On January 1, the Alberta Government paused the tax on fuel, which the UCP said would save Albertans 13 cents per litre on gas. However, that hasn't been the case so far in the first week, as prices have actually gone up at most locations in Strathmore. As of 1:00 PM on January 3, prices range from 128.1 cents per litre to 132.9 cents per litre, which is up from 124.9 cents per litre in December.
Despite this increase, Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction Dale Nally explained the prices are in line with current market conditions, but there will be big consequences for any companies found to be price gouging.
"We will keep a close eye on prices. Businesses found guilty of price gouging can be fined up to $300 000 or receive up to 2 years of jail time," he said.
The rising prices have some concerned that the UCP's fuel tax rebate isn't helping customers and that gas companies instead are just raising their prices to make consumers eat the cost. Nally explained this isn't the case, and Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction's Consumer Investigations Unit is monitoring gas prices across the province to make sure there's no evidence of gouging.
Nally added Alberta has the lowest gas prices in the country, but the high costs remain a problem. He said he and the UCP continue to call on the Federal Government to suspend the carbon tax, which he believes could lower prices across the country.
As for Strathmore, Gas Buddy's Head of Petroleum Analysis Patrick De Haan explained the reason residents may see prices higher than major centres could be due to one thing: lack of competition.
"[In] Strathmore there could be a lack of competition if stations all know that nobody lowers prices. They may not want to be the first ones lowering the price," he said.
De Haan added that unfortunately, there isn't too much to do about the situation, but a possible course of action is to vote with your wallets and go to cheaper gas stations in surrounding areas.
"If stations aren't selling gasoline or as much gasoline, they're likely to be driven to compete for more to win that business back."