Frustration rises with pump prices
As the price of gasoline goes up, Canadians’ patience with oil companies is declining and consumers are looking for ways to fight back.
Prices in Toronto have topped $1.40 a litre and in Montreal they are nearing $1.50.
According to David Detomasi, a professor of international business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Canadians are right to be upset.
“You can figure out the ballpark that prices are supposed to be and when they are not in that ballpark, then you start asking questions about why,” Detomasi said. “That is what everyone is doing right now. Gas prices are moving with much more volatility than any movement in oil price would justify.”
Detomasi believes oil companies will frustrate customers as long as they can because they know that consumers will do little more than grumble.
“The only people who haven’t called me today have been the federal and provincial governments,” said Roger Mcknight, senior petroleum adviser with En-pro Interna- tional. “The higher the price goes, the more money goes into general revenue because of the GST/HST situation.”
While Canadians have locked themselves into an oil-dependent world, neither Detomasi nor Mcknight see the public as helpless victims at the mercy of the corporations.
“If I was a consumer, I would do one of two things,” MCKnight said. “I would get on the phone with my MP and say why don’t we cap the GST, at say $1.30, and anything above that price then you don’t charge GST/HST.
“The other thing is the idea of a boycott. The best way to do it is to pick a brand and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to buy from that brand for a week.’ And that will cause that particular brand to lower their prices and everyone else will follow.”
Detomasi agrees, but he knows that unless the public is better organized, oil companies will still have free rein to charge what they please.
“What works is sustained consumer activity,” Detomasi said. “But it has to be over a sustained period of time, but people can’t stop living and the bulk of their lives depends on oil and gasoline.”