Gas price deregulation mulled by Nova Scotia Liberals

Nova Scotia’s Liberal government is considering scrapping regulations on gas prices but New Brunswick and P.E.I. are wary of the move

New Brunswick and P.E.I. not likely to lower HST on gas tax unless given federal compensation

Premier Stephen McNeil says the government is considering gas price deregulation.

Nova Scotia’s Liberal government is considering scrapping regulations on gas prices.

The system has been in place for eight years. It sets the range for prices each week, with periodic interruptions when big market fluctuations hit.  

Premier Stephen McNeil said changes could come as early as this fall.

"We need to make sure that whatever changes that we make in and around that, the regulatory piece, we're not actually going to end up having an unintended consequence to what's happening," he said.

"As you know, businesses were changed to meet the regulatory model at that time and we need to make sure that when we make changes, that it will actually not cripple some of those companies." 

McNeil said rural gas stations are particularly vulnerable to a completely open market on gasoline. 

The Progressive Conservatives were in government when the regulations were brought in; they cited protecting rural gas stations as the key reason behind the changes.

McNeil says he wants to talk about scrapping regulations at the Eastern Canadian Premiers Meeting May 23 in Halifax.

New Brunswick and P.E.I. reactions

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz said he would only consider lowering HST on gas if the federal government compensates for the loss.

"From P.E.I.’s perspective, we’re in a situation right now where we have challenges with our deficits," he said. "So if you’re going to cut taxes coming in, I think the federal government has a little more leeway in their finances than we do so I would be looking for them to reimburse us."

New Brunswick Finance Minister Blaine Higgs notes that they already have the third lowest gas tax rate in the country.

He said with recent flooding damages, money from the gas tax is necessary to recover losses.

"We’re getting roughly $240 [million] to $250 million on our gas tax and we’re spending double that on our roads and infrastructure," he said.

"It isn’t a time that we would want to look at making chances that would make us further uncompetitive in relation to where we are today."