Trucks roar up Hill to protest fuel pricesgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread
Trucks roar up Hill to protest fuel prices
Sat, Mar 4, 2000
By Stephen Thorne
OTTAWA -- About 150 truckers roared up Parliament Hill with horns blaring yesterday to protest escalating fuel prices, but they found nobody home.
Without assurances of tax relief from a government whose key ministers were on spring break, protesters accused oil companies of gouging and called for rotating boycotts of Canada's Big Three, starting with Esso.
They also issued a warning.
"If nothing gets done in the next week, you're going to see a major shutdown of trucking across Canada," said organizer Dwayne Mosley, head of the Greater Ottawa Trucking Association.
"It'll filter down to consumers."
Mosley had Liberal backbencher Mac Harb draw randomly from a bag filled with the names of the three major refiners, producers and retailers -- Shell, PetroCanada and Esso. Esso, owned by Imperial Oil, was the loser.
"It's time for Canadians . . . to help out," Mosley declared. "As of right now, Canadians stop buying diesel fuel, gas or whatever from Esso until such time as fuel prices come back down."
Truckers have faced a 60 per cent increase in diesel fuel costs in the last year. While the price of a litre of diesel has stabilized at about 67 cents for the last two weeks, gasoline prices have skyrocketed to more than 70 cents in many areas.
"We have to make the major three oil companies accountable in Canada," said Mosley, calling on the federal government to appoint a special ombudsman to watch over the industry.
He said some truckers are on the verge of losing their rigs.
Federal and provincial officials blame the recent hikes in fuel costs on a jump in the price of crude oil -- $30.20 US a barrel compared to $10.50 a year ago.
Richard O'Farrell, spokesman for Imperial Oil, said price hikes are a worldwide problem and the biggest albatross around the truckers' necks is the fixed contract rates they're stuck with.
"We don't believe boycott is an effective way for dealing with their issue," O'Farrell said from Toronto.
Imperial Oil and other companies are participating in public hearings by the Ontario government, he noted.
"We recognize their frustration and the hardships they're facing. We think the resolution is more around working with the government."
Friday's truckers -- staging the latest protest in a series throughout eastern Canada -- came from all over Ontario.
Police escorted the slow-moving phalanx as it crept, three-lanes abreast, through downtown streets and filled the roadway in front of the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings.
-- Martin Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 04, 2000
Big rigs ring Parliament Hill as gas prices soar ever higher 'Everything is going up, up, up.
When is it going to stop?' trucker asks BRIAN LAGHI Parliamentary Bureau; With files from Brent Jang in Calgary and; Natalie Southworth in Toronto Saturday, March 4, 2000
Ottawa -- Consumers grumbled; businesses fretted and the streets in front of Parliament groaned under the weight of 200 big rigs yesterday as Canadians sought relief from gasoline prices that have surged to their highest levels since the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf.
"It's starting to bite," said Garth Whyte, senior vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses. "Everybody's holding their breath."
Mr. Whyte, whose organization represents 97,000 Canadian businesses, said the CFIB has written to Industry Minister John Manley as well as Canada's 10 premiers in an effort to get governments to drop their taxes on gasoline. The letter was sent as about 200 trucks parked on the street in front of Parliament Hill, and Toronto consumers began complaining about yet another substantial hike at the pumps.
In some communities across the country, regular gasoline is selling in the neighbourhood of 75 cents a litre.
Senior economists said yesterday that although the rising cost of gasoline will have an impact on consumer spending, it is not a cause for major concern, nor do they foreshadow a repeat of the oil price shocks of the 1970s and 1980s.
"I'm not saying it will have no effect, but it's not a reason for panic," said John McCallum, chief economist with the Royal Bank of Canada.
Mr. McCallum conceded that the increase in prices will harm certain workers, including truckers, who are demanding relief from taxation levels on gasoline and diesel fuel.
At yesterday's protest, the truckers asked for a meeting with either Prime Minister Jean Chritien or Finance Minister Paul Martin. They ended up gathering with Ottawa backbencher Mac Harb, who pledged to lobby for the appointment of an ombudsman to ensure that prices are fair.
Mr. Harb said, however, that the federal portion of fuel taxes is not that significant, and that the truckers' fight is really with the international oil companies.
The truckers argued that federal and provincial taxes should be reduced by 10 to 12 cents a litre. However, Mr. Chritien has already said that the truckers should pass their fuel costs to others rather than blockading highways. Ontario Premier Mike Harris has said he doesn't intend to drop taxes.
"Everything is going up, up, up. When is it going to stop?" asked Denis Picard, who brought his gravel hauler to downtown Ottawa to protest. Mr. Picard, who is married with two teenagers, said truckers like himself can't afford to raise their hauling prices for fear of losing business to other, cheaper operators. Gas prices in Ottawa were hovering around 71.9 cents a litre yesterday.
Some of the discrepancy in regional gasoline prices reflects differences in provincial taxes. Alberta, for instance, slaps a 9- cent-a-litre tax at the pumps, Ontario 14.7 cents, Newfoundland 22.5 cents.
Ottawa levies a 10-cent-a-litre federal excise tax, and then there's the GST of at least 4.2 cents a litre.
The oil giants argue that gasoline prices merely reflect soaring crude oil prices on world markets and have urged governments to lower fuel taxes.
Crude oil has soared from $10.72 (U.S.) a barrel to around $32 a barrel since December of 1998, around the time when major producers within and outside the OPEC oil cartel began to significantly slash production.
Alain Perez, president of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, said yesterday he felt sympathy for the truckers, most of whom are unable to pass on the extra costs of fuel to their customers. Mr. Perez said he believes oil-producing countries will increase production, but that it may be a gradual increase to ensure that prices don't bottom out.
"They want the price to come down. They don't want it to crash down."
Some Toronto motorists are dealing with the fast-increasing price of gasoline by filling only part of their gas tanks.
"I'm not filling up the tank because I'm hoping the gas prices will go down before I need more gas," said Sonja Modi, 22.
Since the price increase, she has spent an extra $5 a week on gas. She said if prices continue to increase, she'll just grin and bear it.
"I don't have a choice. Gas is such a necessity. I could take the bus, but it defeats the whole purpose of buying a car."
Cary Tsai, a 26-year-old architecture student, is spending almost $50 to fill up the tank of his Nissan Pathfinder. "I decided I'm only filling up half my tank from now on. Maybe the price will come down again," he said. "But I think it's unlikely for at least another two weeks."
At most Toronto gas stations the price of gasoline was 74.9 cents a litre, but prices rose as high as 78 cents in some parts of the city.
http://archives.theglobeandmail.com/search97cgi/s97_cgi? action=View&VdkVgwKey=%2Fchico2%2Fusr%2Flocal%2Fgam%2Fsearch%2Fhtml% 2F20000304%2FUGASSM%
-- Crossposter (email@example.com), March 04, 2000
Damn long post. I didn't have to read it all, saw price increase in gasoline and propane. Propane from 1.40 in Nov. to 1.90 in March. Gas from 1.32 in Dec. to 1.62 now. Other sources say prices in Ca. are much lower, trying to figure that one out. Thank you, Cross Poster. May we all Cross post, to see what the hay is going on.
-- Mad as (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 04, 2000.
Winnipeg Free Press
Globe and Mail
Canadian fuel price increases are not due to tax increases; they are based on current world oil prices.
The cost of fuel per litre is higher in Canada than it is in the U.S. An average U.S. price on Friday was 59 cents/litre; the lowest anywhere in Canada was 62.9 cents/litre.
Inflation on other goods is already happening as a result of these increased fuel prices. The small, independant trucking companies will go under if this lasts much longer.
-- firefly (email@example.com), March 05, 2000.