BC drivers impacted by high gas prices will soon receive a rebate from the province, Premier John Horgan announced Friday.
Most drivers who had a basic auto insurance policy with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia in February will receive a $110 payment, Horgan said.
Commercial ICBC customers will get a rebate of $165 because their gas expenses are often higher, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said, adding that the amounts were decided based on ICBC’s financial standing.
The rebate applies to drivers of electric vehicles, the province confirmed.
Speaking on background, the premier’s office said rebates weren’t divided based on vehicle types in order to avoid delays, and encouraged electric vehicle owners who don’t need their rebate to donate it.
Gas prices hit an all-time high two weeks ago, reaching 214.9 cents per liter at many Metro Vancouver stations.
Experts have said oil prices, ongoing supply issues, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are all driving up the cost.
“We are not out of the woods yet. We are in for a time of instability here in British Columbia,” Horgan said. “We want to ensure that we’re able to respond.”
The rebate is expected to cost $395 million. Those who are eligible to receive a payment will get it in May if they are signed up for direct deposit with ICBC. Those who aren’t will receive a check in June.
NO TAX RELIEF
Unlike BC’s eastern neighbour, the province did not announce a tax cut to further offset gas costs. At the start of the month, Alberta unveiled a plan to reduce tax on gas by 13 cents per liter to ease rising prices in that province.
“We did look at taxes at the pump. There are people in the community who feel this would be a more appropriate way to act,” Horgan said.
“But we’ve had advice from (University of British Columbia) economists and others who have advised us that reduction in taxes at the pump would only be replaced by an increase in the commodity price.”
Horgan also defended the province’s slower response, acknowledging the government “didn’t act swiftly.”
“We acted cautiously,” he said. “We made sure that we waited until near the end of the fiscal year so that ICBC could have a clearer picture of what their financial situation was. That’s a responsible thing to do.”
LOOMING CARBON TAX INCREASE
Despite the unprecedented gas prices, the provincial government is still going ahead with a one-cent increase to the BC Carbon Tax, bringing it to 11 cents per liter on April 1.
“Metro Vancouver cannot continue to allow itself to be the punching bag for North America by being the international Girl Guides or Boy Scouts of highest prices, because we want to send a message on being green and trendy,” said Dan McTeague, a gas analyst and president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, before the rebate was announced.
McTeague said the province needs to be more realistic in its approach to reducing the use of fossil fuels.
“We’re now in a position not of talking about so much the environmental climate crisis, we’re now dealing with a complete global security crisis, which I think trumps everything,” McTeague said.
AN ‘UNDERWHELMING’ PLAN
The opposition BC Liberals are calling the announcement “underwhelming.”
“Frankly, what we saw was an insurance rebate being painted as if it’s a gas gas tax rebate, which it most certainly is not,” said Peter Milobar, the official opposition critic for finance.
Milobar argued that the way the rebate is being distributed is not equitable and does not address the needs of low- and middle-income families.
“For the premier to build this as a gas relief project is simply disingenuous,” he said.
He pointed out that electric vehicle owners, who do not pay at the pump, will be getting the same checks.
“The fact that a single parent working two jobs and driving a Honda Civic is getting the same one-time rebate as a Tesla owner is ridiculous,” said Milobar.
The Liberals are instead calling on the NDP to use pre-existing carbon credits, through the BC Climate Action Tax Credit.
They claim that route would benefit lower- and middle-income British Columbians more than those in higher tax brackets and checks would be issued sooner.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE PUMP
Along with the incoming rebate, there may be other short-term relief on the way at the pumps.
Dan McTeague, a gas price analyst, said drivers can expect prices to drop three cents on Saturday and again on Sunday.
He believes the market is taking a wait-and-see approach and gas prices may be in a holding pattern for the next couple of weeks.
“I think the best case scenario is that we remain in the $1.90 range, but more than likely will be well above $2 a liter unless something dramatic should happen,” he said.