Prices below $1 are a huge drops from highs of $1.70 in 2019. Canadian Press photo.

North Island Rising: Gouging me less than you gouged me before is still gouging

Oil at $26 a barrel does not legitimize the retail gas prices we are seeing at the local pump today.

The new toilet paper pirates have shown they have no moral compass; the same missing link the COVID-19 hoarders had when reselling the basic essentials of life at exorbitant mark ups.

Ethics and morals have no role when excess profit drives every decision, and oil companies here on Northern Vancouver Island were quick to prove how profits trump people at every turn and under every circumstance, even during a world pandemic.

Last week, in Campbell River, gas was selling for 17 cents a litre less than the pump price in Port McNeill. Here, gas was holding at $1.35 as compared to $1.18 down Island, a difference of 13 per cent, and given that there can be no other explanation, that spread in prices was nothing more than pure profiteering.

It was a corporate money grab that exploited the excuse of geography in order to squeeze out an extra 17 cents per litre. It was nothing less than predatory pricing at its very worst; made even more so when done during a time of growing anxiety and fear about a world-wide pandemic.

Just days before, large telecommunications companies like Telus, Bell and Rogers were announcing initiatives that would reduce costs, make some services free and help customers stay in touch with family and friends. Utilities were comforting customers, telling them not to worry if they couldn’t work as a result of COVID-19. Nobody would have his or her power cut off during these very difficult times. Even banks were trying to help by reassuring clients that together they would do everything possible to solve mortgage payment issues.

Gas companies, on the other hand, were trying, without a twinge of guilt or reflection, to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time. Damn the customer and when they’ve taken the shirt off our backs, I can only assume the proverbial arm and a leg would be next on their list.

I was disgusted and to quote from that movie, Network; “We know things are bad, worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”

Oil at $26 a barrel does not legitimize the retail gas prices we are seeing at the local pump today. Currently there is a huge oversupply, falling demand and costs for a raw product that have, in some cases, fallen by more than 50 per cent.

That evening, I made my feelings known on social media. Overnight, prices fell by 6 cents in Port McNeill. The following morning, the price at the pump was $1.29 and I guess I was supposed to be happy but I wasn’t. Prices at that time were still 10 to 13 cents higher than Campbell River.

Perhaps in a pre-COVID world, gouging us less than you gouged us before was acceptable. But in this new world, greed is now recognized for what it is: an uncontrollable hunger for money, an insatiable craving that ignores humanity and sees a pandemic as a corporate opportunity for exploitation.

Bill McQuarrie is a former publisher, photojournalist and entrepreneur. Semi-retired and now living in Port McNeill, you can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at bill@northislandrising.com

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