AMHERST - The Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce is trying to determine how many people cross the border to purchase gasoline and other products in New Brunswick.
The chamber has begun surveying people online in hopes of gathering statistics it will take to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board hearing in Amherst later this month.
"We're asking some pretty general questions about where you buy your gas, when you buy your gas, is it mostly in New Brunswick or mostly in Amherst," chamber president Randy Smith said.
The utility and review board will be in Amherst on Wednesday, Jan. 27 for hearings regarding the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulations and the viability of markets affected by their proximity to the provincial border.
It will ask if new zones are required to preserve the viability of businesses located near the border and should the minimum retail price be changed to preserve the viability of those businesses.
"Our members are complaining about the different price and it's a pretty serious thing because it's cutting into their sales. We believe it would be much better if things were aligned closer," said Smith. "It's a gas issue, but it's more than that and it's hurting the local economy. Our members are feeling the pinch and we're losing commercial activity in the town, and it's not just gas."
In the few days the survey has been active, Smith said the overwhelming majority of participants are reporting they do purchase their gasoline in Aulac or Sackville, N.B., but an even more disturbing trend is how many people are continuing up the road to Moncton to purchase other goods.
"It's an unfair position we're in and somehow it has to change," said Smith.
The previous Conservative government refused to follow New Brunswick's lead several years ago and eliminate the motive fuel tax saying that money is ear-marked for paving projects.
During last summer's election campaign, the NDP and Cumberland North candidate Brian Skabar suggested lowering the tax in the Amherst area to help border retailers compete. Soon after the election, the matter was turned over to the utility and review board.
The survey, sent by email to chamber members and others, also asks respondents how much they spend on gas and other items in New Brunswick and what other products they purchase in New Brunswick because of a lower price and lower tax.
It also asks what should be done to get residents to purchase their gas locally.
Smith said the two provinces have differing tax systems in that there is no motive fuel tax in New Brunswick. Because of this, gas is four to seven cents cheaper on any given day.
As well, Smith said, New Brunswick's interrupter clause allows the price to change more quickly than in Nova Scotia.
The chamber plans to close the survey on Wednesday and make its findings public on Friday.