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.