House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tlicho.

Topics

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

April 21st, 2004 / 6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Post Progressive Conservatives will support the motion, Sir.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from April 20 consideration of the motion.

The Armenian People
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 380 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

The Armenian People
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The Armenian People
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet is not present to move his private member's motion on the Academy of Science pursuant to the notice published in today's Notice Paper. Accordingly, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, the trucking industry is suffering quite a bit from the often unjustified increases in the price of gasoline that also put an unnecessary strain on consumers' budgets. We know that the government is doing very little about the negative effects of increased gasoline prices.

On March 23, 2004, I asked the minister about this. I asked him whether he would agree to create a petroleum monitoring agency, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. To my surprise, the minister said that prices should be and are determined on the market price.

In the meantime, the government has officially announced that it rejects the request by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to create a petroleum monitoring agency in order to protect consumers from abuses by the oil companies.

In the government's response there are two important factors that need to be taken into consideration: of course there are market forces, but there is also the very important factor of the democratic deficit within the decision presented by the government.

Regarding market forces, the government says it must not get involved in the process. However, as hon. members may know, since 1970, through subsidies or indirect benefits to the oil industry, the government has invested $66 billion. If that is not interfering in market forces, then I do not know what is. During that same time, only $326 million was invested in clean energy. The government recently gave the oil and gas industries $250 million. Yet, we all know full well that the oil companies have not stopped making huge profits.

There should also be serious concern about management in the petroleum industry and about the GST and other taxes that are collected. No one will forget the 1.5¢ in GST added to the price of gasoline. That is yet another example of indirect interference in market forces. Nor will we forget that the government, on the eve of the election in 2000, gave everyone $125. Thus we see that the government has a serious management problem. We know very well that it was not just people who bought gasoline who received that money. There were also people who did not really need it.

We also know that when the committee passed this recommendation, all the Liberal MPs were in favour. The Prime Minister often says that he wants to eliminate the democratic deficit and yet he does not listen to his own members.

Therefore, concerning the management of the petroleum industry and the government's involvement, what I am really asking the minister this evening is why he refused to create this petroleum monitoring agency. I repeat; it was a one-shot request. It could have enabled the government to find out how petroleum prices are managed.

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. Allow me to thank the standing committee for considering a matter that concerns many people.

As a result of its research, the committee recommended that the federal government create an independent petroleum monitoring agency responsible for collecting and providing information on gasoline pricing and tabling an annual report.

The government, particularly this department in cooperation with other departments, considered the committee's recommendation. The government believes nonetheless that its current activities, combined with research about the situation across Canada and abroad, information largely provided by the private sector—provincial sectors and a number of organizations must also be taken into consideration—represent the most practical and efficient way of informing consumers.

We must not forget that, exceptionally in times of crises, the federal government would be able to invoke the Canadian Constitution to interfere in a sector such as this one. However, under the Constitution, the provinces clearly have the jurisdiction and the responsibility for regulating gasoline pricing.

I am convinced that my Bloc Quebecois colleague does not intend to encourage us to ignore provincial jurisdiction, particularly that of Quebec.

The only role the government plays in this is administration of the Competition Act. The Competition Bureau is the federal body responsible for ensuring that product prices in all non-regulated sectors of the economy are set by market forces and not by price fixing. Its role is to monitor this in all sectors of economic activity.

Since 1985, the Government of Canada has had a market-driven energy policy. This means in particular that domestic prices for oil and refinery products are based on the international price of crude oil.

Recent price hikes on petroleum products in Canada are in large part connected to developments in the international markets over which Canadians have no control, such as the huge jump in crude oil prices triggered by the increased world demand and the tight markets.

In the United States in particular, there are other complicating factors, particularly the general strike in Venezuela, the war in Iraq and civil strife in Nigeria. These geopolitical factors have contributed to reducing the available supply. What is perhaps more important is the resulting consumer uncertainty. As a result, fuel prices have risen and become more unstable, and the fluctuations are reflected at the pump.

Natural Resources Canada also plans to redesign its site to make it more accessible to the public, and to provide better links to other information sources.

I would just add in closing that, for the past 20 years, the Government of Canada has developed other solutions to help Canadians make wise energy choices and reduce their energy bills.

Through the programs of Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency, considerable efforts have been expended to ensure wide distribution of information on vehicle fuel efficiency. The office is also actively involved in promoting energy efficiency and the use of alternative fuels.

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. parliamentary secretary's time has expired. The hon. member for Sherbrooke.

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has obviously alluded to the Competition Act.

For a long time now the public has been under the impression that it is being had. Furthermore, a member of this House, the Liberal member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, at one time had the support of several Liberal members when he made public a report indicating that there was collusion in the oil industry. However, the Conference Board analyses stated that there was no collusion.

The public still feels that it is being taken for a ride. There is no doubt that the world price of oil has an influence. Often, however, the increase at the pump does not reflect this. We also know that there are speculators, which makes the price fluctuate quite a bit. The price also varies considerably from one region to the next and this is not always related to transportation costs.

Profit margins are being created at the processing and refining stage. Given that all the oil companies post the same prices on the same day, it is practically impossible that there is no collusion. Having a petroleum monitoring agency would have been good for the public and helped the government regain the public's trust.

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the representatives of the Bloc are not here to find solutions, but rather to focus on the problems.

This is the approach they take to every issue, be it health, employment insurance, or anything else. In this particular instance, the government is working along with the provincial governments, while respecting jurisdictions.

I am certain that, if my Bloc colleague made a comparative study of gas prices around the world, he would realize that we are not the worst off. The government is putting measures in place to promote the development of better energy sources and thus impact on all environmental considerations. Ultimately, the costs to all Canadian consumers will be far lower.

Even on the international level, I am certain that steps taken by the various governments, within jurisdictional limits, will contribute to lower resource prices.

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the manner in which the Minister of Foreign Affairs chose to answer my question which I asked on behalf of the farmers and the softwood lumbers producers in my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke.

Canadian exporters rely upon an open border. Diplomatic relations with our closest and largest trading partner must be a number one priority.

The Canadian consulate in Washington is our most important diplomatic posting. The Minister of Foreign Affairs knows full well that the ambassador position in Washington has been used by this government as a patronage plumb in the same way that ambassador postings around the world are being used as dumping grounds for old Liberal Party hacks.

The minister also knows that the current posting to Washington has expired. The minister knows that John Manley was offered the spot--

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member knows that she cannot refer to hon. members by name. I assume that she means the hon. member for Ottawa South and she will want to make sure she refrains from using members' names in discussion in the House.

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought he had retired.

The hon. member for Ottawa South was offered this spot but refused to go because he assumed there would be another leadership convention after the upcoming election. He figured it would be better to plot here in the capital than to be run out of the country by a dictatorial Prime Minister who knows no compassion when it comes to dealing with his rivals.

Rather than trying to insinuate something that is not, the government should also know that loading up ambassadorial postings with Liberal Party hacks is causing a morale problem with our foreign service. Many retired heads of missions look back nostalgically on the days when promotions were made on the basis of merit and Canada was a leader in diplomacy.

There was a time when the Canadian foreign service attracted the brightest and the best. Nothing can be more insulting than spending 30 or 35 years in the foreign service and then getting squeezed out on the basis of not what one knows but who one knows.

We enjoyed a good reputation around the world. Canada's role has been marginalized by an indifferent government that rarely backs up words with action. Denmark was so insulted when the government dumped Alfonso Gagliano in their country as ambassador that it responded by invading Canada and claiming a piece of our territory in the high Arctic.

While Canadians were asking what the Danes did to deserve this kind of treatment, the Danes were busy raising their flag on Canadian soil. No wonder the Danes acted the way they did.

The Armenian People
Adjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada-U.S.)

Mr. Speaker, the member has attacked the reputation of our foreign service officials and in fact, with her pernicious and misinformed attack, has actually done more to hurt the morale of our foreign service than she realizes.

It is a misinformed attack because, first, we recognize the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship as our most important external relationship and the complexity of that relationship. That is why we must ensure that the position of ambassador to the United States continues to be filled by a qualified individual. I can assure everyone that is indeed the case.

The position has been staffed, for instance, for the last three and a half years by a competent career diplomat with over 35 years of foreign service experience. She mentions that people with 30 to 35 years of experience in the foreign service are getting pushed aside. This is somebody with 35 years of foreign service experience representing the interests of Canada across the world and making a difference, and the hon. member has attacked and impugned his reputation.

I want to point out very clearly that the individual I mentioned is a career foreign service official who has defended the interests of Canadians valiantly over a career of 35 years, and his position did not expire in October. That is another piece of misinformation that the hon. member has come to the House unprepared to explain today.

As order in council appointments, ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister, rather than for a fixed period of time. For administrative purposes, by and large, the heads of mission assignments are established for a period between two and four years, plus any extensions depending upon the location.

If we were to review the history of the ambassadors to the U.S., we would see that the position has been held for periods of anywhere from one year, in terms of John de Chastelain, to eight years for Allan Gottlieb from 1981 to 1989. Most ambassadors to the U.S., however, have a period of four years or more.

Our current ambassador presented his letters of credence to President Clinton on October 19, 2000. He has therefore yet to reach the three and a half year mark in his term. He has not even served four years.

While in Washington, I can tell everyone that our current ambassador, supported by a talented and dedicated group of officials, has and continues to work diligently to defend and promote Canadian political, economic and trade interests in the United States.

Here at home, as the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce recently said about our Prime Minister, “this Prime Minister gets it when it comes to Canada-U.S. relations”.

We are taking a more sophisticated approach to Canada-U.S. relations. In addition to my appointment as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, we now have a cabinet committee on Canada-U.S. relations, a cabinet committee chaired by the Prime Minister that deals with, across departments and ministries, issues of relevance to Canada-U.S. relations.

Beyond that, through the enhanced representation initiative, we are increasing by 50% our missions and our representations in the U.S. over the next year. We are also setting up a secretariat in Washington that will help support the efforts of legislators, from both sides of the House and from all parties, in an effort to defend Canadian interests when they are building relationships with other legislators.

The fact is that we are strengthening our representation in the U.S. by 50% and we will be serving the interests of Canadians.