February 11, 2016 6:46 pm
Updated: February 11, 2016 6:48 pm

Alberta police chiefs want pay-at-pump legislation

A memorial was set up at the gas station where hit-and-run victim Maryam Rashidi was killed. June 10, 2015.

Gary Bobrovitz / Global News
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EDMONTON – Police chiefs want the Alberta government to devise a law that would require drivers to prepay at the pump before filling up.

The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police has passed a resolution calling for legislation and which notes gas-and-dash thieves can injure or kill gas station employees.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan, president of the association, said prepaying would also benefit business owners by reducing gasoline thefts and freeing up police to work on other crimes.

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“We feel that it is a win-win on a number of fronts, but most importantly it is that safety component,” Ryan said Thursday.

“One lost life is too many.”

The chiefs passed a similar resolution in 2011, but the former Progressive Conservative government did not accept it.

READ MORE: Calgary gas-and-dash raises questions, renews calls for new law 

Ryan said chiefs decided to raise the prepay proposal again with the government last summer following the June death of Maryam Rashidi, a Calgary service-station worker who was run over during a gas-and-dash theft.

“The loss of Ms. Rashidi really accentuated a sense of urgency,” Ryan said. “We can’t let that happen again.”

READ MORE: ‘She was the best thing I had’ – Husband mourns hit-and-run victim

The NDP government has been more receptive and told the chiefs association in November that it would review its concerns, but has given no indication what it plans to do or when, she said.

This week, Labour Minister Christina Gray said it’s time to take steps to better protect vulnerable workers. She said the province will consult businesses and employees to identify long-term changes to improve safety.

READ MORE: Calgary police arrest two suspects in fatal gas station hit-and-run

The Alberta Federation of Labour also says it’s time for action. The province need only look to British Columbia, where a prepay law has been on the books since 2008, said federation president Gil McGowan.

He said the Alberta government should introduce a bill during the spring sitting of the legislature.

“The B.C. model works. It has been in place for almost a decade now and it has saved lives,” McGowan said. “We see no reason to wait any longer.”

The B.C. regulation known as Grant’s Law was passed after gas-station worker Grant De Patie was killed in 2005 trying to prevent a gas-and-dash robbery over $12.30 worth of fuel.

READ MORE: Workers’ rights advocates protest changes to Grant’s Law 

In Vancouver alone, the number of reported gas-and-dash thefts dropped to 15 in 2008 after the law came in from 161 the year before, said Scott McCloy, a spokesman for WorkSafeBC.

The number of robberies each year since then has been one or none.

“I think it is pretty clear that the regulation has virtually eliminated or severely curtailed gas-and-dash robberies, putting workers at less risk,” McCloy said.

There was some pushback by customers and businesses at first, but people generally got used to it, he said.

A member of the Ontario legislature introduced a private member’s bill proposing prepay legislation following the 2012 death of a gas- station worker in Toronto, but it never came to a final vote.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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