Nova Scotia

Soaring gas prices have N.S. government contemplating targeted relief

With Nova Scotians paying up to $2 a litre for gasoline and as much as $2.50 for diesel, the Houston government is considering new measures to help low income or fixed income people struggling to pay their bills.

Finance Minister says low income Nova Scotians most in need of help

Nova Scotia gas prices reached $2 per litre in parts of the province on Friday. (Robert Short/CBC)

With gas prices at $2 per litre in Nova Scotia, the provincial government is considering some targeted relief from the increasingly high cost of living.

In a telephone interview Friday, Finance Minister Allan MacMaster said these are difficult times for people, "especially people who are on fixed incomes and people who are at lower incomes levels."

He said the government offered targeted relief a few weeks back and "we're looking at that again."

On March 24, the first day of the spring sitting at Province House, the Houston government announced $13.2 million in relief to help "vulnerable Nova Scotians to help them address the immediate impact of rising fuel prices on the cost of living."

That support included a one-time payment of $150 to income assistance recipients, a one-time $150 allocation to those eligible to receive the province's heating assistance rebate, $1 million to food banks across the province and $200,000 to go to food distribution centres not part of Feed Nova Scotia's network.

Considering it

MacMaster said the province is considering more help to those same low income or fixed-income households.

"We would be looking at similar measures this time around," said MacMaster.

Nova Scotia's Finance Minister Allan MacMaster says the province is looking at offering targeted relief for low or fixed income households. (Robert Short/CBC)

He concedes all Nova Scotians are feeling the effects of higher prices, but the government is most concerned about those most vulnerable.

"It's a concern for everyone but people who are feeling the most stress are people who are at lower income levels and we believe that we should be focused on those individuals."

Nova Scotia's Official Opposition has renewed its call for the Houston government to provide relief to cash-strapped Nova Scotians who are facing $2 per litre for gasoline and up to $2.50 per litre for diesel.

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin said the most recent hike in the price of fuel will hurt Nova Scotians already struggling with the high cost of groceries, rent and mortgages.

He said the Liberals started asking for broader relief in March and the government response was to provide some help to people on income assistance.

"But this is impacting people that are just trying to go to work, people that are just going to get their necessities, groceries, things like that," Rankin said. "Working everyday people need assistance."

$16.5-million increase

In the spring budget, finance officials estimated the province would take in more this year at the pumps. Budget documents point to a $16.5-million increase from the 2021-22 budget.

That was based on a higher selling price and slightly lower gasoline sales as a result.

Liberal Leader Iain Rankin says Nova Scotians need assistance to afford the increasing cost of fuel, groceries, and rent or mortgages. (Robert Short/CBC)

"Gasoline consumption is estimated to decline by 0.6 per cent to 1.2 billion litres in 2022–23 relative to the 2021–22 forecast, while the consumption of diesel oil is estimated to increase by 0.4 per cent to 446 million litres in 2022–23," according to the documents.

Rankin said he expected any increase in fuel tax revenue to be passed along to Nova Scotians who are having to dig deeper to fill their tanks.

He pointed to the fact other provinces have already provided rebates or government assistance.

"Quebec has a [$500] check going out to everyone that makes under $100,000 a year," said the Liberal leader. "So, I mean, the mechanics can be sorted out by the Department of Finance, but I do think it's time that something goes out.

"There is nothing in the budget to help people with the increase in gas."

In Saskatchewan and British Columbia, vehicle owners are being given a $100 rebate on their public insurance rates to help offset rising costs.

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