Smokes and Fumes – PMO Spin on Gas Prices – View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – May 13, 2011

CFN – PMO’s effort to appease voters upset with high gas prices is a far too obvious attempt to move the issue to the sidelines while they get ready for a shuffle and the return of parliament. Trotting Tony Clement out to make a toothless announcement just as gas prices spiked was a weak attempt to take some heat off of Conservative MPs and the government.

Canadians are rightly concerned with these price increases. They impact their daily lifestyle, commuting costs, vacation plans, and business income. At the same time, these prices will impact on the price of the food they buy and municipal costs. For instance OC Transpo in Ottawa is already $700,000 in the red for fuel costs for their bus fleet. Not only will Canadians be hosed at the pumps, but also in the super market and on their municipal tax bills.

If the government believes in letting the market determine prices, then say so. If they don’t intend to cut taxes on gasoline, then say so. If they intend to let prices rise, then say so. And if that is the case, then let their MPs defend that position with the voters in their constituencies. To tell voters that you are acting on their concerns, gets you a few headlines, and temporary relief but in the long run voters are smart enough to know that you never intended to do anything in the first place.

If one looks at a rough timeline for this smoke and mirror exercise, it could go like this.

Parliament returns the end of May, beginning of June. Some time in the first week after their return committee membership will be announced. There will then be a couple of organizational meetings to elect chairs and set up procedural rules, create a subcommittee to set the agenda etc. The first motions will be moved (usually requiring 24-48 hour notice) and voted on at the following meeting. At this point we are around the third week of June. In the mean time the government can deflect opposition attacks in Question Period with “Let the committee to its job.” This always reminds me of Brison’s defence of the Liberals during the sponsorship scandal, “let Gomery do his job.”

The House will then break for the summer recess. Because the government controls the committee, they might manage to squeak in one or two sessions where everyone gets to bash the oil executives. That feel good exercise can be led by government MPs as they get the greatest number of questions and can appear to address their voters concerns. If they really insist, they can even have a couple of days of hearings in July and August to try and get a bit of media attention while voters are fuming at the pumps filling up their RVs etc.

By late summer or early fall the committee will produce a report that says the minister should ask the Competition Bureau to look into the issue. The issue can then be punted to the Bureau and the fall Question Period answer can become “let the Bureau do its job.” By then prices should stabilize or maybe even decline a bit as Canadians driving habits change with the arrival of colder weather.

Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to simply say you believe in letting market prices determine the price at the pumps? And by the way, how many extra millions of dollars is the government making from the increased revenue it is pulling in from these high gas prices?

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

Scott Beck



  1. “Removing the HST from gasoline would only give oil companies more room to raise prices”
    The Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncun April 11 2011

    Looks like the first line “PMO’s effort to appease voters upset with high gas prices is a far too obvious attempt to move the issue to the sidelines” could be changed to Dwight Duncan’s effort to appease voters upset with high gas prices is a far too obvious attempt to move the issue to the sidelines.
    And the last article line could be asked of Ontario, and the answer involves a 14.7 cent per litre flat tax plus a rolling 8% (Ontario’s HST share)that we see rise or lower with increases / decreases.

  2. The Peterbilt 387 and Peterbilt 372, have a factory tested fuel consumption rate of 4.68 K/l (11 MPG) under ideal conditions, or a FAT. Consumers can confirm the actual mileage between 5.3 and 8 miles per gallon. Depending on many factors
    With fuel tank capacities ranging from, 151.5 to 567.8 L (40 to 150 gallons) the average fill up can cost about $700.00,. Current government taxation in Ontario is $0.301/L giving the government $210.0 in tax revenue with each truck fill up
    As many of you travel I am sure you notice how many trucks alone are on our roads. Count $200 for each truck for only one fill up Now think about how many miles these guys travel and how many fill ups they make.
    Think also how much you and many others pay for regular gas fueling, then ask yourself. Does the Canadian government really want to shoots its cash cow in the hoof?
    And get your heads out of the conservative blaming mode it applies to all governmental parties. Trudeau should have left well enough alone.

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