Record-high gas prices strike Montreal: a new reality for drivers

Some Concordia students now consider leaving their car at home

Montreal gas prices have reached an all-time high, costing drivers up to $1.58 per litre. As the demand for driving has grown in the past few months, along with increases in crude oil prices, the gradual return to normalcy has entailed more expensive gasoline.

On Jan. 1, one barrel of Western Canadian Select (WCS) oil cost about $41.70, which then skyrocketed to nearly $76.90 by Nov. 5 — representing an 84.4 per cent increase in less than one year. However, Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer of economics at Concordia University, told The Concordian that crude oil prices are not the only factor influencing this spike.

Moshe explained that, as global transportation continues to resume, the shipping and aviation industries are competing with Canadian drivers for the same resources and thus overall demand for gasoline has increased. In Quebec, there are additional oil transportation costs because gasoline is not produced locally, on top of the price of oil refining and federal and provincial taxes.

However, Lander noted that one should look at the bigger picture, and compare the situation with pre-pandemic prices instead.

“The fact is, gas prices have barely gone up at all. Pre-pandemic, gas was around $1.40 or $1.45 in most gas stations around Montreal. So add a couple years, inflationary pressures — it’s perfectly reasonable,” said Lander. “But if you’re comparing it to lockdowns, with no one going to work […] while gas was priced at $1 or less — this looks jarring.”

Nevertheless, current gasoline prices pose financial challenges for some Concordia students, who are used to driving to the Loyola campus on a regular basis. For Ora Bar, a third-year journalism student, driving is a necessity since she commutes to and from Chateauguay four times a week.

“Last time I had to refuel, it hurt,” said Bar. “I am now considering switching to buses, though it’d take me three times as long to get to university. This would create lots of anxiety for me since I’d have to leave very early to avoid being late.”

Bar estimates that her 20-kilometre commute from the South Shore would take up to one hour and 30 minutes. The five-dollar transit ride involves several transfers which Bar is afraid to miss due to low frequency on certain routes.

“We’re still students, it is expensive! I certainly hope the government considers more practical bus schedules and reduced fares,” Bar explained, saying that she is hoping to find a more affordable alternative to driving in November.

Meanwhile, Gabriela Serrano, a third-year neuroscience student at Concordia, has already decided to leave her vehicle at home for the foreseeable future.

“Because of the price increase, I can no longer drive to Loyola every single day. I realized that taking public transit is cheaper, coming from the downtown area,” she said. “But it was more convenient to drive than to take one bus, the metro, and then another bus — my commute to NDG is a bit more complex now.”

Serrano hopes the government will take action to avoid a surge in gas prices. “The pandemic was already a heavy burden for our economic situation, and now with simple things like driving to work becoming more expensive, it’s another stress,” she explained.

Gasoline, however, is already being heavily subsidized by the Canadian government. Last year, the country’s oil and gas sector received $18 billion in government financial support. In fact, Lander suggests that rising gas prices may lead to a turning point in North American car culture.

“That is a century in the past, we’re moving forward now. We have to price gasoline properly, […] at $5 a litre. As long as you continue to subsidize gas-fuelled automobiles, it’s making things worse — and it’s the hardest part for the consumer to understand,” he added.

Shifting such subsidies toward eco-friendly initiatives would help the city combat climate change. According to Lander, this would result in creating more pedestrian-friendly streets and cycling paths, limit Montreal’s urban sprawl, and make more funds available for efficient public transit.

The economist believes high petrol prices would push Montrealers to adopt electric vehicles at a faster rate. As fuel combustion makes the transportation industry responsible for 24 per cent of global CO2 emissions, rising gas prices could cause a shift towards a greener future, one driver at a time.


Photographs by Kaitlynn Rodney

Student Life

Exploring the healthy side with Fardad

Debunking stress eating: Tis’ the season of midterms and takeout

Midterm season is officially here, and stress is creeping up on many students. Although people respond to stressful situations differently, a lot of us have a common struggle: stress eating.

Emotional eating can happen for a variety of reasons, but this week we will specifically analyze stress as a cause.

When your body is put under prolonged stress, a multitude of physiological changes happen, namely, your body releases a hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol plays a key role in human survival—think about it from an evolutionary standpoint. Your body registers stress as a “fight or flight” situation. When your body thinks it’s in a life or death situation, it “panics” and urges you to consume calories for strength and survival, when really, all you need is a deep breath.

Needless to say, exam period is a stressful time. Seeking refuge in the glory of pizza or greasy fries when the workload gets overwhelming is something a lot of us can relate to.

While this may provide momentarily relief—due to the release of other hormones like dopamine—the underlying cause of your stress still remains.

Additionally, feelings of guilt about eating too much may enter into the equation and end up adding to your initial stress.

But how can you tell the difference between being actually hungry or just feeling stressed?

There are a few telltale signs. Here are the most important ones:

  • We usually turn to comfort foods or unhealthy foods when we are stressed. Let’s just say cauliflower and broccoli aren’t the food of choice when cramming for an exam.
  • According to Harvard Health, consuming comfort food triggers two changes in the brain. First, it stimulates the reward centre of the brain by releasing feel-good hormones. Second, it has been shown to temporarily counter the effects of the stress-producing and processing hormones. So not only does comfort food provide a “happy fix,” but it also temporarily takes the stress away.
  • According to American pediatrics doctor Dr. Mary Gavin, and many other experts, contrary to stress cravings, physical hunger isn’t instant. It takes time for the digestive system to process food.
  • According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, when you feel physiological hunger, it’s due to the gradual release of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Ghrelin itself is released over time, thanks to “feedback” provided by sensory nerve endings in the digestive tract, including the intestine and colon. So if you suddenly have a “need” for a bag of chips, take a second to reflect on how stressed you are in that moment. You might just need to relax and take a deep breath.

Here are a few things you can do to help combat stress eating during exam time: 

  • Get moving. Exercise releases endorphins so hop to it. Physical activity also releases those feel-good hormones and it gets fresh blood flowing to the brain, making you feel more awake.
  • Drink a lot of water, regularly. Dehydration oftentimes manifests as hunger. Staying hydrated helps keep your body healthy and your brain active.
  • Call a loved one or a friend—but make sure you don’t end up talking about studying or exams. The aim here is to take your mind off all the stress by hearing a familiar voice and maybe cracking a joke or two. Tell the person in advance that you don’t want to be talking about school.

Fardad is a science student here at Concordia. He wants to share his research and learning about the science field with the Concordia community.

Graphic by Thom Bell

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