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Canvin gives fuel for debate

Chamber president calls for lower prices at the pump

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (Dec 07/01) - Duncan Canvin says Fort Simpson's gasoline prices haven't been dropping in correlation to declining world oil prices.

Regular gasoline sells between 79.8 and 86.9 cents per litre in Fort Simpson, down from a high of 97.5 cents a few months ago. Canvin, president of the Fort Simpson Chamber of Commerce, has written letters to Imperial Oil and Shell demanding an explanation for local prices, which dropped five cents on Nov. 21, the day he faxed the letters.

"I said, 'Boy, isn't that kind of coincidental,'" Canvin remarked, adding that he feels the price should be in the 70-cent range.

He acknowledged that operating costs, such as electricity and transportation, are higher for Northern gas retailers. However, he argued that inflated costs shouldn't translate into such a high price at the pump.

Gordon Villeneuve, the Shell agent in Fort Simpson, said it takes awhile to exhaust his gasoline supply, which may have purchased earlier at a higher wholesale price.

"If I get a load this week, priced at let's say 90 cents per litre, put in my tank, that lasts me about two or three weeks," he explained. "So if the price goes down (elsewhere) tomorrow, I'm still paying for whatever I've got in that tank."

Yanni Yan, a Fort Simpson Esso agent, agreed that depleting the old supply can take time.

"The volume is so damn slow here," Yan said.

Transportation costs are also factored in, which amount to approximately 12 cents per litre from Edmonton to Fort Simpson, according to Imperial Oil spokesperson Pius Rolheiser.

Jeff Mann, a Shell spokesperson based in Calgary, said, "Essentially, those retailers have to determine -- based on how much volume they move ... and whether they're selling a lot of chips and chocolate bars and pop in their stores -- how much they have to sell gasoline for to make a living."

Rolheiser and Mann emphasized that their respective oil companies neither own the local gas stations, nor do they set local prices. Rather, they sell gasoline at a value based on the Edmonton wholesale price.

Between July and November, Edmonton wholesale gasoline prices dropped between 12 and 13 per cent, Rolheiser noted. Over the same period, Imperial Oil sold fuel to its Fort Simpson agents at 10 to 11 per cent less, he said.

"There has been a significant reduction is basically what I'm saying," said Rolheiser.

comparatively speaking

As of Tuesday, here's the price of regular gasoline per litre at various locations in the NWT:

Fort Simpson

Midnight Petroleum

(cardlock) 79.8 cents

Shell 84.9

Esso 86.9

Fort Providence

Big River Service 84.5

Fort Liard

Liard Fuel Centre 88.7

Hay River

Esso 75.9


Shell 82.4