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Oil execs pressed to explain gas price volatility in Canada

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, load sandbags Tuesday to try to hold back the rising Assiniboine River near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.

Associated Press

Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, load sandbags Tuesday to try to hold back the rising Assiniboine River near Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.

Mounting anger over speculative big jumps in the price of gasoline across Canada has prompted the federal government to call on the oil industry to account for the volatility.

"No one can understand why (in 2008) when oil per barrel was around $140 or $150 we were paying $1.37 per liter (about $5.20 a U.S. gallon), when this year oil is south of $98 a barrel and yet we're paying more," Industry Minister Tony Clement said.

The government wants refiners, distributors and retailers to appear before a parliamentary committee to account for the volatility of gas prices. No date has been set.

The industry needs to explain its "opaque" pricing structures, Clement said, ruling out any lowering of taxes, which account for more than one-third of the price.

This is a first step before the government considers a review of prices by the Competition Bureau.

Earlier reviews failed to find any evidence of collusion or price fixing.

Many Canadians suggest they should pay less than the world price since Canada is an oil-rich nation and the largest supplier of crude to the United States.

Oil industry executives say they "welcome the opportunity" to discuss the factors behind current market volatility.

Challenge now bigger for Quebec separatists

Separatists seeking independence for mainly French-speaking Quebec might be down but they're not out after the May 2 federal election that saw the defeat of Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Quebecois.

The separatist party was left with only four members in the Commons.

Political scientist Pierre Martin of the Universite de Montreal said there is "little doubt" that Pauline Marois and her separatist Parti Quebecois are in a "good position" to defeat Premier Jean Charest's Liberals in the next provincial election.

However, after the defeat of Duceppe and the Bloc, "the gaping hole in the sovereignty movement's leadership makes the next step — a referendum victory (for independence) — a more elusive goal," he wrote in the Toronto Star.

News in brief

• Liberals have started the work to rebuild their party that was decimated to only 34 members in the Commons in the recent election. Up first is selecting an interim leader after the defeat of Michael Ignatieff. There is speculation that former Ontario Premier Bob Rae might get the job.

• While touring flood-ravaged areas of Manitoba, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government will consider financial aid for proactive measures nationally. Rather than distributing financial aid only after a disaster, it would be best to limit damage and prevent widespread disasters before they happen, he suggested. Military troops are helping to reinforce flood defenses in what has been called a once-in-300-year event in the province.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar was lower Friday at $1.0316 in U.S. funds, while the U.S. greenback returned 96.94 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 1 percent, while the prime lending rate is 3 percent.

Canadian stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,422 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 2,052 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 14, 20, 30, 34, 37 and 45; bonus 15. (May 7) 2, 23, 24, 27, 36 and 48; bonus 16. Lotto Max: (May 6) 6, 19, 24, 25, 26, 35 and 36; bonus 23.

Regional briefs

• In British Columbia, Liberal Premier Christy Clark is now a member of the legislature with a narrow election victory in Vancouver-Port Grey previously represented by former Premier Gordon Campbell. Four Mounties who repeatedly stunned a Polish man, killing him, at Vancouver's airport in 2007 will face trial for perjury. They are accused of lying at a public inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski.

• Toka, Thika and Iringa are about to retire in the sunny south after Toronto Zoo officials agreed to relocate the elephants. The zoo was under pressure, including protests by former game show host Bob Barker, to move the aging pachyderms in their 40s to a more humane setting better equipped than a big-city zoo with cold winters.

• Former President Bill Clinton was in Nova Scotia to open the Frank McKenna Center for Leadership. The facility is named after his friend and business associate, former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna, and is located at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. Educating people and training leaders is "the great test of the 21st century world," Clinton said.

Jim Fox can be reached at

Oil execs pressed to explain gas price volatility in Canada 05/14/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 14, 2011 7:35pm]
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