Cornwall - Jul. 7, 2011 - On June 9, Andrea Horwath announced that an NDP government would set a weekly price cap for gasoline. “The price of gasoline won’t go over that ceiling and drivers will know what they’re going to pay that week. No surprises. No shocks.” Horwath would give the Ontario Energy Board the power to set the cap, since the OEB currently regulates the price of natural gas in the province. Currently, gas prices at the pumps fluctuate wildly and consumers feel they are being gouged and forced to drive with an eye to the best on-the-spot at-the-moment bargain to fill their tanks, with no way of knowing what the rationale for the fluctuations are. The instability of fluctuating prices serves no one’s interests.
I saw a gas price-related drama unfold yesterday in Cornwall. In the morning, we had filled up at our corner pump for $124.9. Before we had finished our errands, we saw gas advertised later, at a different station, for $119.9. Then a few blocks further, we were downright puzzled to see pumps advertising a price of $120.9, but they had approximately 50 cars in a queue waiting their turn. Traffic was well regulated, with no backup into traffic. Attendants were directing cars onto a lot into a single lane, then into multiple lanes and finally away from the pumps altogether into a parking bay while the drivers entered the outlet to pay their bill. Given the price posted we knew we were missing something so we pulled up and spoke to a gentleman who was doing a super job of keeping the chaos out of the queue lanes.
In actual fact, he told us, the gas was actually being sold for five cents less than the posted price, at $115.9 cents a litre, hence the controlled frenzy, and the big five cents logo on the t-shirts of the team of attendants. With so many cars in the queues, we wondered how long one would have to wait in line and we were told it was two minutes from the spot we were in. Now perhaps that gentleman was far enough from the pumps to think that was the case, but we doubted it. We moved out of the line, parked and watched a specific vehicle as it inched its way forward in the single line and then get directed into one of the multiples and finally gassed up and drove away. The driver must have paid at the pump with a card because he did not have to proceed from there to the parking bay. It took him twenty-two minutes total, from entering the queue to exiting the lot.
I remember some pretty fierce gas wars in the past and like most consumers, I feel manipulated today by prices that can go up and down pretty wildly over the course of an hour. I welcome the prospect of stability at the pumps. I don’t mind paying a fair price for any goods but I don’t want to be gouged either. A lifetime of observing big oil leads me to suspect that both my consumer and environmental concerns are pretty far down on their priority list.
Andrea’s Horwath’s plans for relief in the price of basic necessities goes further. Not only will prices be capped weekly to prevent gouging, but the HST will be removed from the price of gas, at one percentage point a year, over the course of four years. That may seem like small potatoes to some, but not to those with an eye on the price of a litre as we fill our cars. Andrea Horwath has earned the reputation as a clip-and-save woman and is proud of it. The NDP election 2011 platform is a document that puts people first and promises value for money.