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Prices compared at 48 stations from Île Perrot to Ontario

DANIEL SUCAR
The 1019 Report

Local Journalism Initiative

The cost of fuel has skyrocketed across the country in the past six months, with many provinces – including Quebec – seeing record highs. Expert analysts are warning this is just the beginning, and that more price hikes are on the way.

In the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, a survey conducted by The 1019 Report last week revealed the cheapest gas could be found at a small Sonic service station on St. Jean Baptiste Street in Rigaud. Over the course of five days, the station’s average price for regular fuel was $1.50 per litre – 8 cents less expensive than the regional average.

“We’ve been seeing big changes in gas prices across the board, but we’ve made it a point to keep our prices relatively stable,” said Audrey-Anne Parisien, who manages the gas station with her father. “People have told us that our fuel prices are on the lower end, but we never imagined we actually had the lowest ones in the region.”

Parisien and her father took over the Sonic station last June, after the previous owner died. She attributes the low prices to revenue earned from the clearance store she runs at the station, which features everything from brand-new kitchen appliances and children’s toys to winter coats and music speakers.

“Most of the revenue comes from the clearance store, so we’re able to be more flexible on our gas prices,” she explained.

Trailing not far behind on the list of the 1019’s most affordable gas station is the Petroplus in Ste. Justine de Newton, as well as two other Rigaud stations.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the municipalities of Les Cèdres, Vaudreuil-Dorion and Hudson were home to the most expensive gas prices in the region. The average price of regular fuel in Les Cèdres was $1.65 per litre, while both Vaudreuil-Dorion and Hudson were tied at $1.63.

These numbers are on target with the provincial average which, according to Patrick De Haan, a petroleum analyst with GasBuddy, currently rests at $1.63 per litre.

“Gas prices are dire in Canada, and in provinces like Quebec, the situation is even more pronounced,” said De Haan, adding that the current provincial average is significantly higher than Quebec’s previous all-time high of $1.46 per litre.

De Haan also pointed to how the price of crude oil is trading for as much as US$95 per barrel this week – the highest it’s been since 2014.

He attributes the price surge to various factors, including changes to Canada’s carbon and oil taxes, supply-chain disruptions, and even rising transportation fees. However, he believes that, at its core, the surge is a result of the pandemic and its effects on consumer behaviour.

“At the start of the pandemic, oil companies reacted to the massive drop in consumer demand by cutting production back,” he explained. “And now, as the world opens up again, there’s been a complete recovery of fuel demand, but there hasn’t been a recovery in oil production.”

Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in economics at Concordia University, agrees with De Haan, and says the rise in prices can be traced back to the basics of supply and demand.

“There’s supply constraints, which drive prices up,” he said. “And there’s increased demand, which also pushes prices up. When you have these two effects occurring at the same time, you’re going to see a big jump in prices.”

There’s a geopolitical component, too. Both experts cite the ongoing tensions between Russia, a major oil supplier, and Ukraine as a huge factor behind the increase in prices at the pump. Ukraine is a key energy transit hub, Lander explained, and its fate could lead to imposed fuel sanctions and the curtailing of shipments.

With so many factors in play, the analysts say it’s difficult to predict where gas prices will be headed in the coming months. They both agree that prices will be going up – but it remains to be seen by just how much.

“I would say that, by the start of the summer driving season in June, average prices in Quebec could be 1.80 per litre – maybe higher,” De Haan speculated.

“It’s not far-fetched to see prices at $2 per litre, even if the Russia-Ukraine situation improves,” Lander said. “People who dipped into $1.10 or $1.15 per litre before the pandemic won’t see those kinds of prices for a long, long time.”

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