High gas prices have some looking to provincial governments for relief

With record-high gas prices now well over $2 per litre in some parts of Canada, prices are expected to soar even higher as the summer driving season nears.

On Prince Edward Island, gas has reached $1.99 cents per litre -- the highest price in the Maritimes – but Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are not far behind.

“Money’s tight right now,” said one Fredericton motorist. “I can’t afford to really fill my tank anymore, just kind of throw in what I can when I can. Used to buy mid-grade consistently, but I really can only afford regular now.”

Some are calling for provincial governments to come up with ideas to relieve some of the pain at the pumps.

“Every time people go for a fill-up they should remember that about 30 per cent of the price of gas is taxes,” said Renaud Brossard, interim Atlantic director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“So whenever their politicians say that there's nothing they can do, that's flat-out wrong.”

The federation has been advocating for halting the practice of charging taxes on top of taxes for fuel.

Brossard says stopping that practice could save four to five cents per litre.

But right now, he says the province should be looking to reduce its portion of the gas tax – and the New Brunswick opposition agrees.

“The gas tank is empty now because people can't afford their gas, the fridge is empty of groceries because the cost of groceries has increased significantly, and the provincial government is racking up revenues through the HST on fuels and other services,” said Roger Melanson.

“So the Government of New Brunswick needs to come and help right away through reducing the gas tax, the provincial gas tax, and/or offer an amount of money for New Brunswickers to be able to pay these costs.”

In March, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs tried to convince Ottawa to defer the looming carbon tax hike to ease prices.

It didn’t work, and on April 1, the province’s carbon tax went from 8.8 cents per litre to 11 cents.

But Minister of Natural Resources and Energy Development Mike Holland says much of their portion of that tax is now helping low-income New Brunswickers.

“This budget saw a way for us to recycle that in a fashion that raises the tax level on certain lower income levels so they can earn more money and not pay tax,” he said.

Holland says his department is trying to come up with other ideas, but reducing the provincial gas tax -- at this point -- isn’t one of them.