Premier John Horgan said Thursday that taxes on gasoline won’t be changing anytime soon amid surging prices brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
His position echoed that of B.C. Energy Minister Bruce Ralston, who said earlier in the week the province would not delay the province’s one-cent carbon tax hike due to go into effect April 1.
“I'm not passing the buck when I say that the federal government has a climate action plan, as does the province of British Columbia, and pricing carbon is a key component of that,” Horgan said during a media briefing.
“It may be easy for [opposition] politicians to declare that taxes are the problem, but those taxes go to building our roads, to providing transit to making sure that our infrastructure is as modern as it can be.”
Prices in Metro Vancouver have been climbing towards $2 a litre over the past week amid heavy sanctions targeting Russia.
“Gasoline is a free market and this is why we brought forward transparency legislation [in order to] to ensure that that free market didn't take advantage of consumers by gouging at the pumps when there was an opportunity to do that. And now companies have to prove to the independent [B.C.] Utilities Commission why they increased the cost of gasoline as much as they did for any given reason,” Horgan said.
“An 18-cent increase in a litre of gas is not about taxation. It's about uncertainty in the marketplace. It's about instability as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
Earlier in the day BC Liberal Party Leader Kevin Falcon said the government had a tool for lowering taxes for British Columbians as carbon taxes on gasoline go up – revenue neutrality – but pointed out that the NDP government scrapped the revenue neutrality requirement of B.C.'s carbon tax.
“Before this unfortunate situation started, we had the highest gas prices in North America in British Columbia, and they’re going to go up again on April 1 under the NDP,” Falcon said.
Falcon, who was recently named the Liberals’ new leader, does not currently have a seat in the legislature but Horgan said “we are working to ensure that we can get that by-election called as quickly as possible.”
The Vancouver-Quilchena riding has been vacant since former Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson stepped down last month to allow Falcon to run there.
Meanwhile, Horgan said the province was also working with Ottawa to ensure Ukrainian refugees fleeing their country would be able to relocate to B.C.
“British Columbia stands ready and we have been engaging with the federal government to ensure that as they bring forward their accelerated immigration and refugee plans, that British Columbia will be right there with them to assist those who need help with this most desperate of times,” the premier said, adding the province will be assisting with health-care costs, housing and “all of the other initiatives that do end up falling to the province to pay for in situations like this.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Nathan Cullen is reaching out to non-government organizations and faith groups who traditionally lead efforts to find homes and work for refugees, according to Horgan.
He said it’s unknown at this time how many refugees B.C. will be taking in.
—With a file from Nelson Bennett