(COURTESY GAIL NELSON)
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What if we offered a service that rightfully belongs to Onkwehón:we?
This thought is exactly what drove Gail (Scotty) Nelson and her husband Larry Daye to build a gas station that would provide fuel tax exemption to their clients.
On October 6, Bayside Convenience store became the first gas station not only in Kanesatake but in its sister-community Kahnawake, where drivers can fill up their car without having to pay tax.
“If you tank up, you save a lot of money,” said Nelson.
The Revenu, Quebec program was introduced in 2011 so that anyone with a registration card from reserves or settlements could benefit from fuel tax exemption. Despite a few gas stations in Kahnawake offering some deductions, Bayside’s 35 percent off comes as quite an attractive option, but Nelson doesn’t see her initiative as a competition.
“From the very beginning, I never felt like I was a threat to other gas stations in the community,” said Nelson whose goal was to simply provide the service. Two other gas stations near the community, Belisle and Crevier, also take off the taxes at the pump.
The newly-renamed Bayside Convenience and Gas owner said she received a lot of positive feedback since they started to offer the fuel tax exemption. She noticed that even people from Kahnawake were making the 35-minute drive to her business.
Kahnawa’kehró:non Tehosterihens Deer has owned his car for the past three years. He used to drive to Kanesatake to get gas on occasion, but the pandemic has restrained him from going anywhere.
He would, however, gas up tax-free, as soon as he’s able. “That saves up a lot on gas,” said Deer.
Prior to COVID-19, Deer would go through $80 in gas every five to six days. Now, the same amount can last up to 10 days because there is no where to really go. With the upcoming winter, he sees Bayside’s new service as a good way to stock up on fuel while saving money, providing the pandemic calls down to allow travel between communities.
The store, located near the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) office, was the Kanehsata’kehró:non couple’s plan for retirement. They repainted and refurnished their old wood shop where they had been working since 1995, and opened Bayside in 2016.
Over the years, they added a variety of items to their store, such as crafts from locals.
The idea of one day transforming the store into a gas station was there from the beginning, said Nelson.
The construction started earlier this summer on July 4. Nelson had a hard time contacting Revenu Quebec for the tax exemption system.
She said she repeatedly called, sent letters and was bounced around to different departments before being told that it was already in place.
“Because we are located on the territory of the settlement, they took care of everything,” said Nelson, who didn’t have to finance any of the system’s installation.
Bayside Convenience and Gas is now open from 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday – and until 10 p.m. on Thursday to Saturday.