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‘Hopefully we see a change’: Tourist town braces for summer of high gas prices

No one likes to pay more for gas.

However, tourism communities in the B.C. Interior, including Sicamous, are worried the high price at the pump will actually keep their much-needed summertime customers away.

“If you fill up in Alberta, you might want to bring some jerrycans,” said Sicamous councillor Jeff Mallmes.

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“I think that people, if they are considering the cost of the fuel, wouldn’t come to any place in B.C.”

It remains to be seen if the price at the pump will actually keep tourists away.

Some business operators don’t believe they will see much of an impact, but others are uncertain about how the summer will go.

“Right now, we have about 80 per cent booked, but people are repeat customers, they’ve been coming for years,” said Tia Lemieux who runs Sicamous Vacation Rentals.

Lemieux says so far her vacation rental bookings are normal and none of her customers have raised concerns about the cost of gas.

READ MORE: Safety expert tells B.C. drivers to think twice before grabbing gas from U.S.

“No one has complained yet but they haven’t arrived either. They’ve got to get here….May long weekend will be the big one. We will see how it goes then. I haven’t got many bookings yet for May long weekend and that might be one of the reasons,” Lemieux said.

Councillor seeks explanation for high gas prices

The high price at the pump motivated Mallmes to look into the gas tax rates.

After crunching the numbers, the Sicamous councillor points out the difference between the carbon tax and provincial gas tax rates in B.C. and Alberta is less than four cents per litre, which doesn’t explain the much higher prices to fuel up in British Columbia.

He’d like to see an explanation from industry.

Petroleum analyst Dan McTeague points out that when the five per cent sales tax is applied to higher B.C. gas prices, it creates a larger gap in the provincial tax rates.

However, McTeague said the issue in B.C. isn’t one of price gouging, and while taxes play a role and in B.C. gas prices, the main issue is supply.

“You have a supply crunch in British Columbia. The infrastructure that carries gasoline from Edmonton, that brings in gasoline by barge from the United States and the small refinery that we have are all congested by the fact … [that] the Trans Mountain Pipeline is badly clogged,” McTeague said.

However, the province contends price gouging is at play in B.C. and said it’s looking at its regulatory options including seeing if the competition bureau can step in “and bring some fairness back to the price people are paying.”

READ MORE: Highest gas prices ever in a North American city are in B.C.

However, McTeague contends price regulation would be a mistake.

“There is a shortage and the only way you can resolve a shortage is ensuring you have adequacy of supply. To me? Build up inventory in Vancouver or widen that pipeline,” McTeague said.

Back in Sicmaous, they are just hoping the prices don’t keep the visitors away.

“Hopefully we see a change in the gas price and it doesn’t effect us, but if it does, for a little community like this it really hurts us,” Lemieux said.

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