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Region's gas prices to be probed

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The Competition Bureau has announced it will examine gasoline prices in Northwestern Ontario.

Energy minister and local MPP Greg Rickford wrote to the Competition Bureau on Nov. 30 requesting an investigation after seeing gasoline prices remain stagnate in the region even after the Ford government cancelled the cap-and trade carbon tax.

“When the carbon tax came off the books legally, almost five cents, everybody else in the province saw an immediate drop of at least that in the price per litre of gasoline,” Rickford told the Times during a conference call last Wednesday.

The Competition Bureau's investigation is expected to take a couple of months, with Rickford saying he planned to touch base with the commissioner, Matthew Boswell, in the new year.

“This is a very serious investigation," Rickford stressed. "Their investigations can include criminal investigations and they're going to be taking a very careful look at local industry participants.”

Since 2008, the Competition Bureau has found 33 individuals and 12 companies guilt of fixing gas prices in Ontario and Quebec.

More than $6 million in fines have been issued, as well as conditional sentences and imprisonment.

When asked why prices have come down as much as 20 cents in the region over the past couple of weeks, Rickford replied, “It's without explanation.”

“I'd like to think that [when] I voiced my concerns . . . [it] triggered some kind of recognition by the supply chain of Northwestern Ontario that they better bring those prices down,” he noted.

Rickford said he's very pleased with the Competition Bureau's response to his letter and was told by Boswell that he believes something is not right with the gas prices here.

“I share your concerns and recognize that gasoline prices are an important issues for many Canadians,” Boswell wrote to Rickford.

Through the investigation, Rickford hopes to lower gas prices and understand why people in Northwestern Ontario pay more for gas than any other part of the province.

He said he's looking to find out “how gas pricing can be transparent for all of us in Ontario.”

“Especially in light of the fact that there's proof positive that we have been paying higher prices and [we need] some kind of an explanation for that,” Rickford remarked.

“That's what I'm after.”

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