Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik.
I am pleased to offer my comments on the motion before us today. I, too, am very concerned by the increase in price for gasoline, diesel and home heating fuel. This affects all of us as individuals, as businesses and as consumers.
As the hon. member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge has outlined so very well, our fellow government caucus members saw a need to study the whole issue of gasoline pricing and this included taxation. We issued a report in June 1998. As one of the co-chairs of that committee, I was and am certainly proud of our report.
This was a group of MPs who were concerned enough to go out and gather material that may have helped explain price fluctuations in Canada. We travelled to dozens of communities, speaking not only with members of the gas-buying public, but with representatives of the oil companies, independent retailers and trucking firms.
One of our committee's recommendations stated that double taxation, with GST on top of the retail price before and after provincial and federal excise taxes, must end, conditional on a guarantee that the tax decrease would be passed on to consumers and not absorbed by oil companies.
The 1.5 cents per litre deficit cutting tax we suggested also must be removed. These are but two of the Liberal committee's 29 recommendations.
This motion specifically refers to taxation and that, I agree, is an important element, but not the only one when it comes to price. There are other issues at play here that must also be addressed, such as competition in the industry, appropriate laws that prevent predatory pricing.
For example, the general mandate of the Liberal committee on gasoline pricing was to examine all aspects of the oil industry that had a direct impact on the pricing of gasoline in Canada. We examined such issues as operations and procedures in the oil industry, wholesale and retail selling, refining, gasoline exports, federal-provincial legislation and consumer protection.
As hon. members know, the Conference Board of Canada is currently undertaking a study of the pricing situation as well to give Canadians a solid and forthright accounting of the situation.
With regard to a tax cut on gasoline, we must ensure it is done in concert with the provinces. We must also guarantee that the price will not be taken up by the large oil companies.
I note that the official opposition is not calling for an inquiry into the domination of 85% of the gasoline market by only four refiner-marketers. It is not calling for a study of the fact that all wholesale prices are identical or that refiner-marketers' domination allows control of retail and wholesale pricing or that there have been no new entrants into the market, while independents are going out of business and the retail margins are uneconomic for even the most efficient independent operator.
Today's motion emphasizes the tax portion only. Perhaps this provides good optics, but we in government are responsible for good public policy. I want to emphasize, however, that I support the elimination of the 1.5 cent per litre excise tax that was added in 1995 as a deficit cutting measure.
Let us look at some measures of how to help low income people buy home heating oil this winter. I believe we must be creative and help where we can in the days ahead. The Minister of Finance, it is rumoured, may move in the weeks ahead on this aspect. As well, the minister has stated that the issue of the GST being charged both on the wholesale price and retail price is eminently worthy of further examination.
I have heard from my constituents in the trucking industry about the rise in diesel fuel costs. I recognize that truckers are an important part of our economy. I know the trucking industry is aware that the rack price for diesel is up about 105% from a year ago. The rack price is the wholesale price a refiner charges for fuel sold directly to trucking companies.
In the same time period, the rack price of gasoline is up 65%. This will impact not only on truckers' wallets, but also on those of all consumers.
School bus fleet owners have contracts in my riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. Based on a 50 cents per litre gasoline cost, they are losing money.
Farmers are also being hit by higher prices. It is costing them $20 an acre more to put in a crop of corn because fuel costs increased by 97% between May 1999 and March 2000. In good farming years that $20 an acre was often all that was left over.
Predictions of a colder winter than usual will certainly increase the use of home heating oil and natural gas. This past February the sudden cold snap along the eastern shores of Canada meant that the demand for middle distillates increased. Home heating oil was one. As people turn up the heat in their homes, some of the crude that would go to diesel is diverted to heating oil. Gas retailers will tell us that there is less profit and volume in diesel and that the only significant user of diesel is the trucking industry.
At the same time it should be understood that the increase in the price of diesel fuel in Canada is almost totally attributable to the rise in the world crude oil price, which has more than doubled over the past. Of all the increases in the pump price of diesel, only about a half cent per litre is related to federal taxes, namely the GST.
However, GST revenues have not increased dramatically because most diesel is used by businesses that recover their GST through the input tax credit mechanism. For example, in January the GST input tax credit effectively offset the pump price for diesel. The same applies for businesses using gasoline where the GST has resulted in a one cent per litre increase at the pumps. Again, most commercial users recover the GST they pay through the input tax credit.
Canada has the lowest excise tax on diesel fuel in the G-7 at 4 cents per litre and the second lowest excise tax on gasoline at 10 cents per litre. The federal excise taxes on gas and diesel fuels are fixed. They do not fluctuate with price changes. That is important to note. Even when the excise tax is combined with the GST, total federal taxes on diesel are par with the United States.
We must address the issue of competitiveness at the federal level. This motion disregards and overlooks the larger perspective. Taxation on gasoline is but one element of a much greater examination of public policy. Governments have a responsibility to use the means at their disposal to ensure that consumers are protected and true competition exists. Our caucus committee firmly recommended that the preservation of true competition is the most important aspect in the protection of the interests of the Canadian consumer.