The price of gas may have dropped in the Shuswap but that still doesn’t mean it’s fair.
Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce president Jim Kimmerly was happy last week when he noticed one of the city’s gas stations had dropped their price on regular from 131.9/litre to 129.9. He was happier yet as he watched other stations follow suit. But then he checked out the prices in neighbouring communities – 124.9 in Vernon and Kelowna, 123.9 in Enderby – and realized there is still work to be done to bring regional parity at the gas pump.
“I had a long, and I mean a long, conversation with a person in head office at Chevron… and I was saying we don’t get much competition here amongst the gas retailers, mainly because they don’t have the ability to lower the price…, “ said Kimmerly. “I explained what that means to businesses here in Salmon Arm and the public in general. If they’re thinking they want to do some shopping and they can save a nickel or 10 cents on gas, they package it all up and off they go.”
Since mid-August, Kimmerly and the chamber have spearheaded a campaign to bring Salmon Arm local gas prices in line with those in neighbouring communities. This effort began with a chamber survey where a majority of responding chamber members stated higher local gas prices were giving people another reason to shop out of town, and that revenue is suffering as a result.
Salmon Arm council recently commended Kimmerly and the chamber for taking the initiative to deal with gas prices, but recommended they be vigilant. Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper and Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton have also expressed interest in working together on the same cause, as gas prices in Sicamous tend to be line with Salmon Arm’s.
Kimmerly says his response from the gas company revolved around supply and demand and competitive forces in the marketplace. He responded by suggesting the supply is good and the demand is down given the summer driving season is over.
“That takes us to competition, and we don’t have the competition with the retailers. I talked to them about the spirit of the (federal) Competition Act, which does state that gas retailers are to compete with each other, and I said again that’s not occurring here,” said Kimmerly. “So with that, we’re going to send out some emails, probably today, to the CEOs of petroleum companies that have a presence here and go through that whole scenario with them about the survey that we did, the results of the survey, how people feel here about gas pricing in general and what that means to businesses here in Salmon Arm.”
Kimmerly says he has spoken with a few service station owners in town, and was told they would also like to see more competition but have no say, though they are keeping their respective head offices abreast of the chamber’s activities.
“Hopefully we do get that message through and we get the competition,” said Kimmerly. “The longer-term, best case scenario would be that we actually got another gas retailer in town… where the operator actually buys their own gas and they price it at whatever they would like.”
For the time being, Kimmerly says he and the chamber will continue to work to make sure petroleum companies are made aware that Salmon Arm businesses and residents are not happy with paying what they view to be an unfair price when compared to neighbouring communities, large and small.
“We’re not far away from having Walmart here; we’re going to get more traffic here. There’s more opportunity for the gas companies to get consumers into their stores and to their pumps if gas pricing is reasonable,” said Kimmerly. “I mean, people don’t necessarily have to a rock-bottom price, but they don’t want to feel like they’re being taken advantage of.”