A new report on gas regulation says the system has saved consumers money, but the Liberals question the author’s credibility and say other studies show the exact opposite.
The government-commissioned report, which based its conclusions to the end of 2011, estimates an overall saving to consumers of $8 million to $20 million over the 5_ years since regulation was implemented in July 2006.
Roderick Hill, an economics professor at the University of New Brunswick, said consumers saved as inflation ate into gas wholesalers’ and retailers’ margins, and the transportation costs built into the regulated price.
But Hill said those items caught up with inflation in January after the amounts were raised by the provincial Utility and Review Board.
Service Nova Scotia initially released just the report’s executive summary, dated April 2, on Wednesday afternoon and said the full report would be available in a day or so.
Later, the premier’s office released an unedited copy of the full report.
Service Nova Scotia Minister John MacDonell said the government wanted information from a consumer’s perspective in case there were questions in the legislature or elsewhere about regulation driving up the cost of gas.
“I think it was just a question that’s kind of an ongoing one … so let’s do a study and see if that’s actually the case,” MacDonell said.
The Liberals were quick to point to past assessments of the regulatory scheme that said it cost consumers. Consultant Gardner Pinfold said in a 2008 report that motorists collectively were paying an extra $6 million per year.
The Liberals also found a report Hill authored for the Nova Scotia office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2009. It was called Debunking the Myth That Gas Price Regulation Robs From Consumers and was a response to an Atlantic Institute for Market Studies report.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil, a frequent critic of regulation, dismissed the report. He also noted Hill ran for the NDP in the 2000 federal election.
“The fact that our government is so desperately looking for someone to suport their point of view that they go into a neighbouring province to find a failed NDP candidate to write them a report that they want is disappointing,” McNeil said.
Hill said by email that he wasn’t available for an interview because he made a last-minute commitment to sub in for a colleague Thursday and was preparing for the classes.
MacDonell said he didn’t know Hill was a New Democrat.