House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this emergency debate on gas prices. I will be sharing my time with the member for Ottawa South.

The one point I would like to get across tonight is the difference in the effect this has on northerners. Someone has to speak up for the people in the north, the Arctic and the northern parts of the provinces. These prices have caused this crisis, and this is the subject of the debate tonight. It is even harder on northerners. I was delighted to hear the finance critic mention the special needs of the north.

Let me outline why it is even a more critical crisis in the north.

First, quite often people need a car to get to work. They are in rural areas with long distances. We have roughly 14 communities in my riding and only one of them has public transit. We cannot get on subway, a streetcar or a go-train. We have to get to work somehow and quite often it is a long distance. In the Arctic when one wants to find a seal hole, one does not get on a subway to get there.

On the price of gas, my southern colleagues tonight were complaining about how $1.30 a litre was hurting them so badly. In the far north of my community, where I was a week ago Saturday, it was $1.67 a litre.

In the north resource extraction is a major activity. Once again, although we are committing to invest in improving green technologies, we still use a lot of hydrocarbons in mining, forestry and placer mining. Once again, when these prices go up, it has a huge effect on northerners.

Just think about remote airlines. In my city alone we have roughly four jet airliners coming in and out every day. For us to do business and for all those people to get in and out, it will be hugely expensive. It will be expensive even for those who live on wildlife subsistence. To get to their trap lines or to hunt, they go by snowmobile. To get to their fish nets or to other areas, they use motor boats.

My riding is in the only territory in the country where tourism has the largest number of employees in the private sector. To get to my riding, tourists have to come hundreds or thousands of miles. The huge increase in gas prices will be devastating. We will see tourism go down as the fuel prices go up for the RVs, planes and vehicles that go there. This will even affect people doing wilderness hiking or canoeing in the riding.

For people living in the high Arctic, to get their supplies, food and necessities of life let alone everything else is very expensive.

People have asked my why when they go farther north, they seem to get poorer gas mileage. If every Yukoner looks at the gas pump, they will see that they are adjusted to a volume of 15°C. That is because gas changes with the temperature, and the average is much colder than that in the north.

The most important point of my speech is the devastating effects that the increase in home heating oil can have on northerners, particularly those on low and fixed incomes, the elderly, people on social assistance, single mothers. Imagine the cost for their survival with this huge increase in heating oil.

I live in a relatively small mobile home and it costs me $900 to heat it. For people who are getting a few hundred dollars on social assistance or a fixed pension, it is not like they have a choice. When it is 30° to 40° below, they have to heat their house. If they did not, their pipes would freeze and then they would freeze. Are they going to give up food, for example, or something else to heat their homes? This is devastating and something has to be done.

The prices have gone up. The minister said tonight that under his watch the price for a barrel of oil had doubled, so there has been a huge increase. In 2005 the former Liberal government announced the energy cost benefit program of $565 million to help, specifically, the elderly and poor families, but the Conservative government did not implement it.

What type of sympathy do these poor families receive from the Prime Minister when prices go up? The Prime Minister said, “the truth of the matter is higher gas prices-that's going to be something that we're going to have to get used to”. That was reported in the Vancouver Sun,on April 20, 2006.

Perhaps that is why the Conservatives have cancelled or reduced many of the energy saving programs the Liberals had in place. EnerGuide, which thousands of Canadians used, was revamped and downgraded. I was trying to be helpful and I put it in my newsletter. I was reamed over the coals by one of the contractors who normally used the program. He explained how poor it was. One of the speakers tonight already said it was adjusted so poor people would have less access to it by taking away the audits. This is totally unacceptable and a backward step.

We also had the residential rehabilitation program. We will put all sorts of pressure on the government to ensure it extends that program. Right now it goes until March 31, 2009. Once again, the people who can least afford these high energy prices are the ones who need to make these residential changes and upgrades to their houses. The Minister of Finance refuses to say if he will extend the program past March 31, 2009.

It is true that the recent price increases are due almost entirely to world supply tensions, market speculation, increasing demand from emerging nations, low inventories, political instability in oil producing countries and limiting refining capacity. Does that mean we can do nothing? Does it mean we should do nothing? No, of course not.

When we were in government, we set up the office of energy price information. It was allocated about $15 million. Someone already mentioned tonight that the former Alliance Party was the only party against it. The government closed the office. The minister said tonight, as did several other Conservatives, that the Competition Bureau had investigated six times and found no collusion. People do not know this because the government closed the office that would tell people this.

It is a very complicated system from the oil provider, to the pipeline fees, the refinery, the wholesaler and the retailer. To have this office keep track of these prices and explain to Canadians how it works would remove a lot of the fear and ensure nothing untoward was going on.

Simply because world oil prices are beyond our control does not mean that supply and demand are beyond our control. I am talking about the supply of alternative energies. That is why the previous Liberal government had programs that would increase these alternate energies so there would be less need for these high oil and gasoline prices. We invested in solar, biofuel, wind, tidal, clean coal, nuclear, cellulose ethanol, heat pumps, hydro and hydrogen fuels. We will continue to invest in a number of those.

When we talk about demand, we can also affect demand. We can reduce demand. When we were in government, we had that historic agreement with the auto manufacturers to schedule new fuel efficiency cars to some of the highest in the world. If the Liberals were in power, we would increase motor vehicle fuel consumption standards in Canada to meet or exceed international best practices.

We would also create a $1 billion advance manufacturing prosperity fund and improve the science, research and experimental development tax credit to support major investments in the manufacturing and the auto sector and position Canada as a leader in green vehicles and other technologies. That would decrease demand, so we would not have all these problems.

The Prime Minister said that if he came into office and if gas went above 85¢ a litre, he would take off the GST. He did not keep that promise. When we were in government, instead of us keeping those taxes, we put in the gas tax transfers. I know the municipalities in my riding are very thankful that they can use this for sustainable projects, a number of which will reduce their energy consumption and help on these high prices.

The thing I want people to remember the most is the devastating effect high gas prices are having on the north, far more than on southerners. An elderly first nations man came into my office when I was there on the weekend and simply said that he could not pay the bills. He showed me his pension stubs. He had a family. He was not in good health. What is such a person to do when he has a $900 oil bill? He is receiving a few hundred dollars a month from a couple of pensions. If that $900 oil bill doubles, how will he ever pay that?

As parliamentarians, if this price level stays at this high level or continues to go up, we have to do something about it. That is why I put in a preliminary suggestion of actions, but we certainly have to think of that elderly gentleman who cannot make it for his family.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:25 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate what the member had to say about the devastating effects on northerners. I come from a riding of primarily rural communities so I have some of the same issues he has in terms of people's dependency on fuel prices for a number of things. One is transportation and another is home heating fuel.

He talked about how dependent his riding is on the resource sector and how his riding needs to develop the resources it has. Earlier this evening, the critic for the Liberals talked about some of his solutions and seemed very unfriendly to the resource sector. Many of the things he was talking about sounded like taxation on the resource sector, which would make it much more difficult for the resource sector to continue to function as it has in the past.

The member opposite talked about how expensive it is to bring in the food and necessities. He talked about how expensive it is to bring tourists into his area, on which that economy depends. He talked about the devastating effects of home heating fuel increases. I think what he said was that it is not like they have a choice and he asked if it is food that they are going to give up.

The funny thing is that he did not talk about the Liberal plan to bring in a massive carbon tax. His leader seems to be shifting around a little and trying to find a different way to apply that tax, but from everything we understand about that carbon tax it would directly affect those things. It would damage the resource sector, which is so important to his people. It would drive up the price of food being brought into his area. It would make necessities such as home heating fuel exorbitantly higher. It would make it much more difficult for tourists to get there because it would be even more expensive than it is now.

Given the importance of those things, how can he justify not coming here tonight and speaking out against the carbon tax that his leader seems so determined to impose on Canadians, particularly on rural Canada? It would be bringing suffering and pain to rural Canada, which is one of the reasons why we oppose that tax. How is it that he is not speaking out on that?

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, here is another example of why this debate has been so embarrassing for the Conservatives tonight. They have exactly nothing to offer. They make up phantom programs and phantom ideas they know nothing about and that other parties are going to do. They keep forgetting they are in government. There were a couple of reasonable speakers from the Conservatives, but all they did was list programs they had done in the past.

This is an emergency that has just arisen. That is why we are having an emergency debate. What are the Conservatives going to do now?

These late debates are normally good because then the bureaucrats can take up the good ideas, but I cannot remember one good idea that has come from the Conservatives tonight as to what they are going to do. I cited a whole list. I am delighted I am sharing my time with our environment critic. I am sure he is going to have a number of additional ideas.

When people are in such a crisis, no ideas are offered because all the Conservatives do is think up phantom ideas and dream of what other parties might do. They speculate on other things when they are in the government and are supposed to be coming up with ideas. This has been a very sad night for the Conservative Party.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member did not answer the question. The question was about the taxes being proposed by his leader. We are not making this up. His leader has said that he would like to apply a carbon tax. It has been in the news for two or three weeks. The Liberals seem to be moving around on what that carbon tax might be, but there is no doubt that they are going to try to do it.

I asked him why he does not have the guts to stand up and protect his own riding, his own constituency, and say that the carbon tax is going to be a negative thing for his riding. He comes from a rural riding. He should have the courage to stand in the House tonight and say that this is not going to work for his constituents and that he is speaking out against it.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, there the Conservatives go again, fantasizing about something that has not even been announced and does not exist. Until they see the form of it, they do not have any ideas of their own. What are they going to do to help all these poor people, the people in my riding, those I have been talking about? I gave the government a whole bunch of solutions.

I can also tell the member that the people in my riding turned out in droves the other night to hear about our environment, to which we are so connected. To make an economy good, we have to protect the environment, as it is part of us and we have to make it sustainable. At least our leader is thinking of solutions and working them out rather than spending the whole night trying to criticize what other parties may do in the future.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are having this debate this evening because in the 30 months since the government was sworn in, the prices at the pumps have skyrocketed.

In January 2006 in my riding, the average price was 83.2¢ a litre. On May 25, 2008, yesterday's average price was $1.25 a litre. That is a 51% increase on the government's 30 month watch.

Gasoline prices are now higher than ever. It is a fact that should prompt some reflection in all corners of the House. Our society has some major choices ahead.

It was striking to hear the Prime Minister in his Q and A session in Beamsville, Ontario, last week admit defeat in this regard. He said, “The ability of governments to affect the price of gasoline per se is so small that it's not even worth doing”.

As if to distract from his bald-faced unwillingness to help those Canadians most hurt by higher gasoline prices, he went further and lashed out with a vengeance. He said, “What we don't need right now...are governments that come in and specifically impose carbon taxes on our economy”. He said that they are risky and “foolish”.

For weeks now, government members have been talking about how our plan will apparently raise the price of gasoline. That is interesting because our plan has not even been released yet, and I can tell the House that we have not faxed the government a copy of it by mistake.

This nonsense about a Liberal plan for higher gas prices is the result of a continuing propensity by the frontbenches of the government to just make things up on the fly. They have not seen our plan yet, but their shock and awe attacks betray their fear of the notion of tax shifting.

Here is why. Because the government has no plan to deal with gasoline prices, it has chosen to sit on the sidelines doing nothing in the face of all the advice and international trends.

The government says it is bringing in a cap and trade program in the fall. Let those members stand and deny it. What will be the net effect of bringing in a cap and trade program in the fall? It will have a profound effect on fuel prices.

Are government members telling Canadians that truth? Absolutely not. They are too busy firing ministers.

The government has presented Canadians with no analysis of its cap and trade program because it has not done anything. It is eerily reminiscent of the infamous “Turning the Corner” plan released amid more shock and awe last April.

Since then, no fewer than 10 very respectable Canadian and international organizations have shown that the government's math does not add up and that it will never achieve its targets. It is no better than if we had planned to fail in the first place.

Yes, we Liberals are working on a real plan to tackle climate change, and Canadians are saying that it is about time. We are not alone.

At the World Economic Forum last year, Sir Nicholas Stern said that environmental taxes should play an essential role in combating global warming. In fact, he stated that ruling out a carbon tax is “a risk we cannot take”.

Someone should tell the Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary who was up moments ago that Sir Stern is no leftist cooking up a money-sucking “socialist scheme”. Sir Stern is best known for being the former chief economist of the World Bank. He went on to be the expert author of the U.K. government's highly praised report on the economic effects of climate change.

In short, he is precisely the kind of person we ought to be taking advice from. He said:

Unless we act quickly and effectively, we will not bring down carbon emissions...we must cut our emissions from current levels by around 40%.

Carbon taxes are a responsible response to an unprecedented threat to our civilization. Sir Stern said:

This is the biggest market failure the world has ever seen. The market hasn't worked because we haven't fixed it. Equity demands that the rich countries, who are largely responsible for the problem, do more about it.

We know that in the coming weeks and months our bold proposal will prompt a national debate on how to reconcile the economy and the environment so that no Canadian is left behind.

The Conservative government's usual strategy is always the same. It is to attack any and every group that would dare contradict it. But the politics of fear are tired and tiresome.

Here is the good news. We have Tom d'Aquino, the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, agreeing with David Suzuki. We have Andrew Coyne, hardly a left wing editor of Macleans magazine, agreeing with the Toronto Star. Why is this? Because the system is overdue for just such a shakeup.

This is about tax shifting, which brings us to internalize a neglected externality, that is, to put a price on carbon and to stop treating the atmosphere as an unlimited waste receptacle.

The very heart of the Liberal plan will cut taxes on the things we want more of. We want more income. We want more innovation. We want more savings. We want more investments. We want more productivity, as Canada is losing the productivity race. It shifts those taxes onto the things we want less of. We want less pollution. We want fewer greenhouse gas emissions. We want less smog. We certainly want less waste.

This is what we mean when we say our plan will be revenue neutral. Every new dollar in revenue will be given back to Canadians in tax cuts.

This is about solid economic and environmental policy. A tax shift requires a shift in our way of thinking. The Prime Minister's thinking is so 1960s: that we have to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment. Conservatives say we cannot have both.

The Prime Minister's thinking is that there is no room for the federal government in the lives of Canadians. As a result, the government does nothing while gas prices continue to skyrocket, and at the same time it allows greenhouse gas emissions to soar.

It lets the manufacturing sector whittle away to nothing while refusing to invest in the advanced green technologies that could create the jobs of the future.

It does not have a plan to fight poverty. In fact, it does not even mention the issue.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that thinking that pits the economy, the environment and social justice against each other not only demonstrates a lack of imagination, not only demonstrates a party stuck in a time warp, but is simply wrong. We can do better as a country and we must.

Our environmental and economic plan will help the middle class and it will lift many Canadians out of poverty. It will reward those who go the extra green mile, those who go beyond the minimum to reduce pollution by putting even more dollars in their pockets. Industry will be rewarded for its efforts with lower corporate taxes that can be reinvested in newer technologies to further improve the environment and the bottom line. It is a scenario where we all win.

The only group in Canadian society today that appears not to understand that we are racing toward a carbon constrained future is the Conservative Party of Canada. On this side of the House, we ask, “Why would Canada not want to win that race, the race toward a cleaner, more eco-efficient economy, higher energy efficiency levels, less wasteful consumption, lower income taxes and higher productivity?”

No, we in the Liberal Party will not pursue the politics of fear. We will not race to offer the latest tax gimmick to the Canadian people. We will do our job responsibly. We will tell the truth about the climate change crisis, what the science is telling us to do and how important it is for us to move forward by putting the adequate and proper price on carbon. Pricing carbon makes a big difference in the marketplace and it prepares Canada to win the race of the 21st century, which is to become a cleaner, greener, fairer society.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his speech, the hon. member called for a sustainable development approach. We really hope that the government will have a complete change of attitude and will walk away from the current practice, which allows oil companies to make as much money as possible in the short term. Instead, we could collectively ask ourselves if we can have a plan to reduce our oil dependency and set objectives.

In so doing, we would deal with the primary environmental concern in Quebec and in Canada. At the same time, we would also reduce this dependency on oil companies.

We are a captive market. We have not developed solutions over the years. Prices and sudden increases could reach higher levels in the weeks and months to come.

I believe the time has come to organize a coalition to tackle the issue of price increases. We could all work together to come up with a different way of doing things for a different society. In 15 or 20 years, automobiles running on gas would play a much smaller role among our means of transportation, whether it is in rural or urban areas, and whether we are talking about personal transportation or commercial transportation of goods.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. It is important for Canadians to know that the Prime Minister has left tonight for Europe, where he will likely try to sell to European heads of state what the Conservatives call their green plan.

But at the same time, as I was asking him today in the House, will he explain to those heads of state and other European leaders that the targets in Canada are intensity targets and that, under the Conservatives, Canada unilaterally changed to 2006 the base year which was 1990 in the Kyoto Protocol?

We do not have absolute targets in Canada. It is true that the price of oil seems to increase and, what is worse, that it will continue to increase. The price of oil production seems to increase because the cheap oil is disappearing. More money is therefore needed to obtain fossil fuels.

The official opposition, the Liberal Party, thinks that it is now time to act. I agree with my colleague on that. It is time to work together in this House to plan the future of Canada. Now, outstanding solutions and major ideas are needed to trigger change. This is exactly why we are analyzing the idea of a carbon tax, which will be combined with a lowering of personal and corporate income tax. That is called a tax shift.

Therefore, I thank my colleague for his comments. It is now time to see where we will be in 20, 30 or 40 years from now.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

10:45 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I have heard the story in the past of someone who was told, when they were going in to give a speech, “Give them hell”. His response was, “I just tell them the truth. Liberals think that is hell”. Tonight, that is what we will do once again.

I am pleased to be here as part of this debate. Tonight we have heard the Liberals avoid, at all costs, a discussion of their carbon tax. I will talk first about what this government is doing, what it has done and what it will do in the future for Canadians. I will then talk a bit about the alternatives with which Canadians are faced.

One of the most important alternatives that this government has come up with and has taken has been to invest in transportation alternatives and in taxation options and alternatives. I will talk a bit about that tonight.

This government has clearly made significant investments. It has made investments from gas tax revenues into infrastructure. The Liberals who are here tonight do not want to talk about their future plans and, I suspect, do not want to talk about their past actions either but we have made some changes that people were waiting for and were happy to see.

In the words of the mayor of Brampton, Susan Fennell, “The Conservative government has done more for municipalities in the last two years than the old government did in the last 13 years”. I think that says something about what we are doing in terms of taxation and what we are doing in terms of things that will begin to affect the cost of fuel across this country as well.

In the 2008 budget, for example, the Minister of Finance announced that we would make the gas tax permanent. Canadian municipalities have been asking for that for years but again something which the Liberals failed to deliver. We delivered on the 5¢ of the excise tax that is collected on fuel and now municipalities have the long term, sustainable funding for infrastructure that they have requested for so long. Mayors from across the country have praised this announcement and said that they appreciate the opportunity to use that small amount of taxation money on fuel in order to fund the projects that are so important.

The government also introduced an infrastructure plan called the building Canada plan. It is a historic $33 billion investment, the largest infrastructure investment by any government in the last 50 years. Building Canada is meant to provide funding for cleaner water, better highways, more efficient border crossings and public transit. At least two of those things will directly impact fuel prices and fuel usage, and that is our highway system and the public transit options and alternatives.

The largest amount of funding under the building Canada plan is not only for the funding of public transit. After 13 years of lots of talk and no action by the Liberals, this government has made several important investments. For example, budget 2006 included the public transit pass tax credit. Tonight we hear the Liberals talking about the fact that they do not think anything has been done. Clearly this change in the budget has rewarded Canadians who use public transit regularly and who buy monthly passes.

Budget 2006 also included $1.3 billion in support of public transit capital investments. Amazingly, the Liberals and the NDP voted against this important public tax credit. They are here tonight saying that they have some sort of plan but when we come out with things that will support the public, particularly in terms of public transit, they oppose it.

In March 2007, the Prime Minister announced up to $962 million in a partnership with the province of Ontario and five municipalities to generate a combined investment of close to $4.5 billion in public transit and highway infrastructure projects in the greater Toronto area. That is something that will work toward reducing gridlock, improving the environment and increasing economic growth in the GTA.

There is more. Bill C-50, the budget implementation act, includes a $500 million public transit trust and nearly $250 million in carbon capture and storage projects, which will be spent in Saskatchewan and in Nova Scotia. That was a great boost for the economy and for the opportunities in my own home province of Saskatchewan.

This government also made a decision to put almost $500 million into alternative biofuels in order to reduce fuel costs. That is something that has been praised by the other parties as being necessary. We are glad to be leading the way in those kinds of alternatives that give people other options and that will contribute to lowering the cost of fuel.

Canadians understand that this government's investments in public transit are significant. Those are some of the things that we have done and that we are doing.

I would like to take a little bit of time tonight to talk about the alternative stats. It is necessary to do that because we have been moving ahead with a number of tax initiatives. I will talk a bit more about some more of them in a few minutes but I want to talk about the alternative that is being presented for Canadians.

The Liberals have said they do not want to talk about any phantom plans or anything but I just heard the member who spoke talk about the fact that they coming out with a plan. By everything that I understood, he was talking about the carbon tax plan that they and the media have been discussing over the last month.

The Liberals' carbon tax plan seems to be something where they are trying to trick Canadians into thinking that there will not be a cost to Canadians. There would be an increased cost. There would be an increased cost on gas, for example, which will certainly hurt public transit users because it would become more costly to run the buses.

The costs will be transferred to Canadians who are taking public transit. Canadians right away will begin to find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Taking a car will become more expensive but so will public transit. It is just another example of how the Liberal opposition has not thought out the program that it is trying to bring forward.

Canadians know that the Liberals will be coming up with some sort of a massive punitive gas tax on Canadians which will force them to pay more for just about everything from heating their homes to groceries.

I was a little frustrated with the NDP because it is trying to delay the passage of Bill C-50 and we are trying to provide significant funding through that for the environment and public transit. The Bloc, I guess, as witnessed by the emergency debate tonight, seems to more interested in playing political on this issue than anything else and is trying to score some cheap political points rather than provide actual solutions. However, I would imagine that comes out of its frustration from understanding that it will never be able to make a difference here in Ottawa, that they will never be anything but a protest party here in the House of Commons.

The government has taken a number of other initiatives. I would like to talk about those because it is important that we really set the framework for what we have done. We have clearly been ahead of the game. The finance minister and the Prime Minister have done a tremendous job of moving ahead of what is happening in our economy and to react to it in order to keep our economy strong.

I want to talk about a few of the things that have happened. We have brought a lot of personal tax help to Canadians over the last two years. I do not think I need to mention that we have cut the GST by 2%. We made a decision to make a bigger tax cut in the GST than the one we had indicated earlier . We removed 1% and then another 1% on the GST.

I found it interesting to be reading some material tonight that indicated the Liberals would reverse that tax reduction.The finance critic for the Liberals said that “hiking the GST is an option. All I can say is that i consistent with our approach”. He said that about a year ago. The leader said the Liberals would consider raising the GST. He said that it may need to be raised back to 7% and perhaps higher than that.

This government has also reduced personal income taxes. We felt that it was important that Canadians get income tax relief so we have consistently worked to lower the income tax for Canadians.

One of the most important things we have done is raise the personal exemption so Canadians have a higher personal exemption and, as a result of that, they pay less taxes as well.

Those are things that Canadians may not realize how much difference it has made for them. I was talking to a couple of people in my riding in the last two months who wanted to thank me for the changes the government has made. One of them said that he did not make a lot of money, that he had four young children, but he said that the differences in the taxation from two years ago until now for his family was about $2,000 a year.

I had somebody else tell me that his family was saving close to $4,000 this year on income tax because of the changes that the government has made in terms of income tax. People can say that it does not amount to much but for the average Canadian it is a huge difference.

I hear one of my colleagues over here muttering to herself. I guess she is probably annoyed and angered by the fact that we have been so effective in lowering taxes across the country that Canadians are now beginning to understand how important and how much that difference has made in their lives. For most people, taking home $2,000 or $4,000 extra a year is very significant.

I want to contrast that again with what we heard the member from the Liberals talk about a bit ago where he used the words “tax shift”. I think Canadians need to start paying attention. Right from the beginning when they hear the words “tax shift”, they should understand that is not going to end well for them.

The Liberals want to leave the impression, first, that they do not really have any tax plan. However, when their critic starts talking about the fact that they are going to be shifting taxes, we need to take a look at what that means. Their proposal, as they say, is that they are going to move taxes from one area to another, but overall it is going to stay about the same. We know that is wrong, for a couple of reasons.

First, the Liberals have made about $60 billion in additional spending promises. So we know they cannot lower taxes. We know they can only raise them.

Second, they say that they are going to, I guess, put a carbon tax on somewhere, but they claim it is not going to affect the price of fuel. Well, we know that it will.

So, as they are moving their taxation money around, we know they are not going to lower income taxes. We know that they are not going to lower the GST because they have already said that they think they would like to hike it. We know full well that they are going to be putting a carbon tax on, so that taxes are going to go up. That is not a tax shift; that is a tax increase.

There is no such thing as revenue neutral on these taxes. I want to just point out one way that it cannot be revenue neutral even if, in their fantasy, they were not to raise the overall taxation because what it does is it shifts taxation from one person to another. If they think that they are going to lower income taxes, who does that impact the most? It will impact high income earners. If they lower the income taxes for them, somewhere else there is another taxation going on. I can tell members where it is going to be. It is going to be in the rural areas. It is going to be for seniors. It is going to be for low income families who do not pay a lot of income tax.

So, for someone who is making a lot of money, paying income tax, the Liberals say they will reduce it, but we know that they are going to shift that. Even if it is neutral, they are going to shift that to poor people who are not paying income tax, those who have to try to pay electrical bills and home heating bills.

As we heard the member for Yukon say earlier, things like transportation and home heating is a big issue for people in his rural riding. Even getting food into his area is a huge issue if the prices continue to rise.

I live in a rural area and I face those same challenges. I do not think that people, when they begin to look at this carbon tax proposal that the Liberals have, are going to find that it is acceptable in any way, shape or form.

It is funny because the Liberals say they want to put on a carbon tax, but tonight they do not want to talk about it. Every time we have mentioned their proposal, they say that we are attacking them and being critical of them. However, we want to know what they are talking about. We think it is important. We think it is good that we talk about this.

It seems to me that there are a couple of things wrong with this carbon tax. First of all, it is a bad idea. However, for the Liberals, there is another reason why it is not a good idea. They have a pile of their people who do not even support it. Their party is completely split on the issue of what looks like is going to be their main campaign platform.

Let me quote a few of those people because I think it is important that Canadians understand that not only are the Conservatives against this, not only are thinking Canadians opposed to this, not only is the NDP opposed to this, but a number of Liberals are opposed to it as well.

Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella has stated that a carbon tax is unfair to people on fixed incomes, such as the elderly and the poor, who have to heat their homes and buy their food as well.

The Liberal member for Beauséjour has declared that artificially manipulating fuel prices is environmentally irresponsible. Certainly, the goal of a carbon tax is to artificially manipulate prices.

The Liberal member for Kings—Hants has stated that he is, “--strongly against energy taxes”. He said: “I would never propose that Canada needs higher taxes in any area”.

The member for Vaughan has said that a carbon tax is certainly not an option for him, and former leadership contender and Liberal candidate Gerard Kennedy is of the opinion that a carbon tax is the clumsiest of the options they have so far.

I would think that the Liberal leader would listen to some of these people and understand that he does not need to be in a situation where he is picking out any more clumsy options. If he is listening tonight, I would certainly ask him to reconsider this poorly thought out idea that he has of imposing a carbon tax on Canadians.

There are some former high ranking Liberal leaders who are scratching their heads when it comes to this new Liberal plan for a carbon tax. Bill Graham, who was a long time member in the House, said, “Certainly, when we were in government, we clearly did not advocate a carbon tax”. It just seems that there are so many people who are opposed to this.

The strangest thing of all is that one of the people who has been most opposed to a carbon tax is the Liberal leader himself, the one who is now suggesting that we need to have a carbon tax and several times he has stated that he is adamantly opposed to a carbon tax. However, in true Liberal form, we expect the Liberals to flip flop and completely change their position. He said one thing, now he is doing something that is completely contrary to that. That just points out to Canadians that this is not a group of people we should trust with government.

What has happened to him between the time when he said he opposed the carbon tax and now when he says that we really need one in Canada? I would think that perhaps he remembered that Liberals love tax dollars. They have no qualms about trying to find ways to tax and certainly will come up with new ideas all the time to do that. They love to get deeper and deeper into the pockets of hard-working Canadians. We have seen that time and again, and they like to spend that money as though it is their own money.

We recognize there is only one place that government money comes from and that is Canadian taxpayers. That is why the Conservative Party has worked so hard to try to leave that tax money in the pockets of Canadians rather than taking it from them.

There are a number of reasons why people should oppose a carbon tax. The most obvious one is that it imposes a tax punishment on Canadians. It does not matter how carbon tax is organized or how it is arranged, it will punish Canadians. It will have to increase the price of gas at the pumps because that is the purpose of it. It will have to increase the price of home heating fuel, which will be affected by the carbon tax as well. It will increase the price of natural gas for people to heat their homes and it will increase the price of electricity.

It will lead to an increase in the price of everyday goods. Higher gas prices will obviously result in increased shipping costs as well. I would suggest that the Liberal leader needs to rethink this because heating our homes and eating food are not bad habits that a Liberal government would need to discourage. Yet, that is exactly what a gas tax would do. It would force Canadians to cut back on necessities and try to figure out what they will spend their money on.

As I have already mentioned, the gas tax will have the biggest impact on low income Canadians, particularly seniors.

Another reason to oppose this tax is because it will not reach its intended goal. A number of people have said, and David Coon, the policy director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick is one of them, that a revenue neutral carbon tax will not help the environment or reduce carbon emissions. Neutrality is ridiculous.

I know I have to wrap up here but I just want to say that Canadians will not be fooled by the Liberal leader. If this looks like a massive tax grab and sounds like a massive tax grab, it is a massive tax grab.

Our government has lowered income taxes. It has lowered the GST. It has raised the personal exemption. It has brought in child tax credits so that Canadians can keep their money and spend it as they choose. When it comes to sound management of the economy, the choice is clear. The Liberals want to increase taxes, and punish Canadian workers for their own out of control spending and lack of priorities.

In contrast, we are delivering balanced budgets and lowering taxes in order to keep Canada growing and keep it strong.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

11:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, in politics, an undeniable sign that a government or an elected representative is out of touch with reality is when they show contempt and arrogance. In his remarks, the member said that the Bloc Québécois could not have any good reason to call today for a special debate on gasoline prices.

Is there one person in Quebec or Canada who feels that the current situation in terms of gasoline prices is reasonable and acceptable? Is there a willingness to restore Quebec's trade balance through lesser dependency on oil? People are coming to us, saying that because of the price of heating oil, they have been unable to make ends meet this winter and that the government should be able to do something about that. We have volunteers who are not getting reasonable reimbursements for their travel expenses raising these questions. We have representatives from transportation companies coming to us saying that things have gone far enough and that we have to do something.

How can my hon. colleague suggest that we were solely motivated by electioneering in calling for this debate when we took the time to bring before the House this issue of great concern across Quebec and Canada?

Will he correct his statement and put forward truly constructive proposals? He went on and on for 20 minutes about a Liberal proposal that is not on the table at present. Can he, who sits on the government side, come up with at least one practical suggestion and recognize that tonight's debate is fully justified because of all the people who are affected by rising gas prices?

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I understand the Bloc's frustration. It knows it will never be in government. It will never be able to bring its program in. It is here as a protest party and that is fine.

Tonight we are here to talk about the gas tax issue, but we have not talked just about the Liberal plan, whatever it is. We have talked about it but I pointed out a number of the things we have done in terms of taxation. On a personal level, we have made changes that have significantly increased the opportunity for Canadians to keep their money. We have reduced the GST 2%, which is more than we had planned and promised earlier.

We have lowered income taxes. We have consistently done that. We have raised personal exemptions, which are very important, and we put money into public transit credits. We put money into alternative fuels.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Gas price, gas price.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

My colleague wants to heckle me. He does not want to hear these kinds of things because they are positive things that have changed the lives of Canadians and have made Canadians more committed than ever to this country of Canada.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

11:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member from Terrebonne—Blainville.

During these 10 minutes, I would like to speak in this House about this emergency debate that was obtained by the Bloc Québécois thanks to the efforts of the member for Trois-Rivières. It is very important to tackle the issue of the price of gasoline and to find solutions. In our society, every problem has a solution. We need only make the effort and, in this case, have the political will to correct the situation. That is what we are hoping to do.

The Bloc Québécois proposed this debate because people from all segments of society have told us that we must deal with the issue, that it is important and that it is affecting consumers' lives, businesses' finances and the most disadvantaged in our society, such as seniors who, in rural and urban areas, are experiencing difficulties. Today, our public transit systems in urban and rural areas are inadequate and we have to find solutions to these problems.

I have found it very discouraging this evening that the government has no proposals and no plan. Its sole intervention is to state that market forces prevail. It says that we must live with very high prices and that we cannot solve the problem. Yet, the Bloc made some very constructive suggestions.

Barely two weeks ago, Bill C-454 was adopted in this House at second reading in order to send the bill to committee as quickly as possible and to give the Commissioner of Competition the authority to conduct an inquiry without having to prove that there is collusion. The current legislation has serious limitations that require proof of collusion in order to proceed with an inquiry. We believe that if the Commissioner of Competition were given the right to inquire in this area, we could make recommendations or suggestions to change the market organization and to find ways of dealing with the matter before us. This bill would give us a chance. This evening's debate will also give us an opportunity to talk about difficulties experienced and to encourage the government to propose solutions.

Last week I invited Frédéric Quintal, a specialist on gasoline issues, to come and give a talk in my riding. I invited the public, and about 50 people came. We had an excellent discussion. The title of his talk was “Faire le plein ou dormir au gaz”. In other words, do we stay deluded, decide to do nothing and believe that there is no way to change anything, or do we take the steps to bring about change? During this talk, I also invited a representative from ACEF, an organization that helps people with financial troubles. They run the Éconologis program, which gives residents concrete ways to reduce their heating costs in apartments and private homes.

They provide concrete measures and actions that can be implemented. They also dispel myths. It is often said that we should lower taxes in order to solve the problem of gasoline prices. In the past seven years, taxes have risen by about 55%, while gasoline itself, without taxes, has risen by 550%. There is a problem. Either we find a way to control how the market works so that there is healthy competition with useful results, or we find another way to tax oil companies who are making record profits. We have helped them out in recent years. In the last budget, their taxation rate was lowered again. This year is the ultimate year for oil companies. They are selling gasoline at record prices and, at the same time, their taxes are being reduced. Once again we are left out in the cold, and are expected to accept and tolerate the situation, without taking any action.

In my opinion, the Bloc is making a heartfelt appeal today. It is saying that the petroleum monitoring agency that was recommended by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, and the bill the Liberal government introduced before the Conservatives took office, have to be implemented. There also needs to be the will to decrease our dependence on oil. The profits made by oil companies have to result in the development of new renewable energies in order to decrease this dependence on oil. We have the means, we just need the will. The government needs to get the message and take appropriate action.

I hope that in the coming days many people in Quebec and Canada will call their MPs and say that they listened to part of the emergency debate the Bloc Québécois requested and that they will ask their MPs to take appropriate action.

I put out this call to create a broad coalition to resolve this issue last week and I have already received some responses. I will read one quickly: “In the local papers on the weekend I read of your intention to create a coalition against the rising price of gasoline. As a representative of the Parti Démocratie Chrétienne du Québec, riding of Kamouraska-Témiscouata, at the provincial level, I would like to join your cause. Are you taking action against the government or the oil companies? In any case, we have to look for solutions. Thank you for your cooperation.”

That is the kind of spirit I would like to see in this House. We saw it in the opposition parties today. Not everyone had the same solutions necessarily, but at least they had ideas. We did not see this in the Conservatives, not even those from Quebec who know all about this dependence on oil. They instead tried to tell us that nothing could be done about this.

We must end this inaction and start implementing concrete projects that can produce results. This evening, I am also appealing to all those who are watching us. Join our coalition and express your desire to see the government establish a concerted action plan to deal with the rising cost of gasoline.

Solutions have been sought for many years. Work has been done on this issue and many options have been put forward but a comprehensive solution has yet to be found.

I was spurred into action a few months ago when I met some people at my two constituency offices, in Montmagny and Rivière-du-Loup. It was the end of winter, and the price of heating oil was very high. These people told me that something should be done, that I had to set out on a mission and go ahead and put solutions forward.

That is what is behind tonight's emergency debate requested by the Bloc Québécois. It pervades the entire debate that will go on all through the evening until midnight. But come tomorrow, we will have to carry on the fight, and find ways to move forward and pull away from that dependency.

We have one more reason to act today. It is not just a matter of paying less for gas, but organizing tomorrow's society so as to foster sustainable development. We have to ensure that our children will be dealing with an acceptable energy situation, where there is room for sustainable development and renewable energy sources. We have to put an end to the polluting that is going on right now.

In the past, things like that were accomplished. At the end of the 19th century, London, England, was probably the most polluted city in the world. That pollution was due to the use of coal. Today, the air in London is cleaner than it was 100 years ago. Why? Because actions were taken. There are means to remedy the present situation and we must take them.

It may be possible to do what we want at a reasonable cost. I am all for paying taxes on gasoline if, in the end, we get services. I am in favour of oil companies making reasonable profits but today they are unreasonable. We have not yet devised the tax tools that would return that money to good use for the benefit of society as a whole. We must succeed in doing that.

We could give a lot of scientific explanations, but tonight, the message we must all understand is that we must convince the government to act. It must adopt a carefully planned strategy to get control of the gas price issue. That is necessary for our society. We must do our part for the future. It is also a better way to distribute wealth.

I call on my colleagues to continue the work. Building on the initiative of my colleague from Trois-Rivières, the government must put forward concrete solutions in the days and weeks ahead.

Price of Petroleum Products
Emergency Debate

May 26th, 2008 / 11:20 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am taking part in tonight's debate primarily because everything the Conservative members had to say has really made me shudder. They have tried to take the debate down another path. This debate was and is something that the people of my riding wanted. My riding, which is just north of Montreal, might seem rich, since there are many new construction projects, but there are also areas in the riding where the people are older and the houses date back to 1945, 1950 and 1960, and many people there would benefit from subsidies or assistance to heat those older houses.

My own house was built in 1950 and I have renovated it. I was not rich; I did not have an MP's salary at the time. Still, even though my house is empty most of the time—I live alone now—this year it cost me $600 more to heat it. The price of heating oil—I will refrain from naming the company I use—has risen to 94¢ a litre. I have a son who last year bought a small house that was built around 1965 and it cost him $1,200 more to heat it. He also lives alone. This is not because our houses are poorly insulated; on the contrary. Since we are knowledgeable about these things, we were able to upgrade the insulation in our houses. But our oil suppliers increased their prices. Since we have oil furnaces and oil fired hot water heaters, we are forced to pay more.

I could also describe my riding as a bedroom community. People live there but work outside the riding, mainly in Montreal. On the weekend, I again talked with people who told me that they were spending $1,000 more on gasoline. Because our roads are in such poor condition, road work is required, creating traffic congestion that means we spend more on gas.

So when I hear my Conservative friends say that the debate should be restricted to the carbon exchange or past Liberal programs, I feel that they are getting away from the real problem that people want to talk to us about.

I feel it is important that the Bloc Québécois requested this emergency debate this evening. I do not mind speaking at a quarter to midnight when I am speaking on behalf of my constituents who need dual energy programs to reduce their heating costs, who need assistance programs, if only to improve public transit, and who, because they pay taxes, also should be able to receive grants and support so that they can continue to have a certain quality of life.

My colleague, the Bloc Québécois member for Montcalm, introduced Bill C-454. I feel it is an extremely important bill. When we talk to people, they ask us to reduce gasoline taxes. It is important to understand that the current situation is hurting the public not necessarily because of the taxes, but perhaps because of the fact that no study has been done of the extent of competition in the oil industry, because of the game played by the oil companies, which claim rights for themselves, enjoy huge shameless subsidies from this government and the previous government, make exorbitant profits and pay no attention to what the public really needs.

The Bloc Québécois wants the Competition Bureau to have real investigative powers in order to see exactly what goes on, explain how the industry operates, get to the bottom of things and, especially, try to discipline this industry. Businesses make agreements with their competitors; we know that many oil companies make arrangements with one another. It is not rare to see one oil company suddenly raise its prices and on the next corner, where another oil company has a gas station, see that the price has soared again. These companies stick together. The Bloc Québécois wants the oil companies to prove that the agreements between them are not detrimental to consumers.

In the Bloc Québécois, we think that many measures could be put in place. We could focus on energy efficiency to rapidly give some leeway to Hydro-Québec, on one hand, and help consumers, on the other hand. I previously talked about dual energy. Before my present house, I had a house that we converted to dual energy. This change actually was helpful. I live in the old part of Terrebonne and I had houses that needed this type of heating system.

We also believe that the government should promote programs to encourage alternative energy so that people can take advantage of programs for wind, geothermal and solar, among others. It should also do something to help people struggling with heating costs. Proposing such programs, even on a pilot basis, could reduce the cost of fuel and heating for some families.

Our industries are also suffering because of rising fuel costs. We must not forget that to be unable to predict how much heating will cost means uncertainty for businesses that are left wondering what will happen to them. We could curb increasing fuel consumption for intercity transportation. We could also reduce the use of trucks for intercity transport. We could curb increasing fuel consumption for local freight transportation by increasing the load that trucks can transport.

I see that I do not have much time left. I know I talked about my own personal perspective, a perspective I share with many families in Blainville, Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines and Terrebonne. I am one of them. I pay for gas and heating oil, and I buy it from the same company that everyone else on my street buys it from. I am doing well because, as a member of Parliament, I get paid well, but the same cannot be said for my neighbours, who earn $35,000 or $40,000 a year, who have to commute, who have to pay for gas, and who have to listen to the nonsense we have heard tonight from the current government, nonsense that does not even offer a glimmer of hope for a way out of this. That is just terrible.

Last weekend, people knew there might be an emergency debate. This evening, I called some people and told them to watch their members and to keep an eye on the ones who rose tonight. I hope they will not forget this government's indifference.