OPINION: Gas gripes II

High gas prices in Squamish are nothing new; I think I have written about the topic five-plus times over the past several years in these pages. I wrote about it two weeks ago and I’m going to write about it again.

Over a year ago as mayor, I filed a complaint to the Competition Bureau Canada articulating unfair gas prices in Squamish. “The Bureau” (I like to call it that because it sounds all powerful) called me back and we had an extensive conversation about gas prices, the difficulty in proving price fixing, the Bureau’s investigative powers and about their successful investigations of gas price fixing in Ontario. They acknowledged that the prices in Squamish seemed high and suspiciously consistent but they made it clear they could do nothing about high gas prices alone. Collusion and price fixing, however, are illegal and they would look into it.

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The Bureau agent I talked to also indicated that cities with more competition have a greater variability and choice and more competitive prices; because there are only eight stations in Squamish we are more vulnerable to high prices. They asked if there was a co-op-type gas station in Squamish, or the opportunity to bring one to the community, because they tend to have lower prices and usually bring the more corporately-motivated gas station prices down.

In response to the column I wrote two weeks ago, I received quite a bit of feedback from readers. Their concerns about gas stations extended to more than just gas prices, however, a few citing that not only were local gas stations gouging us at the pump, but they are generally not very involved in the community. A comparison was made with our local grocery stores, another staple of the community that everyone generally needs and uses, which are generally excellent corporate citizens as they support and promote many community events, charities, service and youth organizations and sports teams. Gas stations in comparison, which are undoubtedly making a ton of money in our community, do not contribute back to the greater good like they should.

A point was also made about the legacy gas stations that have left in our community. An example are the three former gas station sites on Cleveland Avenue that are riddled with hydrocarbons and left essentially vacant and useless unless and until a significant investment is made to remediate them.

So what do we collectively do about it? A suggestion has been made that the community as a whole choose one gas station a week to not buy gas from and then rotate to another station the following week. Or maybe we make choices to fill up less, ride our bikes and scooters more, exchange the gas guzzler for a hybrid or an electric car, ride the bus and advocate for intercity transit.

 

Editor’s note: The Chief asked several gas stations in Squamish to respond to this columnist’s suggestion that they may not be contributing much to the community. Managers at two stations were immediately available for comment. A manager at the Shell location on 1580 BC-99 said they raise funds for Valleycliffe Elementary during their customer appreciation day, and they also donate to Community Christmas Care. A manager at Husky on 1814 Garibaldi Way said they host a money-operated air pump, which contributes to Children’s Hospital.

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