Barely a day goes by when the TTAC chatroom doesn’t devolve into a discussion of the weird differences between the U.S. and Canada. Chris Tonn wants to take a Nissan Micra across Canada, eating various poutines along the way, while this writer drools over certain (unavailable) civil liberties offered just 45 minutes to his south. Vast gulfs in pricing and taxation usually spring up as topic fodder, too.
Given the amount of money yours truly forks over for gas, there’s additional drool reserved for U.S. pump prices. Various taxes heap, on average, an extra 38 cents on every liter of unleaded up here. That’s an extra $1.44 for each gallon, and the roads aren’t exactly paved in gold.
Now, imagine learning you’ve been paying way too much for three straight years.
The province of Quebec, aka Day Trip Town for Burlington residents, taxes gasoline and other products at a higher rate than most other provinces. You’d be a fool to fill up on the island of Montreal. In that city, where the proliferation of potholes rivals Detroit, 41 percent of the pump price is tax.
According to Canada’s Driving, citing a report in La Journal de Quebec, the province’s motorists may have been overcharged for each tank of gas purchased since 2015, and not by some minor amount. The newspaper concluded that, due to a miscalculation by the province’s pump price regulator, drivers have paid 15 to 20 cents per liter too much. That’s 57 to 76 cents per gallon. Or, up to an extra ten bucks per fill-up, assuming you’re driving a Nissan Sentra with a 13 gallon tank.
The alleged screw-up by the bureaucrats at the Régie de l’énergie concerns the oil’s origins. The agency bases its pricing on Brent crude, but, starting in 2015, Quebec refineries began purchasing Western Canadian Select crude in greater quantities. Canadian oil carries a steep discount, and right now a barrel of the stuff will run you about $28. Put another way, you could purchase two barrels of oil for one fill-up of Montreal gasoline.
While the price regulator has yet to comment on the allegations, another publication claims the difference isn’t quite so vast. Quebec City’s La Soleil claims Brent crude is only used to calculate refinery margins, and that the regulator calculates its minimum pump price on the price of gasoline leaving the refinery. The inflated pump price may amount to just a few cents a liter, the newspaper said. However, it isn’t known how by just how much the refinery margin — based on outdated pricing data — impacts the product price used by the Régie de l’énergie to figure out the after-tax pump price.
Many Canadians, most of whom make their living from other people’s taxes, would argue that these motorists are simply helping their fellow man by having their wallets violated, but heavily taxed motorists (and readers) might not hold such a virtuous viewpoint. God knows I don’t.