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Horwath takes aim at northern gas prices

Ontario NDP leader tells Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association conference the party will restore winter highway maintenance as a public service.
Andrea Horwath
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath addresses the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association conference in Kenora on Thursday, May 3, 2018. (Matt Vis,

KENORA, Ont. – Andrea Horwath plans to address what she calls unreasonable regional gas price differences if her party forms government next month.

The Ontario NDP leader during an address to the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association in Kenora on Thursday pledged to reform how gas is sold in the province, including controlling prices across Ontario and taking a closer look at why fuel is significantly more expensive in Northwestern Ontario.

Horwath used the example of how prices skyrocket immediately before a long weekend, which she said is a common practice in Ontario.

“We’re going to regulate gas prices so that every week you’re going to know what the price of gas is and you’re going to know that it’s not going to change until a week later on the same day,” Horwath said.

Gas prices are consistently higher in Northwestern Ontario compared to the rest of the province. Prices in both Thunder Bay and Kenora were at $1.40 per litre on Wednesday, nearly 10 cents higher than the Ontario average, according to the Gas Buddy watchdog site.

“There’s really no rhyme or reason for the additional charges or additional costs built into the gas price for northern communities,” Horwath said.

“Yes, it’s going to cost more to transport gas to the distribution nodules here in Northern Ontario but is that a reasonable amount that’s being charged? Who knows? We’ll make sure it’s not a guessing game and that it’s not something that’s secret. We’re going to make sure the extra charges for regional differentials make sense and that they’re appropriate.”

Horwath said an NDP government would restore winter highway maintenance as a public service after years of privatization. The status of eight of the province’s 20 contracts have come into question after Carillion Canada, which is responsible for thousands of kilometres of highway, entered into creditor protection earlier this year amid its British-based parent company’s financial collapse.

It’s not acceptable for people to risk their lives to drive on snow and ice-covered highways in the winter, she said.

“Nobody in Northern Ontario in the winter time should worry about what they’re going to find on the highway as they travel from one place to another, knowing that’s what happens day in and day out in the north,” Horwath said, adding public transit options to avoid driving are not available in the region

Horwath acknowledged it would be a multi-year process to bring highway maintenance back as a public service but said she would not blindly tear up contracts.

“This government has allowed those contracts to continue notwithstanding all of the breaches of the contracts. They’ve fined these companies over and over again. The companies don’t pay the fines and the government still allows them to continue with the contracts,” Horwath said.

“We’ll be going through them with a fine-tooth comb to find the solutions we need.”

Horwath also promised $1 billion for Ring of Fire development, to bring back the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund to $550 million annually and $100 million for natural gas expansion to rural and northern communities.

Follow Matt Vis on Twitter: @MattVis

About the Author: Matt Vis

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