The recent dip at the gas pumps in Sicamous and Salmon Arm may not be entirely due to global market trends.
While it’s not uncommon for people to gripe about gas prices, several actually went out on the highway last week to protest the price at the pump in Salmon Arm. Their protest was spurred by how the cost of gas initially seemed static. But the plummeting price per barrel resulted in dramatically decreased gas prices elsewhere in the province, and the nation.
The price of a litre of regular in Salmon Arm has since dropped from 137.9 to 129.9. At the same time in Enderby and Vernon, it was 125.9. In Kamloops gas was down to 112.9 at some stations, and in Abbotsford a litre could be found for as low as 107.9.
“I’m a retired senior and these high prices can’t continue,” said Jennie Anderson, who joined other protestors Sunday afternoon on the Trans-Canada Highway near one of Salmon Arm’s downtown gas stations. “We can’t sit around. We have to do something to stop these big companies from taking advantage of us.”
Fellow protestor Sylvia Lindgren agreed with the sentiment.
“Two weeks ago there was one guy, last week there were two people and today there’s 10 of us. We have to keep on putting pressure on these guys,” said Lindgren.
The one guy referred to by Lindgren is Ernie Scheil, who began his own protest after growing frustrated with the way gas prices are consistently higher in Salmon Arm than in neighbouring communities. Sunday’s protest was the result of efforts orchestrated through a Facebook group, Organized Boycott of Local Gas Prices, whose membership has soared over the past week. Group administrator Tavia Bente says organizers have two goals – the second is to support shopping local, the first is getting fair pricing.
“I believe in shopping locally, and I want to support my local gas stations… but I have a problem with corporations who have such a control over the pricing,” said Bente. “There is something fundamentally wrong with the system….”
Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper briefly joined in the Sunday protest. She says she’s received numerous calls about gas prices lately and is encouraging peaceful protest such as what took place over the weekend.
“I have a feeling the type of protest we’re starting to see is probably what has to transpire before these people listen to us,” said Cooper of the petroleum companies, noting she has notified petroleum company reps of the situation. “They’re putting the local people in a very embarrassing situation, and the local gas station attendants. They’re taking a lot of abuse and that’s just wrong. It’s not their fault, it’s the head offices.”
Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce president Jim Kimmerly has been working on the local gas pricing issue for about a year now, attempting to bring fair pricing to Shuswap residents and business owners.
The next step, he says, is a scheduled meeting with a petroleum company representative to explore bringing an independent owner/operator to the community.
“We’ll have a look at what’s been going on here, and then we’re going to have a look at some locations and kind of go from there and see if it is possible where we can get that type of operation here. Because that’s really the key to this,” said Kimmerly, noting a dealer/operator may spur the competition that’s lacking in the community.