Mr. Speaker, in May 2003, I asked the Minister of Industry a question regarding the price of gasoline. As you know, early in 2003, there was an inexplicable hike in the price of gasoline. We were told that it was because of the impending war in Iraq. It was not that the availability of petroleum had decreased, but simply that the oil companies had maximized their profits on refining.
After that, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology unanimously passed a motion by the Bloc Quebecois asking for a review of the situation.
In May, I asked the Minister of Industry to conduct an inquiry to get to the bottom of it. The same thing happened for Labour Day. It happens every time there is a special occasion such as a long weekend. Nowadays, given the refining capacity in North America, oil companies and multinationals have the upper hand and can instantly, virtually within 24 hours, decrease the quantities of refined petroleum, which in turn results in an increase in the price of oil.
What I was asking the minister in May is still relevant today. Why does the government not intervene in this debate? Why is there no effort to ensure that there will be normal fluctuations in the price of gasoline instead of sudden jumps and drops, huge changes up and down, with serious impacts on the economy.
The entire transportation industry, as well as people who live in rural areas, people who use their cars every day, and especially people with low incomes, all need to know in advance what the price of gas will be. At present we are being held hostage by the multinationals, who are either using the international situation as an excuse, or claiming a sudden increase in demand caused by their reductions in refinery capacity.
We saw it just recently. A refinery in Ontario was closed and activities concentrated in Montreal. It is a good thing to have a sizeable refinery operation in Montreal, but it is also important to have sufficient refinery capacity. It looks as though the oil companies have set things up rather nicely in the past few years.
I would like to ask the minister, or his representative, if he has any intention of holding the public inquiry we are asking for. This subject is always on the agenda of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I would like to know if the government side has reviewed its position since the last time, because the multinational oil companies are still up to the same tricks?