Penticton drivers taken for a ride

Higher gas prices have been fuelling frustration among Penticton drivers over the course of the summer months. And a quick check of prices around the region shows that local motorists have every right to be upset.

Higher gas prices have been fuelling frustration among Penticton drivers over the course of the summer months. And a quick check of prices around the region shows that local motorists have every right to be upset.

While the price of a litre of regular gas sits at $1.25.9 in Penticton, a quick trip in just about any direction will find you savings of a few bucks on a tankful.

And the thing that has left so many Penticton drivers fuming is the apparent lack of any rhyme or reason behind the higher prices. Lower Mainland drivers must contend with a regional transit levy, and isolated northern communities must deal with higher transportation costs. But regional transit is all but non-existent in the Okanagan, and it’s hard to picture any transportation issues that would justify a five-cent discrepancy between Penticton and other Okanagan communities. (It should be noted that gas prices jumped 10 cents a litre in Kelowna Wednesday to $1.29.9, for no apparent reason.)

The chorus from irate drivers has reached such a level that it has drawn the attention of local politicians. But there is not much municipal government can do about rates established by multi-national corporations apart from lobbying senior levels of government, which is exactly what Penticton council has done.

Local MP Dan Albas has opened an investigation into the issue, and promises to be speaking with both large oil companies and local gas station owners to try and get to the bottom of the price differences. But there are limits to what we can expect the rookie Tory MP to uncover.

What he won’t find is any hard evidence of collusion. But the matter shouldn’t end there. A parliamentary committee needs to call the oil executives onto the carpet to get answers on how prices are set, and demand a response more revealing than “it’s a coincidence” when asked about identical pricing at stations throughout a community.

The answers Penticton drivers have been waiting for are likely still a long way down the road.

— Penticton Western News