The Ontario government was warned 13 months ago that the province was facing a possible fuel shortage, according to an industry association official.

Jane Savage, CEO of the Canadian Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (CIPMA), says her group made a presentation to Ministry of Energy officials on Feb. 3, 2006 that warned of possible shortages of gasoline and diesel because of growing demand.

"We suggested to the government that these products are essential to the people of Ontario and that the existing supply and demand balance was extremely vulnerable to shortages," Savage told on Friday.

The claim comes a week after many gas stations in the Greater Toronto Area began temporarily shutting down because they ran out of fuel.

Savage said the presentation also included possible solutions that could help prevent the current scenario, such as increasing inventory, keeping a minimum supply and setting up a government monitoring system that would act as an early warning system, which is in place in many regions in the United States.

"We weren't surprised when news of the shortage came," Savage said. "It was devastating to our industry, to the independents in Ontario and to the consumers of Ontario."

But Energy Minister Dwight Duncan says there was nothing the government could do to prevent a fire at Imperial Oil's Nanticoke refinery last month, which caused much of the problems.

The Canadian National Railway strike, which ended last week, also prevented firms from bringing in extra gasoline by rail.

"We are going to look at everything that happened, but frankly, nothing could have prevented this perfect storm of events in the last few weeks," Duncan told The Globe and Mail.

Savage said she doesn't understand Duncan's comments.

"It's incompetence because they were warned. We need some leadership here," she said. "The root cause of this is an issue that hasn't been addressed and I think that's the frustrating part."

Duncan said the government has introduced several short-term measures during the gas shortage. These include changing regulations to allow drivers carrying gas supplies to work longer hours to deliver fuel to stations and allowing refiners to mix up to 10 per cent ethanol in gasoline to increase fuel supplies in the province by 500 litres a day.

Duncan said CIPMA's other recommendations fall under federal jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, Imperial Oil's refinery in Nanticoke has reached 75 per cent capacity and is expected to reach full capacity by mid-March.