Special gas prize zone should start at toll, chamber says
SPRINGHILL - A possible break on the cost of gas in Amherst should be extended to Springhill and Oxford, says the president of the Springhill Area Chamber of Commerce.
In anticipation to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board's [NSUARB] public hearing on giving a tax break to gas retailers in Amherst, president Frank Likely has written the board requesting any special gas price zone to include areas west of the Cobequid Pass along Highway 104, beginning at Westchester Exit No. 7 and running to the New Brunswick border. Extending the zone, Likely says, evens out the playing field for those communities directly affected by changing gas prices for any community along the 104 after the toll highway.
"We looked at the impact on Springhill if it goes to just the Amherst area then there's a definite impact there," Likely said. "We would be upset if it happened to us so we don't want Oxford upset."
The toll, Likely says, would be a natural boundary for creating a special price zone. Regions not along the 104, however, weren't represented in the request. After much discussion with chamber members it was decided to focus their request on communities neighbouring the significant amount of traffic the 104 generates each day.
"I really don't think in Parrsboro or Pugwash it would make economic sense to travel 40 km to save a cent or two. I don't feel the impact would be as great."
Nancy Doucette, manager of the West End Gas Bar in Springhill, says the chambers request is welcomed news but cheaper gas should be the mandate for all of Nova Scotia and not just one area.
"I'm glad they're going to try help Springhill but it will hurt Pugwash and Parrsboro," Doucette said. "If they [NSUARB] are going to do it for one they should do it for all. It just moves the problem from one place to another."
Sitting on the frontlines of the tax differences between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Doucette says more and more motorists are going to the Picture Province, not just for the cheaper gas but for cheaper cigarettes, too. Creating a price difference in just one Nova Scotia community will have an impact on rural communities.
"People in Parrsboro are shopping in Amherst so what do you think they're going to do? Same with cigarettes. People do drive that little bit extra to feel like they're saving," she said.
The Utility and Review Board has scheduled hearings in Amherst on Jan. 27, to discuss the government's plan to stagger gas taxes across the province. Under the proposal, those living farther from the border would pay more for fuel than those neighbouring New Brunswick.