Mr. Speaker, the trucking industry is suffering quite a bit from the often unjustified increases in the price of gasoline that also put an unnecessary strain on consumers' budgets. We know that the government is doing very little about the negative effects of increased gasoline prices.
On March 23, 2004, I asked the minister about this. I asked him whether he would agree to create a petroleum monitoring agency, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. To my surprise, the minister said that prices should be and are determined on the market price.
In the meantime, the government has officially announced that it rejects the request by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to create a petroleum monitoring agency in order to protect consumers from abuses by the oil companies.
In the government's response there are two important factors that need to be taken into consideration: of course there are market forces, but there is also the very important factor of the democratic deficit within the decision presented by the government.
Regarding market forces, the government says it must not get involved in the process. However, as hon. members may know, since 1970, through subsidies or indirect benefits to the oil industry, the government has invested $66 billion. If that is not interfering in market forces, then I do not know what is. During that same time, only $326 million was invested in clean energy. The government recently gave the oil and gas industries $250 million. Yet, we all know full well that the oil companies have not stopped making huge profits.
There should also be serious concern about management in the petroleum industry and about the GST and other taxes that are collected. No one will forget the 1.5¢ in GST added to the price of gasoline. That is yet another example of indirect interference in market forces. Nor will we forget that the government, on the eve of the election in 2000, gave everyone $125. Thus we see that the government has a serious management problem. We know very well that it was not just people who bought gasoline who received that money. There were also people who did not really need it.
We also know that when the committee passed this recommendation, all the Liberal MPs were in favour. The Prime Minister often says that he wants to eliminate the democratic deficit and yet he does not listen to his own members.
Therefore, concerning the management of the petroleum industry and the government's involvement, what I am really asking the minister this evening is why he refused to create this petroleum monitoring agency. I repeat; it was a one-shot request. It could have enabled the government to find out how petroleum prices are managed.