Carbon tax debate heats up as fuel prices drop
Fuel prices may be dropping, but the pain is not going away.
But is the debate around the new carbon tax heated enough to topple British Columbia's Liberal government?
"The choice before British Columbians could not be more clear," said BC New Democratic Party Leader Carole James.
The NDP says its Angus Reid poll shows overwhelming opposition to the tax. When asked, 19 percent were moderately opposed and 45 percent strongly opposed. When asked if people trust the government's line that the tax is revenue neutral, 72-percent disagree.
"British Columbians from all parts of the province from all walks of life are speaking with one voice. They're joining together to support our plan," said James.
But are they? The key question the Nap's poll doesn't address is if all this opposition to the tax can move them from opposition benches.
The provincial government says its tax will bring about positive change.
"The beauty of this tax is that we're putting the tax up on pollution, but we're putting the tax down on income, to give people more money in their pockets," said B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen.
But voters are watching to see if the Liberals' green promise comes true.
"I don't think this issue will win the election for the NDP, but it's getting them a lot more attention," said Dr. Dennis Pylon, a political scientist with the University of Victoria.
Still, Pylon said gas prices can make for interesting politics.
"If gas prices keep going up, or even if they maintain the level that they're at right now, I could see it remaining an election issue."
Meanwhile, the carbon tax isn't the only thing that's got people steamed.
More and more companies are adding a "fuel surcharge" to the cost of their goods, - passing on the high cost of fuel to consumers.
But while the cost of fuel's actually come down in recent days, fuel surcharges have not.
With a price tag of up to $145 to fill up every four days, Jerry Bold said it's a relief when prices come down.
"I don't understand that, why does it fluctuate so much?" he said.
He was referring to the fact that prices have fallen by about 10 cents from about $1.50 a liter earlier this month.
But that doesn't mean it will cost less to travel with BC Ferries, even though the fuel surcharge is supposed to fluctuate.
"It does fluctuate on quarterly basis, we do analyze the price of fuel closely but paying a heck of a lot more for fuel than what we budgeted for and what we were paying 5 years ago," said Deborah Marshall, a BC Ferries spokeswoman.
It's the same story with Air Canada. The airline monitors gas prices. But Air Canada is also looking at $1 billion dollars in extra costs this year. In other words, the surcharge won't change soon.
"This is way for a company to grab extra money in a hurry,'' said Simon Fraser University marketing Professor Lindsay Meredith.
Meredith says sporadic reviews don't help customers. He says the law is simple.... what goes up, must come down.
"As soon as you see surcharges that go up and don't go down, basically it's a grab that hits bottom line, one more way of getting a price hike in on consumers. Guess what, consumers aren't stupid. They notice these things too."
Meanwhile, Jerry Boldt agrees that somebody somewhere is cashing in.
"I think we're pawns here, we're just being played I'm sure we are."
With reports by CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber and Renu Bakshi.