Parity at the gas pump will be on Sicamous council’s mind when they attend this year’s Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention in June.
Concern over gas prices in the community being higher than in neighbouring communities re-emerged at the April 12 district council meeting during first, second and third reading of the district’s tax rates bylaw.
After commenting on the difference in tax ratios paid by Class 5 light industry (3.6) and Class 6 businesses (2.1), and his interest in seeing them brought closer in line, Coun. Jeff Mallmes launched into a rant on local gas prices, and the impact they’re having on the community.
“The reason I’m asking about this is because, you know, in the District of Sicamous, there’s people that drive into town and the first thing they see is those big billboards by Esso and Husky with $1.17 and $1.19 per litre. Then they drive on by…,” said Mallmes. “We have to do something. We have to find a way to penalize these fuel companies on the side of the road that are killing us, basically.”
Mallmes said he confirmed with district chief financial officer Kelly Bennett that there’s nothing that could be done through the bylaw being voted on, but reiterated the district had to find a way to “penalize these guys.”
“And there’s no reason for it,” said Mallmes regarding local pricing. “A barrel of oil coming out of the ground is the same price as everybody, and the cost of moving it is the same price as everybody. That’s the fact.”
Mayor Terry Rysz empathized with Mallmes, and said council did speak up on the matter in 2012, when Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo was still on Sicamous council. During his 2011 election campaign for council, Kyllo shot a video in which he investigates why gas prices were around five to 15 cents more per litre than in neighbouring communities. Shortly after the election, council agreed to address the matter with fuel companies. Less than a week later after that, Sicamous gas prices fell in line with prices in Salmon Arm.
“They did cut back for a while, but it is free enterprise,” said Rysz, who then asked town manager Evan Parliament for direction.
Parliament said the issue would be coming up at the FCM convention in Ottawa. He said a similar situation is occurring in Ontario, where Toronto drivers are taking advantage of cheaper gas prices in nearby St. Catharines.
“I can’t think of anything we can do,” said Parliament. “However, we’ll be there at FCM and it’s something I think we should seek out. It’s a huge issue there, and of course you’re dealing with millions of people and a lot more businesses. So… let’s see what they have to say and if they make suggestions.”
Speaking to the local pricing disparity, Parliament said it’s been explained to him that Sicamous serves as a halfway filling point for traffic travelling between Vancouver and Calgary.
“Most people who have to gas up will gas up here and they are being charged a premium and oil companies know that,” said Parliament.
Council gave the three readings to the bylaw.
(Editors note: As of April 15, at least one fuel station, the Sicamous Husky, had lowered its price per litre of regular gas to 113.9 cents, putting it on par with pricing in Salmon Arm.)