MLA Leonard Spoke about Gas Prices in the House

Today, MLA Leonard spoke about Gas Prices in the House. You can watch the video here or read the transcript below.

The member for Kamloops–North Thompson has put forward a motion which is deceptively simplistic. He appears to mistakenly mash together revenue neutrality, carbon tax and gas prices as a cause and effect for making life more expensive. There is no question that drivers today are feeling the pain at the pump, as the price of gas shot up so dramatically.

People are at the mercy of an industry that lacks transparency in its pricing. We don’t know why or when or where the prices are going to be jacked up. It’s a game of chance, trying to anticipate how to best catch the best price. But what are the real drivers for these volatile price hikes?

Our government has been clear that Canada needs more refining capacity. B.C. has two refineries that produce only 25 percent of the gas consumed here. More refining capacity would help smooth out impacts from rises in crude oil prices in the global marketplace.

There’s another area that has been pinpointed by experts in the field. Robyn Allan, from The Economist, wrote that “it’s not the cost of crude oil or supply that causes spikes. It’s abnormally high refinery and marketing margins, and we’re being taken advantage of.” Those margins are the difference between the price of crude and refined gas, and between the price of refined gas and the price you and I pay at the pump — unbridled profit for profit’s sake.

Navius Research identified the rising profit margins and higher fuel prices at the pump as the consequence of low competition for market share, with very few firms supplying B.C. As for other causes, according to Kenneth Medlock at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University in Texas, it appears that singular arguments — like a pipeline not being built, or the carbon tax — simply don’t hold water. That last comment is relevant to today’s motion. Today’s increase in the carbon tax translates into 1.1 cents at the pump. This one-cent tax pales in comparison to the price hikes we are experiencing.

More importantly, the carbon tax, whether at the pump or elsewhere, does not of necessity make life more expensive for British Columbians. A carbon tax is intended to drive behaviour change, to reduce the carbon footprint of people, business, government and industry. The gradual increase to a carbon tax is not only intended to change behaviours; it also provides everyone time to adjust and find ways to reduce that carbon footprint without going under. This is the formula: shrinking our carbon footprint equals reducing our carbon tax.

Can we organize our trips to be more efficient and use less gasoline? Can we find other ways to tip the balance so that we’re actually paying less? Absolutely, we can, and we must. All together, the tax and incentives to reduce our carbon footprint drive innovation so that we can be more effective in fighting the devastating and expensive impacts of climate change — the whole point of the carbon tax.

It doesn’t end there. There’s also the question of equity and fairness. A low-income person doesn’t have the same opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint. For instance, a renter in a home with poor insulation and leaking hot water is stuck paying a higher energy bill and more tax. To adjust for that, there is the climate action tax credit, which our government raised this year to up to $400 per year. We will continue to raise it each year as the tax increases. Under the old government, this credit was not raised between 2011 and 2017.

Now, about the old government’s myth that their idea of a revenue-neutral carbon tax made life less expensive for people. Revenue neutrality had no meaning, because the carbon tax they collected was not driven back to taxpayers with carbon-reducing programs. How can tax credits like digital arts and film credits, though worthy of support, be defined as carbon-reducing? Targets to reduce greenhouse gases were not met. It was simply a shell game.

Our government is taking significant steps to make a difference to affect climate change across all sectors while making life more affordable for the people of B.C. It’s the cheapest way forward for everyone.