URB in town today

Darrell Cole
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Provincial regulator will hear arguments on setting price based on proximity to New Brunswick

URB in town today

AMHERST - It didn't take a study for Roy Pettigrew to realize it was time to get out of the gas business, but he's not surprised with the news that lower taxes in New Brunswick are killing Nova Scotia retailers.
"I know all about it, I experienced it first hand," said Pettigrew, who ran the West Amherst Petro Canada for a couple of years before the loss of business to New Brunswick became too much. "The consultants are saying the drop in business in Amherst was about 18 per cent, for me it was more like 30 per cent because I was right on the border."
Pettigrew, who is scheduled to speak at tonight's session, said the strain goes beyond fuel prices to include other products. Motorists going to Aulac and Sackville to fuel up their vehicles are also purchasing things like milk and tobacco because they are also cheaper in New Brunswick.
A study completed by consultants Gardner Pinfold for today's Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board hearing on gas pricing shows that gas retailers in Amherst saw an 18 per cent drop in volumes between 2006 and 2009 while those in Springhill saw a decrease of 19 per cent between 2006 and 2008.
Gardner Pinfold said the decline in volumes began to drop before both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia introduced gas price regulation in 2006, but the decline was much steeper following that decision.
In October 2006, following a provincial election, the New Brunswick government followed through on an election promise and reduced the tax on gasoline and diesel by about 4.2 cents a litre - increasing a gap of 1.1 cents a litre to 5.2 cents a litre.
During last summer's Nova Scotia election campaign then Cumberland North NDP candidate Brian Skabar proposed leveling the playing field by lowering the tax on fuel in border communities like Amherst.
Now, the NDP government has asked the utility and review board to study a system of staggered fuel prices to preserve the viability of markets affected by their proximity to the provincial border.
"The report confirms what I've been hearing from retailers all along," said Skabar, who is now the MLA and is listed among the speakers for today's session that begins at 9 a.m. at the Amherst Fire Department. "The URAB will make its decision based on the criteria they use, but I think this information certainly backs up the case for doing something."
Not everyone is in favour of lowering the tax in border communities. Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott continues to oppose the change because it will tax Nova Scotians at different rates and set an artificial border within the province.
"If this government is serious about reducing tax on gas they should implement a province wide program whereby residents in every community in this area would benefit from a reduction, not where some don't have the same benefits of the same decrease," Scott said, adding the government plan will create a border between communities in Cumberland County.
The move is also being opposed by the Municipality of Cumberland, which passed a motion at its January session last week urging the province to lower the tax provincially.

Organizations: West Amherst Petro Canada, Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, Amherst Fire Department

Geographic location: New Brunswick, AMHERST, Nova Scotia Springhill Cumberland County

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Recent comments

  • Moriarty
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Where's Rob Small on this one? Hey Rob, how come you're not going to a big press conference with Murray to protest this?

    Oh yah, that's right! You're the mayor of AMHERST, NOT Springhill. Glad we cleared that one up.

    The UARB's decision on this better be swift, we've been waiting long enough.

    If the board knew what was good for it, and it didn't want to have another hearing on this in a few months, they would simply include Springhill in the same pricing zone as Amherst.

    I'll be glad when this all comes out in the wash, that way the doomsayers will finally understand it, and we can stop bleeding money to NB!

    Murray says: * If this government is serious about reducing tax on gas...*


    This problem started in 2006! Murray's party ignored it! They ignored it even more when there was no member in the government caucus. Guess what Murray, it's not being ignored anymore!

  • I was there too
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I was there too DJ, and I was more surprised by Brian than anything. He said that SPRINGHILL COULD BE INCLUDED! Hope other people picked up on that, cuz that's pretty big. besides, it was a hearing, not a stump speech. I like the fact that Brian doesn't use every chance he gets to promote himself, I think it's honourable.

  • DJ
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I attended a portion of the URB hearing this morning and I must say I was quite disappointed in the lack of effort put forward by Mr. Skabar in addressing this issue. Brian spoke for less than 5 minutes and did not seem well prepared at all. I would have thought that our MLA would have had a more substantial presentation planned for this as this was a major campaign promise.

  • peter
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I agree with Robert, there is an artificial border with the toll highway. Also I wonder if Mr. Scott is aware that gas is one cent cheaper in Halifax area than it is in our area. Is this the different rate he is talking about? Not exactly a level playing field now is it?

  • Fuzzy Bear
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Well Golly Gee..... I'm not sure this has ever happened before....I agree with Moriarity and I agree with Robert as well. Those opposed to this relief plan had better come to the realization that NO PREMIER is going to GIVE UP a gas tax winfall across the ENTIRE province let alone the cigarette tax bonanza. He may however - to appease the lowly bluenoser votes up here in the NB border area - consider a gas tax reduction for this area. If this is feasable then we had better be happy and take what we we are given.
    Sadly however that is not how the Amherst people seem to work. What will happen today is that everyone will try to get their own agenda's in to lower all taxes on the things that people are getting in NB besides gas. When this occurs the review board will be so overwhelmed by the magnitutude of this problem they will have an excuse to go back to Halifax and slink back into their closets so they can review and review and review this entire issue.........whew this could take them at least 3 years before they have to to open their doors again. Just in time for an election!
    Personally I actually think we have a good bargining chip for the entire Cumberland Co area to be included in a gas tax reduction since there is a real tolled border just before Truro. PS If this were to happen I bet Murray would then get on the wagon pretty quickly.
    Folks there could be something good that comes out of this if we stay focused on Gas. Tackle one problem at a time and win this battle. Remember most war's throughout history were not won with one big battle but with a number of small individual victories.

  • Robert
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    YES they should reduce gas taxes in the entire province, unfortunately Premier Dexter isn't likely to listen to that. BUT the border you speak of Mr. Scott is not artificial, there are gates on the border and the good people of Cumberland County pay to leave home and pay to return home. ALL of Cumberland County must have the gas taxes reduced. 5,000,000 litres is a lot of gas taxes lost to NB from just Amherst and Springhill.