BC government announces one time $110 payment to drivers for gas price relief

BC’s premier says the ICBC rebate is meant to ease the financial burden of increased gas prices caused by the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

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ICBC customers will receive a one-time payment of $110 — or $165 for commercial vehicles — to help with skyrocketing gas prices, the provincial government announced Friday.

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BC Premier John Horgan and Mike Farnworth, the minister of public safety and the solicitor general, said the rebate is meant to ease the financial burden of increased fuel costs caused by the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.

This rebate will total more than $395 million and comes at time when the global increase in gas prices and other cost pressures have affected day-to-day life for British Columbians, Horgan said.

“People are facing increased costs through no fault of their own, but as a chain reaction that started with Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine,” said Horgan. “As a result of our work to fix ICBC, we’re in a position to put money back in people’s pockets to help a little with these increased costs.”

Most ICBC customers with a basic auto insurance policy during the month of February will be eligible for the $110 relief rebate. Most commercial customers will receive a rebate of $165 because they have higher expenses.

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Eligible ICBC customers can expect to receive their rebate in May if they are registered for direct deposit with ICBC or as a refund to their credit card. All other customers will receive checks in June.

Horgan said ICBC is in a “robust position” to offer the rebate because of its forecast annual net income of $1.9 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31.

Gas prices in the Lower Mainland were between $1.92 and $1.96 a liter on Friday, according to GasBuddy.com.

However, they hit more than $2 per liter a couple of weeks ago as sanctions on Russian oil exports over the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine squeezed already short fuel supplies.

The region already struggled through weeks of fuel rationing at the end of last November when shipments were suspended on the Trans Mountain pipeline because of the atmospheric river causing catastrophic floods, washouts, and mudslides.

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Dan McTeague, an analyst with the fuel-price forecasting website GasWizard.ca and president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, said the high prices will push up the cost of everything from food to farming, agriculture and forestry, and even the cost of manufacturing electric vehicles.

In response to Friday’s announcement, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is urging Horgan to scrap the provincial carbon taxes to save money at the gas pumps, instead of merely rebating ICBC fees to drivers.

“Why is Horgan just handing drivers back their own ICBC money, when he knows that one of the main problems causing pain at the gas pumps in BC is the carbon taxes?” said Kris Sims, BC director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, in a statement.

“ICBC happens to have extra money at this moment and it should be paid back to us, but that’s like trying to pay your rent with cash you found in an old jacket.”

BC has two carbon taxes. The first is slated to go up to 11 cents per liter on April 1, while the second is a government fuel regulation that makes gasoline cost on average 17 cents more per litre. Combined, the two BC carbon taxes cost about 27 cents per liter.

More to come…

ticrawford@postmedia.com

—with files from Derrick Penner

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