Speculation has consumers seeing red

Revolution in Africa has driven up the price of fuel all across Canada because….well because of no good reason. Prices at the pump jumped by a dime in a day last week based on speculation. Speculation that supplies could be interrupted as a result of protests in Libya. It is a one way street with a hill that keeps getting steeper for consumers, especially here in Northern Ontario.

While it would be ridiculous to suggest that there isn’t potential for a disruption in oil supply with the unrest in Libya, it is also entirely possible that there won’t be. That is the problem with speculation, it works one way. It is responsible for much of our current financial problems and now, with the big jump in energy prices, it could endanger our recovery.

The problem for consumers won’t be limited to the price at the pump. When energy prices go up, everything else follows. Food will cost more, travel and transportation will cost more and the cost of heating your home will go up- again. For many of us, reeling from the shock of just how much the HST is cutting into the bottom line, this is only salt in the wound.

What is disturbing is how the incidental prices for items that rise as a result of expensive oil never go down – even if the price of oil does. Consider also that Libya is a relatively small producer of oil and this appears to be more of a game played at the boardroom level than a true threat to global oil supply.

The additional tax shock people are feeling is the price of the 2% reduction in the GST – ask yourself, would you rather pay ten cents more on an incidental purchase like a magazine, or 8 percent more on your gas and heating fuel costs? That is the kind of trickery the shift in tax burden is built upon. This is, pardon the pun, the ‘Shell game’ they have played with the taxes. That is why governments campaign on incidental issues and not substantive ones.

Now, more so than ever, it is imperative to reduce the tax on home heating. It is time to implement a nation-wide regulatory agency to monitor the price of oil and gas and an ombudsman to protect consumers. The burden for the cost of a global economy, placed squarely on the little guy, must be removed. Every week I hear from more and more people who are stretched to the limit. I hear from people going to great lengths to economize their consumption of fuel and electricity only to find they still can’t afford it.

What is happening in this country? We are blessed with abundant riches, an educated and motivated work force and good infrastructure, yet global markets can toss us to and fro like a ship on a stormy ocean. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, at all.

People work harder and longer for less real pay. Households are mired in a debt cycle that continues to be tested with each economic shock. That some CEOs make more by their morning coffee break on January 1st than most people do all year is just wrong. That this persists while people’s livelihoods are stripped and life’s work tossed to the wind is grotesque. That their government allows, and openly cheers for the intertwined outcomes is beyond compare.

Conservatives were elected on the premise of standing up for Canada. It has become increasingly clear they are only standing up for corporate Canada. They use minor issues to divide the population and make it appear they are on the little guy’s side, but when the chips are down - you only have to look at a heating bill or gas pump receipt to know the truth.