Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-23. Before I begin, I will say how happy I am to have this opportunity, as this legislation has been in the making for a long time.
First, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Laval Centre. The amendment she put forward is, in my view, quite relevant and interesting. By putting forward this amendment, I believe she proved how competent and multi-talented she is. My colleague from Laval Centre excels in a number of areas, including culture and health care, as she said herself. But I did not know she had such expertise in the area of competition. I want to congratulate her and tell her how happy we are to be able to debate this brilliant amendment in the House today.
That being said, we must give credit where credit is due. Although the government is unable to do so, for our part, we routinely recognize the value and merit of our opponents' work. This bill is the result of the work done by a number of members who do not belong to cabinet. They put forward private members' bills that caught the eye of the government to such an extent that it decided to include them in what I would call an omnibus bill, as it deals with various aspects of the Competition Act, with a view to amend and improve it.
The bills I refer to are Bill C-402 inroduced by the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge, Bill C-438 by the member for Kitchener Centre, Bill C-471 by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine and Bill C-472, again by the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge.
I am not sure that we need to conclude from this listing of the work by members, which the government has decided to use as a basis for drafting is Bill C-23, that the government is not interested in, or does not take into consideration, or does not choose to use, anything but suggestions from its own members. We must, however, be glad that the work done by MPs on an individual basis, or in other words the private members' bills and motions can gain momentum and end up with a positive outcome in the House, as is the case with Bill C-23.
I hope that the minister is lending an attentive ear to what we are saying this afternoon, because his very careful attention to the first speeches was obvious. Let us hope that same attention has been given to the last ones. I think he was justified in pointing out that the bill is the outcome of conscientious and non partisan efforts by departmental staff, of course, but also and primarily by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. For some months now, the committee has been addressing a potential review of the legislation and of the options and avenues that might be envisaged to tighten up Canada's Competition Act .
It is fortunate that, at the conclusion of this work, we were able before its examination to debate Bill C-23, which, as I was saying, is intended to act on certain suggestions.
However, it is unfortunate that the bill did not go further and that this pre-examination did not allow us to go further. The pre-examination should have allowed us to do so, because we had not accepted the principle of the bill. We could therefore have possible expanded the scope of concerns and the various amendments that could have been proposed.
It is also regrettable that the minister, while his speech was very carefully worded, if I can put it like that, set a rather partisan tone at the end of the debate, because, as he had indicated, up to that point the debate had been non-partisan.
We worked together as a committee to improve the bill. I think the amendment by my colleague from Laval Centre would have had the effect, the advantage, of improving the bill substantially. But since this amendment, it appears, did not come from a government member, arguments that I consider fallacious were cited to reject it, politely, I must say, but reject it nevertheless.
But it is not quite true that this amendment came from a member who is not a government member. And no, I am not announcing publicly that my colleague has decided to cross the floor of the House. However, her amendment was largely based on the work done by the hon. member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge. This work resulted in certain provisions being included in Bill C-472, which sought to protect small retailers, particularly in the oil industry, and small businesses against bigger ones.
In this regard, when they appeared before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, the representatives of the Association québécoise des indépendants du pétrole mentioned—and the minister should reread their evidence—that some provisions in Bill C-472 seemed to promote their interests, including their access to the resource.
Right now, we have a quasi-monopoly in which the resource—crude oil, oil, gas, refined product—is provided by a very small number of companies. These companies are in a position to drive independent retailers out of business.
Bill C-472 included provisions which eliminated this power of the major oil companies over the small independent businesses. The Association québécoise des indépendants du pétrole had just one small reservation and its concerned the expression standard market conditions used in Bill C-472, which it wanted to see removed from the bill.
Why? Because the standard market conditions are defined by the major oil companies in this instance. These companies determine what these conditions are. So, they could have argued before the competition tribunal that the demands of the independent companies went against the standard market conditions they themselves established.
Also, as I said, with extraordinary prescience, my colleague from Laval Centre took from Bill C-472 the relevant provision but without the expression standard market conditions. She presented this amendment, which the hon. member for Pickering--Ajax--Uxbridge had himself considered, to the House.
Therefore, the minister should be more open to this motion in amendment since it came initially, not from an opposition backbencher but from a government member.
I invite the House to vote in favour of this amendment, which I believe is important for small businesses, independent distributors and everyone who is faced with a monopolistic or oligopolistic situation. I hope all members will support this amendment.