New Brunswick

Gas is up to 14 cents cheaper in Nova Scotia than New Brunswick — here's why

Tumbling U.S. petroleum markets, a rising Canadian dollar, quirks in Maritime retailing regulations and tax differences came together Friday to drive gasoline prices in Nova Scotia well below those in New Brunswick — a gap that is likely to remain for most of next week.

Some people made the trip to Amherst on Friday to fill up their tank

Joe Guilliams is on vacation from Missouri and drove from Bathurst to the Nova Scotia border before filling his vehicle on the advice of New Brunswick relatives. (Gilles Landry/CBC)

Tumbling U.S. petroleum markets, a rising Canadian dollar, quirks in Maritime retailing regulations and tax differences came together Friday to drive gasoline prices in Nova Scotia well below those in New Brunswick — a gap that is likely to remain for most of next week.

Pricing differences up to 14 cents per litre are already appearing depending on where it is purchased in each province, with gaps in diesel prices even wider.

On Friday in Amhest, N.S., the local Esso station was selling gasoline for $1.08.8 per litre, eight cents cheaper than the Esso station 17 kilometres away on the New Brunswick side of the border in Sackville and 13 cents less than most stations further from the border in Dieppe and Moncton were charging.

Monika Wohlmuth lives in New Brunswick but made the trip Friday to Amherst and was happy to save what she could on a fill up.

"It's good for me," Wohlmuth said. "It's 10 cents cheaper so I don't mind — I live really close to the boundary so it's no difference to me, Sackville or here."

Monika Wohlmuth drove to Amherst from Sackville on Friday to save on fuel. (Gilles Landry/CBC)

Joe Guilliams said his tank was near empty as he drove through New Brunswick, but the tourist from Missouri was determined to reach Nova Scotia for the discount.

"We were told by family in Bathurst, 'Don't buy any gas in New Brunswick. Wait until you cross the border in Nova Scotia before you buy fuel,'" said Guilliams. "So, here we are at the first stop in Amherst filling up."

All four Atlantic provinces regulate the price of petroleum to some extent. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia both set maximum petroleum prices that can be charged by retailers once a week — on Thursdays in New Brunswick and on Fridays in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia also sets minimum prices. 

And although both provinces base their price ceilings on the same trading numbers set daily by international petroleum and currency markets, a number of minor differences in the methods each use this week produced major pricing differences.

Business was brisk at the Esso station in Amherst on Friday as gasoline prices dropped significantly below those being charged across the border in New Brunswick. (Gilles Landry/CBC)

Rapidly declining prices in markets for both gasoline and diesel in New York starting late last week caused Nova Scotia to reset its pricing limits twice this week — once on Wednesday and then again Friday — only the second time the province has done that in the last three years.   

Normally, Nova Scotia blends five days of petroleum market trading together to set its weekly retail pricing limit. However, this week after three days of trading prices had fallen so steeply Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board, the province's pricing regulator, stepped in early to set a special Wednesday price.

That left just two trading days to reset prices again on Friday, and with markets falling steeply again during those two days, it generated a second and deeper price cut for Nova Scotia, according to the board's executive director, Paul Allen.

New Brunswick should see similar price changes but not until next Thursday when its pricing formula picks up some of the lower trading prices Nova Scotia has already used. 

Gas was up to 14 cents cheaper in parts of Nova Scotia compared to New Brunswick on Friday. (Gilles Landry/CBC)

In the meantime, differences between the two provinces are significant.

New Brunswick has higher fuel and carbon taxes than Nova Scotia, including 3.5 cents more on gasoline and 11.5 cents extra on diesel, differences only made worse this week by the operation of the two pricing formulas.

In New Brunswick, the maximum retail price for gasoline is currently $1.23.7 with stations in several communities in the province charging close to that amount.

That's 12 cents higher than anything allowed in Nova Scotia and 13.9 cents more than what's legal in the Halifax area. Price differences for diesel are even more extreme with maximum allowable prices in New Brunswick between 17 and 19 cents higher than anywhere in Nova Scotia.

About the Author

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.

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