Madam Speaker, I am fairly disappointed by what I have heard today. I have been here since 10 o'clock trying to hear a substantial debate about how we are going to resolve this whole crisis of high gasoline prices in Canada but all I have heard from the opposition throughout the whole day is how we are going to solve this problem through a tax reduction of 1.5 cents a litre. I must submit that is not the answer.
My constituents are telling me that even if we reduced the tax on gas by 1.5 cents a litre that they would still be paying 74 cents or 75 cents a litre, which is way too high. In that sense, I have not heard one tangible proposal that would deal with that specific problem.
The second problem is that the opposition wants the government to reduce the tax when in fact if the government were to reduce the tax there would be absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that this tax reduction on gasoline would go into the pockets of consumers, simply because history tells us otherwise.
Let us take the example of New Brunswick. Hon. members will be both happy and disappointed to know that in New Brunswick, which has the fourth lowest tax on gasoline anywhere in Canada at approximately 10.7 cents per litre, the people pay the fourth highest price for gasoline per litre across Canada. The government of New Brunswick decided to reduce taxes in the hope that it would benefit the consumers of New Brunswick but the oil companies sucked up that reduction and pocketed it.
Reducing taxes without talking to the consumers will not solve the problem. So much for the theory of reducing the tax on gasoline hoping that the consumer will get the benefit at the mercy of the oil companies.
I have been involved with this case, like many of my colleagues on this side of the House, for over 14 years, when gasoline prices were not fashionable to talk about, and nothing has changed. We still hear the same lines from the same players on the international market, the major international oil producers. When we ask them why we are paying so much for gasoline or why gasoline prices are moving up and down, they give us three arguments, the first being supply and demand. They tell us that when there is a shortage of supply on the international market we have a higher crude oil price and, as a result, we pay more at the pump.
I did some research through my office and through the Library of Parliament. We looked at the International Energy Agency, a very respected international agency located in Europe that monitors supply and demand internationally. What we found out was quite interesting. The average supply of oil in 1997 was 74.4 million barrels per day. The demand for oil was 73.4 million barrels per day. To that extent, we had approximately one million barrels per day more supply than demand. The average cost per barrel at the time was $18.98. In Ontario we were paying 57.2 cents per litre.
I will jump one year to give the House better statistics. In 1999 the international supply of oil was 74 million barrels per day and demand was 75.2 million. Therefore we had more demand than we had supply. Guess what? The price of oil per barrel on the international scene was $17.79. Hey, the price per litre in Ontario was still at 57.8 cents per litre.
If that is the case, could someone somewhere explain to me why it is that in the second half of the year 2000, when the total supply of oil on the international scene is greater than the demand, in excess of approximately 2.1 million barrels a day, that we are still crying wolf and saying there is a shortage of supply when in fact we have a surplus in supply? There is a huge supply of oil on the international scene and the oil producers are part of an international conspiracy to shaft consumers not only here in Canada but in North America, in Europe and all around the world.
The gentleman who said it best is the president of OPEC. Yesterday in one of the national papers he was reported as saying “Rocketing world oil prices are being fueled by speculation and are out of the oil cartel's control”.
He is absolutely right. Simply put, if we were to look at the oil cartels, OPEC has been pumping more oil on the international scene than there is demand. There is enough oil in the international market to flood rivers all over the world. There is huge racketeering out there and a huge amount of speculation that many of the international players are involved in it. It has nothing to do with supply and demand.
The second one is the market forces. When asked why we are paying so much for gasoline, they tell us it is because of market forces, that if the market can take 80 cents per litre, they are going to charge 80 cents per litre. How can they say it is about market forces when everyone is charging the same? How can the consumer have any choice whatsoever?
What about the poor little independent retailers in our neighbourhoods, like in Quebec a few months ago, where the major players move in and clean the butts of individuals so much so that they sell below cost? How can that be market forces? Oh, no. That is not market forces. The players who control the market wanted to pump out, not in, the independents who are a lot more efficient than the fat elephants that are trying to do everything to stick it to the consumer.
We move on to the next one, the so-called players on the international scene telling us that taxes are a problem here in Canada. My colleagues have fallen into their trap. It reminds me of a French story.
I am referring to the fable of the crow and the fox. I am sure my colleagues know this story. The crow had a piece of cheese in its beak. The fox regarded it and said “Ah, how beautiful you are, such lovely eyes”. Suddenly, the crow opened its beak and dropped the cheese into the mouth of the fox, which ate it. A fine story.
My colleagues in the opposition are falling into the trap. It is a problem that can only be resolved through co-operation between the provincial governments and the federal government. This is not a federal problem alone. It is a provincial responsibility. Pricing is the responsibility of the provincial governments. They have to show leadership. They have to respond to the call of the federal government, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Natural Resources. They have to come to the table in order to talk about solutions.
They cannot sell us peanuts thinking that is going to fill up our tummies. They are starving us. They have to move together in order to respond to the needs of the consumers. Seniors, men and women on fixed incomes will be more responsive to the initiative of my colleague from Pickering who put a very reasonable motion before parliament, and that is to put the money in the pockets of the people rather than give it back to the oil companies.