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Regulation returns to Nova Scotia!

xBy Dale H Mader

The Nova Scotia Government has come to realize that the decision they took back in 1991 to throw out the regulation of retail gasoline prices was not in the public’s best interest. Prior to that, oil companies were routinely required to prove to the NS Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities that the wholesale prices they charged for motor fuels were “just and reasonable”. On more than one occasion after reviewing the evidence, the Board ordered prices reduced. Unfortunately, in 1991 the NS Government caved in to a massive media campaign of mis-information orchestrated by the major oil companies and others who saw regulation as an impediment to their plans to control gasoline pricing in the province.

Some argue that it should left to the free market to decide the level of pricing consumers pay for gasoline. In an ideal world that argument has merit. However the retail gasoline industry in Canada is far from existing in an “ideal world”.

The vertically integrated oil companies have shown little regard for consumers and even less for independent gasoline retailers as the companies strive for obscene profits. They prefer to set prices at whatever level the market will bear.

Provincial governments have no trouble in regulating the pricing of essential services such as telephones, light and power etc., to ensure that consumers are not unduly overcharged. Surely in this day and age, the availability and pricing of retail gasoline is also a commodity deserving of an independent government agency charged with the responsibility of ensuring consumers are not being gouged.

For many years, PEI was the only province in Canada to resist the campaign to de-regulate the retail gasoline industry despite the best efforts of those who tried very hard to see this happen. Quebec and Newfoundland Labrador introduced forms of gasoline regulation a few years ago and now NS has announced that it will re-regulate gasoline and diesel fuel prices as of July 1, 2006.

We can only hope that the reality of regulation in Nova Scotia is similar in purpose to PEIs Petroleum Products Act, whereby consumers and licensees (ie. wholesalers AND retailers) receive a “just and reasonable” price.

Dale H Mader
Managing Editor

You can contact Dale here.