New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have tabled provincial budgets for the upcoming year. A date for a provincial budget in Prince Edward Island won’t be known until after the April 23rd provincial election, and a date for Newfoundland and Labrador’s budget is also unknown, but the government says it will be before the end of April.
First off was New Brunswick. The Progressive Conservative government led by Blaine Higgs tabled a balanced budget and a forecast which, according to a government media release, “would see the province’s net debt decrease for the first time in more than a decade.” No tax increases were introduced for tobacco or fuel.
Nova Scotia’s budget was largely focused on health care. And if the numbers are achieved, the budget will be the fourth consecutive balanced plan by the Liberal government. No tobacco tax increases were introduced, and the government is actually forecasting a decline in tobacco tax revenue over the 2020 fiscal year. As in New Brunswick there were also no increases in fuel taxes.
“Well these are certainly status quo budgets for the c-store industry,” says Mike Hammoud, president of the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association. “Increasing taxes is not the way to reduce tobacco use and it looks like the two provinces were leery of messing with fuel taxes when consumers were going to take a hit at the pumps with the launch of the federal carbon tax at the beginning of April.”
In addition to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia budgets, the federal government tabled its 2020 budget on March 20. Much of the budget coverage has been lost to the SNC-Lavalin affair, but no measures critically impacting the c-store industry were in the budget.
Janet MacLeod elected as new Atlantic Convenience Stores Association chair
Mike Hammoud, president of the ASCA, has announced that Janet MacLeod has been elected as the new chair of the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association.
Janet is senior Merchandise and Marketing manager at Wilson Fuel Company Ltd. and has worked in the convenience store business for more than 26 years. Headquartered in Halifax, Janet manages the Go!Store brand at 77 convenience stores that Wilson’s owns and operates.
“Janet has been a volunteer on the ACSA board from the very beginning back in 2009,” says Hammoud. “She is very well respected by store managers, government, industry colleagues and all other people she has contact with and she is a great asset to have as chair of the ACSA.”
New Brunswick launches retail and wholesale gasoline margin review
The New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board is in the process of undertaking a review of the provincial retail and whole gasoline margins. It is believed that a review report has been prepared and submitted to the board by consultants Gardner-Pinfold and the industry is now waiting on the NBEUB to release the report and set dates for a public hearing.
"We certainly think that a margin increase is warranted since the last adjustment came into effect in May of 2017," says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. "And that adjustment was based on data up to the end of 2015. It’s frustrating that we’re always playing catch-up.”
According to Hammoud the current review still leaves the industry playing catch-up since it covers data up to the end of 2017 and a board decision likely won’t be made until late summer at the earliest.
Prince Edward Island’s IRAC plays hardball with industry’s retail margin adjustment request
With retail gasoline margins in PE being unchanged since 2012, Island retailers have been beating their heads against the wall to get some traction on a margin adjustment request made to the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission.
After sitting on a submission from Island retailers for two years, IRAC embarked on its own review in early January by sending a survey to a select number of retailers. However, according to IRAC they were disappointed with the low response and suggested in March that they may not proceed with the review if industry was not interested in participating. But they wouldn’t share the names of the retailers selected for the survey so the industry could follow up and encourage survey participation.
At this point in time IRAC has said that they will attempt to collect more surveys but have given no indication of timing or how serious their threat is to shut down the review.
“It’s a bit of a heavy-handed approach in our opinion,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “It’s not that retailers don’t care about the margins. It’s the simple fact that retailers are so busy running their businesses to take time to pull together financial data, or to pay an accountant to do it.
According to Hammoud, the ACSA has maintained for a long time that energy boards need to move away from surveying as the basis for margin reviews and develop an operating model that can be updated relatively easily.
Prince Edward Island
PEI has a provincial election on April 23. The Greens are attempting to convert strong showings in lead-up polls into seats in the House, while the PCs are trying to jump-start the party’s future with a new leader. In the meantime, the Liberals are working hard to win a fourth term, which is something that rarely happens in PE provincial politics.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Premier Dwight Ball says that voters will go the polls for a provincial election before the end of June. Ball’s Liberal government is hoping that they’ll hit a re-election home run with the announcement of a renewed Atlantic Accord agreement on offshore resource revenues that will see the federal government give the province $2.5-billion over 38 years. It’s a lifeline from the feds after the provincial government has been drowning in debt for the past 5-years from a slide in oil prices.
The governing Liberals are in their second term and safe for some time with the next election likely in 2021. The government has just tabled their 2020 budget which forecasts a balanced budget and healthy surplus.
Premier Blaine Higgs’ PCs tabled their first budget since gaining control of government in September when the People’s Alliance agreed to support the PCs. Higgs says that there’s a four-year deal, but the People’s Alliance say that it’s a bill-by-bill situation. Either way, Higgs will have to be nimble to keep his coalition in place and avoid an election anytime soon.
Federal carbon tax whacks Atlantic Canada prices at the pump
The federal government’s carbon tax kicked in on April 1st. While Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had individual carbon pricing systems they met federal standards and New Brunswick had a tax imposed on them the result was the same…gas prices went up throughout the region.
The carbon tax bumped gasoline prices at the pump by 4.42-cents per litre in New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador and 4.4-cents in Prince Edward Island. A temporary reprieve in PE’s provincial gas tax introduced earlier in the year was negated with the introduction of the carbon tax.
The hurt for drivers got worse as HST is charged on the carbon tax.
Nova Scotia’s gas prices remained relatively stable because of the provincial government’s own carbon pricing scheme which is expected to take more of a toll on industrial greenhouse gas emitters than consumers. That didn’t help drivers much, however, when the pricing regulator unexpectedly increased gasoline 3.7-cents (using the Halifax zone) at the end of the week.
“We all recognize the need to reduce our carbon footprint, but what we have is a real mish-mash of carbon pricing systems,” says ACSA president Mike Hammoud. “And it’s scary to think that the carbon tax itself in New Brunswick could drive up gas prices another 6.6-cents by 2022.
Up until now we’ve had reasonable competitive parity on gasoline prices between Maritime provinces. But this carbon tax has upset the apple cart and we really need to be careful that our retailers don’t get side-swiped by large provincial differences in pricing.”
ACSA welcomes two new supplier associate members
ACSA president Mike Hammoud has announced that Golden Gate Inc. and Sona Pay have joined the association as new associate members.
Golden Gate carries more than 1,000 products including smoking accessories (rolling papers and wraps, pipe screens, scales, baggies, vials, stash cans, ashtrays, cigarette cases, cigarette rolling machines, cigarette filters, lighters, butane, Zippo flints and wicks, cleaning solutions, water pipes, hand pipes, hookah, shisha flavours, e-cigarette juice); Nag Champa and Hem incense sticks; all kinds of houseware products; phone accessories, novelty products and much more.
“Our new product lines can increase store revenues by opening doors to a new demographic of customers,” says Jad Nasser, sales area manager for Golden Gate. “Since new legislation has been implemented our customers have seen a drastic increase in sales. C-stores can be a big part of this growth with competitive pricing and great quality.”
Golden Gate’s program for ACSA members includes special pricing and discounts, free shipping across Canada, barcoded products suitable for most POS systems, and rebates. Some conditions apply.
Golden Gate is planning an introductory tour through Atlantic Canada in the near future. If you’d like more information on the company and their products, contact Mike Hammoud at the ACSA ([email protected]
Headquartered in Nova Scotia, Sona Pay markets cutting-edge point-of-sale technology that makes business and ecommerce transactions faster, easier and more reliable with no cancellation fees, no hidden costs and consistent pricing. Sona Pay’s systems are powered by First Data, one of North America’s largest credit card processing and payment solutions companies.
ACSA members receive special group pricing for Sona Pay services. For more information, contact Mike Hammoud at the ACSA.
ACSA new retail member profile
Magasin Général Landry 2003 Ltée is owned and operated by Bertrand and Marie- France Landry. The station is located in the scenic area of Point Landry, Northern New Brunswick close to the Gaspe region.
Magasin Général Landry has been a fixture in the community since the 1800’s and became an Esso brand retailer in 1914.
The store is the site of the office of the former community lumber mill. It is at the heart of the community and it is a true general store that offers products and services the community needs. Welcome Bertrand, Marie-France and team. We look forward to you being active participants in the ACSA!
Mark these dates on your calendar…
Annual Maritimes Golf Classic at Fox Creek Golf Club, Dieppe, New Brunswick
Annual Newfoundland and Labrador Charity Golf Tourney at Colvelly, St. John's Newfoundland
Atlantic Convenience Expo at the Halifax Convention Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia.