Nova Scotia

Chéticamp gas station owners apply to pump up price of gas

The owners of a Petro-Canada in Chéticamp have applied for an increase to the retail margin on gasoline.

'If we don’t start this now, especially the rural gas stations are going to be in trouble'

Hilda Cormier is the co-owner of the Petro-Canada in Chéticamp. Cormier is asking the provincial utility and review board to approve an increase to the retail margin on gasoline. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC)

The owners of a gas station in Chéticamp are looking to increase the retail margin on gasoline, saying the move is necessary for rural gas stations struggling with current economic conditions. 

If successful, retailers would make more money. But it would cost consumers.

Hilda and Richard Cormier co-own a Petro-Canada on the Cabot Trail.

The business took a hit earlier this year when gas prices plummeted. Once pandemic restrictions began, the business saw a 60 per cent loss in sales.

"We stayed open, we did the best we could," said Hilda Cormier, adding she knows the gas station is an essential service, particularly for local ambulances and fire stations.

The station sold gas at a loss for six days in March. The couple applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for a one-cent price increase to help make up for losses.

They were successful and are selling their gas at the higher rate until they cover their losses.

Looking for 3-cent hike

But the Cormiers have another application before the review board that seeks a three-cent increase in the retail margin.

In their recent application, the Cormiers cited increasing costs, including the increase in minimum wage, as well as a lack of tourism this year due to the pandemic.

According to the review board, the intention of the margin is to provide retailers with enough money to cover all of their costs and make a "reasonable profit."

That margin hasn't increased since 2016 when Tusket Ultramar and Irving Oil made a request for an increase of six-tenths of a cent per litre on both minimum and maximum markups for self-service and full-service gasoline and diesel.

The review board approved an increase of three-tenths of a cent in the minimum self-service to four-tenths of a cent in the maximum self-service markup. 

What does it mean for consumers?

If the Cormiers are successful in their bid, gas stations in the province would see the margin increase from a minimum of 5.1 to 8.1 cents and the maximum raise from seven to 10 cents.

However, the review board could choose a lower number.

Hilda Cormier, a member of the Board of the Retail Gas Association, expects the application will be widely supported by rural gas station owners.

"Everybody's for it, everybody is struggling," said Cormier. "If we don't start this now, especially the rural gas stations are going to be in trouble."

The new margins would cost consumers.

"Any increases in the retail margin would be directly passed on to the consumer at the pump, plus HST," said Paul Allen, the review board's executive director.

The Cormiers's request will face a public hearing in Halifax on Dec. 9. The public can send letters to the board and can also sign up to speak at the hearing.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story misstated the 2016 increase in the retail margin. Tusket Ultramar and Irving Oil made a request for an increase of six-tenths of a cent per litre on both minimum and maximum markups for self-service and full-service gasoline and diesel.The review board approved an increase of three-tenths of a cent in the minimum self-service to four-tenths of a cent in the maximum self-service markup. This story has been corrected.
    Jun 22, 2020 1:48 PM AT

About the Author

Brittany Wentzell

Current Affairs Reporter/Editor

Brittany Wentzell is based in Sydney, N.S., as a reporter for Information Morning Cape Breton. She has covered a wide range of issues including education, forestry and municipal government. Story ideas? Send them to brittany.wentzell@cbc.ca

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