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Can’t Afford to Come Home Year

Rising costs for fuel and goods has some re-thinking summer plans

Another 10.5 cent price hike at the pumps came into effect last Tuesday, May 17. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press

By Jaymie L. White

Special to Wreckhouse Press Inc.

WEST COAST – On Monday, May 16, the provincial PC opposition stated that they will keep legislature open until action is taken on cost of living in the province.

MHA Tony Wakeham (Stephenville – Port au Port) said immediate measures are needed to address the growing crisis. By the next morning, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) had authorized another 10.5 cent gas increase, and some analysts project that prices may rise as high as $3.00 per litre by July.

“The people of Newfoundland and Labrador continue to struggle under the rising cost of living in our province. The Premier and the Minister have both admitted the budget does not go far enough, yet they want to wait until the Fall before looking at any form of relief. That is simply not good enough,” said Wakeham. “Maybe the Liberals can afford to wait until the Fall, but the people of our province have told the PC Opposition caucus again and again: more help is needed right now. They need tax relief, they need a home heating fuel rebate – they need action from this government, which has been sorely lacking.”

Fuel prices have increased so drastically that many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are simply struggling to keep afloat. Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button said everybody is sickened by what is happening with the price of fuel.

“From a Municipality’s perspective, it plays havoc on us as well, which in turn, plays havoc on our citizens because, for us for doing our work and maintaining (the town), the price of fuel has gone through the roof, and we need to move vehicles to get our work done. So that becomes an added burden and we are really concerned with it.”

Button said that typically folk would chat about the weather, and now people get up every day and talk about the gas prices.

“Just going to work and taking the kids to this, taking the kids to that, our seniors who are on fixed incomes, the price of gas is just, for them to be able to do their everyday things, getting out of the house and just going for a drive, that’s becoming an issue just to do that. It’s very concerning from all aspects, from running a municipality to running a home. It doesn’t matter. It’s certainly something that is giving everybody a whole lot of concern.”

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose believes the prices are out of control.

“The increases are not slow incremental increases. They are massive increases that’s really putting a lot of stressors on everybody – from families, to seniors, to businesses. And because of it, people budget so much money for gas, so much money for their mortgage, so much money for their insurance. Then you get your groceries and if you have a little bit left over you might go to a movie or a dinner, but because the gas prices are so out of control from the norm – somewhere around $1.30 a litre, now we’re well over $2.00 a litre – that is putting a lot of mental stress and a lot of economic/business stress.”

Rose said there are many factors that are impacting the increased cost, and it’s a really difficult thing for government to control because of big oil companies.

“There’s a lot of taxation also, like carbon tax, that’s associated with this. There appears to be a shift around carbon fuels and I think that’s playing a role. The war in Ukraine with Russia is also playing a role, so there’s a lot of factors, but at the end of the day, we’re starting to see it. When somebody can’t afford to put gas in their vehicle, they can’t go to an appointment, they can’t go visit their loved ones, it all factors and it’s such a big file.”

Digital Government and Service NL has put forth a proposed legislative amendment which would require the PUB to publicly disclose the maximum wholesale retail prices, the minimum and maximum markup between the wholesale price and retail price, and the procedure for determining adjustments to the wholesale and retail prices. Button said any step forward is a positive one, but people want immediate action.

“I think what people want right now is to just see some relief at the pumps. What I hear from people, what they want is action now. This part of having to go out and study this, and now come in with a new policy for how it goes – they want to see something now, whether it’s tax relief or whatever the case may be, but this is just getting so far out of control.”

With Come Home Year fast approaching, Button said there could be more negative repercussions.

“It’s certainly going to have an impact on where they go and what they do. So whatever plans they still might go ahead with, I’m certain it will still impact their overall travel plan. And, for some people, it will impact to the point where their travel plans are going to be cancelled. And we are hearing and seeing some of that – that some people, with the prices going so far out of reach, they have said they just can’t make the trip,” said Button. “For people to come to our island, the travel costs, the ferry costs to get over, and then knowing you’re going to pay $2.17 or more for fuel, and God forbid if you’re using a diesel truck and towing a trailer, it’s certainly going to play havoc on some people and their travel plans.”

Rose agrees that the increased fuel costs will likely be yet another blow for tourism throughout the entire province.

“People coming home, to come home and drive to Newfoundland, if you’re going to drive, people are going to have second guesses about it. It’s going to impact our tourism season significantly. Even the airfares are having to go up because, outside of labour, jet fuel is a very high cost associated with running airlines, so airline tickets are going to go up.”

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