The debate to regulate in Nova Scotia: Look what’s a hot topic again

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By Haley Ryan - Metro Halifax

HALIFAX - Arguments around gas regulation in the province are swirling once again in light of premier-designate Stephen McNeil’s long-held plan to scrap regulation and return to a market-based system.

Little change at the gas pumps in Colchester County recently.

Dan McTeague, gas-price guru, said getting rid of regulation in Nova Scotia is a move that will save consumers money because prices would match the world market instead of being set by the province’s Utility and Review Board each Friday.

“Frankly we should let the market determine what that is and let consumers get the best bang for their buck and know when the price is going up or down,” McTeague said.

McTeague said it’s easy to follow the market from home because there are now blogs and ways to find out whether gas will go up or down in a day, two days or a week ahead.

That way a consumer could decide when they’d like to fill up during the week, and buying power would then be in the hands of Nova Scotians, he said.

But Graham Conrad, executive director of the Retail Gasoline Dealers Association, said de-regulating “doesn’t make much sense” coming from a Liberal party whose election platform was based on helping small business.

“It’s in the best interest of the consumer and … retailers to have some sort of regulations that provides some sort of stability,” Conrad said.

He said it’s very “narrow-minded” to think there’s a benefit in market pricing, which changes day to day and could reduce prices by a penny a litre.

Wayne Pace, RGDA president and Tantallon Esso owner, said he has seen both systems and prefers regulation because the free market system isn’t free when it’s controlled by larger companies who can “turn the screws” on smaller businesses.

Pace said he hopes McNeil educates himself on the current system and realizes it’s “not as bad” as he thinks.

Dave Collins, vice-president of Wilson Fuels, said it comes down to whether you trust the market or government in setting gas prices.

“I don’t think the world’s going to fall apart, you’ll just have more choice,” Collins said. “When was the last time choice every hurt anybody?” – Haley Ryan

Regulation was brought in by Rodney MacDonald’s Tory government in 2006.

Organizations: Retail Gasoline Dealers Association, Utility and Review Board

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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  • krista
    October 16, 2013 - 06:42

    Personally, I like the gas regulation. I don't have to check and make guesses as to fill up today, this minute or tomorrow at 3:35am to get the 'best price'. Given an opportunaty, any business will raise prices to increase there profits...that is what business is about. Without a viable alternative to cars (as in a workable mass-transit system), gas dealers can hold us hostage.