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House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-48.

Topics

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Madam Speaker, the member for LaSalle—Émard has always paid his taxes in Canada. The member for LaSalle—Émard, personally, has always paid his taxes in Quebec. I find it strange that the member is attacking a member who has a very good reputation in Canada. I also find it strange that he does not dare to tell us about the opinion on the Abitibi-Témiscamingue mining industry that was prepared by an economist in September 2003. These members do not even know what is happening in our area.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, that really takes the cake.

This is the second time that I speak on this bill, so I know it. I also know it because I took part in the work of the committee and in the clause by clause study.

Despite the progress that has been made, Bill C-48 is still unacceptable to us, in the Bloc Quebecois.

The main irritant in this bill is nothing less than the $250 million gift the Liberal government and the future leader of that party are on the verge of giving to major oil companies.

People who are watching us must fully understand what the bill means. The government wants to provide a $250 million tax cut to Canadian oil companies. This is an untimely gift, since we read in the newspapers yesterday that the current Minister of Finance is warning the provinces that they will not receive the health funds that they were expecting from the federal government.

Today, the same minister is saying that he will not put one cent more into the equalization system. The Minister of Finance has started to set the stage for the economic update that he will be tabling next month. How can the Minister of Finance talk about situations that have had a bearing on the economic performance of his government, while at the same time supporting a bill that would mean much less money flowing in the consolidated revenue fund?

What are the Liberal government's real intentions? There is no money to finance health care in the provinces, but there is money to give to the oil companies. This two-headed government does not have priorities anymore or rather its priorities are not the same as those of Quebec and the other provinces. Why is the Minister of Finance not giving Quebec the financial instruments that it needs to carry out its responsibilities?

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the great provincialist, said earlier this week:

The Government of Canada is doing its best to help the provinces live through difficult times.

The best his government can do seems rather limited. In fact, it only does its best when it is a question of continuingg to build a centralizing government that is literally crushing the other governments within Confederation. Such an attitude is an argument for rejecting Confederation in favour of Quebec sovereignty.

The Liberal government in Ottawa is willing to give a gift worth $250 million to the oil companies, which rack up huge profits, while it is hinting that it might not have enough money to give to the provinces for health care as promised. Such arrogance is beyond words.

If the Liberal government goes ahead with its plan, Quebec stands to lose $472 million. Investing in health care benefits Quebeckers and Canadians as a whole. On the other hand, Bill C-48 will only benefit oil companies. There is no sense of proportion. I hope that the member for Témiscamingue, the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, or both, will understand that by voting in favour of this bill they are going against the best interest of their regions.

The comments made Tuesday in the House by the Minister of Finance on Bill C-48 are not consistent. During question period, the minister said that he had to deal with a slowdown in the Canadian economy. How then can he agree to forfeit $250 million in revenues?

The Liberal government, both the current government and the parallel government headed by the member for LaSalle—Émard, is financially strangling the provinces. That way, they give themselves leeway to then invest in areas under provincial jurisdiction.

The provinces are bled white, forced to their knees, and money is rammed down their throat to meet the needs of their people. Then the government creates programs, lots of programs, and eventually withdraws from them. This is how it has been since 1993 when I first came here. That is how this government behaves. It creates programs and interferes in areas of provincial jurisdiction. It creates needs, and then it withdraws. This is what I call arrogance.

All of the provinces are headed for a deficit. Liberals can criticize the PQ's management, but the facts speak for themselves. The PQ was not the government in Manitoba, British Columbia or Ontario. Yet, these provinces are running a deficit. Liberals should change their tune or find new speech writers.

By providing a tax reduction for an industry that does not need it, Bill C-48 shows how leeway the government has.

While Liberals in Ottawa give to the rich, they continue to take from the taxpayers. This is further evidence of the existence of a fiscal imbalance. However, the people across the way continue to deny it. The intergovernmental affairs minister, the finance minister and all those yes men sitting on the back benches continue to deny the existence of a fiscal imbalance.

There actually is a fiscal imbalance, and it is a brutal reality. We can see its impact throughout the country. The Bloc Quebecois has been condemning this situation for quite some time, whatever certain reporters claim. The PQ also did it in Quebec City, the ADQ also recognized this reality and the whole civil society agreed with the Government of Quebec.

The best part of all this, however, is that sovereignists on one side, and Jean Charest's provincialists on the other, agree to condemn the fiscal imbalance. The current Liberal finance minister of Quebec, Yves Séguin, headed a commission that came to the conclusion that there was a fiscal imbalance and that it had existed for years.

When the Liberals were elected in Quebec, they tried to convince the public that things would change and that relations would improve. It was total hogwash. The fact of the matter is that a change in leadership, whether in Quebec City or in Ottawa, will do no good. The would be leader or parallel prime minister continues to deny the existence of a fiscal imbalance.

The Bloc has always taken an active part in parliamentary debates, and it also makes every effort to properly inform the public about all issues.

Today's newspapers have published a letter on Bill C-48 signed by my colleagues for Rosemont-Petite-Patrie and Joliette. If I may, I would like to quote excerpts:

Since 1970, the federal government has contributed more than $66 billion in direct grants to the hydrocarbon industry (oil, gas and coal), notably with the Quebec taxpayers' dollars. This huge sum of money has allowed Alberta and Ontario to develop highly polluting oil and coal industries. In the meantime, Quebec developed its hydroelectric network, a type of clean energy, and did not receive a dime from Ottawa. This is just one more example of how Ottawa ignores Quebec's interests.

But now, In addition to harming Quebec's interests, the help Ottawa has provided the oil industry goes against both the spirit and the letter of the Kyoto protocol, as well as its objectives. That is what the Liberals and the member for LaSalle—Émard have done by voting for Bill C-48, a bill that provides a $250 million tax break to Canada's major oil companies.

After debate at second reading, an article in the Ottawa Citizen on October 1 condemned the hypocrisy of this government, which, on the one hand, supports the Kyoto protocol and boasts about making the environment one of its priorities while, on the other hand, it blithely supports the development of polluting energies.

I will paraphrase what Matthew Bramley, an environmentalist with the Pembina Institute, was quoted in the Ottawa Citizen as saying that, to be truly equitable, “you'd make the polluting sectors pay more to compensate for the damage they do”. Instead, we have a government that wants to reduce the burden for the oil industry, which is an attitude, understandably, that will be well received by Albertans.

Mr. Bramley predicts that the new Liberal leader will not change anything, since he will need to entice voters from the west.

I have a number of questions and I would like to hear what the member for LaSalle—Émard has to say.

How can the Liberals and their future leader claim to be concerned about the environment and, in the same breath, make sure that the big oil companies enjoy such advantages, while this industry is drowning in profits and ravaging the environment? Why is that $250 million per year not being offered to the wind power or hydroelectric industries, which produce clean energy?

I am eager to see the member for LaSalle—Émard come out of his burrow to answer our questions. There are more urgent things to do than organizing parties with his supporters and there are issues on which he should speak. The public ought to understand what an immense slump it is going to find itself in, with a future prime minister whose decisions have a direct effect on the bank accounts of his businesses.

Bill C-48 is an illustration of the patent conflict of interest in which the member for LaSalle—Émard finds himself. One of his companies carries coal; it works with the petroleum industry. Worse still, the future prime minister is himself a stockholder in an Alberta oil company. That is too much. I hope that the hon. members on the benches opposite will wake up and see reason.

I talked very little about the consequences of this legislation on the mining industry. This bill does not treat mining companies equitably and undermines the Government of Quebec's efforts to revitalize this industry. This should worry the people of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, a mining region that just elected a Liberal member who voted in favour of legislation that directly contradicts the interests of his own region. This should worry those who think that a Liberal member in Ottawa can defend Quebec's interests. In fact, the Bloc Quebecois is defending Quebec's interests in Ottawa, whereas the Liberals are defending Ottawa's interests in Quebec. Bill C-48 is proof of that.

Representatives of the mining industry came before the Standing Committee on Finance to express their opposition to this legislation.

Pierre Gratton, the Vice-President of Public Affairs and Communications for the Mining Association of Canada, indicated that several provinces had established their tax rates according to the federal system implemented in 1974. He said that this bill will increase the taxes of certain companies.

We heard the comments of Frédéric Quintal, spokesman for Essence à juste prix, who told the committee that:

With this accumulated debt of over $500 billion, can our government afford a tax gift to the richest industry in Canada? We are not talking here of an industry in difficulty, not the Canadian beef, softwood lumber or airline industry, but the richest industry.

Then, in response to our questions in connection with what he said about the tax relief to the companies never making it down to the pumps, and thus having no effect for consumers, he added:

No, it will just mean additional profits or the oil and gas companies, three of whom—Esso, Shell and Petro Canada—have in the first six months of 2003 already gone 242% over the net profits for the entire year, twelve months, of 1999. And that was already considered a very good year. I feel I must point this out.

So that is the situation. On the one hand, we have a government complaining about having to bear the brunt of an economic downturn, which allows it to continue to maintain a stranglehold on the provincial governments, while on the other hand we have that same government wanting to give a tax break to the huge, and hugely wealthy, oil and gas companies.

In conclusion, since this bill is not in the best interests of the entire community; since this bill blocks the efforts being made by Quebec to make mining investment more attractive; since this bill moves us far away from the principles of the Kyoto protocol as far as environmental protection is concerned; since this bill ipaves the way for the parallel prime minister to win over the west, I, as a Quebecker, a member of a party defending the interests of Quebec in this House, and a sovereignist, am opposed to this bill.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I listened to my colleague from Drummond. She spoke rather eloquently to a number of aspects of Bill C-48.

I am thinking in particular of the fact that this bill reconfirms and renews the Canadian policy of financing the oil and gas industry in Canada. This $250 million exemption for the oil industry only confirms what was announced. We must remember that throughout Canadian history, major oil companies have received substantial benefits and funding for structuring development projects.

Just think of the Hibernia project in eastern Canada, which was developed using the taxes of Quebeckers in a polluting sector, when the hydroelectric system in Quebec was developed using the taxes of Quebeckers, and only theirs. No funding came from Ottawa. At the same time, Ottawa was funding polluting projects and granting exemptions to the oil industry. That is totally unacceptable.

I am having a hard time understanding certain members opposite. I am thinking of the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, among others, who is supposed to be defending the interests of the regions, his region and riding in particular; he can see that, indirectly, this bill is very unfair to the mining industry.

In this respect, I question the sense of duty, responsibility and commitment of some parliamentarians in this House, whose sole duty—especially as MPs representing the regions, and remote regions in particular—is to defend the interests of their regions. Some members do not even stand up in debates as important as this one, and will very likely vote in favour of Bill C-48. We have a duty in this House, and this duty is to, at the very least, condemn the lack of responsibility of colleagues who think they are defending the interests of their ridings.

I would therefore like to know what my. hon. colleague thinks of these Liberal members who are supposed to represent the interests of Quebec, at least they often claim to be defending the interests of their region; yet they are about to vote in favour of a bill that creates unacceptable inequities affecting industry sectors such as mining while they sit there and say nothing. The only time they will stand up in the House will be to vote for Bill C-48. What does she think of the attitude of these members?

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1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie for this additional information. I wanted to point out to him that I too am outraged.

I am especially outraged today because, to clean up the mess and to obscure the issue, the Liberals try to intervene and to say: “No, we will vote in favour of the bill. The government may come up with something and may do this, but what the Bloc says is not totally true”.

What I said in my speech has been confirmed several times. I mentioned people, representatives from the mining industry, editorial writers, people in whom the public has great confidence because they are honest people who came to tell the truth. Yet, the Liberals are trying to make us believe that the Bloc is not right. No wonder I am outraged.

People like us work 10, 12 or 14 hours a day listening to witnesses in committees, analyzing bills and doing research in order to help and support our population. We always have the public's best interests in mind. They are trying to tell us that we are wrong, that we did not do this or that. I will not stand for it. It is ridiculous.

If members had really wanted to support their region with this bill, the very least they could have done is meet with the representatives of the mining associations to hear what we heard. They are against the bill. They feel the legislation is unfair.

Furthermore, there is another irritant, and the public needs to know this; nobody has said a word about the $250 million that is being granted to the highly polluting oil companies. As my colleague the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie said, why do we not take that money and invest it in some less polluting form of energy?

The major oil companies do not need any money. They make huge profits. The government just granted them a $250 million tax credit. They have received a total of $500 million this year. This is taxpayers' money taken from the pockets of Quebeckers and Canadians. In top of that, prices keep going up at the pump. Now the government is getting ready to give them another gift. They received $250 million and will receive another $250 million so they can pollute even more.

It is absolutely outrageous. I do not understand the members for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik and Témiscamingue who refuse to recognize that their government is giving such a gift to the major oil companies.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Madam Speaker, when the hon. member talks about the price of gasoline at the pumps, she should also add that, in Quebec, the price at the pumps is set by the Régie de l'énergie, which was created by the PQ government. There is a basic price, a floor price, on which no member has a say. Quebec has a floor price while its neighbouring provinces rely on the market price.

I have two questions for the hon. member. First, we all agree that she took stock of the requests of the Mining Association of Canada. We know that the government is proposing 5% for the first year, and 7% and 10% for the following years. The Mining Association of Canada wanted 20% for the first year. Can the hon. member confirm to the House and all Canadian taxpayers that what they proposed was 10% instead of 5% for the first year, then 14% for the second year and 20%?

Has the hon. member for Drummond had the opportunity since September 2003 to go over the report on the mining industry in Abitibi-Témiscamingue prepared by economist Luc Blanchette? It is a very good report. We stand by the mining community. I am a former miner myself and we will stand by these people in the years to come. We will not be able to win all the battles, but we hope to win half of them.

Unlike some of my colleagues, I do not represent a resource region of 5 or 10 square kilometres, but rather a riding of 800,000 square kilometres. I will vote in favour of this bill, because I do not want to lose that 5%. It is 50% of the 10% that the hon. member asked for in committee, which was 10% instead of 20%. She should get her facts straight.

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1:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member for Drummond has 1 minute and a few seconds to answer.

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1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I have to smile. What I just heard does not make any sense. The member is all mixed up between the 10%, the 14% and the 20%. The amendments put forward in the standing committee came directly from the Mining Association of Canada. This is where those amendments came from.

I would also like to remind him that Pierre Gratton, the vice-president for public affairs of the Mining Association of Canada—hardly a nobody—said that many provinces had based their taxation level on the federal system implemented in 1974. He also said: “This bill will increase some companies' taxes”.

The member should not try to sell us this argument. Who knows this industry better than Mr. Gratton from the Mining Association of Canada? I repeat what he said: “This bill will increase some companies' taxes”.

I hope that the people of the Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik and Témiscamingue ridings will remember that their members voted for this bill. This bill is harmful to the mining sector and favours the major oil companies. Those listening should not forget that the major oil companies have been given a $250 million gift.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, one has to note the enthusiastic and overwhelming support for Bill C-48 by that great philanthropic party, the Canadian Alliance. The official opposition is very much inclined to support the bill, as was shown yesterday in the vote at report stage.

That party is opposed to Kyoto. That party by and large is opposed to social security reform. That party is opposed to strong federalism. The fact that the official opposition supports the legislation is a source of some suspicion. We would not want to prejudge it just because the support of the official opposition is there, but there are three very good reasons to reject this legislation and I will outline them one by one.

Bill C-48 aims at reducing taxes for the oil and gas industry. This raises the question, is the industry in trouble and does it need some help? If it were the textile industry, the shoe industry, or some industry in difficulty across the country one would understand, but why apply this form of tax relief to an industry which is consistently posting large profits and is likely to post large profits in the decades ahead? That is the question.

This brings me to the heart of the first reason. The industry has free access to natural resources which are extracted from underground. It extracts a resource which belongs to the people of Canada. This resource also belongs to the next generation of Canadians, and hopefully to generations to come. The time limit available for the exploitation of this resource is not that long. In return for this free resource the industry pays taxes. Those taxes go into the system that permits governments to do the good things that they do for the public from pensions to airports to other services which keep this country together and functioning.

Bill C-48 would reduce the taxation rate from 28% to 21%. The present rate of 28% has been justified over the years as a form of payment by this industry to the Canadian public. The idea of reducing the taxation rate from 28% to 21% is a good reason why the bill should not be supported. The tax rate should not be reduced.

There is another reason and it can be spelled out in one very short word. That word is Kyoto. It is important to briefly explain Kyoto because it has now become a buzzword that implies so much.

Canada, by virtue of ratifying that accord last December by a vote here in the House, which was opposed by the official opposition but supported by all other parties, is now committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These are the gases produced when we burn fossil fuels, from petroleum to oil to gas and to coal. All the fossil fuels produce gases when burned.

Canada is committed to a reduction of 6% by the year 2012, which actually seems to be very little, based on our emissions in the year 1990. But because of the increase in our economic activity this needed reduction is not just 6%; it is estimated by our scientists that we need a reduction in the range of some 23% to 25%. It is a major undertaking, a major engagement, and not an easy one. Therefore, what follows is that if we pass any form of legislation in this House, we would want to pass legislation that facilitates, that makes easier, the achievement of the Kyoto goals.

Here instead, and this is the second reason for considering this bill not worthy of support, we are putting forward a measure that will make it more difficult to achieve the goals which the Government of Canada has set for itself by way of the ratification of the Kyoto accord last December, by way of a vote in this House of Commons.

The parliamentary secretary, when he spoke earlier on the bill on behalf of the Minister of Finance, made no reference to Kyoto and how the bill would affect the achievement of Canada's goal. This lack of reference to Kyoto disturbs me very much, because at least an explanation ought to be given as to why this measure is possible in the light of the commitment to the Kyoto ratification and the heavy engagement by Canada in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. This bill instead is introduced as a measure to facilitate this particular industrial sector, with no reference, however, to the overall government commitment.

For this second reason, and there is a third one, I submit to you that this bill should die in the Senate. It should die because it runs counter to and opposes the achievement of a goal set by the Government of Canada and counter to its policy, which was decided by the entire government and by this Parliament by way of the vote I referred to earlier. Bill C-48 is an emanation of just one department, the Department of Finance. It is not the policy of the Government of Canada as a whole and, since it runs counter to that policy, it ought to be rejected for that reason alone.

Because as we can see, we have on the one hand the Government of Canada doing the right thing in ratifying the Kyoto protocol. It was a good measure. It was a good decision. In addition to that, the Government of Canada is investing over $3 billion, as of the year 2000, toward the implementation of Kyoto in order to achieve that distant and rather difficult goal. But then on the other hand, we see here a proposition in this bill that is aimed at reducing taxes on the oil and gas industry. This measure makes no sense, because it would stimulate and accelerate emissions of the greenhouse gases we want to reduce in order to achieve the Kyoto objectives.

Evidently the Department of Finance does not know that a major objective of this government is to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill C-48 should not, therefore, be allowed to be approved in the other chamber because it is not in the public interest and because it runs counter to a key government policy.

Now we come to the third reason why the bill should be rejected. The reason is related to the depletion of global oil and gas reserves. What I am going to relate to everyone in a moment is the result of consultations with the International Energy Agency in Paris, which is an agency devoted to the study of energy and its production and the resources that are available to the global community.

According to the International Energy Agency, there is a depletion point called the “mid-depletion point” of reserves for oil, which is identified at the year 2020. In other words, in about 17 years we will reach the midpoint in the exhaustion of the global oil reserves. After that, one may want to ask, how much time is left? We are told by the same International Energy Agency that there are sufficient reserves for another 20 to 25 years. That brings us to roughly the year 2045. That is when our young pages will be in their mature years; they will probably have children and they will be looking forward to retirement.

This is the horizon being described by the International Energy Agency: by the year 2020 we will reach the mid-depletion point for oil and by the year 2045, roughly, we will exhaust the oil reserves. It could be 2050, but it is impossible to determine at this stage. There may be technological breakthroughs, yes, which may extend the depletion point perhaps to the year 2060, but we are definitely approaching within this century a point when the oil reserves will be depleted and we will reach the last drop of oil, so to speak, for use by mankind of this very valuable resource.

How does it look for natural gas? We are told that the mid-depletion point is a little better. It may not be 2020; it could be around 2050. But it is not very clear whether this calculation is accurate. It could actually be reached sooner rather than later.

To compress this particular report from the International Energy Agency, what we can say with a degree of certainty is that in about 50 years we will have reached the depletion point for oil as well as for gas, give or take perhaps a few years depending on technological advancement and the ability through technology to use better and more efficiently this specific resource so as to make it last longer. That is probably the whole purpose of having efficiency programs and efficiency research in the coming years: to make the resource last not for one or two generations but perhaps three.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the resource will be exhausted within a few decades. Therefore, we have to start planning for that time.

What is the conclusion, then, from this quick tableau I have painted for members in looking at the future? Looking at the future is always a very dangerous exercise, as we know, because one might be terribly wrong, but I do have to rely on the experts. On behalf of the public, we as politicians have to listen to the experts because they are the ones who spend their lifetimes on these matters.

It seems to me the conclusion would be that if anything we should be slowing down the exploitation of oil and gas resources rather than accelerating it. That is the logic of it all. We should not do as the official opposition, which is famous for its shortsighted policies, would do. We should not accelerate the process and produce more. Therefore the bill is out of sync. It does not fit into the long term picture that we are trying to come to grips with. That is our task as elected officials.

To conclude, there is also an economic consideration, that is, when we reach the midpoint for gas and oil around 2020 or 2025, this very same oil and gas will command a higher price on the market than it commands now because the supply will be reduced. Therefore, the returns will be greater for future generations if we postpone the exploitation of this resource for their time rather than taking advantage of it now. I hope we can see the economic logic of this kind of reasoning.

There are many reasons converging to force one to conclude that a measure to reduce the taxation of this particular sector is not desirable.

I will conclude briefly, as my time is up. It is therefore in Canada's interests to exploit carefully its natural resources and to make them last as long as possible. In this particular type of industry today, the earnings are high. We can see them in the business section of newspapers. The profits are also high. So then the question arises, why reduce taxes? Why forego a revenue that is estimated by some writers at $260 million? Why move in a direction that is counterproductive and out of sync with the overall approach of the Government of Canada? The approach has been a good one, namely, ratifying Kyoto, which is the basic, fundamental and most difficult sustainable development issue we have ever encountered and which is standing before us as a very difficult challenge to overcome.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I just heard a refreshing speech. It is interesting to see that some members on the other side share the views of the member for Davenport. I took note of at least four reasons why we should not support this bill.

I totally agree with the member when he says that we should not grant tax relief to very wealthy and profitable corporations. When we are increasingly talking about trying to reduce pollution, we should adopt the polluter pay principle. Here we have the reverse: an industry that promotes pollution is being rewarded. This is how I see it anyway.

The member also mentioned the risk of depletion: we will probably face an oil shortage within 20, 40 or 50 years. I believe the Kyoto protocol is an issue he is keenly interested in. As we know, developing the oil industry cost Canadians a bundle. The oil industry is rumoured to have benefited from $66 billion while the hydro electricity industry, especially Hydro-Québec, got nothing.

Does the member for Davenport not agree that the $250 million the government is planning to give the oil industry would be better used if it were invested in clean, renewable energies? Would it not be more logical and safer for our future to promote research on windmills? The member talked about the future of the young pages who are here, the future of the country as a whole.

In view of the fact that Hydro-Québec never received any development help from the federal government, while the oil industry in western Canada received billions and billions of dollars and is about to receive further handouts, would it not be a good idea to spread the assistance around so that together we can develop cleaner industries and promote fairness for all?

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot answer the second question because it pertains to a provincial agency; I think Hydro-Québec received grants from the Quebec government for a number of years and, therefore, it did not need help from the federal government. The same is true for Ontario Hydro.

The first question from the member for Champlain is very interesting and well thought out because we should of course invest much more in renewable energies. I hope the next federal budget will place a greater emphasis on the measures initiated in the 2001 budget. They were small steps in that direction and we should redouble our efforts. Whatever has been done until now is not enough.

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1:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I compliment the member for Davenport, who is also the chair of the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, on his speech and the rationale he used in speaking against the implementation of provisions that are contained in Bill C-48.

I want to pursue the question my colleague from the Bloc just asked but in a somewhat different tangent. If one were to use the tax system by way of subsidies and incentives to advance public policy, does the member have any opinion as to how that could be used with regard to the clean burning of the fossil fuel in the form of coal? Does he think that is possible? Does he know of any specific incentives that the government could put into place to encourage either research, development or actual implementation of clean burning coal technology, if that in fact exists in his opinion?

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair is very kind in his remarks and too generous in attributing to me a knowledge on clean coal technology, which I do not possess.

This firm has been with us for some time. A considerable amount of research was conducted in the 1980s, particularly in Nova Scotia, in order to keep our coal mines there open. I suppose there are processes available today that claim to achieve clean results.

I would imagine the thrust of the member's question would be better addressed to the Minister of Industry in order to establish whether, in the technology research program that he announced as part of his department some 18 months ago, a particular effort is being made toward achieving this particular activity in the field of energy.

There is no doubt that energy efficiency and energy innovation in particular will be needed to achieve our Kyoto goals but we should also keep in mind that the outcome will not depend just on the technological fix. The outcome will also depend on an enormous amount of discipline on the part of ourselves as consumers, an enormous amount of innovation in the field of energy conservation and an enormous amount of initiatives that are crying to heaven for attention.

We only have to consider the tremendous use of energy by supermarkets at the retail level which are consuming tremendous amounts of energy every day in a manner that is unconscionable at times. One only has to go to Europe to see the difference. The Europeans conserve their energy very carefully compared to the manner in which we use our energy on this side of the Atlantic.

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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, would the member for Davenport agree with me that, if there is this type of technology available, it would be better to have tax incentives going in that direction than the blanket format that is contained in Bill C-48?

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, because of time limitation I will say simply, yes.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-48, which concerns primarily the fiscal arrangements for gas and oil companies.

In preparing my speech for debate at third reading, I found a very convincing article in the chartered accountants' magazine by Neil Smith, Senior Tax Manager of the core tax practice with Ernst & Young in Calgary. I just want to read one sentence from this article, which refers to the bill before us:

The release came on the heels of a significant lobbying effort by the resource sector for federal corporate tax rate reductions.

Clearly, in relation to this bill, the big winners are the oil and gas companies. They have recorded significant profits over the past few years. As a result of this legislation, they will be able to pocket even more money since the government has decided to lower their income taxes. This is quite mystifying because, at the same time that the Minister of Finance is telling us that he needs money and that he might not be able to provide the provinces with the promised funds for health care, he is giving away $250 million in tax cuts to the oil and gas companies.

Here are a few examples of what the oil and gas companies are experiencing, to prove that they are not living under the poverty line.

Petro-Canada's quarterly report to shareholders for the second quarter states:

Petro-Canada announced today second quarter earnings from operations of $455 million, which include a positive adjustment of $96 million for Canadian income tax rate changes.

This is an initial impact of this new legislation, because it was implemented by a ways and means motion. Petro-Canada has already saved $96 million in the first quarter. As a result, Petro-Canada's taxes went down by $96 million. Petro-Canada is not about to go bankrupt; it does not have a problem with profits.

The oil and gas sector has recorded phenomenal increases in profits as a result of price increases. In early winter 2003, it was not certain that low-income and middle-income earners would be able to afford home heating oil. But Petro-Canada gets a little reduction in income tax worth $96 million.

In the case of Shell Canada, the quarterly report to stockholders for the second quarter, that is, the same period, says this:

Shell Canada Limited announces second-quarter earnings of $178 million... Earnings included a one-time benefit of $54 million from a future income tax revaluation following announced income tax changes.

In the case of Petro-Canada, there was talk of $96 million; for Shell Canada, it was $54 million less in taxes. The quarterly report of Esso Imperial, another company that is certainly not suffering, reads as follows for the second quarter of 2003:

—tax rate reductions enacted by the Federal government and the provincial government of Alberta and settlement of various tax matters benefited results, mainly in the resources segment, by $109 million.

Therefore, the three largest oil companies are declaring future additional profits of $250 million. During this time, there are people who will have trouble paying their basic expenses.

Today we heard a little good news: the federal government has decided to extend the transitional employment insurance measures for the Lower St. Lawrence and the North Shore. It has taken a year of struggle by the Bloc Quebecois to win on this point, which will enable people to have two, three or four additional weeks of benefits.

As for the oil companies, they do not face this kind of struggle. The government gives them, in a public bill, an extraordinary advantage.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois thinks that, in the end, there is no choice but to vote against this bill. The oil and gas industry will see its tax rate decrease significantly, while the federal government did not tax this decrease enough. There is no economic incentive for such an action. This industrial sector is in good shape.

In the meantime, the mining industry in Quebec is being penalized. It will be penalized by this same measure. People in the mining industry are not satisfied with the bill, because certain measures are not to their advantage.

The federal government implies that the new tax structure will be simpler because it will rationalize the way it is observed and applied, encourage investors and make the Canadian mining sector more competitive. But the mining industry, which is going to have to operate under this structure, does not feel that the tax reform program is fully achieving those objectives. Spokespersons for this sector indicate that the provisions for gradual reduction announced in the 2003 budget are too complicated and will be hard to implement.

In other words, the government is ramming this bill through so that the oil industry will get its money as soon as possible, while the mining industry—this affects Quebec in particular—is coming up empty handed. We are not prepared to vote in favour of such a bill. We need to be able to study it in more detail and try to find amendments that will satisfy this industry.

The planned 21% tax rate will apply to revenues from non-resource activities in 2004, while for resource-related activities it will run until 2007. This is complicated, but what is important to note is that the mining industry is not satisfied and that this plan will not provide the desired advantage.

The Mining Association of Canada believes that the difficulties arising out of the 2003 budget and Bill C-48 demand a prompt solution, involving the federal government along with the provincial and territorial governments.

The text I read earlier on royalties and energy said that the publication of these documents followed intense lobbying by the resources sector in favour of reducing the federal corporate income tax rate, and clearly showed that this would be profitable for the oil companies. However, for the mining industry, the comment to note is the one about how from a federal tax perspective there will be winners and others who are neutral over the phase-in period.

There are complications in this bill which disadvantage the mining sector. Corrections absolutely must be made and perhaps the bill needs to be returned to the committee to be put in proper form.

The proposed changes to federal income tax have some serious repercussions on many mining operations in Canada. This translates into heavier tax burdens, federal, provincial and territorial combined, at the expense of net corporate income.

A simple solution, proposed by the Mining Association of Canada, which benefits Canadian mineral and metal producers, would be to keep the resource allowance deduction, while dropping federal corporate tax rates from 28% to 21%. This would do away with the difference between the federal resource and non-resource income tax rates, without any need to change the provisions for revenues collected under the territorial and provincial tax systems.

While debating this bill, we have seen the new Liberal member for Témiscamingue announce—out of inexperience only, I hope, and nothing more—that he is in favour of Bill C-48, which hurts the mining sector. If there is one part of Quebec where mining is important and where there has been lobbying in favour of rules to accommodate the administration of this sector rather than the opposite, it is Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

The Liberal member has already taken on the behaviour of the Liberal members here, which is to act as the representatives of Ottawa in their ridings, rather than representatives of their ridings in Ottawa. One of his first such actions has been to vote in favour of a bill that hurts his own riding.

This bill also does a disservice to Quebec because of its unfair treatment of mining companies. As I said, it directly opposes the efforts by the Government of Quebec to revitalize that industry. Quebec has made efforts, and those efforts have just been cancelled out by Bill C-48. We have no more positive results, no advantages.

We now see a member representing this area who is voting for such a bill. I invite the new Liberal member for Témiscamingue to do his homework again, to reread the bill and to go back and consult the mining industry in his area.

When we vote on this bill at third reading, the member will have an opportunity to make amends, to change his behaviour, to really defend his constituents, here, in the House of Commons, and not simply be the federal government's mouthpiece, and to take measures that are beneficial for his region.

As a communiqué said, “this will give pause to those who believe that a Liberal member in Ottawa can defend Quebec's interests”, and, in this case, we have shown once again that it is not possible. It is as though when they get elected as Liberal members here, they lose contact with their region. And because of the bubble of Parliament, the bubble of government, the specific interests that they may have, their strong desire to maintain a good relationship with the government, with the government members, with the ministers, they start behaving in ways that do not serve their constituents. This is a clearcut example.

Bill C-48 gives effect to a legislated federal corporate taxation rate for resource income. This rate would be reduced from 28% to 21%. This is actually where the real tax reduction lies for the gas companies, and it comes at a time when we did not need such a reduction in revenues.

This bill also eliminates the 25% resource allowance, while the deductions for Crown royalties and mining taxes will be allowed as expenses. We are therefore readjusting or recalibrating the situation. From what we have heard so far however, it seems that the main result has been to allow the gas companies to collect an extra $250 million. During this same period, benefits were not passed along to the consumer in the form of lower gasoline prices. For the year as a whole, there was no significant reduction in the price of gasoline. The ultimate result is that the taxpayers' money was taken directly out of the federal government pockets. This creates an added pressure for the government to fulfill its obligations and we now hear the government say, for example, that it is not so sure if it will be able to meet its commitments for health care services.

We are noticing that in various areas of federal responsibility such as military equipment, soldiers are not being provided with adequate equipment. In the meantime, the oil companies are getting this great gift. In my opinion, that is simply unacceptable. That is why the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against this bill.

Allow me to quote again an excerpt from the official publication of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, which says:

From a federal tax perspective there will be winners... companies with high royalty rates, such as oil and gas producers operating in Western Canada.

However, in such provinces as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and the Maritimes, the elimination of the resource allowance deduction for companies that benefited from the resource allowance results in an increase in the overall effective rate.

This basically means a tax reduction for oil companies but a tax increase for mining companies. That is what the bottom line will be, in reality, for our economy. That is dangerous indeed. It seems to me that the government could have taken the time to develop a tidier bill, because there are many ramifications in terms of provincial taxation. It varies from province to province. A balancing act will be required. At present, nothing guarantees that the system will provide an adequate balance that really meets people's expectations.

We have before us a bill that does not deserve to be passed as it stands. That is why the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against it. It is unfair to society and the balance of our tax system. It is also unfair to the resource sector because the mining industry is being penalized, while the oil and gas industry is benefiting. This is an incomplete job, which does not meet the objectives. For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against Bill C-48 at third reading.

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Bloc Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague as well as to the member for Drummond. Both speeches enlightened us about the bill now before the House.

I find it quite outrageous that the House is considering a bill that defies common sense and is completely out of step. The environment is a central concern for most people. We want to move toward cleaner energy and fight pollution in large cities like Montreal and Toronto. We are looking for solutions and a bill like C-48 does the exact opposite of what we should be doing.

Not only are we not investing $250 million in research for clean energy, but we are spending $250 million on an increasingly polluting source of energy. Can the hon. member tell me how I should explain this to my constituents? How does he explain the fact that the government is so intent on passing a bill that is so totally out of sync?

Is it only to score points in Western Canada?

Income Tax ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

We will now proceed with statements by members. The hon. member for Champlain will get an answer to his question following oral question period.

Terry PainterStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the life of Terry Painter. Terry was known to many as the godfather of motocross on Vancouver Island.

A motorcycle enthusiast for more than 30 years, Terry was a keen competitor and won many great titles and championships.

Along the way he won an even greater number of friends among his fellow racers and competitors. In fact anyone who knew him would say that Terry took the same approach to life as he did to motorcycle racing, full throttle.

Although friends and family will miss Terry's easygoing sense of humour and his competitive spirit, the contribution of No. 414 to the sport of motocross will never be forgotten.

AgricultureStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, Canada's cattle industry has been brought to its knees by the politics of BSE. The elk, deer, sheep and hog industries have been hit hard too, and now the feed grain industry is being dragged down.

Simply put, the government must increase its efforts to open the borders. In the meantime, it must compensate farmers at least enough to keep the industry afloat until the borders are opened.

The Canadian Alliance has focused on this problem since the single case of BSE was discovered. Our leader, along with our agriculture and trade teams, have met with American officials in Washington, D.C. Individual MPs have put a great deal of pressure on American congressmen and senators. We have felt some progress as a result.

We have done what we can. Our farm groups have done what they can. It is crunch time now. Farmers need to hear from the government that the borders will open soon, and that compensation to keep the industry afloat will be forthcoming. It is time for the Liberal silence on this issue to end, now.

Organization for the Protection of Children's RightsStatements by Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Madam Speaker, 2003 marks the 20th anniversary of the Organization for the Protection of Children's Rights, OPCR.

Since its inception in 1983, and with the leadership of Mr. Riccardo Di Done, founding president of this organization, whose main objective has been to protect and defend the rights of children and youth, the organization has continuously striven to improve the plight of children through advocacy, prevention, education and early intervention.

The organization's main goal is to ensure that children are not deprived of their most fundamental right, such as access to the material, psychological, social and spiritual environment and the support they need to grow up properly and become active and caring citizens in our communities across the globe.

Protecting the rights of children and providing them with the food, medication, love, care, respect and sense of belonging is essential because children depend on us and deserve our attention, as it is by far the soundest and most profitable investment we can make in our future.

Putting an end to poverty and violence against children is a tremendous challenge that we owe to our children and ourselves to make a difference.

I want to extend my congratulations to all those who have been involved and wish the Organization for the Protection of Children's Rights continued success for the future.

National Co-Op WeekStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gilbert Barrette Liberal Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, National Co-Op Week will be celebrated from October 12 to 18. This is an occasion for us to reflect on the importance of cooperatives in Canada.

The Canadian government believes that the cooperative movement has a role to play in the social and economic development of our country. Co-ops create employment for over 150,000 people and represent combined assets of over $160 billion.

The federal government recently announced the establishment of the Co-operative Development Initiative, which is intended to promote the development of co-ops, carry out research, and test innovative ways of using the cooperative model to respond to today's social and economic challenges.

The Government of Canada is working with the Conseil canadien de la coopération and the Canadian Co-operative Association, which will provide advisory services to groups wishing to develop cooperatives.

Heritage Conservation AwardStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that the town of Petrolia and the Petrolia Discovery, located in my riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, has received the 2003 Heritage Conservation Award from Communities in Bloom, CIB.

The results were announced at the national awards ceremony hosted by the city of Stratford, which honoured competing municipalities from each province and territory across the country.

Petrolia, competing at the national level for the second straight year, also maintained its four bloom rating, the second highest CIB rating possible.

The CIB judges described the Petrolia Discovery as “a heritage site that depicts the early oil exploration and drilling in Petrolia, where the Canadian oil industry was born. The site is definitely worthy of special recognition for supporting heritage”.

Petrolia competed in the 3,001 to 5,000 population category against towns from Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba. Petrolia garnered 801 points out of a possible 1,000 points.

In addition to maintaining its four bloom rating, Petrolia also increased its overall point score from last year, earning an invitation to compete nationally again next year.

These awards speak for themselves.

National Family WeekStatements by Members

October 9th, 2003 / 2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, this is National Family Week. It has been called a “celebration of families”. We celebrate when families are beginning and we anticipate with excitement the great possibilities that lie ahead for a new family. For most of us, our family relationships are the most meaningful and precious possession we have.

We all feel like celebrating when good things happen to us. We celebrate when a new family is started. Celebration is always called for when precious new lives are added to any family. We celebrate when families grow and prosper.

There is nothing of greater value than our families. Sometimes we may misplace our priorities for a time, but when the end comes, when life's journey nears its end, we see in a way perhaps clearer than ever, the tremendous value of our family. Fame and fortune fade away and the precious love of our family begins to have a thunderous impact upon our hearts.

I invite all Canadians everywhere to join me in celebrating the family during National Family Week.

Women's SoccerStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, making history does not happen every day but Canada's Women's Soccer Team did just that. These talented women became the first Canadian team to ever win a World Cup game.

The team won its way past the strong teams of Argentina, Japan and China into the semi-final match held earlier this week against Sweden. Canada led off the scoring with a goal by Kara Lang, but Sweden came back to win with only minutes left in the game.

Canada will be facing off against the United States on Saturday to play for the bronze metal.

I would like to let the members of the team know, and I am sure all members of the House feel the same, how proud the country is of them and that we will all be cheering for them on Saturday. Go Canada Go.

WritersStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the third consecutive year, the city's writers will leave the traditional haunts of literature in order to meet with people on their own turf right in downtown Joliette, on October 18.

Once again, some thirty writers from Lanaudière and all over Quebec, including Chrystine Brouillet, Louis Hamelin and Guillaume Vigneault, will donate their time and more importantly their words to those wishing to write a poem, a greeting card, a love letter, or a political speech. Public writing stations will be set up in Joliette's downtown shops, demonstrating the cooperative partnership between the cultural and business worlds in Joliette.

I want to salute the man behind this project, Jean Pierre Girard, and his band of bold writers who make this unique event possible by putting their talents and knowledge at the service of others. There will be no writer's block in Joliette on October 18. Everyone is welcome.