SPRINGHILL – Cumberland South MLA and PC Party Leader Jamie Baillie is suggesting Nova Scotia’s system of gas price regulation needs to be reviewed.
While it was Progressive Conservative government that implemented regulation six years ago, Baillie said times have changed since then. He said the regulated system needs changes to make it work better for consumers.
“I’m very concerned with people’s pocketbooks this winter. Power prices have skyrocketed, gas prices are up and taxes are the highest in the country,” Baillie said. “I believe the time has come to review how gas prices are set.
“Times have changed since regulation was first brought in. There’s a new leader of the PC Party and I am quite prepared to review the regulations and change them to make them better for consumers.”
Baillie said both regulation and deregulation have been tried in the province, but have not led to lower gas prices. He said it’s time to study prices to find savings for drivers.
“We’re going to review the whole system of setting gas prices and make changes so its transparent, open and fair,” the Tory leader said.
Baillie said people understand world markets influence gas prices, but he said there are things government can do to make it easier on people.
He said the practice of paying the highest HST in Canada on top of gas taxes must also end.
“The taxes on gasoline are too high. When I ran in Cumberland South in 2010, I promised the people there I would remove the tax on tax, which I think is immoral. That’s 3.8 cents on every litre,” Baillie said.
The Cumberland South MLA said this area’s proximity to the New Brunswick border compounds the situation for retailers and consumers. He said the differing tax structures lead to a price discrepancy between the two provinces that makes it hard for retailers to compete and drivers consumers across the border.
Finance Minister Maureen MacDonald said it was a previous Conservative government that established the existing tax regime.
“They had 10 years to do something about it and they didn’t,” MacDonald said.
The minister said tax collected on gas is used to pay for the programs, services and infrastructure Nova Scotians have come to accept. Lower the tax, she added, would come at a cost.
“What’s really important is to ask the public in Nova Scotia do they want to see improvements in health care and their roads? The taxation is put right back into public services,” the minister said.
Service Nova Scotia Minister John MacDonell said he understands rising gas prices are making it more difficult for families to make ends meet. He said eliminating regulation is not the answer.
“While government can’t control the global marketplace, politics were removed from price setting in Nova Scotia when gas pricing was moved to the UARB,” MacDonell said in an email. “With gas regulation, station closures are reduced, gas prices across the province are more variable and fewer rural gas stations are closing.”
Baillie said his party will seek public input on gas prices. A website has been created to gather feedback from Nova Scotians at www.FillUpFrustration.ca.
He also says Nova Scotia should have the opportunity to buy cheaper western Canadian oil via an east-west pipeline.