Canadian motorists, fuming over high gas prices, are wondering if they're being taken for a ride by price-fixing cartels.
Canada's Competition Bureau has expanded its investigation after the convictions of operators in Quebec.
So far there have been criminal charges against 11 companies and 13 people for allegedly fixing gasoline prices in the province.
Ultramar was fined $1.85-million while Les Petroles Therrien Inc. and Distributions Petrolieres Therrien were fined a total of $179,000. Jacques Ouellet, a former Ultramar employee, was fined $50,000.
The bureau is trying to determine how widespread price fixing is across Canada, said commissioner Sheridan Scott.
This will only help to fuel long-simmering suspicions by consumer groups of widespread collusion among gasoline retailers.
The companies fined operated in Thetford Mines, Victoriaville, Magog and Sherbrooke, Scott said. In Victoriaville, 23 of the city's 24 gas stations were believed to have been colluding while more than 80 stations were involved in Sherbrooke.
Hockey theme song switches networks
A rival television network has scooped up the disputed Hockey Night in Canada theme song from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
A dispute over royalties with theme composer Dolores Claman led to the CBC dropping the iconic tune used since 1968.
In a surprising turn, CTV acquired the rights and will use the song on National Hockey League telecasts on its TSN and RDS networks as well as during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
"The song has a long and storied history in Canadian sports and has become ingrained in the hearts and minds of hockey fans," said CTV's Rick Brace.
News in brief
• Republican presidential nominee John McCain will speak about free trade on Friday in Ottawa. McCain's campaign team approached the Economic Club of Canada to arrange the event in Canada's capital. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said McCain's visit suggests Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government is playing favorites. Polls show Canadians strongly prefer to see Barak Obama elected president over McCain.
• A second Conservative politician has resigned over a liaison with Julie Couillard. Senior Quebec public works adviser Bernard Cote resigned after news surfaced that he briefly dated Couillard while she was attempting to win a government contract. Last month, foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier resigned after it was learned he left confidential documents at Couillard's house.
Facts and figures
The Bank of Canada has surprised almost everyone by keeping interest rates steady.
Economists disagreed with the central bank's decision not to cut rates by 0.25 percent as inflation remains under control. The key rate is 3 percent while the prime lending rate is 4.75 percent.
Canada's dollar is lower at 97.15 cents U.S while the U.S. greenback returns $1.0294 Canadian, before bank exchanges fees.
Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 14,754 points and the TSX Venture index at 2,633 points.
Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 24, 33, 35, 44, 48; bonus 37. (June 7) 27, 29, 33, 36, 46, 48; bonus 24. Super 7: (June 6) 3, 7, 29, 32, 39, 43, 45; bonus 4.
• Ontario unionists have been blockading General Motors' Canadian headquarters for almost two weeks after the decision to close the truck plant in Oshawa next year with the loss of 2,600 jobs. The Canadian Auto Workers accuse GM of violating terms of a recently settled contract for additional work at the plant.
• Most of the stolen art pieces by Haida artist Bill Reid have been recovered by police and will be returned to the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology. Ten of Reid's 12 stolen works and three Mexican pieces, valued at $2-million, were found and three people arrested.
• Wallboard maker Federal Gypsum Co. of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, will close for at least a month because of high energy prices. The company, which has 55 workers at its plant, said the U.S. housing slump has hurt business.
• Dan Hilliard, owner of Nathaniel's restaurant in Owen Sound, Ontario, has apologized for telling a waitress who shaved her head for a cancer charity event to take the summer off. The public outcry was devastating to his upscale eatery when Stacey Fearnall was told she couldn't work after shaving off her red locks to raise $2,700.
Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]