Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on private member's Bill C-220, an act respecting the energy price commission.
This bill would establish an energy price commission to regulate the wholesale and retail prices of gasoline. The purpose of price regulation is to avoid unreasonable increases which affect the cost of living and depress business. This is the reason for the bill and the justification for setting up an energy price commission as given by the hon. member for Regina-Lumsden.
I too am extremely concerned about the price of gasoline. Every time I pull up to the pumps or get a load of bulk fuel delivered to my farm I am concerned about the price of gasoline. I often wonder why it is as high as it is.
This legislation does not provide a answer to the problem. This is a typical NDP solution to the problem, a socialist solution to the problem. It is not a practical solution. It has been tried before for other commodities and in other countries. This type of action has completely failed. In fact, as the hon. member who spoke from the Liberal Party said, regulation often leads to higher prices. Clearly this is not the solution.
Setting up an energy price commission would provide another opportunity for patronage appointments. Such a body would employ high priced, taxpayer funded civil servants. There is no other way to make a commission like that work.
Canadians do not need a higher cost of government. We need smaller government. We need less money spent by government. We do not need any more bodies to provide opportunities for the government of the day to make patronage appointments. It is clearly the wrong way to go.
I would like to mention a few figures presented by Michael Ervine, president of QIS Solution Inc., in his presentation to the House of Commons natural resources committee when speaking on the topic of the price of gasoline. Mr. Ervine pointed out that the average price of regular gasoline in Canada today is 55 cents a litre.
Of this price about 15 cents a litre represents the cost of the crude oil. About 30 cents a litre is the tax on this fuel at the pump. Only 10 cents a litre is what is left for the oil companies to refine the fuel, to transport, to lease equipment and to sell the product. Therefore, 10 cents a litre out of 55 cents a litre is to provide all of these costs.
When looking at a breakdown of costs of gasoline the tax component is by far the highest single component. What is a practical way of dealing with the problem? There is one most effective way for the government or the New Democratic Party to deal with this issue of what they perceive to be high gasoline prices. Again I say I feel they are high too. I feel it every time I buy a litre of gasoline for my farm or for my car. The most effective thing to do is to lower the tax component.
Saskatchewan has a reputation for having high taxes on gasoline in that province. Again, the way to deal with the problem is to reduce the tax component which is over half of the total cost of gasoline.
How is the tax component reduced? There is only one way to do that. Reduce government spending so that it does not have to tax at these totally unreasonable levels.
The hon. member for Regina-Lumsden is correct in one respect. The price of gasoline is too high. It is higher than it should be because the tax component is too high. That is the area on which the hon. member should be working.
The hon. member referred to a survey which appeared in the Regina Leader Post . In that survey about 93 per cent of the people who responded said they favoured this type of a commission. When going to the people on an issue it is important to do the background work before the survey or the poll. The background work is to make sure that all the information gets out before the survey or poll is taken.
I wonder if on this issue the Regina Leader Post or the hon. member for Regina-Lumsden did their work and got the information that I just presented on the cost of gasoline, which stated that over half the cost is taxes. Did they do their job to get the message out to the people that the tax component is the problem here?
I do not know for a fact that gasoline is not higher than it should be even acknowledging the high portion of tax. I am not saying it is not too high. But the way to deal with the problem is not by setting up an energy price commission, but to make sure of fair, good, strong, competition legislation which is enforced.
I acknowledge that some progress has been made over the last 10 years. The body that deals with the Competitions Act has made some progress. I believe it is much better than the old legislation that was in place. This Competitions Act, and the people who administer it, have gone a long way in trying to make it easy for people to let the bureau know if they feel there is unfair competition. I am sure it has heard from a large number of people who feel that the price of gasoline is too high.
The competition bureau's services are readily available to people through a 1-800 toll free number. This allows people who feel there is not fair competition to complain that companies are not dealing with prices fairly.
Progress has been made. I cannot determine if there really is a problem of fuel prices being too high other than the tax component which is clearly much too high. Over half of the cost of gasoline is tax at the pump, plus royalties and other taxes built into the rest of the price.
The way to deal with this is to make sure that we do have good, fair competition legislation, that the Competitions Act is strengthened if it needs to be strengthened, and that it be used and enforced.
I cannot support the legislation. It is up to other members of the Reform Party to determine how they will vote on this issue. Some Reform MPs may support the issue, but I doubt it very much when we look at the facts behind this.
I will not support the bill. Other Reform MPs can make their own decision. I believe this is a socialist, bureaucratic solution which will not work. The matter must be dealt with it through the competitions bureau.