06/29/2012 05:14 EDT | Updated 08/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Pump prices lower than expected for Canada Day drivers

Gas prices across the country dropped sharply Friday, ahead of the Canada Day long weekend and contrary to widespread expectations.

At 121.3 cents for a litre of gas, the national average price on Friday was at its lowest since January, according to the gasbuddy website. That's well down from the 140-cents-a-litre spike that motorists saw just ahead of the Easter weekend.

Prices in major cities across the country ranged from a low of 109.4 cents a litre in Edmonton on Friday to a high of 137.6 in Vancouver. Toronto was averaging 117.2, Halifax 118.1 and Montreal 130.7.

Jason Toews, co-founder of the gasbuddy site, pointed to a drop in crude oil prices as the major reason for the lower than expected cost of fuelling up.

"There's a lot of downward pressure on the price of gasoline even though it is a big driving weekend," he said. "That's good news for drivers. We're getting a little bit of relief at the pumps."

That relief, of course, is relative. Data from the same website shows that at this time last year the national average price stood at 121.7 cents per litre. But it had been spiking highward since.

However, at least one industry analyst says drivers shouldn't be that surprised.

"Historically we don't see pump prices going up before a long weekend," said Michael Ervin, the president of MJ Ervin and Associates.

"The incidents of pump price changes before a long weekend are no different than for any other weekend throughout the year."

Ervin added that the wholesale price of refined gasoline, as well as retail policies and government taxes all influence what gas stations charge.

But, both Ervin and Toews agree that drivers should anticipate lower costs for fuel throughout the summer driving season than what had been previously predicted.

"This year, the industry sailed through without any tightness of supply because of lower demand," said Ervin.

"When we hit Labour Day or thereabouts demand for gasoline will fall even more. So, there's no real reason to expect pump prices to be going up between now and Christmas."