Energy Costs Assistance Measures Act

An Act to authorize payments to provide assistance in relation to energy costs, housing energy consumption and public transit infrastructure, and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 of the enactment authorizes the making of payments to families who are eligible for the National Child Benefit Supplement, and to seniors who are eligible for the Guaranteed Income Supplement and Allowance under the Old Age Security Act, in order to deliver one-time relief for energy costs.

Part 2 authorizes payments of up to $500 million for the period beginning on April 1, 2005 and ending on March 31, 2010 to provide assistance for reducing housing energy consumption. It also authorizes additional funding of up to $338 million for the EnerGuide for Houses Retrofit Incentive Program.

Part 3 authorizes payments of up to $400 million for each of fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 for public transit infrastructure.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Competition Act (Inquiry into Industry Sector)
Private Members' Business

May 12th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

moved that Bill C-452, An Act to amend the Competition Act (inquiry into industry sector), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-452, which we will be debating today, is to give the Competition Bureau more powers.

In my speech, I will talk about oil companies, but the same applies to banks, whose interest rates are practically identical.

In 2008, those poor oil companies made mind-boggling profits. That year, Exxon Mobil raked in record-breaking profits for an American company: $45.2 billion.

The oil giant's net profits fell by over half in 2009 to $19.3 billion. So far in 2010, Exxon is making up lost ground. The company was hit by plummeting crude prices last year, but now recovering prices have netted the company a first-quarter profit of $6.3 billion.

They lost money because of the economic crisis triggered by commercial paper, but I think that they themselves played a part in the crisis. Allow me to explain.

The price of a barrel of oil rose steadily. In June 2007, it was $51 a barrel; in January 2008, $99; and in July 2008, $150. The price at the pump skyrocketed for all consumers and businesses. Companies raised their prices to compensate for the cost of fuel, and that pushed prices on consumer goods through the roof.

Bank losses combined with rising prices on consumer goods triggered an economic crisis. That is why the parliamentary committee needs to study the possibility of giving the Competition Bureau more powers.

The parliamentary committee will have to look at the price of crude oil, the refining margin, taxes and the retail margin.

The retail margin is the difference between the price retailers pay for gas and the price they sell it for. In Quebec, the retailer margin is not really a problem because it is usually between 3.5 and 6 cents per litre.

Even if some find that the taxes are too high, they do not vary much and certainly cannot account for the fluctuations in the price of gasoline. Most of these taxes are set and do not vary. Taxes are not the cause of increased gas prices; oil companies are.

To lower refining costs, oil companies have shut down a number of refineries and increased production capacity. The gap between supply and demand has narrowed, and so the slightest weather-related or technical problem leads to a price increase to maintain the balance between those two factors.

Long weekends and vacations are not unforeseen events. However, oil companies never seem to be able to prepare for them. They have nothing in reserve, and they tell us that the price increase is due to scarcity.

Can we imagine a small businessperson failing to keep any inventory in the lead-up to Christmas, and then claiming scarcity to raise prices? Yet the oil companies do it. Because they sell an essential product and there is little competition, they profit from our dependency.

The Bloc Québécois moved a motion, asking that the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology pass it quickly and in full so that it would be in force by the summer since prices tend to increase during summer holidays. But the Liberals and Conservatives were opposed to it at that time.

This was the motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should move an amendment to the Competition Act so that the Commissioner of Competition have the power to initiate investigations of the price of gas and the role of refining margins in the determination of the said price.

We can conclude that the inability of the refining industry to deal with the slightest unforeseen event is responsible for recent increases. Is that situation intentional or not? We do not know, because the Competition Bureau does not have the tools that would enable it to carry out a serious, complete investigation; and that is the reason for Bill C-452 today.

One thing is certain, however: the structure of the oil industry encourages sudden price increases, and that is why it must be monitored.

However, I should note that some increases in the refining margin are hard to explain. For example, the refining margin increased slightly in January and February 2009. Since this happened in the middle of winter during a global recession, the traditional short-term or even long-term factors do not seem to apply. Winter is typically when the refining margin is at its lowest.

Furthermore, the data clearly indicate that Canadian demand for gas decreased in late 2008 and the first half of 2009. We can surmise that use of refinery capacity was probably not a factor in the increase in refining margins in January and February.

Gasoline price crises may be the result of the lack of competition in the oil industry. The three largest refiner-marketers have 76% of the market share. The five largest account for 90% of the market.

The Competition Act must have teeth. Measures have been proposed to discipline the industry, and that includes strengthening the Competition Act. At present, the Competition Act has shortcomings. The Competition Bureau cannot conduct an investigation on its own initiative. It can only respond to complaints or a request from Industry Canada. The Competition Bureau is sorely lacking in powers when it conducts a general review of the industry: it cannot summon witnesses and offer them protection to encourage them to speak out. It cannot require the disclosure of documents.

Without these tools, it is virtually impossible to prove collusion or other anti-competitive practices. Even when competitors reach an agreement, the burden of proving collusion is on the bureau.

Near the end of its mandate, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-66, which was for the most part inspired by a comprehensive plan tabled one month earlier, but never adopted.

When the competition commissioner, Konrad von Finckenstein, appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on May 5, 2003, he identified shortcomings in the Competition Act:

...while the bureau's mandate includes the very important role of being investigator and advocate for competition, the current legislation does not provide the bureau with the authority to conduct an industry study....

It seems to me that it would be preferable to have a study on the overall situation carried out by an independent body that would have authority, that would be able to summon witnesses and gather information. It should also have the power to protect confidential information that someone is not necessarily going to want to share, but which would be vital in order to reach a conclusion based on the real facts.

I stated at the beginning of my speech that it is important for a parliamentary committee to examine the Canadian oil industry. The reason is simple. A similar study was conducted in the United States and the resulting report by the U.S. Senate dealt with whether or not refiners attempted to raise the price at the pumps.

So it is important for consumers in Canada and Quebec that the Committee on Industry, Science and Technology conduct the same study here in Ottawa,

An article in the May 25, 2002 issue of Les affaires refers to the report I mentioned. On page 16, François Normand said that from 1999 to 2001, refiners tried to drive up gas prices at the pump in the U.S. by deliberately reducing supply.

At least that was the main finding of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the U.S. Senate in a report entitled Gas Prices: How are They Really Set? The report was released in late April 2002 by the subcommittee chair, Democratic Senator Carl Levin from Michigan.

To reduce supply, refiners kept inventory very low. This also had an indirect impact on Quebec. Low inventory in the northeastern United States, one of the areas the report focused on, drives up market prices in New York, which refineries in Montreal use to set their rack price.

The Senate subcommittee looked at the practices of refiners in three areas of the U.S.: the west coast, especially California; the Midwest, particularly Michigan, Ohio and Illinois; and the east coast, particularly Maine and Washington D.C.

The subcommittee used statistics, such as wholesale and retail gas prices, which it got from the Energy Information Administration and the Oil Price Information Service.

Some refiners and pipeline operators also had to provide stacks of documents—103 boxes containing about 265,000 pages—on their refining and marketing activities from 1998 to 2001.

The subcommittee made some troubling findings. For example, an internal BP memo mentions a series of actions that could help keep prices high in the Midwest, including shipping gas to Canada and limiting gas coming into the area.

Testifying before the subcommittee, BP marketing vice-president Ross Pillari stated that the recommendations in the memo were inappropriate and that the company had not acted on them.

Let us talk about the decrease in the number of refineries. The American oil industry, which has been on the defensive since the report was released, acknowledges that inventory is low, but claims that there is no collusion—which would be a crime—between refiners to keep inventory low. According to the industry, there are two reasons for the low inventory: the decline in the number of refineries and the growing demand for petroleum products in the 1990s.

The subcommittee noted that mergers in the oil industry and the closing of many refineries over the past 20 years have increased the concentration in the refining industry. It also noted that during this period, the margin between supply and demand became tight. The subcommittee stated that higher retail prices, for example, in California, were the result of having a highly concentrated market.

The subcommittee did not discover any evidence of collusion among the oil companies to reduce supply in order to drive up prices. However, Senator Levin pointed out that the industry was so concentrated that collusion was not necessary to artificially impact supply. That is why it is important that the House of Commons examine this issue.

However, we have other options available to us, such as creating a petroleum monitoring agency. In its November 2003 report on the price of gas, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology proposed the creation of a petroleum monitoring agency.

It is quite incredible that, while the oil industry supported this initiative, the Conservatives were against it. The Conservatives are even more inflexible than the oil companies when it comes to defending the interests of the oil companies. They really do not need lobbyists, when they have the Conservative government.

To make it look as if it was doing something, the government set up an Internet site that gave the price of gasoline in major cities. It was just an Internet site. It did not conduct any studies on the oil industry and was unable to recommend any course of action. In other words, it achieved nothing. It takes a real office to monitor this industry.

We have to redistribute resources in order to stop the oil industry from making our society poor. We have to impose a $500 million surcharge on the oil companies' profits. We have to repeal the accelerated capital cost allowance for investments in the oil sands, when the price of crude exceeds a threshold of somewhere between $40 and $50. The government announced this measure in its last budget, but it will not come into effect for another three years. We have to make the oil companies pay for the environmental damage they cause by establishing emissions caps, together with a carbon tax and a permit trading system.

On December 9, 2009, I invited some officials from the Competition Bureau to my Ottawa office to explain to them that Bill C-452 would give them more investigative powers but, to my surprise, they told me that they did not want more powers.

This is why I think it essential that this bill be carefully examined in parliamentary committee, and I hope my colleagues will allow that to happen.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

May 26th, 2008 / 9:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this evening, mention was made of Bill C-66, which was introduced during the last Parliament and sought to improve how the Competition Bureau functioned and to put in place stricter rules to keep Canadians informed about gasoline price fluctuations.

When the Conservative government took power in January 2006, it decided to scrap that. Earlier, the Minister of Natural Resources said that the Competition Bureau had already conducted studies or investigations to analyze the situation. But the reality is clear. The Competition Bureau is currently saying that it is Canadians' responsibility to prove that there is collusion on the part of the oil companies. When the price of gasoline suddenly goes up by 10¢ a litre and all the oil companies raise their prices by 10¢ a litre as if by coincidence, this is not collusion, and it is still up to us to prove that they are getting together to increase the price of gasoline.

When we look at these things and this reality—and I would like to know what the member thinks about this—I feel that it would be much simpler and more effective to make changes to the Competition Bureau and bring in new, stricter rules to make sure people are treated fairly. In that way, people could be sure that at least the price they are paying is fair and reasonable. When we look at the situation today, and I mentioned this earlier, the companies are making huge profits, but the public is paying the price.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

May 26th, 2008 / 8:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to share my time with my colleague, the member for Mississauga—Erindale.

Let me begin by saying that during my time as minister of natural resources, I learned firsthand that energy costs are particularly difficult for lower income Canadian families, who pay a disproportionately large amount of their disposable income on home heating costs and other forms of energy. That, I think, is why so many of us in this House are concerned about the effect of the rising costs of fuel and home heating oil on all Canadians and particularly on lower income Canadians. To date, we have seen little, if any, action by the Conservative government. In fact, what we have seen is that it has taken things that the Liberal government had put in place or set in motion and soon after taking the power of government scrapped those things which would have been helpful to lower income Canadians and helpful for monitoring energy prices or taking action in the case of anti-competitive behaviour.

In October 2005, shortly before I became the minister of natural resources, the previous Liberal government tabled Bill C-66, which included a provision to create the office of petroleum price information. The office's principal responsibility would have been to monitor energy price fluctuations and provide clear current information to Canadians. The bill received royal asset in November, just before the last election.

Unfortunately for Canadians who are eager for the federal government to ensure that gasoline is competitively priced, as soon as it came to power, Canada's new government, so-called, decided to gut the bulk of Bill C-66. I find it somewhat disingenuous that the government now professes such concern for Canadians in this environment of rising energy prices while one of its first acts upon assuming office was to cancel the office of petroleum price information. The reason that office would have made such a difference is it would have provided up to date information to Canadians.

What Canadians see now are oil companies pulling in larger and larger annual profits while the price Canadians pay at the pump goes up and up. They see prices go up between competing gasoline retailers at virtually the same time and wonder if it is collusion.

Another thing that Canadians lost when the Conservatives gutted Bill C-66 was greater power for the Competition Bureau to examine anti-competitive behaviour in the energy sector. Apparently, ensuring strong competition in Canada's marketplace is not a priority for the Conservative government. The minister, when he was in the House, pointed out that a number of investigations into this in the past revealed the absence of collusive behaviour. However, that is no reason not to give the Competition Bureau more powers in the event that those powers are needed to control such behaviour. If such behaviour did not exist, the powers would not be needed. However, if the Competition Bureau is to do its job, it would certainly be better placed were it to have those additional powers.

There were other Bill C-66 casualties after the last election. The Conservatives completely revamped the home energy retrofit program in order to ensure that lower income Canadians would largely be excluded from the program. The essential principle of the program was to reduce your home heating costs by identifying possible energy savings through an energy audit. The government would pay for half the costs of the audit and then pay for half of the costs of renovations to make your home more energy efficient. The Conservative government, however, decided that paying half the costs of the energy audit was not an effective use of taxpayer dollars.

The big problem with this is that lower income families simply do not have the money to pay for these energy audits on their own. That means they cannot qualify for the retrofit program and they cannot make their homes more energy efficient. They cannot realize the savings and they cannot help the environment by using less home heating oil or natural gas, for example. However, that is not what Canadians got from the Conservative government.

I want to really emphasize this point about the energy audit because I think this was one of the most reprehensible acts of the government. On the one hand, it is common knowledge that lower income families pay a much higher fraction of their income on energy, so they, of all people, need access to energy audits and more energy efficient home heating.

When the government says it will no longer pay for the audit and thereby excludes lower income Canadians, that is a meanspirited and reprehensible action because it excludes those who need this help most. I cannot accept the argument that audit costs are administrative costs and the government did this to save on administrative costs. Audit costs are absolutely essential to help lower income Canadians pay for the audits which they otherwise would not be able to afford.

The Prime Minister, while in opposition, used to talk about axing the tax on tax, that is to say, to ensure that the GST was not levied on the 10¢ per litre excise tax. In fact, as recently as four months before the last election, the Prime Minister pledged to eliminate all GST on fuel sold for over 85¢ a litre. That, however, was when the Conservatives were in opposition. Once they assumed power, they quickly discovered that Canadians really did not need those tax savings quite as much as what has become Canada's biggest spending government in history. I will concede that it does take an awful lot of tax dollars to increase government spending by $35 billion in just three years.

Now what we hear from the Prime Minister is “the ability of governments to affect the price of gasoline per se is so small that it is not worth doing”. He might be the only leader of a political party to ever profess to have less power to do something after becoming Prime Minister than the power he thought he had before.

These broken promises are simply a part of a larger pattern. Just before and during the last election, the Conservatives used to say, “We will axe the tax on tax and fix high gas prices. We will not tax income trusts. We will honour the Kelowna accord. Do not worry, the Atlantic accords are safe with us”. After the election, every single one of these promises turned out to have been made in bad faith with the Canadian people.

What Canadians need is more money dedicated toward building efficient systems of public transportation so that they have a real option to take public transportation in cities and towns of even modest size. We need to strengthen the Competition Bureau to ensure that it has all the powers it needs to investigate any suspicious pricing in the energy sector. It needs also to have the power to administer appropriate penalties to deter such behaviour.

What we also need to understand is that the demand for oil is not going to lessen on its own. Rapidly growing economies all over the world, especially India, China and other Asian countries, are going to be buying more and more of the world's oil supplies to meet the demands of their growing industries and middle classes.

The Canadian government needs to take a leadership position, something the government should try to understand. It has to take a leadership position, not an obstructionist position, and help our economy transform itself into an energy that relies less on fossil fuels to drive it. We need to invest in the development of technologies that will help to make Canada a global leader in alternative forms of energy not only for the sake of our environment but also for our standard of living and the standard of living of our children.

At a very minimum, if the government is not able to take a leadership position in this important area, it should at least explain to the people of Canada why, on coming to power, it cancelled three important and positive measures in the area of energy. Why did it cancel the creation of an office to monitor prices? Why did it cancel the proposal to give the Competition Bureau more powers in this area? Why did it deprive the most vulnerable of Canadians from the help they needed in carrying out an energy audit in order to produce more energy efficient housing? I would like the government to answer those three questions, at a minimum.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

May 26th, 2008 / 8:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, maybe it is because I am an economist that I am particularly sensitive to false numbers. With all the hundreds of billions of dollars of tax cuts, one reason why the Conservatives cannot possibly be right is that they began by increasing the income tax rate from 15% to 15.5% and labelled that a tax cut. Then they brought it back down to where it was: a double tax cut. By that example alone, they are at least $15 billion too high in their claimed tax cuts over five years.

I have a question for the minister. Speaking in my capacity as the member's predecessor as minister of natural resources, I note he would remember that as part of our own bill in 2005, Bill C-66, we Liberals committed $13 million to give Canada's Competition Bureau more powers and to strengthen the Competition Act in response to high energy prices. What did the Conservative government do when it came to power and that member became Minister of Natural Resources? They scrapped that strengthening of the Competition Bureau.

Another thing Liberals did in that bill was commit $15 million to establish an office of energy price information, whose job it would be to monitor energy price fluctuations. What did the Conservative government do? It scrapped that office of energy price information.

Therefore, if the minister claims to be so much on the side of consumers and cares so much about gas prices, why was the first act of his government and of his time as minister to scrap the office that would have monitored prices and the provision that would have given additional powers to the Competition Bureau to deal with non-competitive behaviour by oil companies?

Opposition motion--Gas Prices
Business of Supply
Government Orders

May 8th, 2007 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must first inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber.

Everywhere in my riding of Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, people are saying that consumers really feel they are being taken for a ride by the oil companies. How is it that the price of gas can jump every Thursday, just before the weekend, only to come back down on Monday, when everyone goes back to work? We must absolutely find out what is going on behind closed doors.

That is also the intention of the Bloc Québécois motion here today. The Bloc presented this motion in order to shed some light on gas prices, which are constantly going up, while no one understands why and we are left to imagine the schemes behind these increases.

The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should move an amendment to the Competition Act so that the Commissioner of Competition have the power to initiate investigations of the price of gas and the role of refining margins in the determination of the said price.

As we all know, the price of gas results from adding the cost of four factors: the price of crude oil, the cost of refining, taxes and the retail margin. The concentration of refining activities during the 1990s caused an increase in prices. These increases are profitable to the oil companies, whose profits continue to grow astronomically. The public therefore has the right to know how these prices are calculated and, above all, what is behind the refining margin.

Prices are skyrocketing. Refining margins are three times too high. Oil companies are making obscene profits. Last week, the price at the pump for regular gas was $1.15, on average, in Quebec City. The average refining margin reached a record high at 23¢. That is three times too high, when we know that a profit of 5¢ to 7¢ is enough for the oil companies to earn a reasonable profit on refining. The price of petroleum products could remain high over the summer, especially since the cost of crude oil continues to rise.

The oil companies pocket the profits. There are six major oil companies in Canada: Imperial Oil, Petro-Canada, Husky Oil, EnCana, Suncor and Shell. These companies had record profits of almost $12 billion in 2006, a 25% increase over 2005 and a 70% increase compared to 2004. Is there collusion? It is impossible to say. However, the five major oil companies supply 90% of the gas sold in Canada and get along so well that they even supply one another.

Therefore the oil sector must be brought into line. The whole economy is threatened by the increase in value of a strategic resource. The Bloc Québécois believes that it is possible to limit, at least in part, price increases for gas and other petroleum products. Given the record profits of oil companies in recent years, there is a transfer of wealth in the order of billions of dollars and that worries us. First, the industry must be regulated to ensure that the middleman does not take advantage of his position or circumstances.

The Bloc Québécois is proposing measures to discipline the industry. First, it proposes to strengthen the Competition Act, which presently has some shortcomings. The Competition Bureau cannot undertake an investigation on its own unless it receives complaints or is requested to do so by the Minister of Industry. The Competition Bureau is severely lacking in powers to undertake a general review of the industry. It cannot summon witnesses or guarantee their protection to get them to talk. It cannot ask for the release of documents. Without these tools, it is almost impossible to prove collusion or any other anti-competitive practices. Even in the case of agreements among competitors, the Competition Bureau bears the burden of proof for the collusion. the Competition Act must be strengthened by giving real investigative powers to the Competition Bureau. At the end of its mandate, the Liberal government tabled Bill C-66, which was based for the most part on a complete plan tabled one month earlier. The bill died on the order paper and the Conservatives did nothing.

To bring the industry into line, a real petroleum monitoring agency must be created.

In its November 2003 report on the price of gas, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology proposed the creation of a petroleum monitoring agency. It is quite incredible to think that the oil industry supported this initiative and the Conservatives were against it. The Conservatives are even more inflexible than the oil companies when it comes to defending the interests of the oil companies. They hardly need lobbyists, when they have the Conservative government.

To make it look as if it was doing something, the Liberal government—which was no better—set up an Internet site that gave the price of gas in major cities. It was just an Internet site. It did not conduct any study on the oil industry and was unable to recommend any course of action. In other words, it achieved nothing. It takes a real office to monitor this industry.

Oil is making Quebec poorer. We have to stop this bleeding. All the oil Quebec consumes is imported. Every litre it consumes is money out the window that makes the province poorer and the oil industry richer.

In 2006, Quebec imported $13 billion worth of oil, an increase of $7 billion in three years. At the same time, Quebec went from a trade surplus to a $7 billion deficit in 2006, not to mention that the increase in Albertan oil exports made the dollar go up, which hit our manufacturing companies and further emphasized our trade deficit. The increase in the price of oil alone plunged Quebec into a trade deficit. Last year, every Quebecker consumed $1,000 more than he or she produced. Oil is making us poorer.

We have to redistribute resources in order to stop the oil industry from making our society poor. We have to impose a $500 million surcharge on the oil companies' profits. We have to repeal the accelerated capital cost allowance for investments in the oil sands, when the price of crude exceeds a threshold of somewhere between $40 and $50. The government announced this measure in its last budget, but it will not come into effect for another three years.

We have to repeal the changes made to the 2003 natural resources tax system, which allows oil companies to lower their taxes by another $250 million a year. We have to make the oil companies pay for the environmental damage they cause by establishing emissions caps, together with a carbon tax and a permit trading system.

But in the long run, the solution is to reduce our dependence on oil.

Prices of petroleum products have been on the rise for several years. The figures I am going to quote come from the Régie de l'énergie du Québec. The price of crude oil is increasing and today is fluctuating between US$60 and US$62 a barrel. It has gone up 13% since the beginning of the year and 83% since the beginning of 2004. It is even exceeding the level reached in September 2005, when hurricanes in the southern United States pushed the price up to $69 a barrel.

The price of heating oil is also going up. It has averaged 70.7¢ since the beginning of 2007, up more than 10¢ or 20% over two years ago. According to Statistics Canada, roughly 500,000 households in Quebec still heat with oil or another liquid fuel.

The price of gas is rising. Two years ago, in April 2005, a new record was reached in Montreal when the price of regular gas topped $1. Fluctuations aside, gas prices in Quebec are rising steadily.

Until we put measures in place, one by one, to decrease our dependence on oil, we need to clean house and find out who is making unfair profits. The government therefore must move an amendment to the Competition Act so that the Commissioner of Competition has the power to initiate investigations into the price of gas and the role of refining margins in determining gas prices.

Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Business of Supply
Government Orders

May 8th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Vincent Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people in my riding are asking themselves some serious questions. A year ago, a barrel of oil was worth $73, and gas sold for $1.06 at the pump in Quebec. Today, gas sells for $1.15, while the price of a barrel of oil is much lower, at $61. If a barrel was worth $73 a year ago, how is it that a year later, when it is $61 a barrel, we are paying more for a litre of gas? The difference lies in the refining margin. While a reasonable refining margin is 4¢ to 7¢ a litre, last March and April it was over 15¢ a litre. As well, it climbed to 23¢ a litre last week, four times the reasonable margin.

There are four factors that can explain the rise in gas prices: the price of crude oil, the refining margin, taxes and the retail margin. The latter varies from 3.5¢ to 6¢ a litre, depending on the region. Apart from that, the retail margin is stable.

Some will say that this is because of taxes, but taxes are also stable: the excise tax is 10% and the GST is 6.5%. The same is true at the provincial level. Taxes are not what make oil prices fluctuate.

Refining, on the other hand, is a different story. To reduce their costs, the oil companies have closed a number of refineries, and as a result have been able to increase their production capacity. The gap between supply and demand has narrowed, and so the slightest weather-related or technical problem leads to a price increase to maintain the balance between those two factors.

As my colleague from Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord said, long weekends and vacations are not unforeseen events. And yet the oil companies do not seem to be able to prepare for them. One would think they were unaware that such events will occur and the price will fluctuate. And yet every year, and every time there is a vacation period or statutory holiday, we see their prices go up.

Can we imagine a small businessperson failing to keep any inventory in the lead-up to Christmas, and then claiming scarcity to raise prices? He or she could do just that; that is what we are experiencing, and yet it is the oil companies doing it. Because they sell an essential product and there is little competition, they make off with it all, while we depend on them.

We can conclude that the inability of the refining industry to overcome the slightest hitch is responsible for recent increases. Is that situation intentional or not? We do not know, because the Competition Bureau does not have the tools that would enable it to carry out a serious, complete investigation; and that is the reason for our motion today.

One thing is certain, however: the structure of the oil industry encourages precipitous price increases and provides the opportunity for abuse. That is why it must be monitored. In Halifax, Esso refines for all the companies; in New Brunswick, it is Irving; in Quebec City, it is Ultramar; and in Montreal, it is Petro-Canada and Shell. The refineries have all cut their gasoline supplies, and in so doing have caused the price to climb about a month earlier than usual.

However, the oil industry is making huge profits. Some may say that the oil companies are not making money, but let us look at the profits they are making. Petro-Canada made a net profit of $590 billion in the first quarter, which is twice as much as the $206 billion it posted last year. It doubled its profits in a year. ExxonMobil took in an enormous net profit of $9.3 billion for the first three months of 2007 alone, which is a 10% increase over the same period last year. However, its sales were down 2% because the market price of oil went down. As I was saying earlier, the price per barrel of oil went from $73 to $61.

How was ExxonMobil able to exceed the record profit of $39.5 billion it posted in 2006? Thanks, in large part, to its refining margin which increased substantially. If the price per barrel of oil goes down, the oil companies lose a bit of money. They then increase the refining price in order to more than compensate for any loss.

The gas crises may be a result of lack of competition in the oil industry. The three largest refiner-marketers have 75% of the market share. The five largest represent 90% of the market. The net profits combined of the six major integrated oil companies in Canada, Imperial Oil, Shell Canada, Husky Energy, Petro-Canada, EnCana and Suncor, reached $12 billion in 2006. In three years, they doubled their profits. It is incredible. The net profits of the entire oil industry have gone from $17 billion in 2003 to $20 billion in 2004 and $35 billion in 2006. That is a 100% increase. After all that, they complain when we want to take back a bit of that money. Give me a break!

Furthermore, the oil companies that are investing in tar sands development in Alberta—the representative of the governing party and especially the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry were wondering about that—can deduct 100% of their investments from their income from the first year onwards. They can invest a dollar and deduct it the same year. It does not cost them much; things are going all right for them; life is beautiful.

A recent study prepared by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers did a three-year projection of the impact of all the tax breaks given to oil companies. I am talking about breaks, but we could call them gifts. In 2005 they paid $5.1 billion in taxes; in 2008 they will pay $2.3 billion. The income tax they pay has been cut in half. These are tax breaks from this government. We have to get our feet back on the ground. This is a federal income tax reduction of 54%. I would like all the citizens of Quebec to receive such tax reductions, not just the oil companies. The Bloc Québécois has often criticized these tax breaks for oil companies, but no one has made a move. It is time to do so now.

There are proposed measures for disciplining the industry. First of all the Competition Act must be strengthened. I am going to target the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry again. Because he misunderstood, I am going to explain to him so that he understands. The Competition Bureau cannot conduct an investigation on its own initiative; it must receive a complaint or a request from the Minister of Industry, who will doubtless be asleep again, since has been asleep at the switch all this time.

The Competition Bureau is sorely lacking in powers when it conducts a general review of the industry: it cannot summon witnesses. How can it operate? The bureau cannot even summon people as witnesses to find out whether there is any collusion. That is not right. It cannot ensure their protection so as to get them to talk. They cannot even be summoned, they cannot even be protected so that they will tell the truth. And then we are told that the Competition Bureau can do its work. Somebody should wake up. There is something missing here.

Without these tools, it is almost impossible to prove collusion or any other anti-competitive practices. And even when competitors reach an agreement, the burden of proving collusion is on the Competition Bureau. Imagine that! This is a long way from burden of proof reversal. But that is what is being asked for.

We must reinforce the Competition Act by giving real powers to the Competition Bureau.

Near the end of its mandate, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-66, which was for the most part inspired by a comprehensive plan tabled one month earlier. That bill died on the order paper. Why? Because, once again, the Conservatives did nothing.

When Konrad von Finckenstein, the competition commissioner, appeared in front of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology on May 5, 2003, he identified the following shortcomings in the Competition Act:

—while the bureau's mandate includes the very important role of being investigator and advocate for competition, the current legislation does not provide the bureau with the authority to conduct an industry study.

It seems to me that it would be preferable to have a study on the overall situation carried out by an independent body that would have authority, that would be able to summon witnesses and gather information. It should also have the power to protect confidential information that someone is not necessarily going to want to share, but which would be vital in order to reach a conclusion based on the real facts.

Hence, the motion from the Bloc:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should move an amendment to the Competition Act so that the Commissioner of Competition have the power to initiate investigations of the price of gas and the role of refining margins in the determination of the said price.

Government Policies
Oral Questions

December 13th, 2006 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the current Conservative government seems to have forgotten that it voted unanimously, in this chamber, for Bill C-66, which contained specific projects such as the EnerGuide program and all sorts of projects to help the environment. The Conservatives voted for it at the time. They should not now be saying that they have not cut these programs. They cut them outright without an assessment.

We demand to see the assessment of the programs cut.

Supply
Government Orders

November 24th, 2005 / 5 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the critical need for a change in the leadership, government and culture in how this country has been run.

Today, we have a corrupt and arrogant government that does not believe in democracy, accountability, and has learned nothing from the Gomery report or the Auditor General of Canada.

First and foremost, I stand on behalf of the honest hardworking men and women, the families across our country, the seniors who after a lifetime of work deserve better, and our children and youth who will inherit this country as the next generation. The government has made a mockery of the democratic process and robbed the public purse with which it was entrusted. This is not the legacy we should be creating.

The citizens in my riding of Durham want the same things Canadians in Nova Scotia want. They want the same things Canadians in Quebec and B.C. want. Honest Canadians want honest government, principled and accountable to the people. However, my constituents know that this is not possible with the government. They know this country has a sorry future with a government that has been found guilty of criminally stealing public funds and makes promises it has no intention of keeping.

If we allow the government to continue in office, what does that say about us as a country? What does it say to our children whom we want to grow into adults with integrity and principles, who see a purpose in hard work and earning an honest living, who enjoy the fruits of their labour, and will willingly contribute to the well-being of fellow Canadians and to this country's future?

If we allow the government to stay in office, we are saying that bribery, criminal activities, and deception are the basis on which we choose to build our country, making us no better than countries based on corruption and thievery, countries many of our newer Canadians have left behind. The Conservative Party is not prepared to let that happen.

We believe that Canadians deserve a government that earns their trust, not abuses their trust, and a government that believes it is accountable to every voter and not entitled to break laws and deny it when caught. This Liberal government is about sponsorship, HRDC boondoggles, Shawinigate, and remember our subs and helicopters.

For years members of the Liberal Party have been abusing taxpayers and using our money for their own purposes. The Liberal Party ignores laws and does nothing to strengthen laws to protect Canadians. Despite the Prime Minister's promise to clean up government, like his other promises, the scandals and abuse just keep happening. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Canadians want an open, transparent, and accountable government that cares about the issues that they have to deal with every day, such as jobs, the environment, education, public security, and rising energy prices and taxes. These are the issues that we should be debating in the House of Commons.

The seniors in my riding are facing rising costs, lost income and struggling to stay in their homes. Why did the government keep Bill C-66 off the order paper for so long, a bill that would provide them with the help they need? Why threaten income trusts which are the retirement savings of thousands?

Why did the government cancel the take note debate last week on the agricultural crisis requested by a member of the opposition? Why did the government vote against so many motions to help farmers in Canada? Why did the government vote against the bill to protect young children from sexual predators? Why has the government not delivered its promised auto strategy only to see the announcement this week that almost 4,000 auto workers in Durham are facing job losses? I could go on and on.

The government has to be held to account for its inactions on so many issues challenging Canadians today. Conservatives have shown good faith in trying to make government work. Of the 72 government bills put before the House of Commons, the Conservative Party voted to support or indicated it supported over 60% of those bills. Canadians have given each of us in this chamber their trust, a trust that we will look to their concerns, well-being and futures.

Canadians' tax dollars are an investment in a prosperous future for our nation. That prosperity will not become a reality under the government. Why? Canadians' tax dollars are being wasted on a $2 billion gun registry, but gun violence increases.

Payments to advertising agencies end up in envelopes to pay for Liberal election campaigns and millions are lost and unaccounted for in contracts to Liberal friends. Now the government is on a free fall spending spree with no more forethought than the spectre of the upcoming election.

As each day passes the amount goes up and up at a rate of a billion dollars a day. This frantic frenzy has to stop. This is craziness. It is no more than bribery for votes. The Liberals are trying to bribe Canadians with their own money.

Canadians will not be fooled by these shabby tactics, nor will they be deceived by the threats that seniors will lose their GIS increases that have already been passed by the House.

The military knows that as of last April it has been receiving the raises in salary the Prime Minister claims will be lost if an election is called. The municipalities in Durham can be assured that their infrastructure dollars are not in jeopardy.

I am certain that these final, desperate attempts to cling to power will only reinforce the resolve of Canadians to elect an honest, principled and more accountable government. We need leadership that will not close its eyes or deny its culpability in these acts.

The Gomery report may have exonerated the Prime Minister from responsibility for the operation and management of the sponsorship scandal. Sure, he was not the shop foreman, but as the finance minister, the second in command at Treasury Board, in control of the Liberal Party in Quebec, how could he have not known? Either he was involved or he was incompetent. Either way, we know that this is not leadership.

Let us remember, the Prime Minister was there for the GST flip-flop. He was there for the tainted blood scandal. He was there for the APEC inquiry, Pearson airport and David Dingwall.

Now is the time for principled Conservative action. Now is the time for the Leader of the Opposition's federal accountability act, a contract with Canadians, to clean up government and put Canada back on the track to prosperity.

I came to this chamber with a deep sense of pride and the weight of the responsibility given to me by the voters in Durham. Each of us has a duty; the duty of public service, not entitlement. I was honoured to have the opportunity to work for my constituents, for all Canadians and for my country. However, there is no honour in allowing corruption, mistrust and inaction to invade the core system of our nationhood, the federal government.

At the beginning of this new millennium it will be a Conservative government that will fight to bring honour and pride back to Canada. Under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, the Conservative Party is a powerful and effective force in Parliament, a party of principled direction, honesty and vision.

We are a party with a plan for Canada. We have a plan to give families jobs and the right to the rewards of their earnings; a plan so seniors can live in their retirement without worrying about access to health care, paying bills and safety in the street; a plan for economic prosperity and growth; and a plan so our children and youth will care about their neighbours, their community and their country because they are proud to be Canadians.

We believe in and hold the same values as Canadian families, communities and individuals. We believe each one of us deserves the same opportunities to a good job, an education, and to the economic well-being for families and seniors in safe, strong communities.

Let the people of Canada define themselves as a people who want trust and integrity, not corruption; action, not only promises; a prosperous future, not financial woes. Canadians must have the opportunity to decide the kind of Canada they want and the future they believe the next generation deserves. That is why I am confident Canadians will choose to elect a Conservative government.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

November 21st, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

I am sure the House is glad to hear the news, but I do not think it is a point of order.

(Bill C-53. On the Order: Government Orders:)

November 16, 2005--The Minister of Justice--Consideration at report stage and second reading of Bill C-53, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (proceeds of crime) and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act, as reported by the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, without amendment.

(Bill concurred in at report stage, read a third time and passed)

(Bill C-54. On the Order: Government Orders:)

November 3, 2005--Resuming consideration of the motion of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development that Bill C-54, An Act to provide first nations with the option of managing and regulating oil and gas exploration and exploitation and of receiving moneys otherwise held for them by Canada, be read the third time and passed.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

(Bill C-55. On the Order: Government Orders:)

October 5, 2005--Minister of Industry--An Act to establish the Wage Earner Protection Program Act, to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

(Bill concurred in at report stage, read the third time and passed)

(Bill C-66. On the Order: Government Orders:)

November 1, 2005--Resuming consideration of the motion of the Minister of Finance that Bill C-66, An Act to authorize payments to provide assistance in relation to energy costs, housing energy consumption and public transit infrastructure, and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bill read a second time, referred to and reported from committee without amendment, concurred in at report stage, read the third time and passed)

Business of the House
Oral Questions

November 21st, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Tony Valeri Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to draw to your attention the fact that the House has just expressed confidence in this government once again through the passage of Bill C-66.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

November 21st, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I think you would find unanimous consent for the following. I move:

That Bill C-53 be deemed to have been concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed on division;

That Bill C-54 be deemed to have been read a third time and passed on division;

That Bill C-55 be deemed to have been reported from the committee with the following amendments presented by the government:

That Bill C-55, in clause 131, be amended by replacing line 41 on page 127 with the following:

as provided in this section or under the laws of the

That Bill C-55, in clause 131, be amended by adding after line 11 on page 129 the following:

(8) For greater certainty, any collective agreement that the company and the bargaining agent have not agreed to revise remains in force, and the court shall not alter its terms.

and that the said bill be deemed to have been concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed on division;

That Bill C-66 be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to and reported from committee without amendment, concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed on division.

Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business

November 18th, 2005 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-301, an act to amend the Old Age Security Act, monthly guaranteed income supplement.

At the beginning I would like to make it very clear I have some serious reservations about some of the things that have been happening lately. The Liberals claim that spending outlined in the supplementary estimates will be lost if an election is called before Parliament is able to pass the supply bill. Examples of the spending cited by the Liberals include a pay raise for the military and the increase in the guaranteed income supplement.

I would like to make it very clear for all seniors that this is not the case. This is not true. They will not lose the guaranteed income supplement. The money was voted on by Parliament early last summer as part of Bill C-43, the budget implementation act. It never needs to be voted on again. Rest assured, this will take place for every senior in Canada, regardless of the rhetoric they may hear due to a pending election.

The bill before us today amends the Old Age Security Act to allow eligible pensioners to receive a monthly guaranteed income supplement without having to make an application every year. It also repeals the restrictions respecting retroactivity. I applaud any legislation that enhances the quality of life for Canada's seniors. The intent of Bill C-301 does this. Although a few details require a review, I am quite prepared to support the intent of the legislation and look forward to it being discussed in committee.

Amending the Old Age Security Act to ensure eligible pensioners receive their monthly guaranteed income supplement is something that should have been done a long time ago, but it was not. Therefore, let us get moving forward with this and make it happen.

We continually see the Liberal government making every attempt to extract every last nickel from Canadian taxpayers. A perfect example is the attempt to freeze income trusts and the resulting uncertainty for investors. This uncertainty has cost seniors money that they are dependent upon. These responsible seniors have invested in money for their retirement years and the government cannot stand not having its hands in their pocket. Liberals feel they are entitled to a portion of the pie. They are not and they should be ashamed of itself.

Canadian seniors now live in fear that their nest eggs will be eroded by the government's indecisiveness on income trusts. Because the government has cast a shroud of uncertainty over them, Canadian seniors deserve to see this bill go forward for further study. There must be some degree of certainty for seniors.

Seniors and low income families are facing unprecedented hikes in home heating costs this winter and it is incumbent upon the government to mitigate these increases as much as possible. While Bill C-66 seeks to do this, we all know what happened in a similar circumstance five years ago when deceased persons and prisoners received cheques while many in desperate need received nothing.

Under Bill C-66, single seniors must be receiving the guaranteed income supplement to get their paltry $125 in assistance. I would suggest that very few seniors are aware of this fact and are expecting this assistance from government. Imagine their disappointment when they discover, because they did not fill out a form to receive GIS, that they will not receive any assistance.

This brings me to another point. It has been reported that between 300,000 and 380,000 eligible seniors do not receive the guaranteed income supplement because they do not know if they are eligible for it. Why is this? Many do not understand the eligibility requirements. Nor do they understand they must apply for it annually.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “guarantee” as “a formal assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled”. There is no guarantee that they will receive the supplement. There is no guarantee that they will receive the home heating rebate. The only guarantee seniors have is the incessant paper work required to get what is rightfully theirs.

As shadow minister for veterans affairs, I know all too well the hoops that veterans are required to jump through to get a disability pension or any of the benefits to which they are entitled.

Imagine having the double whammy of being a veteran and a senior, and trying to deal with the bureaucratic quagmire to get even the smallest bit of assistance? Instead of enjoying their retirement in dignity and comfort, many Canadian seniors are struggling to meet the most basic of life's needs.

It is incumbent upon us as a nation to ensure that those who helped build this nation live out their lives in relative comfort. Neglecting to ensure that seniors eligible for the GIS are receiving it has other repercussions as well. They are also losing out on the programs offered by many provinces, such as prescription drug plans, other income supplements, heating oil subsidies, and home care assistance programs that are available only to individuals receiving GIS. This is unacceptable.

It has a trickle down effect. When eligible Canadian seniors do not receive their guaranteed income supplement for whatever reason, they also lose out on other services that are essential to their quality of life.

This legislation would enable automatic processing of the guaranteed income supplement based on information from the Department of National Revenue, thus ensuring eligible pensioners receive their monthly GIS and without the annual application. I support this measure without question.

There are other aspects of this bill that require and deserve further investigation. With respect to the retroactivity, we need to look at how far back this would go, who it should apply to, and how it will be implemented. They are all important questions that need to be studied and this can be done best at committee.

I would like very much to see this bill go to committee, so it can be carefully examined and given the detail it needs. We need to ensure that it is a strong and viable piece of legislation that endures the test of time, as have our seniors. They deserve no less.

I am certain this legislation can be reinforced and strengthened for the benefit of our seniors. The need is unquestionable. As the Conservative critic for veterans affairs, I have consulted with seniors across Canada and can say unarguably that there is a broad consensus from coast to coast to coast that seniors need to automatically receive any and all benefits as they become eligible.

Let us not deny seniors their rights. I ask that we as elected representatives do what is right and necessary to ensure that those individuals who helped build this nation receive what is rightfully theirs.

For clarification, I will repeat my earlier statement. There is no need for any senior citizen to worry about the loss of GIS income if an election were to proceed. Those are scare tactics that are being used in a very unconscionable way against one of the most vulnerable groups of Canadians in this country. This money was voted on by Parliament early last summer as part of Bill C-43, the Budget Implementation Act. It never needs to be voted on again and it is assured for the seniors of Canada.

Supply
Government Orders

November 17th, 2005 / 5 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the member for Hamilton Centre for sharing his time with me and I want to begin by echoing something that the member said.

One of the elders from the Cowichan tribes in my riding has expressed a concern over the years about how often we talk and how we do not listen. He said, “I know you can hear me, but are you listening?” In the great tradition of Parliament, we have often thought that this was a place for debate, discussion, the exchange of ideas and thoughts, and sometimes for compromise.

I want to put compromise in the context of the kind of language that is important for parliamentarians to bring to this discussion. According to the Oxford English dictionary, compromise is a coming to terms or arrangement of a dispute by concessions on both sides; partial surrender of one's position for the sake of coming to terms; the concession or terms offered by either side.

It seems that is what we are talking about when we talk about compromise today. We are talking about various parties coming together and coming up with a solution that will work for all Canadians, not just for one particular group who are desperate to hang onto power for however many days they can do that.

In the tradition of other great parliamentarians, I want to quote from Lester B. Pearson's Nobel acceptance speech. This is a good reminder of the kind of tradition that we have the opportunity to bring here, the kind of discussion and debate that we could have the opportunity to engage in. Mr. Pearson said:

In his response to the situations he has to meet as a person, the individual accepts the fact that his own single will cannot prevail against that of his group or his society. If he tries to make it prevail against the general will, he will be in trouble. So he compromises and agrees and tolerates.

It seems to me we have 37% of the House unwilling to compromise. We have 37% of the House unwilling to tolerate the kind of discussion that brings another view to the table, that says there are important issues before the House right now that we want to clear up. There are important issues such as Bill C-55, Bill C-66, and the first ministers and aboriginal meeting next week.

These are important issues that we are willing to stay at the table and work together on to ensure that these issues are passed satisfactorily for Canadians. This is an opportunity for the House to demonstrate its goodwill in meeting the needs of Canadians.

Let me briefly speak about Bill C-66. We are coming up to wintertime. We have snowflakes falling in Ottawa as I speak. This is an important bill to ensure that Canadians who are the least advantaged and who are at most risk in our world have access to the benefits that are available under Bill C-66. I would urge all members to look at this very good compromise solution that has been offered by the NDP and work hard together to pass this important piece of legislation.

We have heard much talk over the last several months about democratic deficit. We have heard the Prime Minister talk about how important it is for the government and for all parties to look at electoral reform. The member for Ottawa Centre put a very good proposal before the House. We thought we had a commitment to move forward on electoral reform that would make a difference on how each and every one of us behaved in the House, and how each and every citizen was represented in the House. Have we had any action? None. We are still waiting for that process to be put in place.

The reason I specifically wanted to talk about electoral reform is because the very premise of having electoral reform, a proportional representation system in the House, would mean that every one of us would have to come to the House with a willingness and a tolerance for compromise. It would be the very foundation of working together around a collaborative consensus kind of a way. It would be the very foundation of ensuring each and every Canadian voice was heard when members voted.

It would be the very foundation of working together around a collaborative consensus kind of a way. It would be the very foundation of making sure each and every Canadian voice was heard when they voted.

We have had a Prime Minister who has thumbed his nose at electoral reform. He has thumbed his nose at the democratic deficit and it appears that he will thumb his nose at this very sensible compromise that the House has proposed, a compromise that would allow us to clear the business, avoid a holiday election, avoid Liberal campaigning at taxpayer expense in January and have us go to the polls in February. That seems like a very excellent compromise.

I want to talk a bit more about electoral reform and how important it is for the House to address this democratic deficit. Many of us are very well aware of the fact that only 65 out of the about 300 seats in this House are held by women. We know from studies that have been all over the world that electoral reform increases the equality of representation in our democratic systems. Again, we had this opportunity to do this. Have we had any action? Absolutely not. The Prime Minister has not said one about moving forward on these kinds of initiatives.

In these last days, whether there is other action that happens over this next couple of weeks or whether we reach our natural conclusion in the middle of December, we have heard much talk over this last couple of days about how the sky is falling. We have heard much talk from the government, the Liberal benches, about how if we do not do this the world will come to an end and if we do not do that the world will come to an end. The Liberals have been around for 12 years and all of a sudden, with a few weeks left in the sitting of the House, all of this business is going to be done at the very last minute. I am shocked.

The Liberals have had 12 years to get on with this kind of business. We have had 18 months for the Liberals to get on with this kind of business and we still wait.

Today I met with the National Farmers Union and they were talking about the kinds of issues that must be taken care of in the next 10 days. I asked them how long the discussion had been going on. It has been eight years that we have been talking about these very important issues for farmers and in the last week the deal is coming very close to fruition.

What has been happening for the last 7 years and 51 weeks? All of a sudden the deal is coming to a conclusion. What a miracle. Of course it is just before Christmas and perhaps miracles do happen at this time of year, but it seems like there are so many miracles that are happening all of a sudden.

It is beyond belief that the work that could have been done over the last 12 years has not been accomplished. We still do not have enough affordable housing in the country. We still have women who do not qualify for employment insurance. We still have women who are living on substandard wages because of the Canada pension plan that does not recognize their needs. We still have farmers who do not have a decent income. We still do not have any resolution to the softwood lumber issue and many other issues, such as the BSE. I could go on and on about the failure of the government to meet its commitments to the Canadian people.

Why would we now not come to this compromise solution that would allow us to finish the business that is currently before the House, go into an election that misses the Christmas period and give Canadians a chance to talk about the kind of government they want, the kind of solutions that the NDP brings forward, of government that truly puts the interests of Canadians first.

We talk about the common sense compromise which is actually predicated on the fact that people are willing to come to the table and talk to each other. It is predicated upon the fact that we listen to people in a meaningful way and that we are willing to take our agendas and park them at the door to really work on solutions in the interests of all Canadians.

However we can see that is not been what has been before us. I would urge all members of this House to support the motion that is before the House today so we can give Canadians an opportunity to see the business concluded, enjoy Christmas with their families and then call an election in January.

Supply
Government Orders

November 17th, 2005 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House today on a very important motion. I wish to advise the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan.

This is one of the more important things that we will debate during the time and life of this minority government, for the simple reason that we are trying to find an agreement on when we can hold the election. Nothing can be more important to the life of a Parliament than its ending, because at that point, of course, all stops.

That is the whole issue. We are trying to prevent the grinding down of the House to the point where nothing happens. We will quickly get to that point if we do not find an agreement. We are almost there. We now have the Conservatives, the Bloc and the NDP in agreement through a process of compromise. It has been stated by MPs from each of those other two caucuses and our caucus that everybody indeed gave a little. It is the nature of compromise. For the most part, it is what makes Canada tick.

Here we are, in the most Canadian tradition, three-quarters of the way to a compromise that would meet all the requirements that everyone has, at least to the point that they could live with it. Everybody gets their main points and gives a little on a few other things.

The Gomery report was mentioned by the previous speaker. Our compromise today allows that to come out. People will have the Gomery report, part two, even though I would say with all due respect that I could not imagine members of a caucus in the House saying that they are going to disagree with any recommendation that Justice Gomery makes in part two. Notwithstanding that, it will still come out prior to election day. The Prime Minister said that was important. We disagreed with him on his point, but the compromise provides that part two of Gomery will be in the hands of voters before they go into the balloting booth. That meets one of the government's requirements.

More important, this compromise allows us to get through a number of bills that we have all agreed need to get through the House. As an example, I will mention Bill C-55. Again, it is not a perfect piece of legislation, but thanks to the work of my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, there are things in there that are definitely going to benefit working people. We are prepared to see that it gets through.

Now, with the amendment to it, I would hope that we are not going to get bogged down in voting procedures, but I hear that is possible. That would be a shame. It is an important bill. With the minor amendment, to which the government has agreed, we definitely will have moved the yardsticks forward, at least notionally.

It does not, however, address the issues that are contained in Bill C-281, the workers first bill. Again, it was introduced by my colleague from Winnipeg Centre. This is the bill that in the case of a bankruptcy takes pensions and puts them to the top of the list so that workers and the decades of work that they have done are not lost and they are the first ones to receive whatever money might be available afterward. The banks, the suppliers and the government right now stand in line ahead of the workers. Bill C-55 does not do what Bill C-281 would, but it will make some improvements if the common sense compromise that the opposition is putting forward today passes that bill.

Another example is Bill C-66, the energy rebates. I do not imagine there is anybody in the House who is opposed to the notion that we would try get some relief to those individuals and families who are in most need given what is happening to fuel prices and the fact that we are heading into a Canadian winter. That bill can pass under this compromise. There are two other bills that are equally important to other Canadians. I will not get into the details. They will pass the House under this compromise.

We might ask ourselves why it is not happening. I would have to say it goes to the same reason why there was a Gomery report in the first place and why there is a rage across the land. It is the arrogance of the current governing Liberal Party. It is pure arrogance.

The Prime Minister of the day does not have the support of almost two-thirds of Canadians and almost two-thirds of the House, yet the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party believe that under their culture of entitlement they are entitled to govern as if they were almost imperial. They are there and there they shall stay, they believe.

All we are asking is for a little humility and a little compromise and for them to recognize the fact that even though they have been driving around in the limos for a dozen years without a break, in the last election the party that is currently in power was not returned with a majority. The people of Canada sent that party a message. The problem is that the Prime Minister will not listen to that message. He will not listen to Canadians. He will not listen to other parliamentarians. He will not listen to anyone except other Liberals and their strategists, who, by the way, are still doing quite well in Canada, thanks very much.

Notwithstanding Gomery, and I am not suggesting there is anything wrong, but boy it did raise the eyebrows when we saw another article today about another contract to Mr. David Herle, who is with Decima Research, to do work for the recent mini-budget.

I will just say parenthetically that what is interesting is the fact that the limit for having to go to tender is $25,000. Under that, contracts do not have to go to tender. Is that not interesting? It is pure coincidence, I am sure.

I am absolutely certain it is a mere coincidence that even though $25,000 is the limit, Mr. Herle managed to just tuck underneath at $23,112. Therefore, there was no need to bother going out to ask anyone else if they might want some of that work. The government can continue to give it to whom? To the key strategist for the Liberal Party of Canada. It does not stop.

The Prime Minister and the Liberal Party ask what the difference is. Eight weeks, they say, and they ask why the opposition is getting all cranked up about this. We are very concerned about continuing to give the keys to the Challenger jets and the limos and all the other perks and tools of office to a party that clearly is prepared to use Canadians' money for their own partisan purposes. We want to bring it to a halt. We think that Canadians want to bring all of this to a halt, but we will let the election decide that part of it.

It has been mentioned that this is somehow unconstitutional, that we are doing this horrible thing to the traditions of Parliament, that it is terrible what we are doing in breaking with tradition and almost being illegal in what we are doing.

First of all, let us make the record very clear. It has already been mentioned that a challenge to this motion was placed this morning. By whom? Let us ask ourselves who would challenge it. Oh, right, the Liberals. They challenged it and tried to deny this motion even coming to the floor. The Speaker ruled that it was entirely in order. Nothing that we are talking about right now vis-à-vis this motion is out of order.

As for the issue of the constitutionality of what we are attempting to do, I am not a parliamentary expert, but I was the Deputy Speaker in the Ontario legislature and I have some notion of how the rules of Parliament run. I have to say that when the Prime Minister stands up and makes a public commitment to a particular date or time period for an election, that is all it is. He does not have to follow that. The Prime Minister can change his mind any time he wants. There is nothing to hold him to that. There is no constitutional trigger, no legal lock-in, to this position. It is just that the Prime Minister has said that he is going to have this election sometime in the early spring.

All we are asking is that it be recalibrated. All we are asking is that the Prime Minister stand up and say that in the interests of Parliament, out of respect for the minority Parliament Canadians sent here, out of respect for the need to get these bills through, out of respect for the first ministers conference with the aboriginal leaders, out of respect for all those things, he is prepared to revise the date on which he said he would call the election, at which point he will trigger his constitutional authority and ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and issue the writs for an election. That is all.

It is not a big parliamentary deal, but it does seem to be a big personal deal for the Prime Minister. We are asking, we are imploring, we are pleading, and we are demanding that the Prime Minister of the day respect the majority of the House and the majority of the country. We are demanding that the Prime Minister give us an election timeframe that we can all live with, that is fair to everyone, and gets the important business of this House done. That is a good common sense compromise.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

November 17th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition motion.

On Tuesday, November 22 and Thursday, November 24, we will have allotted days. The opposition House leaders are in fact considering a special House order to expedite Bill C-53, Bill C-54, Bill C-55 and Bill C-66 through all stages with a recorded vote at third reading. I hope we can come to an agreement on that special House order and proceed in that fashion.

If we cannot agree on that special order, then tomorrow we will begin with reference before second reading of Bill C-71, the first nations commercial bill; report stage of Bill S-37, respecting the Hague convention; second reading of Bill S-36, the rough diamonds bill; and reference before second reading of Bill C-72, the bill amending the DNA legislation. We will continue with this business next week, adding the report stage of Bill C-57, the financial governance bill, and other unfinished items.

With respect to the comment about the Chamber of Commerce, it is very clear, and I said this earlier, that Bill C-66 and the ways and means motion are in fact confidence motions. Although I am not sure I should do this, I am taking at the hon. member's word the public statements that in fact those members do support Bill C-66 and the ways and means motion with respect to taxes. Given his comment, I guess I should reconsider and speak to him once again since his party has flip-flopped on a number of occasions.

With respect to prorogation, I have to say that this rumour created by the Conservative Party was merely to keep the NDP in line with its confidence motion that it will put forward in the coming weeks.