With prices hovering around the dollar a litre mark, Kamloops is the epicentre of cheap gas in B.C. — a fact that grates on the nerves of residents in nearby towns.
The city is retaining its reputation as one of the best places in B.C. and Canada to fuel up, well below the average in this province of about $1.19 a litre.
But that’s cold comfort in Merritt ($1.14), Clearwater and Barriere ($1.06), or Chase ($1.14).
And it’s even worse in Logan Lake, where the two stations this week were selling gasoline for upwards of $1.20 a litre.
“For all the years I’ve been driving it’s been three cents higher,” said longtime Logan Lake resident Lorne Johnson.
But Johnson said that changed recently when the local Petro-Canada changed hands. He contacted the corporation and was told “there’s nothing we can do.”
The gas competition, or lack of it in the minds of residents, isn’t solely due to ownership of the Petro-Canada. Like nearly all gas stations in B.C., it is corporately owned.
A Petro-Canada employee, who asked not to be named, said the complaints in town are familiar and so is his answer.
“We can’t help it. It’s been like this for a year and a half. The company prices it. We don’t have much to say.”
The staff member said it’s widely acknowledged that Costo Wholesale Corp.’s Kamloops station is the price setter and other stations here follow suit.
Nearby in Logan Lake, gas station owner Tina Zart gets the same questions.
“If I said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times,” she said. “The supplier sets the price.”
Copper Valley Grocery & Gas is a rare independent gas retailer. Zart takes orders from nobody.
She purchases gasoline from a wholesaler at a given price, then sets a small margin, a margin so small she said it won’t pay wages. The convenience store brings in the money.
And right now, no one is buying gasoline, fuel she won’t sell at a loss. The typical driver gets $10 or so, enough to get to Kamloops.
“We’re sitting on an expensive load right now. Everyone buys gas in Kamloops because the price is so high.”
In Merritt, some residents signed a petition demanding prices come down to match those in Kamloops, which has enjoyed a price war going on two years. Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas has filed a complaint with the Competition Bureau.
“As Canadians, we talk about the price of gas or the weather,” Zart said. “I wish I could be as low as Kamloops. Costco is setting the price.”
Johnson said he’ll keep tanking up in Kamloops, but his frustration continues.
“Every day I’m driving to Kamloops and it’s dropping two cents a litre. Where is Logan Lake?”