Friday, December 21, 2007

Liberal said gasoline prices not rigged

The same week the Gomery Commission reported on one of Canada’s worst political scandals, Niagara This Week chose to focus its Nov. 4, 2005 editorial on probing gas companies: “Once and for all, Canadians need to know if these oil companies are getting fat at our expense.” But, how many times should “once and for all” take?

The Conference Board of Canada, after a 10-year, 16 Canadian city study, concluded there was no evidence of price gouging. Ottawa’s federal Competition Bureau also probed this issue five times since 1990, each time finding no evidence of price collusion, noting that regulating gas prices is actually a provincial, not federal, matter. Ontario Liberal Premier Mr. McGuinty, while merrily collecting his gas tax portion, says he can’t do anything because we’re “at the mercy of international forces”.

A cynic might point out that after a dozen years in office, Liberal MP Walt Lastewka’s sudden interest to fight big oil is a red-herring ploy to deflect the post-Gomery anger Niagarans justifiably feel towards Liberal corruption.

Why, in 1999, when Ontario’s provincial Conservatives supported federal Liberal Dan McTeague’s anti gas-gouging bill, did Mr. Lastewka help quash it?

When Mr. Lastewka stated in an Aug. 26, 1997 St. Catharines Standard column headlined “Gas prices not rigged” that there is “no evidence to support allegations of price fixing, anti-competitive behavior, or misleading advertising”, were we supposed to believe him then? Or, when he tells Niagara This Week on Nov. 4 2005 of his “suspicions that in crisis situations, real or artificial, the oil companies may be price gouging for profit”, are we supposed to believe him now!?

Oh, and let’s not forget that in 1997 gas prices were at a then-shocking 60 cents per litre. When Mr. Lastewka now warns of a “recession caused by the doubling of energy prices”, as he does in his Fall 2005 report, he overlooks that they already had substantially increased during his watch.

At what point of the oil oligopoly’s supply and demand cycle will Mr. Lastewka begin to search for price gouging, predatory pricing, price collusion, too much profit, or not enough losses? Should we ignore why local gas prices also decreased, post-Katrina? What have the Liberals been paying their competition watchdog to actually do for the last 12 years?

Mr. McTeague notes that taxes make up 40% of the price of gasoline. Obviously, to answer Niagara This Week’s editorial, Mr. Lastewka’s government, for one, is “getting fat at our expense”, reaping huge excise tax revenues per litre on gasoline, while also double-taxing us GST at the pump, and still charging a 1.5% “temporary deficit tax” even though now we’re in surplus. A Statscan study showed that if federal and provincial gas taxes were taken out of the equation, comparative gas prices were 25% lower in 1999 than in 1957. Yet, despite exploration and refining efficiencies, the government has mercilessly taxed the petroleum industry, all ostensibly for our own good. After all, someone’s got to pay for our great health care system, eh?

It’s rather ironic to hear Liberal politicians outraged about gas-gouging, while diverting attention from the colossal tax-gouging and outrageous waste they themselves have wrought upon our country. Billions of our hard-earned tax dollars were squandered on such Liberal fiascoes as the gun registry, the HRDC, the Airbus affair, the tainted blood scandal, and the sponsorship scandal.

Next thing you know, diehard Liberal rednecks will be clamouring for an energy policy to nationalize oil companies. Oh wait, that too sounds like another recently-sold, multi-billion tax-dollar subsidized Liberal fiasco, Petro Canada.

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