Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. parliamentary secretary.
What I would first like to look at is who the real culprit is when it comes to Canadian taxes on fuel versus the oil producers and the cost of oil. The simple fact is that two days ago the benchmark October contract for West Texas intermediate crude was $36.51 U.S. a barrel. A year and a half earlier in 1998 it was less than $11 U.S. Obviously the price of crude is the real culprit. This is why the finance minister will be taking very constructive steps, I hope, with his G-7 counterparts in Prague this weekend, to try to deal with the very serious impact on the economies of all the countries in the world.
The second point I want to talk about is the impact on truckers. To the extent government taxes add to the cost of diesel fuel, are these taxes mainly provincial or federal? Let us look at the federal taxes.
We have a GST of 7% but it is fully refundable to truckers. They do not pay it so it cannot be the GST. Is it the excise tax? The excise tax federally is four cents. It does not fluctuate with the price; it is constant. This is the lowest excise tax in the G-7 and it is fully deductible for tax purposes. Four cents, yes. It is deductible and it costs less for the trucker.
Let us look at the provincial taxes. In Alberta truckers pay a nine cent excise tax on their diesel fuel.
I want to look at this issue raised in the House today through the motion. It was the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge who first raised the issue of fuel tax prices in the country. Now we see very quickly, for the first time in history and never talked about before, that members of the official opposition are running after the parade, trying to catch up to it and get in front of it, but they are stumbling all over themselves in so doing. Nothing could be greater evidence of their craven efforts to grab headlines and of their abject incompetence in coming to grips with this particular issue.
Let us look at the motion before us. It talks about the severe hurt to Canadian truckers and homeowners. Then what does it propose as the antidote to this harm? Two things: cut the federal excise tax by 1.5 cents per litre and eliminate the tax on the tax for gasoline. That is what those members are proposing in this opposition day measure to deal with this huge issue we face in terms of the cost of fuels. How will these two little tax measures they propose help truckers and homeowners?
First, truckers. Let us look at the 1.5 cents per litre cut that has been proposed. It never applied to diesel fuel and it does not today so it cannot be that. Since the GST does not hit the truckers, there is no tax on the tax. So the measures have absolutely no impact on truckers. How will they help truckers? Not one nano-cent.
How about the homeowners the opposition talks about? Since there is no federal excise tax on heating fuel, their proposed 1.5 cent tax cut will not help them. And obviously there is no tax on tax. How will these proposed measures, the opening salvo of the official opposition, help homeowners? Not one nano-cent.
In conclusion, these proposed measures if enacted would have zero impact in helping homeowners and truckers.
Let us say the 1.5 cent tax cut went through. Even if it did, would car owners ever see it or would it just be swallowed up by the producers? These are very real concerns. In rejecting a fuel tax cut less than a year ago for Alberta, the present Leader of the Opposition said:
Will it flow through to the people? Will it be reflected at the pump? What kind of guarantees have we got that gas retailers are also going to drop the price?
There are no guarantees in this motion reflecting these very real concerns expressed by the Leader of the Opposition. I just listened to him a few minutes ago. In response to questions dealing with this issue, he said that he really does not favour tax cuts, that he prefers tax rebates. Then why did he not bring forth tax rebates in the motion? Even the Leader of the Opposition is admitting that it is a flawed motion. Is there a guarantee in the motion that a cut would be passed on to the consumers? Not one nano-cent.
This is either very cheap politics or it is total legislative incompetence on behalf of the official opposition. Canadians will not buy into this phoney motion because it will do nothing to help the homeowners, the truckers, or the people buying gas at the gas pump and they are not going to be hoodwinked by this type of flim-flam.