Eight years ago, when Hardeep Sidhu first bought the Ruskin gas station and general store and started selling gasoline, the price difference between Metro Vancouver and Mission, in the Fraser Valley Regional District, was about five cents a litre.
But the gap has grown over the last few years as the gas tax was hiked – to the point that Metro Vancouver’s transit taxes add 17 cents to a litre and the trickle of motorists crossing into Silverdale a few kilometres away in west Mission for lower prices, has grown into a flood that’s washing away Sidhu’s station on 287th Street and Lougheed Highway.
“I used to have almost 12 employees, but now I have three or four. Now I’m thinking I’m going to close it because I’m losing money,” he said Wednesday.
“I’m so far away, I don’t have any services.”
Sidhu’s property is also on well water, which means the property wouldn’t work for a fast food restaurant, which needs municipal water.
“If I can’t do something, maybe I’m going to close it. Because there’s nothing else you can do in that location.”
That could happen next spring, he added.
Sidhu said he used to open 24 hours a day, then cut hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., then 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. as business dropped.
The cash flow tells the same story.
An average day now brings in about $500 in gas sales. It was 10 times that when he first bought the business.
If he closes, it’s unlikely he’ll sell the property after spending $800,000 installing tanks and gasoline pumps when he first purchased it.
Sidhu also pays $36,000 yearly in property taxes, and has no transit and no water or sewer services, instead relying on septic tank and well water.
The lack of Metro Vancouver water and sewer restricts any future development options.
So far, Sidhu is at a loss at what to do. Wednesday he was charging $1.26.9 a litre for regular unleaded, while the competition across the border were asking $1.11.9.
The convenience store is also part of the business, and while it’s a service to the people who live along 287th Street, it can’t support the entire business.
“I should be out of the Greater Vancouver Regional District [Metro Vancouver], then I can sell the same as they’re selling [in Silverdale, in west Mission] the gas for.”
If that was possible, he could re-hire those dozen people from the area and open 24 hours a day.
He says Premier Christy Clark talks about creating jobs, “but these jobs are going away for almost no reason.”
According to Ministry of Finance, TransLink’s dedicated motor fuel tax is now 17 cents a litre. The latest two cents were added last spring.
Fraser Valley Regional District has no transit tax.
The gas tax, however, isn’t pulling in as much cash as it used to for TransLink, as motorists either gas up outside the region or simply drive less.
The transportation authority took in $312 million in 2011 from the fuel tax, according to its annual report.
That was down nearly $12 million from 2010 as motorists bought six per cent less gasoline or diesel within Metro Vancouver.
– files from Jeff Nagel