Sunday, July 3, 2022

Council asks province for relief on gas prices

  • June 1 2022
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    

ST. MARY’S – Skyrocketing prices at the pump are prompting councillors for the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s to ask Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston to hit the brakes on fuel costs for district residents.

“People can’t afford this,” said District 4 Councillor Beulah Malloy at council’s committee of the whole meeting on May 18, noting that many constituents are elderly and depend on their cars to get around. “Could [we] write a letter to the powers that be … to the premier … to see if there’s anything that can be done?”

Warden Greg Wier agreed. “We are a very rural area,” he said. “We have people on fixed incomes. Gas prices are high and going higher. Granted, we don’t have to heat our homes right now because it is coming into summer. But, what we thought we were saving this summer for next winter, we’re putting in our cars to go get groceries. It is starting to hurt constituents.”

Added Malloy: “I think it’s also going to hurt tourists.”

Ongoing supply problems in international markets — exacerbated by the war in Ukraine — have sent fuel prices in Nova Scotia through the roof in recent weeks. Since Feb. 14, the cost of a litre of regular octane in Nova Scotia has risen by nearly 50 per cent — from 1.67 to 2.23 on May 23.

In mid-March, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) invoked its interrupter clause, which allows it to “interrupt” weekly cost fixing and reset provincial rates, when global commodity spikes unduly affect “just and reasonable prices and security of supply.” The move brought down local rates — by about 10 cents to below 1.75 cents a litre — for a period of days before prices began to trend up again.

Later that month, the Nova Scotia government announced $13.2 million in relief targeted at "vulnerable Nova Scotians to help them address the immediate impact of rising fuel prices on the cost of living,” including: a one-time $150 boost to income assistance; a one-time $150 top-up to the province’s heating assistance rebate; $1 million to food banks; and $200,000 for food depots not connected to Feed Nova Scotia.

Still, said Franco Terrazzano, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in a statement last month: “Hidden taxes are making soaring gas prices even more painful,” adding that federal and provincial levies comprise as much as to 38 per cent of gas prices. “Politicians could provide significant relief right now by cutting the big tax bill.”

St. Mary’s council unanimously directed staff to draft a letter on its behalf to Houston and Guysborough-Tracadie MLA Greg Morrow requesting assistance.