Friday, June 3, 2011

Pushing statism at the gas pumps

Chris Selley is depressed that the press and police are agitating for a new law forcing Alberta motorists to pre-pay before pumping gasoline:

... The problem isn’t the idea, or the inconvenience it portends — which, let’s face it, is minor. The problem is who supports the idea: at least some gas stations, the Edmonton Journal’s editorial board and, most perplexingly, the Association of Alberta Police Chiefs, which is the driving force behind the idea....
Alberta’s seen better times, but it’s still a rich, safe, proud, reasonably law-abiding place most of the world would hack off an arm to live in. It’s a place where you should be able to pay for gas after you pump it, and if it isn’t anymore, the police should be explaining how they can help turn it back into that place.
I agree (with some modifications).  We in BC went through the same thing. Service station operators complained about losses to gas theft but none wanted to do anything about it, presumably because they feared losing business if they went pre-pay and their competitors didn’t. And naturally the police didn’t like having to investigate petty gas theft.

Then a gas attendant, Grant De Patie, was killed while attempting to chase down gas thieves. It was a horrible crime. It had all the emotional ingredients needed to stoke sympathy for a new law, called Grant’s Law, ‘forcing’ gas stations to implement pre-pay. The cops, the gas companies, the press and the emotionally manipulated public were all for it.

What happened to Grant De Patie was God-awful but the fault was first with the criminals who killed him, then it was with Grant’s recklessness in attempting to stop them (I doubt that his job description required him to chase thieves.)

I found the whole thing annoying - first because the law treated me like a thief, second because it was an inconvenience (things have improved since), and third because it became another instance of unnecessary government intrusion. When I expressed these views at gas stations, attendants were defensive (no surprise) - it was all about poor Grant and losses at the pumps.

But of course there are always unintended consequences. Now I happily pre-pay at the pump but never go near the store where I used to buy odds, sodds and lottery tickets. I wonder how that’s working out for the station operators. I’m told a huge part of their profits come from store sales. Also, Grant’s Law required that there be two attendants on duty at night. The gas companies want that expensive part repealed but Grant’s parents and WorkSafe BC are objecting to changes - so best of luck with that!

Personally, I’m all for arming gas attendants, putting thieves in stocks in the public square and giving victims the opportunity to pelt them with rotten tomatoes (and excrement).


Anonymous said...

William in Ajax said...

Another nail in the coffin of freedom...
Typical socialist response, go after the law-abiding, do-nothing about the law-breakers.
Make all gas-buyers the criminal.
We are all potential theives now.

Shades of former Toronto Mayor Millers attack on legitimate gun-clubs, shutting them down because gun-clubs are the seed of all crime.

The left twists every crime into a reason to limit our personal freedoms.

Anonymous said...

old white guy says. we go to flordia in the spring and all the way there, with the exception of ny state, we have to pre-pay. it is a pain in the a--. i thought we canadians were honest people. one thief should not make it necessary to inconvenience all the people.

JR said...

Yup, if we keep going down this road eventually everything will be regulated (the lefties' dream and sane people's nightmare) - what isn't banned will be compulsory.