It is unthinkable anyone would lose their life over $112 bucks of gasoline. The dragging death of gas station attendant Jayesh Prajapati after he was run over by a driver fleeing the station without paying is another tragic reminder of how senseless and avoidable some crimes are. Liberal MPP Mike Colle rightly sensed there is an opportunity to update Ontario's laws to require motorists to pre-pay for gas they pump. This is a good idea and an excellent opportunity for a private member's bill to influence government policy.
We live in a province where most people are fortunate enough to go to work with the understanding that there are health and safety regulations designed to ensure their job is safe, so that they can return to their family at the end of the day. It's clear that for individuals who work in this particular industry, there are options to improve health and safety legislation, by changing how the purchase of gasoline is transacted, and it makes perfect sense that legislation, like the bill MPP Colle is currently working on, would be passed.
We may only hear about the fatal incidents of gas theft, but according to the Toronto Star, between July 2009 and 2010 there were 1,618 reports of gas thefts in Toronto. That is more than 30 opportunities a week similar incidents could occur.
This isn't the first time the idea of legislation requiring drivers to pay before they pump has been considered by the Ontario government. Shortly after Atifeh Rad died of injuries he received during a similar incident in Mississauga in May 2011, the government was reported to be considering legislation.
The last time the government contemplated pre-pay legislation, Ted Stoner from the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute was quoted saying "Let us evaluate what's required, ensure the safety of the customers and employees and ensure security of the site. We'll put in place the necessary measures."
That evaluation came too late to ensure the safety of Jayesh Prajapati. Let's hope the Ontario Legislature acts before another gas theft fatality occurs.
It is hard to understand why gasoline industry would oppose pre-pay legislation that would protect their employees and ensure they are paid for their product, especially when you consider how thin the profit margin is for the gas retailer themselves.
Jamie Fox, who owns a gas station in PEI, where the PEI Gasoline Retailers Association is debating creating its own pay-before-you-pump policy, pointed out that that the gas station owner only makes 4.5 cents per litre of gas sold, which means $100 dollars worth of fuel that is stolen requires another 2,200 litres of gas to be sold to make up for the loss.
British Columbia passed pre-pay legislation in 2008, the first in Canada. A number of states in the US have similar legislation. In a society where so many people use debit and credit cards to pay for daily transactions, it seems reasonable to ask law abiding citizens to pay for their gas in a manner that will help stop a frequent crime, and one that has proven deadly far too frequently.
MPP Colle's proposal for legislation to protect workers at gas stations is timely and something that the legislature should work to pass during this session to bring an end to this senseless, petty crime that occasionally has fatal consequences.