Industry Minister Tony Clement says he will call oil refinery executives, gasoline retailers and distributors to Ottawa and demand answers as to the rationale behind fluctuating gas prices.

Clement made the announcement in Toronto, standing in the driveway of a young family that is feeling the pinch from prices that hovered around $1.35 per litre on Thursday.

One day earlier prices in Ontario surpassed $1.40 per litre.

"I think it's very clear that for most Canadians, including this Canadian, that how they come about their pricing is not very transparent, it's opaque," Clement said.

Once Parliament has resumed and the Commons industry committee has been struck and a chair appointed, Clement said he will be writing a letter to the clerk of the committee asking that a meeting be called on the issue.

"We want to get some answers to some questions that Canadians across the country are asking," he later told CTV's Power Play.

"It's the oil executives, it's the refiners, it's the retailers – all of them have an impact on the price at the pump. It's a fairly opaque process, not transparent, at how we arrive at these prices. I think Canadians deserve some answers."

One year ago, the price of a barrel of crude oil was around $150, while Canadians were paying around $1.35 per litre of gas, Clement said.

"A year later, the price (of crude) is south of $98, substantially lower, and yet we're paying the same price" at the pumps, he said.

New Democrat MP Jack Harris said that asking oil executives to speak to a committee will do little -- if anything -- to lower prices at the pumps.

"This is the weakest kind of response you can possibly imagine: having a couple of people from the industry come and explain to members of Parliament how they do their pricing. I mean, give me a break," he said.

"This happened in 2007. Two guys show up, give a 10-minute presentation. Some people ask questions and we're no further ahead. The committees don't have the resources to deal with this."

While the Competition Bureau already has the power to investigate price fixing and collusion at the pumps, Harris said that's not the main cause behind high prices. The NDP wants the issue addressed by an ombudsman.

Much of the price of gas at the pumps comes from fuel taxes -- in 2010, it accounted for an average of 32 per cent of the cost of a litre of gasoline.

Speaking earlier, Clement said that the Conservative government has already lightened the load on Canadian taxpayers by reducing income taxes.

Prices drop overnight

Gas prices dropped significantly overnight in Eastern Canada, providing some much needed relief to motorists.

As of Thursday morning the average price was $1.35 for a litre of gasoline in Eastern Canada, compared to $1.42 per litre a day earlier.

In Western Canada the average per litre price on Thursday morning was $1.29, consistent with the price on Wednesday.

The website on Wednesday accurately predicted the six-cent drop in prices in the East. The website is run by former Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who said prices had been driven up all week on overblown supply concerns.

Oil prices dropped below US$100 per barrel on U.S. markets later on Wednesday, and early morning Asian trading on Thursday showed oil was down 24 cents a barrel to $97.97.

A blog entry on the website said the price drop is welcome news for motorists, but complained that "refineries in Canada continue to charge an unacceptable premium of 5-8 cents per litre above (the global average) for wholesale gasoline. This is unacceptable."

Here are the average per-litre gas prices at a number of Canadian cities, as reported by, a website that tracks daily gas prices in Canada (Wednesday's average price is in brackets):

  • Montreal: $1.43 ($1.46)
  • Toronto: $1.36 ($1.41)
  • Ottawa: $1.29 ($1.35)
  • Winnipeg: $1.32 ($1.27)
  • Calgary: $1.29 ($1.26)
  • Vancouver: $1.41 ($1.42)