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Ontario Premier Doug Ford said there was a five-cent reduction in the price of a litre of gas on Wednesday and credited his cancellation of the former Liberal government’s cap-and-trade program as the reason.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner ridiculed the claim as “a complete farce,” saying price declines now are seasonal.

“Fill up at the tanks! Gas prices dropped by 5 cents today due, in large part, to Premier Doug Ford and the Government for the People’s cancellation of the cap-and-trade carbon tax,” read a statement from Ford’s office.

The release included tweets from Dan McTeague, a former Liberal member of Parliament, and a petroleum analyst at GasBuddy – an app that provides information about fuelling stations to road users.

McTeague tweeted that in the past 13 days, there had been a 13-cent drop at the pumps to 124.9 cents a litre. He said the five-cent drop Wednesday was due to cheaper winter gas. He said 4.6 cents was due to refiners halting a charge for cap-and-trade last week.

The Green Party doesn't buy it

The Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, tabled on July 25, is still before the legislature. It would formally undo the former Liberal government’s climate action strategy. A key part of that was Ontario’s participation in a carbon trading market with Quebec and California, in which companies would buy and sell carbon emission allowances to meet limits, or pay the cost.

While the Ford government repealed the regulations governing Ontario’s participation in the market, the legislation has yet to pass.

Ford promised a 10-cents-per-litre price decrease during the election campaign. This would contribute to $260 in annual savings promised to Ontario families from ending cap and trade, Environment Minister Rod Phillips said during Question Period on Wednesday.

Schreiner isn’t buying it.

“It’s a complete farce for this government to be lavishing praise on itself for the drop in gas prices," he said. “The cap-and-trade bill hasn’t even passed through the legislature yet. This is a seasonal change that happens every year and is unrelated to anything the PC government has done.”

“The real solution to lowering the cost of driving is to support the electrification of our transportation system. Fiddling with gas prices isn’t going to bring real, long-term change to make people’s lives better and more affordable,” said Schreiner.

“We’re seeing countries around the world set a phase-out date for gasoline-powered vehicles to improve their air quality and to save money by saving energy. But in our province, Premier Ford is putting big oil before people and planet.”

No 'obvious drop' in Ontario after Ford

Nicholas Rivers, the Canada Research Chair in Climate and Energy Policy and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, has been tracking gas price data in Ontario and comparing it to other provinces. His data shows that ebbs and flows in Ontario’s gas prices have been similar to those of Quebec and Western provinces.

He said prices could be expected to drop 4.2 cents a litre as a result of cancellation of cap-and-trade but there was no “obvious drop in Ontario following the announcement of cap and trade elimination on July 3.”

He expects a permanent reduction in the future.

"It's a really hard question unfortunately," said Dale Beugin, executive director at the Ecofiscal Commission, a group of Canadian economists who contribute to policy debate.

"It’s just hard to really know. There are so many things that can go into gas prices, like changes from summer to winter, various chill points in the local energy markets, and it's just really hard to parse. It’s hard to know exactly when the field distributors have passed on their carbon costs, whether they’re all done now, whether they’ve already passed off the costs of permits, whether they’re still in the process of passing off the costs.”

More proposed changes to Ontario energy policy

The Ontario Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton declined to answer a question from NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, who asked if a new bill would cancel an existing $100-million program for natural gas in rural Ontario.

On Wednesday, McNaughton introduced an amendment to the Ontario Energy Board Act 1998 to “provide rate protection for classes of consumers,” and compensate gas distributors for any revenue losses. Bill 32, which was teased at yesterday’s International Plowing Match as a huge expansion to Ontarian’s access to natural gas, would later define who falls into those consumer classes.

“Isn’t ‘enabling private sector participation’ just a fancy way for the minister to say he’s cutting his grant program and increasing natural gas prices?” asked Tabuns during Question Period.

The Access to Natural Gas Act has yet to be debated in the legislature.

McNaughton said that the government's actions, over the next few years, would result in 80 communities gaining access to natural gas across the province and nearly 35,000 new additional natural gas customers.

“This is one of the greatest things that we can do to expand natural gas to rural and remote communities, to open Ontario up for business and to lower energy costs for those people living in rural and northern communities in our province,” said McNaughton.

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