British Columbians who have felt the pinch at the pump will receive a $110 rebate from the provincial government intended to ease the financial burden of rising gas prices.
Premier John Horgan and Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced the money at a news conference Friday morning. The two officials reiterated that the move was necessary due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and its impact on global fuel prices.
Horgan said the handover was “absolutely linked” to Russian aggression abroad, which he said could continue for some time.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said the Prime Minister.
The government has set aside $395 million to distribute to B.C. drivers, both personal and commercial.
Most ICBC customers who had a basic auto insurance policy during the month of February are eligible for the $110 amount. Commercial drivers will receive $165 because, according to Horgan, their expenses are generally higher.
show me the money
It is not necessary to ask for the discount; it will be issued to eligible ICBC customers starting this spring.
Drivers who are registered with the insurance company for direct deposit can expect a deposit or credit card refund in May. All other customers should look for a check in the mail in June.
Farnworth said ICBC was in a good position to cut checks.
“This is another opportunity to put money back in the pockets of the hard-working people who make this province a better place to live,” said Farnworth.
The insurer also issued two COVID-19 discounts of a combined average of $300 last year due to a reduction in claims.
Horgan said there may be more help along the way as provincial officials continue to monitor and respond to the situation overseas and its impact on outcomes for British Columbians.
“We have other tools at our disposal which we are looking at,” the premier said. He did not specify what his toolkit might include.
“We have the ability to make further announcements in the future. … We are always ready to step in if the need arises,” Horgan said.
Reimbursement does not solve affordability crisis, say critics
B.C. Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said the one-time reimbursement doesn’t address the broader issue of affordability, which affects everyone in the province, not just drivers.
“People are struggling to pay their rent, to pay [their] a mortgage or even getting a house, getting groceries, covering their basic expenses,” she told CBC British Columbia today.
“Gasoline prices are part of that. They’re a symptom of this greater affordability crisis.”
Provincial dollars, Furstenau said, would be better spent addressing the lack of public transit in part of British Columbia.
New Westminster County Patrick Johnstone said via social media that giving drivers a discount a day after TransLink’s board approved a July 1 fare hike sends the wrong message during a climate emergency.
Addendum: BC’s current government is investing more than ever in expanding public transit and has already stepped up in valuable ways to close the pandemic-related revenue hole. Good product! It’s not about the dollar, it’s about the message sent during a climate emergency.
The grim backdrop of climate change
Not only are the public dreading gas prices in the wake of the war, but this is also happening against a grim backdrop of climate change and wildfires, floods and extreme heat-related disasters that have hit British Columbia.
A United Nations report released earlier this month paints a dire picture of the future state of the planet and all life if greenhouse gas emissions are not urgently reduced, including those that come out of an exhaust pipe.
High gasoline prices and global warming are driving the switch from fossil fuel burners to electric or zero-emission vehicles, despite supply issues.
Marc Lee, senior economist at the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, also suggests imposing a tax on oil companies on excess profits and redistributing that money to the public and zero-emissions initiatives.