What may seem as a simple solution to the problems faced by gas retailers on this side of the border with New Brunswick may not be all that simple. As the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board held hearings in Amherst to discuss the Petroleum Pricing Regulations and the viability of gas retailers in this area, several presenters suggested creating a specific tax zone for the Amherst, Amherst/Springhill and Cumberland County areas that would level the playing field with retailers across the border in Aulac and Sackville, N.B.
As much as that may seem like a no-brainer, consultant Michael Gardner of Gardner Pinfold begs to differ saying that by creating an artificial zone within the province the utility and review board would simply be moving an Amherst/Springhill problem deeper into Nova Scotia and potentially creating a Cumberland/Colchester problem.
Gardner may have a point, but his suggestion that doing nothing is not something that's overly welcome in Amherst where retailers, especially independent storeowners, are taking a beating as motorists drive a few kilometres to fuel their vehicles in New Brunswick.
Doing nothing is definitely not an option and it could be argued that moving the boundary to the county line would be no different than the Cobequid Pass toll booths that created an artificial boundary of their own when the toll highway was constructed in 1997.
Gardner is correct when he suggests there is no easy solution to this matter because in reality whatever the province does to fix the problem in this neck of the woods is going to have an impact outside the area. Still, that doesn't mean it shouldn't try.
Let's just hope this whole exercise is not just a song and dance by the government to say that at least it tried to bring relief to retailers in the Amherst area. There can be no doubt that some of those voters who cast ballots for NDP MLA Brian Skabar last summer did so thinking they'd finally get some relief. They won't be too happy if that relief isn't delivered in some form.