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When gas prices were a problem for Quebec gas station owners

In 1982, Quebec gas station owners wanted to see more profits poured into their pockets from what people paid for at their pumps.

1982 protest aimed to double owners' share of profits from the pumps

In 1982, Quebec gas station owners wanted a bigger share of what consumers paid at the pump. 1:48

Gas prices go up and gas prices go down, but gas consumers always pay those prices, no matter the cost.

And the people selling that gas also ride the ups and downs of that changing pricing.

In the spring of 1982, independent gas station owners in Quebec were receiving a fixed fraction of sales at the pump and they wanted to see more profit pouring into their pockets.

"Gas station owners keep about 4.5 per cent of what's paid at the pumps. They're trying to force the oil companies to give them 10 per cent," the CBC's Tom Kennedy said, when reporting from Quebec City on The National on April 4, 1982.

Putting pressure on fellow owners

A man fills up a jeep at a Quebec City gas station in April 1982, a time when many gas station owners in the province were taking part in a protest aimed at increasing their share of profits at the pump. (The National/CBC Archives)

That's why many of those owners across rural Quebec had begun protesting in a bid to change the status quo and why they were putting serious pressure on fellow gas station owners to take part.

Their protest was limiting access to gas and their facilities — and it was already in effect across much of rural Quebec and with increasing participation by garages in urban areas.

"Theoretically, the only people who are allowed to buy gas now in eastern Quebec are firemen, ambulance drivers and anybody else who has an emergency," said Kennedy.

But in Quebec City, there were owners who were not yet taking part, which Kennedy said was leading to some tense confrontations. (The Canadian Press would report a shooting that had occurred that same day in another part of the province, but related to one such confrontation and which left a customer wounded.)

'This is what usually happens'

Some Quebec gas station owners who didn't comply with the protest saw their gas pumps vandalized. (The National/CBC Archives)

"The striking owners have formed themselves into patrolling groups to try to stop this," said Kennedy.

"When they do find a garage that's still open, this is what usually happens."

Viewers on The National then heard the sound of glass being broken, followed by a quick shot of a gas pump that had been damaged.

"The strikers block the entrance, a window or two may get broken and by the time the police arrive, the owner, more often than not, has agreed to close down," said Kennedy.

Making all 'take notice'

A large number of Quebec's independent gas station owners took part in a protest in the spring of 1982 that sought to secure themselves a better profit margin at the pumps. (The National/CBC Archives)

To keep up the pressure, Kennedy said the gas station owners needed to take action in the Montreal area.

"Nearly half the province's service stations are in the Montreal area, 2,000 of them," said Kennedy.

"If they shut down, the politicians, the oil companies and the general public are going to have to take notice."

At the time of his report, Kennedy said strike organizers expected to have shut down most of those Montreal-area stations by the following morning.

Newspaper reports indicate the protest came to an end a few days later.

The Canadian Press reported that the independent gas station owners "obtained small concessions from the provincial government and promises from the major oil companies that they would get a better profit margin."

The same report said the protest had seen two-thirds of all Quebec gas stations closed.