Government has mind made up on gas pricing, says Scott

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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AMHERST - Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott feels Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board hearings in Amherst on Wednesday were nothing more than an NDP opportunity to hold gas pricing in Cumberland County hostage.

Scott, who appeared before the board during its hearings last night, said the board is only holding one day of hearings on the issue and said a Freedom of Information Act request shows the government intends to divide the county to provide a cheaper rate in the Amherst area.

"The NDP appears to be more interested in pitting communities against each other instead of asking them to continue working together. Perhaps it is time for the UARB to direct government to develop a comprehensive plan that addresses all of the issues in this region," said Scott.

The Freedom of Information document shows that "the current Petroleum Products Pricing Act regulations will be amended to allow the board to re-establish zones, therefore allowing them to subdivide Zone 4 (Cumberland County)." The same request found that the premier's office had made the political decision on gas pricing in Cumberland County back in July.

During the spring election, the NDP made policy commitments regarding gas pricing without considering the impact in other parts of the province.

"The NDP knew what decision they were going to make and they gerrymandered this process to ensure they got the political result they needed," said Scott. "They are using the UARB as political cover for a decision that was made several months ago."

Speaking to the board last night, Scott said the gas issue is a cross-border shopping issue that needs to be studied further.

"Whether it's tobacco or milk, it has to be determined why people are going across to shop. I'm just worried that by trying to fix one problem with the gas tax we're going to create other problems for other communities in Cumberland County," Scott said. "The province needs to look at the broader picture, not just one area. We have a problem and it's a Cumberland County problem."

He feels the province should come up with a comprehensive plan that tackles the entire cross-border shopping issue from lost sales to lost tax revenues.

Meanwhile Opposition and Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil is proposing removing the tax on the tax as a solution to the discrepancy in prices. Currently, HST is calculated after the province adds its motive fuel tax of 15.5 cents per litre. This piggybacking of the taxes amounts to more than three cents per litre.

"Gas regulation policy is fundamentally unfair to Nova Scotians and has resulted in higher prices at the pumps," McNeil said in a news release. "A better solution that will benefit all Nova Scotians who have to deal with high gas prices every day is to give them a break at the pumps by changing the way we calculate our tax formula on gas."

The current gas tax formula calculates the HST after the motive fuel tax is added to the base price of gas. McNeil's solution would see the HST calculated before the motive fuel tax is added to the base price of gas, which better reflects the price at which gas is traded, saving consumers more than three cents per litre each time they fill up.

Like McNeil, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is suggesting lower taxes as the key to levelling the playing.

In a press release, the CFIB said Nova Scotians already carry one of the highest tax burdens in the country

"It is one thing when businesses are having trouble competing due to their own inefficiencies. However, at 15.5 cents per litre, the gasoline tax in Nova Scotia surpasses the 10.7 cents per litre charged in New Brunswick by 45 per cent, making doing business difficult at best," CFIB acting vice-president Judith Andrew said.

Andrew said creating a pricing relief zone will not work in the Amherst area because the major oil companies could easily beat this new competition by using customer promotions in New Brunswick.

dcole@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: NDP, Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

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

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Recent comments

  • Just plain p'od
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    **During the spring election, the NDP made policy commitments regarding gas pricing without considering the impact in other parts of the province**

    ------------------------------------------

    Really?? Cause I seem to remember Skabar presenting a model that works elsewhere that DOES consider the impact on other communitites.

    That's just a bit TOO much editorializing Darrell (and it sure does sound a lot like what's been coming out of a certain opposition politician's mouth...can anyone say parrot?).

    Speaking of editorializing,

    I think the people of Amherst need to ask why its local paper, and its main reporter, have changed their tune so much.

    From the May 21, 2009 Amherst Daily News Editorial

    -------------------------------

    **What is clear is that the status quo is not working and something must be done to level the playing field so that motorists can support local retailers and not feel guilty every time they fill up on the other side of the border.**

    -----------------------------------------

    I know you folks have had a hard time figuring out whether you're an Amherst or Springhill paper lately...what with Murray ringing your phone off the hook all the time...but honestly?! Darrell, I got news for ya! Your spot on Murray's next campaign team is safe. You can stop now.

    Please start reporting and advocating for AMHERST! That's your job!!

    For now at least...

  • Fuzzy Bear
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Mr. Scott cross border shopping is not the issue here. It has always gone on and will continue to do so. People who wish to shop for specific stuff in Moncton will continue to do so reggardless. What fundimental logic you are missing in your tirade is that all vehicles burn gas of some type but not all vehicle drivers smoke or drink milk. If the gas prices were the same here as they are in Aulac would people still make the 6 km drive over there to get gas...absolutely not!!! Would non-smoking people simply wanting 2 liters of milk drive over there ...not on your life. Will the smokers drive over there for the substancial tax savings....sadly yes but as I said already not every driver is a smoker. Bring the gas sales, incurred gas tax and milk sales back to NS.

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Just plain p'od no BS, I can't help but feel a little embarrassed to have my previous post shown directly below yours. Why are you attacking the newspaper? And more importantly, why do you feel the ADN's job is to advocate for Amherst, as opposed to reporting the news that affects Amherst? And how was Darrell Cole not doing just that in this article? I see absolutely no opinions relayed here other than those of the people quoted in the article? If the manner in which the news is presented by the staff of the ADN does not meet your satisfaction ... no one's forcing you to read it! Take your mindless rant elsewhere!

  • Steve
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Thanks Murray,

    For revealing the documents that you accessed through freedom of Information Act, this shows me that the new Government was willing to take a stand for the Amherst Area for this I congratulate them.

    IMHO as always

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    hmmm ... remove tax on tax, create graduated zones, all good ideas, why not do both and actually flip the tables to makes gas prices lower in Amherst than NB, to pull NB'ers into the province and collect tax revenue from them, as well as a stepped zone situation that would still see areas east of Amherst see lower prices. First, you would keep all NS gas tax revenue in the province, instead of going to NB, and you would pull Sackville residents to Amherst and collect even more revenue. Springhill, Oxford, etc would still get lower pricing which would prevent them needing to fill up in Amherst. Let NB keep to lower tobacco/milk/etc pricing to allow for a balance, and then nobody is worse off!