Opinion Column

Alberta needs prepay for gas legislation

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

file photo

file photo

Finally, something in which I am glad Alberta is following B.C.’s lead in. 

 

On Monday, legislation was put forward in Edmonton that would mandate all gas be prepaid before the pump starts pumping. 

This is a long time coming. 

When I moved to Vancouver Island in 2011, after living in Alberta for most of my life, I figured this was going to be a giant pain in the butt. I liked being able to go into the convenience store, grab a coffee, some jerky, maybe a bag of sunflower seeds or chips when I paid for my gas. You know what’s even more convenient? Not having to stand in line for 10 minutes just to pay for fuel at a busy stop. 

It’s simple, take the same 30 second you would use to pay after fueling up and use it to pay beforehand. If you still want a snack, you pull forward 25 feet and park after you’ve filled up — or send whoever is riding shotgun to run in while you fill up. 

Why is this a big deal? Because in the last three years in Alberta, petrol bandits have claimed the lives of five workers and caused serious injury to three others. According to the Alberta Association of Chiefs, there were 4,000 gas-and-dash incidents in 2015 alone. 

This is not a big city problem. This is a province-wide problem. Our Police News page is often littered with reports of such incidences, and the proposed legislation was spurred on by two recent gas-and-dash causing death reports, one in the small town of Thorsby. 

When reading stories about the proposed legislation, I have seen comments about installing cameraas and recording license plate numbers and pictures of thieves. Those cameras are already in place. They do not work. Even if the perpetrator is caught later, the damage is already done. This is about being proactive and preventative as opposed to reactive and continuing to add strain on the legal system for what amounts to theft of $20-100 at a time. 

This is one area where it is appropriate to allow the government to add legislation to our lives. The free-market will not solve it, as it always comes down to the almighty dollar. And those doing the thieving are always more desperate than those they are robbing. Either you get the store owner who is sick of being ripped off and goes out to protect their property, or encourages their staff to do so, and we continue to see people killed at the pump. Or you have some gas bars that enforce their own pay-first rules and they suffer at the cash register because of those who still believe paying after is more convenient. When I was at the daily paper Red Deer, this was a major conundrum faced by gas stations who were losing thousands of dollars at the pump, but feared losing business by making prepaying mandatory. 

It was the same issue when smoking was banned in restaurants and bars. If left in the hands of the free market, then the establishments that banned smoking are crushed, because there’s always at least one person in a group that is a smoker and they want to go where they can feed their addiction in comfort. You level the playing field and everyone is a little bit safer and in business. 

B.C. enacted Grant’s law in 2008 after Grant De Patie was dragged for seven kilometres over someone dashing on $12 worth of gas in 2005. At the time, there was much griping over the inconvenience of prepaying and concern over how it would work, and the fact that not every gas station even had pay-at-the-pump as an option. But this is the rare example where legislation has been 100 per cent effective. Immediately. 

I get it, no one likes change. 

It took me all of the two-day drive to Nanaimo, towing a trailer with my Jeep, to get used to it. 

About the only time I do not pay at the pump now is when I am visiting my parents in Kitscoty. Paying at the pump is not an option at the village’s only gas station — neither is their pork jerky, which is why I stop there in the first place to fill my tank. You still have to prepay inside, however, or leave your credit card or driver’s license with the cashier. It is completely doable. 

At the vast majority of gas stations in the province, paying at the pump is already an option, the infrastructure for such legislation is already there. And if it is not, gas stations would have until June 1 to update their equipment or have everyone prepay inside. 

This should not even be an issue. It is about time Alberta caught up. 

 jaldrich@postmedia.com



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