A little unity might bring equity at the pump

It may seem we are powerless to do anything about this. But at the local government level there is, perhaps, opportunity.

It’s high time local governments united in a push for equality – at the pump.

If anything can prompt a lack of consumer loyalty it’s gas prices. In the Shuswap, folks are known to hold off on filling up locally when they know fuel can be purchased for less in a neighbouring community.

Case in point: The weekend before last, when gas was 117.9 per litre in Salmon Arm, it could be purchased for 111.9 in Enderby. You can bet folks who were out for bit of shopping in Vernon made sure to fuel up along the way.

While these savings may be good for the consumer, it’s bad for business. Money that could be spent in town, supporting local businesses, is going elsewhere.

It may seem we are powerless to do anything about this. But at the local government level there is, perhaps, opportunity.

For a long time, District of Sicamous residents put up with higher gas prices than those in Salmon Arm. Since January 2012, however, Sicamous has seen  parity at the pump with its Shuswap neighbour.

The change wasn’t spurred by letters to the editor, to your MP or MLA. It was the result of action by municipal politicians.

In the last municipal election, Coun. Greg Kyllo joined forces with the Sicamous chamber to determine why Sicamous was paying what it was for gas, while making the point that this was doing the community harm. The effort was documented in a video posted to YouTube.

“Fuel prices are around 10 cents a litre higher here than they are in all the other surrounding communities…,” says Kyllo in the video, uploaded Jan. 5 2012. “It’s definitely causing a lot of concern for local businesses, it sends the wrong messages to tourists and our vacation traffic that are coming through the area…”

Later that month, the issue was brought before the newly-elected council. Council decided to contact those companies  who dictate pricing to local service stations, and seek an explanation for the difference between communities. The story went in the local paper and, the following week, gas prices in Sicamous were on par with those in Salmon Arm.

While the sudden price drop may have seemed the result of some arbitrary decision making, “local retail forces” are listed by at least one gas company as an influential factor behind the often fluctuating prices at the pump.

Now, if Sicamous’ council can plug this source of economic outflow, might it not be worth the effort for Salmon Arm? Maybe the two governments could work together and seek parity with Enderby. Or better yet, bring Enderby onboard and push for parity with Kamloops. We lose dollars to that city as well and, as of late, their residents have enjoyed gas prices as low as 101.9 a litre – a 16-cent/litre difference. Talk about inequity.