Wholesale gas price margins: Goliath backs out

Brothers, Sisters, Friends,

You have all heard the news; Irving Oil has withdrawn its application to the Energy and Utilities Board to get an increase in gas and heating oil wholesale profits margins. This is a victory for all ordinary New Brunswickers, it’s a victory for those who struggle to heat their homes or fill up their tanks.

Irving Oil wanted to use the pandemic as an excuse to increase their profit margins by over 50% on heating fuel and gasoline prices. If approved by the Board, CBC calculated that they would have gained up to $60 million dollars on the backs of ordinary residents.

These billionaires thought they could threaten shortages as a club to bully the Board into getting what they wanted. They were bold enough to do this without even providing basic, open and transparent evidence to support their claims on why they needed this extra 60 million dollars in these times.

Siding with the intimidator was NB Energy Minister Mike Holland, who had sent a letter to the Energy and Utilities Board in support of the Irving application. He had Higgs’ approval to influence the independent tribunal’s decision, even if it violated ministerial norms. With this kind of support, it’s clear the Irvings were hoping to get a “quick and dirty” pass from the Board.

Thankfully, citizen groups along the Common Front for Social justice and CUPE NB, got involved in the public hearing process. They did this to voice the concerns of workers and vulnerable residents. This brought much needed scrutiny and attention from the public and media on this blatant pandemic profiteering attempt. A little bit of prodding and questioning was all it took to get this Goliath to back down.

This victory reminds us of the importance of what follows:

  • We cannot stand idly by when we have a government who tells front line workers to take zeros at bargaining tables even though they put their lives on the line to keep the people of our province safe.
  • We cannot stand idly by when Higgs does all he can to support price gouging for his billionaire and corporate friends, may it be in keeping rents uncontrolled or pushing for increases in gasoline and heating costs.
  • We cannot stand idly by when politicians believe a 5-cent increase to the minimum wage (11.75) is “good enough” when we have the lowest median wages in Canada, and when poverty experts say a living wage in NB really starts at $19.55 an hour.

For us, the fight for affordability goes hand in hand with the struggle to improve working conditions and wages.