Fuel Price Posting Act

An Act respecting the posting of fuel prices by retailers

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Guy St-Julien  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 5, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)

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.

Fuel Price Posting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure today that I rise to speak to Bill C-220, an act respecting the posting of fuel prices by retailers.

I commend my hon. colleague for the introduction of the legislation. It will help in terms of achieving greater levels of transparency in the pricing and in terms of allowing consumers to know the price they are paying at the pumps for fuel that actually goes to the retailer and ultimately to the petroleum company.

That being the case, the real culprit in fuel pricing in Canada is not necessarily the producer but, as is more often the case, the federal government in terms of the gas taxes that are collected and are not returned to the provinces for investment in our highways and our infrastructure.

The excise tax on gasoline in Canada and the U.S. is quite similar, despite the fact that gas retailers and refineries in Canada operate in a less efficient market than the U.S. The federal government is clearly the real culprit in terms of the taxes levied on petroleum.

From 1998 to 1999 the federal government collected $4.7 billion in gas taxes and only returned 4.1%, or a paltry $194 million, in provincial transfers for highways. Thirty-six per cent to 45% of the price consumers pay at the pumps actually goes directly to federal and provincial taxes.

The 1998 Liberal caucus task force, with, I believe, 47 Liberal backbenchers, recommended reducing the federal excise tax on gasoline from 10 cents to 8.5 cents. After studying the issue their request was turned down by the Minister of Finance. Ironically, what the Liberal caucus task force was looking for was the elimination of the 1995 deficit reduction surtax that was introduced by the Minister of Finance at that time to ostensibly reduce the deficit.

The deficit is gone. Why is the gas tax, that unnecessary 1.5 cents per litre gas tax, still there? It was introduced to get rid of the deficit. The deficit has gone. The tax is still there despite the fact that 47 Liberal backbenchers recommended its elimination. It is one of the times that I actually agree with my colleagues opposite that the gas tax should be gone.

We have called for a national highways infrastructure program. There are great disparities between the provinces in terms of their ability to afford to upgrade their highways as opposed to some of the other provinces.

In Nova Scotia we are facing significant financial constraints and infrastructure deficits at this time. Highway 101 in my riding is a death trap. There have been over 50 deaths in recent years on that highway. It has the highest level of traffic in the province and is one of the most dangerous highways in the country. We are looking for, and the federal government has said there will be, a federal-provincial cost sharing or twinning on that program.

The difficulty is that the province is not in the fiscal position to participate on a 50:50 basis from day one. We are looking for a front end loading program where the federal government would in fact pay the lion's share of the cost upfront but, over a five year period, the province would pick up a greater part of the contribution. This would make a lot more sense, particularly given the fact that this is a life and death issue and should be viewed as such.

This type of initiative would, in a reasonable way, facilitate the commencement of that project in the short term. It would save lives and lead to greater levels of economic development in that fast growing area of the province, the Annapolis Valley. It makes a great deal of sense.

I will comment now on a different area of the petroleum issue. The premier of Nova Scotia has been campaigning vigorously on this issue, on behalf of all Nova Scotians, regardless of partisan politics. I direct my comments to the member for Halifax West, who I am sure at this point supports the premier's initiative.

The campaign for fairness, which Premier John Hamm has initiated, is a very important debate in which we need to be engaged. The federal government is currently taking the lion's share of offshore petroleum revenues from Nova Scotia. We are not receiving the benefits. Nova Scotia needs those revenues in order to bootstrap itself into the 21st century and afford the education and transportation infrastructures needed to compete in a hypercompetitive global economy. At the same time, it needs those revenues to reduce its fiscal burdens, particularly its tax burdens, which inhibit growth and prosperity in this very difficult time.

Fuel Price Posting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2001 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-220.

The bill would require fuel or gasoline retailers to indicate the selling price of fuel without including the price of the taxes that would be applied. I commend the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie James—Nunavik for his efforts in this regard.

It is no wonder that no one on the Liberal side is even standing to second the bill of their own party member. That is how they encourage private members' business. We of course want all private members' bills to be votable, but there is no one to even second this one.

The member's efforts would inform Canadians about the true price of fuel as opposed to the price we are paying, which includes taxes. The bill defines fuel as gasoline types of fuels used by internal combustion engines and diesel fuel and propane gas. The bill makes it clear that we are not talking about home heating oil or aircraft fuel. We are talking about the fuel we use in our automobiles.

I do not have too many problems with the bill. The bill is of course limited in scope, as well as limited in seconders, because it applies only to consumers buying gas for their cars. It seems to me that with the sharp spike in the price of home heating oil and gas, which has hit us so hard and is not included in the bill, the House should be consumed with that issue and that issue alone.

Canadians are suffering this winter in our cold climate. It is a particularly cold winter this year. There has been a 70% hike in natural gas prices which the Liberals did not foresee and did not prevent. They did nothing about it except to send out cheques of a couple of hundred dollars, and then too, to people who probably do not pay the heating bills, for example, students, prisoners or even deceased Canadians.

We know that Canadians are paying over a couple of thousand dollars compared to the couple of hundred dollars that the cheques are for. The government completely missed the target of sending the cheques to those most in need of assistance with their heating bills this winter.

The Liberal finance minister has no sympathy for Canadian seniors or persons on fixed incomes who have so little money that they are choosing among getting their prescriptions filled, what they can afford to buy to eat, or heat.

I might add that it is also the Liberal government's fault that our heating fuel costs are higher than those in the U.S.A. This government keeps our taxes high and our dollar weak. We are being hurt twice. It is a double whammy.

Let us talk about gas prices, which is what the bill talks about. We started to see the price hikes about a year ago. It is the amount of tax placed on gas that has driven the price upward. We get really upset when gasoline prices jump by 10 cents or 20 cents per litre and we hate it when it happens overnight. We hate it most when it happens on a Friday just before a long weekend. We all feel that we are hostages to gasoline prices while we also rely heavily on our automobiles for all kinds of work.

The Canadian Alliance's chief natural resources critic, the hon. member for Athabasca, in Alberta, is of course very knowledgeable on the subject of gasoline prices. He has been working in this area for a long time. My colleagues and I have great respect for his understanding of this field in particular. He has been recommending transparency in the price of gasoline and has been advocating this on behalf of consumers. He explains that the price we pay at the gas pumps includes a tremendous amount of tax. That is why, when the price of gas or oil on the world market is hiked, we feel it, because not only is the price of the gas hiked but the taxes also get higher with respect to that increase.

This exacerbates the increase in the wholesale price. If it were not for the taxes piled on top of the price of the gas, Canadians would not be so radically affected by the price hikes in the world price of oil.

Canadians want to be able to clearly see the gouge made in their pocketbooks by taxes on gas. It is not the oil companies that are the villains here. It is the taxes. If Canadians could see the large amount of taxes applied to the price of gas it would heighten awareness in Canada of the importance of tax cuts. Taxpayers could properly direct their frustration and anger at the governments applying these taxes, particularly the federal government.

Everyone knows that the Canadian Alliance stands for tax cuts. About 9 cents per litre of gas is federal tax. On top of that we have a provincial excise tax. On top of that we have a provincial sales tax. On top of that we have the GST. We have a tax on a tax on a tax and on a tax. This is very unfair.

I have some facts and figures from the B.C. edition of FuelFacts for February 13, 2001, which is the latest edition. FuelFacts monitors the price of gas. Clearly we can see from the chart that gas is 29.5 cents per litre. When all the taxes are piled on top of that 29.5 cents, the price of the same gas is 74 cents per litre. That is a shame. Only 16 cents of this 74 cent per litre price goes to the refiner and the marketer of the gasoline.

Some people might say that is how the government raises revenue to pay for the things we need such as health care, highways, schools, prisons, free flags, golf courses, hotels for the Prime Minister's riding and so on. However, my province of British Columbia gets only 5% of the amount of federal taxes we pay on gas. This amount is returned to us to pay for transportation infrastructure.

In 1997 the federal Liberals raked in about $360 million in fuel taxes from British Columbia. This figure has risen. It is now about $700 million a year. The federal government returns only 5% to British Columbia and B.C. is the only province in the whole country that does not have any four lane highways. We cannot even buy enough street lamps with the 5% that the Liberals return to us for transportation and infrastructure development.

Where do all of our tax dollars and tax revenues raised by gasoline taxes go? They are not helping us in B.C. to pay for our highways, our airports, the RCMP, border protection, the coast guard or emergency preparedness, et cetera. Our money is being kept in Ottawa or is being spent by Ottawa. Maybe it is being spent on some of the boondoggles or maybe in the Prime Minister's riding for fountains. Who knows where the money goes? There are many factors in this other than high taxes. Sometimes it is surprising to see how the geography works.

Prices are affected exponentially with the increase in the price at the original level. Sometimes a 5 cent increase becomes a 10 cent or 15 cent increase at the consumer level because of the taxes.

In regard to gas stations, I want to mention that the government should be investigating how, on any morning, afternoon or evening, gasoline prices can suddenly increase, sometimes within seconds or minutes. However, when the price of fuel goes down, it takes two or three days for the gas station prices to go down. What are we supposed to conclude when that happens? Is it collusion, price fixing or an oligopoly? What happens to the stock or inventory of the retailers?

We do not want to interfere with their private businesses. We want supply and demand, or competition, to control the market, but at the same time we need to balance that with the public interest. We do not want the public to be victimized or exploited by the federal government's taxes and then by businesses and so on.

In conclusion, the bill would make it clear exactly how much money per litre of gas is being taken by the government out of the pockets of Canadians. However, isolating the amount of taxes from the actual cost may not be the real solution for giving any tax relief to Canadians.

In the end, maybe we do not need to legislate. Maybe the retailers would volunteer.

However, the hon. member's bill is a very thoughtful idea and I tend to support it.

Fuel Price Posting ActPrivate Members' Business

February 21st, 2001 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

moved that Bill C-220, an act respecting the posting of fuel prices by retailers, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to demand on behalf of consumers that the pre-tax price of a litre of gas be posted. As I said when I introduced this bill, when a fuel retailer causes a poster, label or sign to be posted indicating the selling price for a fuel, the price must be indicated without any taxes imposed on the consumer under federal or provincial legislation.

When we introduce a bill in the House, it is placed on the notice paper and then we have to wait for the draw. Sometimes one has to wait one, two or three years before one's bill comes up in the draw. If one is lucky, one's bill might be one of the first ones to be drawn. I was lucky, which is fortunate for consumers.

Then the bill is reviewed by a committee, and one has to explain why it should be made a votable item or not. One goes before the committee members, as I did last week. Members listen to find out what the bill is all about. I explained all that to the committee.

Then the committee meets a second time to determine whether the bill should be made a votable item. And this is when the problem starts. Once at this stage, and even earlier in the process, there should be a draw to decide which bills are votable and which ones are not. This is the problem we have in the House.

At the second meeting, last Friday, when opposition members saw that I was introducing this bill, Bloc members and Alliance members alike said “This is a provincial matter. This is a matter for provincial governments. You have no business introducing such a bill”. Therefore I did not win; it was decided my bill was not votable. But it does not matter, because in the House the main thing is to speak on behalf of consumers.

I am going to tell the House what the price of a litre of gas is: today in Val d'Or, in Abitibi, it is 77.9 cents. Very few people know what the price of a litre of gasoline is before taxes. However if people call the Régie de l'énergie in Quebec, the experts will explain what it is.

The price we see announced is 77.9 cents per litre, but when we go in to pay the bill after filling up the tank, we see a total of $40, for example, but we do not see the 10 cent excise tax or the 10.55 cent Quebec road tax on the invoice. In our region we do not have a 1.5 cent special tax, as they do in Montreal. However, in Montreal motorists pay 15.55 cents, whereas in Abitibi, thanks to the government in office, we pay 10.55 cents because we live in a remote area. Then there is the GST and the QST.

Consumers only see two taxes; they do not see the other taxes. In the meantime, oil companies, such as Petro-Canada, put a sticker on the pumps that says that taxes are included in the price. That sticker has been there for months. It is still there. The funny thing is that once they stick it there, they forget to remove it.

Today, the price of gas in Abitibi is 77.9 cents. Petro-Canada has a sticker on the pump saying that taxes are 51%. Let us take this price of 77.9 cents and add a few figures. The minimum price, according to the Régie de l'énergie, is 35.8 cents. The cost of transporting gas to Val d'Or is about 2.4 cents per litre. The cost of transporting it to Quebec City or to Montreal is about 0.3 cents per litre. If we add it up, 35.8 cents plus 2.4 cents, we get a total of 44.4 cents, which means that taxes would be 33.5 cents.

Now we get to the sticker. I am targeting Petro-Canada in particular because the Government of Canada owns 18% of that company. The consumer does not know what the exact price of a litre of gas is without taxes because it is not posted.

Throughout the year consumers are aware of the multiple billion dollar profits Canada's oil companies are making. They know how much the bosses and their friends are collecting in dividends, yet the companies are unable to tell us how much a litre of gas costs at the pumps. They do not want to tell the consumers this.

Yesterday morning, at 6.35, I went to a gas station and asked for a litre of gas just for the fun of it. How much would it cost? On Chemin de la Montagne in Hull, the posted price was 70.9 cents a litre. I tried to get a litre but did not manage to get exactly that. I went inside and paid my 70 cents, then went back out and tried to pump a litre. I ended up with 1.03 litres for 71 cents, yet the posted price was 70.9 cents.

Let hon. members try to do the calculation of what the price of a litre of gas is without the taxes. No matter what means we use, this is impossible. The oil companies are billionaires many times over, but they cannot tell the consumer how much a litre of gas costs.

We know that a litre of gas costs 35.8 cents anywhere in Quebec. The price added on top of that is for shipping it to the regions. In Nunavik people do not know the price of a litre of gas. We know, however, that 4 cents a litre is for getting it to the Chapais, Chibougamau, Matagami and James Bay regions.

We know that the profit margin is included in the price per litre at the pump. That is what I want to say to the government, and I tried to have a motion passed making the bill votable.

We know that the government of Quebec is doing a very good job, because it allows reductions on the transportation tax or the special tax in the outlying regions.

What is happening right now? Father Charles-Aimé Anctil, Val-d'Or's parish priest, wrote me the following one day: “What a surprise not to hear politicians up in arms about the hike in gas prices. Don't tell me that you can't do anything: you are the ones with the power”.

We are doing everything we can to get the oil companies to post the gross price of a litre of gasoline, minus the taxes. They are not interested. When we ask them why, we are told that it is the governments that are opposed. I put the question to the government of Quebec and to the Government of Canada and I was told that the problem was not them but the oil companies.

The biggest laugh of all is that there is nothing preventing the oil companies from posting the gross price of a litre of gas in Canada.

As of today, the price of a litre of gas in Quebec is 35.8 cents. It should be possible to find out the gross price of a litre of gas, minus the taxes, in Ontario, Manitoba or Vancouver, but it is not, because Petro-Canada's pumps break the price down into benefits: 1%, price of crude oil, 30%, refinery costs, 18% and taxes 51%. That is what is posted today.

However a look below, at the little bottom line reveals the words “average prices at the pump in 1999”. We are being had by Petro-Canada, by misinformation. At the moment, the oil companies are worth billions and cannot even manage to change the labels.

It is disgusting that a company belonging to the Government of Canada is incapable of being in consumer mode and revealing the cost of gasoline without taxes.

The aim of the bill is to find ways to enable the consumer to discover the real price of gasoline. A consumer buying a litre of gasoline in Abitibi Senneterre, or anywhere in Quebec knows he pays the QST and the GST. He knows he has to pay the excise tax. He also knows there is a provincial tax. He knows there are taxes for Tom, Dick and Harry, but he cannot know the gross price of a litre of gasoline.

In some provinces, there is no provincial tax. All the better for consumers. One day, with luck, we may not have to pay the provincial tax on a litre of gasoline in Quebec.

What counts most is reporting to consumers, telling them “Here is your product and the cost of it”. A litre of gasoline in Quebec is currently 35.8 cents, plus transport, which in Abitibi and I am still talking about my region, is 2.4 cents and the service station profit may be 3 or 4 cents, but we can live with that.

We can live with the taxes. In any case, we will always have to pay them somewhere. We will take it in our righthand or lefthand pocket. We are always going to get hit. Be it under the government of Quebec or the Government of Canada, we will always be paying taxes somewhere.

What matters to me is knowing the gross price charged by an oil company for a litre of gas. Not many people have this information. We have specialists. Perhaps we will know more tomorrow because the report on competition, or the study that was done, is supposed to be tabled tomorrow.

Here is what the study said:

That the oil industry should bear in mind the public's level of frustration and adopt more transparent pricing practices, including showing the gross price and giving the breakdown for refinery, processing, whole sale and retail prices, and taxes.

I think that everyone's interests would be better served if the industry made a greater effort to explain how prices are set and made this information available to consumers.

This quote is from a letter sent me by the minister on June 5, 2000. I have nothing prepared, I am speaking off the cuff. The federal Minister of Natural Resources wrote me and recommended precisely what I have just said: “that the consumer should be better informed”. That is what is important.

It matters little which governments are in power in Canada. What matters is the consumer. When we go into a corner store, we know that a case of beer costs $22 plus taxes. On the reserve, it costs $22 without taxes. That is another story. Whenever one goes to buy something, one knows the price. Here in Ottawa, we know that the lunch special costs $8.95, plus taxes.

Try that with a litre of gas. Everybody is upset at the Government of Canada regarding the price of gas in my region and elsewhere. I tell parliamentarians that there is no act preventing oil companies from doing that. There is no legislation preventing oil companies from indicating the gross price before taxes. There is no act preventing them from doing that. They do not want to do that, they are hiding things.

We should know tomorrow, because we just got a memo saying that Industry Canada will table its report on the oil industry tomorrow.

It is always the same thing with this issue. The government is the one being blamed. Sometimes this may be a good thing, but the government of Quebec is also blamed as well as all the provinces.

However, it is wrong to say that all the provinces regulate gas prices in Canada. Unless I am mistaken, there may be two provinces that have an energy board: Prince Edward Island and Quebec. These two provinces set a floor price. They can try to do so. Today in Quebec that floor price is 67.6 cents, depending on the regions. In Abitibi the floor price of a litre of gas is currently 67.6 cents. It is less than in Montreal, because in Montreal they also have taxes. These are special taxes for the metro, 1.55 cents, and others at 1.5 cents, 0.10 cents, 15.55 cents.

The important thing for Canadian consumers is to know what kind of products they are paying for. What is the capital? What the gross price before taxes? We do not know. This is what I am asking from oil companies. If it does not work here in Ottawa, I am asking oil companies to stand up and to show the real price of a litre of gas before taxes.

Fuel Price Posting ActRoutine Proceedings

February 5th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-220, an act respecting the posting of fuel prices by retailers.

Mr. Speaker, under this bill, when a fuel retailer causes a poster, label or sign to be posted indicating the selling price for a fuel, the price must be indicated without regard to any taxes imposed on the consumer under an act of parliament or an act of the legislature of a province.

Presently in Canada oil companies are afraid to show what the price of one litre of oil is before taxes. It will have to be on the bill, but the price of a litre of oil before taxes will also have to be posted. The oil companies are afraid to do so.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)