The British Columbia Utilities Commission has begun an investigation into why gas prices on Vancouver Island and in Metro Vancouver are so much higher than the rest of the country.

The independent energy regulator will have the power to call oil company representatives as witnesses in its investigation.

Following Premier John Horgan’s request earlier this month, the BCUC has released its terms of reference for the investigation.

"The rapid increase in gas prices in B.C. is alarming, increasingly out of line with the rest of Canada, and people in B.C. deserve answers," said Horgan.

"We asked the BCUC to conduct a fair, transparent and comprehensive independent investigation. These terms provide the broad reach it needs to find answers and give recommendations to inform the path forward."

The BCUC has been asked to:

  • Examine market factors that affect prices
  • Investigate price fluctuations, including possible price fixing and gouging
  • Explain the differences in refining margins between B.C. and the rest of Canada
  • Explain the differences in retail margins between B.C. and the rest of Canada
  • Review potential regulations to increase transparency on how prices are determined

"High and wildly fluctuating gas prices in B.C. are hurting people and B.C.'s economy," said Bruce Ralston, B.C's Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology.

"Speculation and misinformation will not lead to solutions. The BCUC is a respected independent regulator and the appropriate body to investigate gas prices in the best interest of British Columbians. We look forward to the report and recommendations."

Horgan's request to the utilities commission specified that the group explore why prices have shot up by as much as 40 cents a litre in the last few months, reaching $1.62 per litre in Greater Victoria and $1.70 at some Lower Mainland gas stations.

A final report will be delivered by August 30.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has been calling on the New Democrats to reduce provincial gas taxes and has applied to participate in the investigation as an intervener.

-with files from the Canadian Press