For several years Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil has been hammering government for its lack of movement on gas price regulation. For the most part, his anti-regulation comments have been like white noise, it’s there but no one is really listening. That may be about to change.
When the former Tory government of Rodney MacDonald instituted gas-price regulation several years ago it was amid a groundswell of public concern over wildly fluctuating gasoline prices and intense pressure from independent gas retailers trying to find a way to stay in business.
Unfortunately, too many people equated gas regulation with cheaper prices and when it didn’t happened they began to show their opposition to a system that only allows the price of gasoline to be changed once a week – and by the utility and review board – unless the interrupter clause is activatedwhen the price rises or falls suddenly on world markets.
In recent weeks, when world oil prices topped $100 a barrel, motorists were groaning at paying $1.33 a litre for gasoline. Now, as the U.S. economy risks falling back into a recession, the price of oil has dropped to below $80 a barrel, but gas prices in Nova Scotia have yet to follow suit.
Other than a drop of a couple of cents a litre last week - and depending what happened overnight with the weekly setting of gas prices - the price of gasoline is definitely not declining as quickly as it went up when world oil prices soared.
Call it free enterprise or call it price gouging, the fact is Nova Scotians are becoming grumpy with paying prices that are way out of touch with world oil markets. There have been all sorts of explanations as to why gas prices here are not in line with global prices.
This frustration could lead to McNeil’s anti-regulation message getting more acceptance and more pressure on government to scrap the system. While that’s not the answer to the feeling of helplessness many feel, there needs to be some accountability as to why prices continue to rise faster than they come down.