McNeil says NDP gas plan would set artificial border

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Skabar says Liberals already set border with opening of toll highway

McNeil says NDP gas plan would set artificial border

AMHERST - Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil took his anti-regulation message to the heart of the gas war on Tuesday saying his government would scrap the regulation of gas prices in Nova Scotia.

At the same time, he took direct aim at an NDP plan to harmonize gas taxes at the border to stop the flow of motorists crossing to Aulac or Sackville, N.B., where gas prices are six to seven cents a litre cheaper because of differing tax regimes between the two provinces.

"It's so fundamentally flawed," McNeil said during a news conference at the South Albion Shell. "The NDP are proposing to slice up our province, pitting communities and counties against one another. There'd always be retailers on the other side of the line, wherever it is, who'd be negatively affected."

Last week, local NDP candidate Brian Skabar proposed harmonizing the gas tax along the border with neighbouring New Brunswick and allowing the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to study, issue and recommend appropriate pricing to allow retailers to compete with those in New Brunswick.

The Liberal leader said he wants clarification from NDP Leader Darrell Dexter on whether his party supports lower gas prices in all parts of the province, or just for his candidate in Cumberland North.

"The NDP believes is setting an artificial border between Cumberland County and the rest of our province. The Liberal Party believes Cumberland County belongs in Nova Scotia," said McNeil, adding the NDP continue to support gas regulation even though three studies have shown it has cost millions. "All Nova Scotians need to be treated fairly when it comes to the price of gas."

Skabar said later Tuesday that the Liberals already set an artificial border 10 years ago when they opened the province's only toll highway, forcing most county residents and business owners to pay a toll to use the Trans-Canada Highway with the rest of Nova Scotia.

"They have already hit the family pocketbook in Cumberland County. They're the ones who put the toll on the highway," Skabar said. "We won't be drawing the line arbitrarily, it will be up to the utility and review board. We want to set it up so that no one's obliged to drive to another area."

While he admitted it's not part of the larger NDP platform, Skabar said it's a local issue the provincial leadership has agreed to address.

McNeil also renewed his attack on regulation saying it has hampered the economy of the province for three years and put businesses across the province at a disadvantage.

"Gas regulation has been an expensive failure for Nova Scotians," McNeil said. "Each and every time you fill your tank you pay more because of gas regulation. Here, in this part of Nova Scotia, it means you just cross the border to fill up your vehicle."

McNeil said a Liberal government would immediately scrap regulation and let the market set the price while cutting the motive fuel tax by a cent a year over four years to ease the strain on motorists and help retailers on the Nova Scotia side of the border remain competitive with their counterparts in New Brunswick.

"This is a sensible approach and a constructive approach to making Nova Scotia more competitive," he said. "We pay the highest gas taxes in the Maritimes."

McNeil said all parts of his party's platform must pass several tests including whether they are affordable, prudent, realistic and does it help the province be competitive.

dcole@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: NDP, South Albion Shell, Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board Liberal Party Trans-Canada Highway

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Cumberland County AMHERST Sackville Cumberland North

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  • Countrygal
    January 18, 2010 - 11:24

    The best plan I can think of is get rid of gas regulation. Does anybody remember back when we didn't have regulation and the gas companies had price wars. The good old days.

  • Bob
    January 18, 2010 - 11:16

    NDP won't give us the same treatment as NB unless of course they deregulate...its not a real promise and I'll know LB you will be heart broken.

    As for the photo...doesn't Brent look like hobbit next to the Liberal Leader who looks like a clean shaven Ghandalf?

    I loved that book/movie!! Liberals now have my vote....

  • Moriarty
    January 18, 2010 - 11:12

    I am totally perplexed as to why McNeil, Noiles and all of you other folks on here want to continue to spend gas tax money in Sackville. I just don't get it!

  • Fred
    January 18, 2010 - 11:10

    Bob- Everyone understands that gas prices are going to fluctuate. I don't think anybody is arguing that.
    I agree that the Liberal plan ultimately may not yield a much better result than we have now. But the NDP's plan at least addresses a major issue in our riding. They are targetting the tax, not the price itself, so while the prices will continuously rise and fall, at least the cost of gas in Amherst won't encourage us to go to NB to fill up instead.

  • Colin
    January 18, 2010 - 11:07

    I guess McNeil failed to remember that fact regarding the toll highway. I am all for creating a level playing field, but this issue is getting more and more prominent in THIS riding. Gas is up over a dollar a litre again in Amherst, and the Liberals 'plan' to fix that is pretty shallow in my opinion.
    I also get the concept of not wanting NS communities competing for business, but in the end, isn't it better that the tax dollars stay in NS so they can go towards fixing our roads etc instead of New Brunswick?

  • know it all
    January 18, 2010 - 11:06

    why would any SMART person travel to sackville to save 4.5 cents when all you have to do is buy gas at the coop gas bar and save up to 3.6 cents already and you didn't have to leave town - come people grab a brain - eh !!!

  • Bob
    January 18, 2010 - 11:04

    whether regulation is scrapped or whether it stays in place, we will see rising prices as the norm. so scrap regulation and watch prices rise, keep it and watch prices rise. people speak of the possibility of price wars, that would be nice but I think its more wishful thinking than anything else.

    what we will see without regulation is price increases that occur within hours instead of a week....so unpredictability so who knows if gas is cheaper in NB or NS.

    I fail to see any benefit in either regime to the ultimate consumer. Prices are gonna rise and get used to it.

  • What?
    January 18, 2010 - 11:03

    Robert, I am just not buying this pitting NS communities against eachother nonsense. Here is a rundown of how this type of system is being used out west in AB/SK/MB http://www.canadabusiness.ca/servlet/ContentServer?cid=1081945311426&lang=en&pagename=CBSC_SK%2Fdisplay&c=Finance.

    If the NS NDP follows this criteria, then essentially each community this side of the toll pass will benefit. Those on the other side aren't going to pay $4 here and back to save 5 cents on gas, so I don't see how its going to pit us against one another. Besides, wouldn't it be a better thing for all NS communities if these valuable tax dollars were kept in the province? It may not be a perfect solution, but its certainly workable, and not the catastrophe you make it out to be.

  • Bob
    January 18, 2010 - 11:01

    I agree with Robert...the idea of a tax haven in certain parts of Nova Scotia? Regionalizing tax reductions? Aint' gonna happen...simple electioneering....wonderful idea until everyone wants in on it.

  • know it all? really?
    January 18, 2010 - 10:56

    I think Aulac is more of a problem than Sackville. There are probably people who can get to the Aulac mainway as quick as they can get to the one on south albion.
    and Jesse Munroe- they aren't saying anything about getting rid of the toll. Skabar said it would be nice, but that isn't what the proposal is

  • Moriarty
    January 18, 2010 - 10:55

    Sorry guys...the train already left the station and you weren't on it. Skabar's idea is the best solution.

    I look forward to spending my gas tax dollars in Nova Scotia where they belong.

    Thanks Brian

  • Robert
    January 18, 2010 - 10:55

    Why do people keep bringing up the toll as a means to justify removing the tax in this area? Do you not realize what happens when you attach the two together? They will never deal with either issue as one issue again. They will be eternally linked. What happens, say in 2 years or so, if we try to get the toll removed from the highway if we attach our tax reduction to it? Theyll tell us they cant remove it because were already getting a break or tell us that if they do remove it theyll jack the tax back up. Sound reasonable now? Youll make the two issues a singular issue and well never again be able to separate them. Lets keep this issue (gas tax) a singular issue. Dont link it to the toll or were just shooting ourselves in the foot down the road. Id love to get both the tax removed and the toll removed but I know it will never happen with them linked.

  • Bob
    January 18, 2010 - 10:55

    Commentators who repeatedly make comments concerning their party...plllzzzzz stop or use different names.... its just obvious you are plants of the party you are routing for...you do more harm than good.

    best solution? reality check none of these guys are the best solution...a real solution is easy...harmonize with NB and follow their lead. This gas haven idea is just election talk bull poop by both the NDP/Liberals. Its not going to happen...why because as Colin D alluded to NS communities competing for business through Gov't changing tax rules. It simply isn't going to happen why people fail to see this is beyond me.

    What will happen is this...the NDP will be elected in a minority gov't. They will then review the books as Dexter has stated then they will come back and say its worse than they thought and guess what all those election promises? Out the window....

  • lb
    January 18, 2010 - 10:51

    well i dont care if we go regulated or not .... but since we r all canadians it would be nice if everyone paid the same amount for fuel ..... if i can drive 5 km and save 30$ filling up my truck im gonna do it .... and if the NDP can give us the same treatment as the new brunswick people get ... then they have my vote,,,,

  • know it all
    January 18, 2010 - 10:51

    nobody is saving 30.00 on a fill up - that's bull - if you put 100.00 in your tank at 5 cents difference that is only 5.00 not 30.00 - god and you wonder why people in this area are called stupid

  • Fuzzy Bear
    January 18, 2010 - 10:49

    I was going to get into the fray here about whether to regulate or not to regulate and whether the pass financially devides us from the rest of NS but I can see that is a waste of time. Everyone talking about the pass and gas regulation had better realize that no government we elect is going to end either of these period! The windfall they are getting from higher gas prices and the kick back they get from the tolls is to their benefit so they would be nuts to change anything.
    Government ministers have nothing to do all day but come up with ideas on how to recoup the losses from constant fiscal mis-management from both past and present governments.
    However for those saying the NDP will not follow through with their plan is a bit premature because we have never had the guts or backbone to elect them....yet!
    One thing is evident though, you can sure tell the old party die hards here defending their party of preference.
    Scarastically speaking I think its a great idea to put another PC or Liberal minority in so they can all go back to the regular routine of doing nothing and taking everything from us. That should make all the old party hard liners happy. Sounds like a real great plan to me!! NOT!

  • Fred
    January 18, 2010 - 10:45

    The toll highway argument from the NDP is weak, unless of course they promise to get rid of the tolls which I didn't see in their platform pamphlet.

    Get rid of regulation period and give the stations in Amherst an opportunity to compete with NB. If there is a staging of price increases as you get further into the province it will have at least been set by the market and not by the government. McNeil is right on this one.

  • finally
    January 18, 2010 - 10:43

    Finally a comment worth commenting on.Bob H hit it on the head.

    Quote : What will happen is this...the NDP will be elected in a minority gov't. They will then review the books as Dexter has stated then they will come back and say its worse than they thought and guess what all those election promises? Out the window...Unquote.

    Lets face reality here irregardless of which party you support or which party forms the NEXT MINORITY GOVERNMENT , the statement is the truth.

    No money -- No promises kept.

  • Richard
    January 18, 2010 - 10:42

    Man this is crazy. First off the the localized tax drop all these people talk about in AB/SK/MA is fine, but look at a map. The closest neighbors in these areas are 100 km apart. The proposal would be fine if people in Springhill or Pugwash wouldn't travel here to save money or if Sackville didn't drop their prices in turn also to remain competitive, if I gambled I would put money, in both cases, on those communities doing just that! Outrage would follow and accusations of the move hurting small gas stations in these areas would persist. Others are right this probably won't happen no matter who gets in! Well maybe it would work if we weren't so close together...wait that's it... we'll move all our neghboring towns further away. Just pick them up and move them, cause that's just as realistic an idea as a local gas price drop here!!

  • Jesse
    January 18, 2010 - 10:40

    If Skabar likes the idea of getting rid of the tolls so much, then why is it missing from the NDP platform??? The NDP will say and do anything to get a vote

  • Bob
    January 18, 2010 - 10:39

    Fred is right and when prices get really high and unpredictable and people complain (didn't this happen not long ago) then we can go back to ensuring predictability through regulation.

  • Moriarty
    January 18, 2010 - 10:37

    First off the the localized tax drop all these people talk about in AB/SK/MA is fine, but look at a map...The closest neighbors in these areas are 100 km apart.
    -------------------------------------------

    Actually Richard, the template for the plan is based on Creighton Sask and Flin Flon Man. Who are not only closer than 100km apart, they also share some of the same street names, being essentially one municipality, as one could argue at times it feels like the Amherst/Aulac/Sackville community is.

    Someone mentioned above that they were tired of party people coming on here to boost their party....I say I agree!

    The desperation of the Tory and Liberal camps on this issue is incredible! Face it, you missed the boat and this plan is good for Amherst and ALL of Cumberland County.