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Mayor’s Column – May 9, 2018

May 9, 2018


Gas prices! Can’t seem to live without them. Hard to live with them. Eyes averted, I pulled up to the pump today dreading to learn that which I didn’t want to know after recent experiences with 131.9+ per litre in central Alberta, where prices have traditionally been much lower than in Beautiful British Columbia, only to find to my joy and satisfaction the familiar 129.9 still in effect. No complaints today!

Today is May 2, 2018 of the Common Era and I just saw a load of over-sized logs rumbling west out of our home town – likely destination: Prince George or Bear Lake. The lonely guy (gal) sitting wearily above the 26 rubbers meeting the road is likely going to have to shell out about $800 in fuel costs to deliver the load. And then return.

The fear of rising fuel prices has prompted me to do a little research – nothing fancy. The lowest price today in British Columbia seems to be in Hixon, a tidy little community on Highway 97 south of Prince George: 123.9 per litre. On Broadway and Clark Drive in Vancouver it’s a mere 154.9 per litre.

Back in the early 50s when I was just becoming aware of the cost of gasoline and food and socks and rubber boots, my folks bought their motor fuel by the 45 gallon drum for $16. At today’s pump in Chetwynd that drum of gasoline would cost $227.45. During that same era, entry-level workers in Dad’s sawmill earned eight dollars for their day’s very hard labour. Which means they would have to work two days to purchase the 45 gallons of gasoline. For two days not-so-hard work in a mill today, the worker could purchase the same volume of gasoline at the pump and have $141 left over for shopping locally.

Of course, other factors are at play in this scenario. For example, 65 years ago we didn’t drive nearly as much as we do now so the price of gasoline did not take such a heavy toll on our resources. And instead of tossing our socks when they got holes, we darned them.

To satisfy your innate curiosity, I just called one of our local log haulers who assured me that he spends between $10,000 and $16,000 per month on fuel to keep his wheels turning and the logs coming in to the mill. Great for the vendors and not so bad for the trucker if revenues comport with the output.

We are living in uncertain times. Funny, I can’t think of a time that was not uncertain. As far back as recorded history can take us, governments wrestled with price control and inflation and the citizens wrestled with controlled prices and inflation – and taxes. The rich feared the poor and struggled to shelter their wealth; the poor envied the rich without hope of ever becoming rich – until the American Dream gone wild gave some of us a faint but fleeting hope like a mirage. Life has always been challenging, never easy. However, history can assure us that somewhere out there we might find something like equilibrium for a while, but probably not in my dwindling lifetime on this sod.

For us in Chetwynd, so dependent on wheels for our comfort, convenience, livelihoods, and recreation, the price of fuel cuts a major hole in our discretionary funds. We have a few options: spend less on other items, earn more, complain to anyone who appears to be listening, or other. But in this we are not unlike the rest of humanity on this spinning orb. Except that we are immeasurably more blessed than the billions who have to gather animal dung for fuel, don’t have much to cook, use feet for transportation, and not many options. Ever wonder why that is?

I guess the bottom line of this financial statement is that we are essentially on our own. So let’s spend wisely, keep our tanks full and be thankful for the blessings we have been given.

Oh, by the way, I just read an ancient proverb by someone with needs and hopes much like we have – except that he was rich: “the more the words, the less the meaning” so I think I’ll quit while I still make sense. Have a great week and I’ll try to bring you a little news next time.


Merlin Nichols, Mayor