EDMONTON – All Alberta drivers will have to pay in advance before they gas up at the pumps under legislation introduced Monday.
Labour Minister Christina Gray says it’s about safety of staff at gas stations, some of whom have died trying to prevent so-called gas-and-dash thefts.
“No one should suffer injury and pain (and) no family should suffer the loss of a loved one just because someone was selfish enough to try and drive away with a full tank of stolen gas,” Gray told a news conference after introducing a bill to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Code. “Our government promised to take action to protect these workers’ lives, and that action begins today.”
If passed, Bill 19 will take effect on June 1, 2018.
Retailers can choose several options, including pay-at-the pump technology. Gray said installing that technology can cost $30,000 per pump.
She said retailers can also choose an optional method, such as having a customer leave a deposit or a credit card before filling up.
In other cases, Gray said the province would work with retailers to arrange a system that meets the requirements of the new rules.
Gray had promised a response earlier this month after gas-station owner Ki Yun Jo died when he was run over by the driver of a stolen cube van as he fled without paying for $200 in gas in Thorsby, southwest of Edmonton.
In August, Joshua Cody Mitchell was sentenced to 11 years in prison for running over and killing Calgary gas station attendant Maryam Rashidi while Mitchell was trying to take off without paying.
Husky executive Lawrence Richler said his company is already converting all retail sites to pre-payment to make it safer for workers.
“We believe this is the right thing to do, and so do the people at our stations,” said Richler.
Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht, speaking on behalf of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, said the changes will not only save lives but save police from hours of work investigating gas-and-dash thefts.
“(Those are) hours that will be put towards other pressing public safety issues,” said Knecht. “It’s so rare that we have a clear, established, and highly effective solution to a common crime. Implementing that solution just makes good sense.”
“The government should have taken the steps much sooner than it is doing now,” Ehsan Hosseini, a friend of the Rashidi family, said in a statement. “owever, I hope the new legislation is complete and strong enough to avoid further incidents.”
The province is also making changes to make the workplace safer for convenience store attendants. The new law will mandate that the stores have video monitoring and personal emergency transmitters for employees working alone. Stores that are open overnight will need to have time-lock safes that can’t be opened by staff. They will also have to lock up some of their cash, lottery tickets and tobacco, and keep only limited quantities available up front to discourage theft.
The province said five workers have died and three have been badly hurt due to gas-and-dash thefts or convenience store robberies.