Protest grows against gas prices

Salmon Arm residents have had enough of being gouged at the pump – and citizens and the local chamber are aiming to do something about it.

Drivers honk their horns in support of Ernie Scheil’s one-man protest of high gas prices in Salmon Arm Thursday afternoon along the Trans-Canada Highway. Schiel said he has become frustrated with the trend where locals have to pay more at the pump than those in neighbouring communities. Regular gas that day was 137.9 a litre in Salmon Arm

Drivers honk their horns in support of Ernie Scheil’s one-man protest of high gas prices in Salmon Arm Thursday afternoon along the Trans-Canada Highway. Schiel said he has become frustrated with the trend where locals have to pay more at the pump than those in neighbouring communities. Regular gas that day was 137.9 a litre in Salmon Arm

Salmon Arm residents have had enough of being gouged at the pump — and citizens and the local chamber are aiming to do something about it.

With plummeting gas prices elsewhere in the province, and the nation, a growing number of residents are coming to resent the cost per litre in Salmon Arm, where prices only began to drop Tuesday (down to 135.9 at some stations by Wednesday afternoon).

Ernie Scheil started a one-person protest over local prices last week along the Trans-Canada Highway, where he’s been receiving honks of support from passersby. Many have joined the Facebook group, Organized Boycott of Local Gas Prices, while others have been giving the mayor an earful.

Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce president Jim Kimmerly has been working on the local gas pricing issue for about a year now.

The next step, he says, is a meeting next week 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.

Mayor Nancy Cooper said Wednesday that she’s seeing a groundswell of discontent over gas prices, and expects more will be joining Scheil in protest.

“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.”

The Facebook group had 37 people join between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. 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….”

Bente says the group is planning rotating protests at local gas stations.