Shuswap residents are seeing an unusual trend develop at the gas pump this Christmas– one that Jim Kimmerly hopes will continue into the new year.
Over the past month or so, gas prices have been falling steadily across the country. As of Dec. 17, the average cost per litre of regular in B.C. was $1.79 and in Canada $1.9 (in Alberta, gas can be purchased for as low as 82.9 cents). In Kamloops, gas could be had for as low as 96.9 cents, while in the Shuswap, the price was $1.09.9.
While this higher-than-average price may not be a surprise to locals, a big difference is how the price compares to neighbouring communities. In Vernon, Enderby and even Kelowna, regular was selling for $1.08.9.
Kimmerly’s response: now’s a good time to buy gas.
But the Salmon Arm chamber president points out another big difference – the time it has taken Shuswap dealers to drop their prices in comparison to dealers in neighbouring communities.
“The reaction time is quite quick,” said Kimmerly. “I noticed when Vernon and them went down to $1.08, we were around $1.14 or something. It was only a day or so and then ours started to come down.”
Since the summer, the chamber has been campaigning to bring parity to the pumps in the Shuswap. This has been driven largely by the desire to see people stay in the area and support local businesses.
During the fall, a parallel campaign began, driven by Ernie Scheil and others whose frustration over being gouged at the pump had reached a tipping point. Kimmerly wonders if what we’re now seeing is a result, of petroleum companies recognizing local pricing has to be more in synch with the surrounding area.
“For a company to make a change part way through the year on their gas pricing policy in this case, it’s probably quite difficult because they’re directed to meet their year-end targets,” suggested Kimmerly.
“So maybe they’ve accomplished that and are not too worried about that for the time being and they’ve started to get more sensitive to the pricing in the surrounding areas…”
Along with the campaign, the chamber has been helping to facilitate the establishment of an independent dealership in Salmon Arm to stimulate greater competition. Kimmerly says that opportunity may lessen if current retailers remain competitive, but whether this trend continues remains to be seen. He is certain, however, that gas prices will eventually go up again. In the meantime, consumers can enjoy having a little more money in their pockets.
“It may stop a shopping trip out of town with some people staying here rather than going to Vernon or Kelowna, or what have you, if the gas part of the equation is eliminated… and that’s good. I hope that stays that way. That’s exactly what we wanted,” said Kimmerly.