Local gas stations are relieved following the implementation of Bill 19, provincial legislation requiring drivers to prepay for fuel.
“It’s the prepay law, and a lot of it is to make it safer for our employees. It prevents some of the gas and dash. The safety factors of it, like not working alone, are also great,” said Sharla Eliuk, gas bar manager for the Lakeland Co-op Gas Bar.
Like many local gas stations, they have fallen victim to gas and dash in the past, and are happy to see the safety of their employees has been taken seriously by the province.
“I know my staff appreciate it. They feel a little bit safer. They always felt bad when someone did it to them, they felt like it was their fault. It’s nice to see that they don’t have to accept that responsibility anymore,” Eliuk expressed.
Bill 19, also known as an act to protect gas and convenience store workers, came into effect June 1, and mandates drivers to prepay for fuel.
But the regulations go beyond the pump. They also require convenience stores and gas stations to have time lock safes that can’t be opened overnight, have minimal cash on-hand, limit overnight quantities of common theft items such as tobacco, cash, and lottery tickets, use video monitoring, limit access to the premises, display signs indicating of these regulations, and provide personal emergency transmitters for employees working alone.
“We had gas station owners and employees who were dying from gas and dash thefts. The fact is, over the last three years, gas and dash incidents in both rural and urban locations in Alberta resulted in five worker deaths and three serious injuries,” explained Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Scott Cyr. “This is legislation that is meant to protect Albertans from those that are more or less trying to get free gasoline.”
Even though the legislation wasn’t implemented until June 1, the Lakeland Co-op Gas Bar was one step ahead of the game.
According to Eliuk, they were requiring customers to prepay starting May 28.
“We just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware and that we were ready to go when it had to be implemented.”
It also gave them a chance to work out all of the kinks, like how to continue offering full service while requiring customers to prepay.
While some gas stations across the province are still trying to figure out how to make this service work, the Lakeland Co-op is on top of it.
“Our staff will still meet people out there, just like before it was prepay. You have the choice of either going inside to pay… or our staff will walk you through how to work the pay at the pump option,” Eliuk said. “A lot of it is walking people through it at this point, but it hasn’t been a problem or a hiccup for us at all.”
Regardless of how people pay, they will have to in order to get any fuel out of the pumps, something Cyr can see putting a dent in the number of gas and dashes.
However, the local MLA is concerned that just because they can’t steal their fuel from a gas station, doesn’t mean they won’t just find it somewhere else.
“One thing I did bring up during the debate, which happened on Bill 19, was that this theft is going to continue, it’s just not going to happen at the gas station, it’s going to happen in rural Alberta,” Cyr expressed. “We’re shifting the theft from a service station to our local farmers and ranchers.”
He described the issue as “problematic.”
Cyr believes one of the causes of the rise in gas and dashes in Alberta, is because of the increasing cost of fuel.
“The need for gas isn’t going to go away, and these individuals won’t have money to pay for the gas. I can only see that this is going to cause a spike in rural crime.”
He continued, “Whenever we have a tax implemented in Alberta, there are always unexpected impacts. This gas and dash has gotten worse because of all of those taxes we have levied on Albertans. Now, we’re bringing in a solution that is potentially going to harm some of our full service stations, because of the fact that we have been irresponsible with some of our taxes,”
If prices can be lowered to a “reasonable level”, he said, they could see a drop in the number of gas thefts.
Now that Bill 19 is in full swing, gas attendants at the Lakeland Co-op have heard mixed reviews.
Some drivers feel they just need time to get used to it, while others are happy to see the safety of gas station employees in the forefront.
“We have had the odd one that doesn’t like it. I think once people get used to it they will be fine. But we have also seen lots of people who say ‘hey, we go to B.C. all of the time and this doesn’t bother us at all,’” Eliuk said.
Cyr agrees that employee safety is important, and knows introducing these regulations is a step in the right direction.