The gas stations
Originally written for eVent! [ep] magazine on 07/11/06.
The debate is on about making Kelowna a pay as you go town. With City Council being asked to pass a bylaw that would require all local gas stations to go to a system where drivers would have to pay before they filled their tanks with the sweet gooey goodness of crude oil. Crude oil for those who are playing at home is what makes cars go vroom vroom. Zoom.
Enough baby talk, on with some nonsensical babbling. This time it's not from me but the owners of our local gas stations. First off let's face facts; it sucks to be stolen from. Theft of gas hurts local retailers, most of who don't have a solid gold Porsche in their driveway and Crystal flowing from their tapes. Most local gas stations are owned by locals who need money just as badly as you or I and stealing from them is no better than stealing books from a bookstore, or art from a gallery.
Having said all of that my parents were in the gas station ownership business and the theft of gas is not exactly a new development. To suddenly go crazy and demand that City Council solves all of our gas theft related problems is, well kind of lazy. The very people who are so quick to complain about government interference in free enterprise want government interference in free enterprise. Go to any gas station and as you fill up you'll see a sticker making sure you realize that all but one penny of the cost of gas is taxes. Anytime gas prices go up and the first thing that gets mentioned by the people who want the government to solve their problem now is that government relies on their taxes.
So if City Council does pass the bylaw I think one stipulation should be that all local gas stations would also have to have a sticker beside the one complaining about taxes which show how taxes pay for their bylaw, the medical coverage for their employees, the roads that the cars that need filling at their stations drive on and so forth.
Next isn't this a really bad idea for a law? I understand that no single station think that they can institute a policy of pre-payment on their own, but as a model for a law it's still off-kilter. City Council would essentially be restricting the victim of a crime to cut down on crime. This is sort of like banning everyone from walking down dark alleys at night because that's a popular time and place for muggings, or banning cars from stopping at red lights because that's when the Squeegee Kids strike.
Oh and local gas stations, trust me nobody is buying claims that if the bylaw being passed is all that is stopping you from paying your employees better wages and offering benefits. So please don't make claims like that, because if you do and you end up getting your way someone might actually expect you to follow through on that.