wednesday that his efforts would be reflected at the pumps anytime soon.

With enraged motorists threatening to make gasoline prices the sleeper issue of the federal election campaign, Martin said he will discuss the issue June 6 to 8 at a G-8 meeting in the United States.

‘‘We’re dealing with an international situation here,’’ Martin said after making his second of three hospital tours in two days as part of his save-medicare campaign theme.

‘‘I intend when I’m at the G-8 meeting in Georgia, to raise with my counterparts — the heads of state of the other G-8 countries — the necessity of really asking OPEC to increase production.’’
‘‘Fundamentally, we are very, very concerned about this.’’

But there was no hint of a quick fix on fuel prices, with Martin saying only that he has asked the federal and provincial competition bureaus to examine the possibility of collusion among oil companies.

Gasoline prices have approached $1 a litre and the Conservatives have proposed eliminating the GST on prices above 85 cents.

Martin has rejected the idea and repeated Wednesday that he would use the projected $230-million federal tax windfall from rising gas prices to pay for hospital equipment.

The prime minister was touring yet another hospital after his $9-billion-plus medicare promise Tuesday that is the central policy plank of his campaign.



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