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House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was price.

Topics

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am just trying to get a handle on what the Conservatives think is an appropriate price for fuel out there. What is it that many of the folks in the fuel industry, with whom they wine and dine almost every weekend, would see as acceptable?

Would you be able to take a message to them--

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. Let me remind the hon. member that he is to address his comments through the Chair.

As far as exchanges between the hon. member and other members of the House are concerned, there will be a 10 minute question and comment period at the end of his 20 minutes.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly very interested in those questions. Certainly the Conservatives find themselves sitting across the table from some of these folks in the fuel industry more often than those of us in this caucus do. It would be interesting to know what level they would find acceptable for the price of fuel or oil in the world we live in today.

In fact, would the Conservatives be willing, as I am asking the government to do, to put it to these business folks in the fuel industry that what happened over the Labour Day weekend and has happened since then is profiteering and gouging of the most obvious sort? That is what we want to know.

As I was saying, a 10¢ per litre difference may not sound like much, but every penny per litre generates an additional $2.5 million in profit for the industry every day. For the period around Labour Day, when the difference between the price and what would have been justified by crude oil prices was much greater, at as much as 45¢ per litre at the peak, the industry was bringing in $112.5 million per day in excess profits.

This is what was going on while the men and women in my riding, truckers, farmers, small business people, seniors on fixed incomes, low income people and people working at minimum wage, were having to pay these exorbitantly high prices. There was nobody out there to champion their cause. There was nobody out there except for the New Democrats and except for me in Sault Ste. Marie to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. I spent a morning on a road in Sault Ste. Marie with the truckers as we slowed down traffic to send a message to the industry and to government that something needed to be done immediately or the truckers who were standing with me that morning were going to be out of business.

These truckers were not willing to, nor should they have to, subsidize industry in northern Ontario or in consequence subsidize the fuel industry across this country and around the world. Out on that road, as we stopped traffic and handed out leaflets to people through their vehicle windows, the truckers were asking people to contact the government and let it know that it needs to get tough with the industry.

As we stopped traffic and handed out leaflets to people, the truckers were saying to me that perhaps the government needs to put in place something like the Ontario Energy Board. Then, if the industry wants to increase the cost of fuel, it would have to go before the board and justify that increase, because we all need energy and fuel. We cannot live without it. It is part of the infrastructure of any economy that we are going to have in this country, particularly in the northern and rural parts of Canada.

My constituents were asking for this government to do as I and my colleagues in the NDP caucus have done, to stand shoulder to shoulder with them, in consultation, from a position of strength, face to face with the industry people to ask them to justify any increase in the cost of fuel. If that increase can be justified in a fair market scenario, in a fair marketplace, then okay, God bless them. We are okay with that. We are not against a free market. We are not against people making a bit of profit on the services and products they deliver, but profiteering and gouging should not be part of that marketplace. They should not be part of what we are doing.

We ask the members of the government to work with their leadership to put together a real vehicle, not what is in Bill C-66, as our critic from Windsor West says. What the government has put in place to have people call and let the government know when prices have gone up too much or there is gouging is nothing more than a website, with no ability, no resources and no facility to actually use that information to challenge the industry. It is an exercise in smoke and mirrors.

That is the first thing I want to say this morning. The government has to get serious. The government cannot use tax dollars to subsidize the fuel industry. The government should not be doing this, because the fuel industry is doing very well, thank you very much, and does not need to be subsidized.

The industry has already benefited over the last 10 to 15 years from the corporate tax cuts that the government has given to it. The government does not need to give the industry more now by spending hard-earned tax dollars to subsidize it even further.

However, as I said, because the government is not going to do anything further on this and is not going to get tough with the industry, the little bit of money the government is going to give out is welcome, and some of it is being given because we forced the government to put it into the budget last spring.

Because of that, we will probably support this bill on principle as it goes through for second reading. Then we can sit down at committee and bring amendments forward to improve this bill and actually make it work in the way everyone wants it to work.

I want to comment on a couple of the other pieces of this bill that are problematic. One is the flow of money for low income people who deserve it, need it and want it, and who actually needed it yesterday. We are concerned that the money is not going to get out the door fast enough.

I am told that if we pass the bill, the money will move quickly, but this is a five year program so we are afraid it will be piled up at the end of the five years whereas people need it most right now. We are afraid they might not get it, particularly if we go into an election in the next week or two. Who knows? That money will be left hanging and the folks who need it will be left hanging.

These people are facing the spectre of provincial governments clawing back this money. Because the government has not done anything in this bill about that, we will be making amendments when it goes to committee to stop the provinces from clawing the money back.

In fact, the provinces claw everything back from our most at risk and marginalized citizens. In regard to money that flows from the federal government for the poorest of our citizens across the country, with a wink-wink, nudge-nudge to the provinces the federal government tells them that it is alright, these are the rules and they can claw it back and then use it for whatever they want as it does not necessarily have to go into supports and programs for the poor and those at risk.

We have seen this happen in many programs, particularly with the child tax benefit supplement that flows to those most at risk and marginalized in our communities. We are afraid that in some jurisdictions the fuel tax rebate will be clawed back by the provinces.

For example, we know, because we have been in contact with the people and have read some of the media stories, that the Northwest Territories plans to do exactly that. There is not a whole lot of money up there either and they are looking for ways to get dollars. If this is the only way the Northwest Territories can get money out of the federal government to help it with some of its financial challenges, it is going to do it.

As its representatives told us when we called them, those are the rules imposed by the federal government. That is the template the federal government has out there right now for any money that flows to individuals in different jurisdictions. If provincial or territorial governments decide to claw this money back, they can and in fact are encouraged to do so. The Northwest Territories is going to do just that. What I want to know is what other provinces will follow suit.

We had an example of this with Mike Harris in Ontario from 1995 to 2003. My God, there was nothing that he did not take away from the poor of that province. Few can forget the money he took away from pregnant mothers, the money for milk that he said was beer money.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

An hon. member

And he left a $5 billion deficit.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Yes, he left a $5 billion deficit.

There are governments and premiers acting in official capacities who will in fact do that, so we are asking the government to put some mechanism in place to stop that from happening. We are asking the government to put some regulation in place which will guarantee that the provinces cannot do this. We are afraid that otherwise those who need it most, those who are most at risk, those who are most marginalized in our communities, will not get it, particularly this winter.

The other piece of this legislation that is troubling is the fact it is targeted so narrowly to those who collect GIS and those who collect the child tax benefit supplement. There are literally millions of others who are low income working people, some without children, who will go cold this winter because they will not get any of this money. There are people across this province, low income themselves, some of them in small businesses, like farmers and truckers, who also will not benefit from this.

There is no money in the bill to compensate people in industry, particularly in northern and rural Canada where resources are limited to begin with. There is nothing in the bill to respond to their needs.

I launched a petition and campaigned with the truckers over the labour day weekend, the same truckers who I stood with on the highway in Sault Ste. Marie, slowing down traffic to send a message to the government to get tough with the industry.

I have spoken to farmers who are worried. They already have been hammered by the BSE crisis. Three or four generations of equity have been eaten up. Now they will have to come up with more money to put a crop in the field next spring. They are not sure where they will get that money because of fuel and seed prices. Also, fertilizer has oil components in it. It is problematic and troubling.

That is why those truckers and farmers came to the town hall meeting I held. They wanted to give me and the leader of our party, the member for Toronto--Danforth, a message to bring back to the House of Commons. They wanted us to speak confidently and forcefully on their behalf to get the government to do something.

There is nothing in the bill for them. There is nothing in the bill for the hard-working men, women and families across the country who do not now qualify for either the child tax benefit supplement or the GIS. The National Anti-Poverty Organization met with me a couple of weeks ago, before the bill was introduced. It said that if the government flowed the money through the GST rebate, it would help more people. I know the government will say that the last time it did that, people who did not qualify for it, such as students or those who had died, received it. Then it should fix that. Do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. If there is a problem with a vehicle, fix it.

Let us get tough with the industry. If we are going to put something in place, make sure it meets the needs of the most people possible.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there are days when we wonder about NDP members. It is built into their DNA to hate taxpayers. They hate taxpayers even more if the they pay more taxes. If the taxpayers pay a lot of taxes, they really hate them, to the point where I think they need anger management. It strikes me as strange that the people who pay the most taxes in our country are the ones they hate the most. I do not quite understand the logic of that.

The complaint is that the oil companies are gouging profits, et cetera. Let me go through with the hon. member from the NDP and all House members where the tax points are, and the point at which taxation occurs. We tax the royalties when the oil come out of the ground. We have corporate tax rates which many argue are way too high. Canadians, ordinary and otherwise, get dividends which fund their retirement and other needs. We also have a surtax. If we listen to people on productivity, they say that is about as good a way to kill jobs as any. That is the federal taxation points.

Then we have provincial tax points which are at the royalty level. There also is a corporate tax rate that provinces apply. They also have surtaxes that they apply. Municipal governments apply taxes at property levels.

Therefore, there are a huge number of points at which all these companies are taxed.

What is the hon. member thinking? Does he not realize that if a company makes profits, it will be taxed? There are arguments to be put that it is overtaxed, that in some respects Canada's taxation regime is a disincentive to investment job creation, et cetera. I do not buy those arguments. Nevertheless there are those who make those arguments. Why do NDP members hate taxpayers?

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know to what speech the member was listening. I did not mention taxes at all, except to say that the government is again going to subsidize the fuel industry. The parliamentary secretary's colleague, Mr. McTeague, said that a category five hurricane in the U.S.--

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Order, please. May I remind the hon. member again that we are not to use the names, but rather the titles or the riding names.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of his colleagues said that a category five hurricane in the U.S. had given rise to a category five fleecing of the consumer at the pump. We are not talking about taxes. We are talking about the government getting tough with the industry, and the member is afraid of that.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that I agree with my colleague from the NDP that there are certain measures missing from this bill. I have a question for him.

What does he think of the response from another hon. member, to whom I put a question earlier, who insinuated that the astronomical profits of the oil companies were justified because they helped create jobs? According to a study by the research chair of the Université du Québec à Montréal, the profits of the oil companies have risen 585% over the last 15 years.

In my opinion, this increase in profits is not proportional to job creation. In fact, profits have risen 585% in the last 15 years, and according to the same study, over those 15 years there has been a 54% reduction in employment. Therefore it is not true that the increase in the profits of the oil companies is creating jobs.

I would like to hear the hon. member on this subject. Keep in mind that we are in favour of this bill. But we believe that other measures could be taken to encourage a greater contribution by the oil companies to these social measures, and of course to ensure that this bill can reach other clienteles who have need of it.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. The math needs to be done on the jobs created by the oil industry, although they are less than a few years ago, and the jobs that will be killed by the increase in fuel costs.

In my area truckers and farmers are saying that if the price of fuel stays where it is or goes any higher, they are out of business. Those are people who will not have jobs.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, my biggest problem is with the oil companies. In Halifax oil tankers come in once every three months. In April the tankers came in and when the hurricane hit about six weeks later, the new price on the old stock kicked in, anywhere from 10¢ to 15¢ to 20¢ higher. If that is not price gouging, I do not know what is.

Representatives of the industry should be made to appear before a federal committee to justify any increases to their cost. That would be transparent. We do that with the provincial regulations in Nova Scotia. Prior to any increase to fuels, companies have to appear before a board to justify them.

If the government or anybody else truly wants to give an energy rebate to consumers to offset the high cost of energy, the simplest way to do that is to remove the GST or in Atlantic Canada the HST. If those taxes were removed from fuels and home heating energy, that would give an immediate dividend to all people who use fuel.

Would my colleague agree with that? Any other system will leave out a large amount of people. If this is truly an energy rebate, then we should do it for energy itself.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. We have to find more creative ways or, in fact, any way, such as convincing the government to get tough with the industry by creating a vehicle where the industry has to come forward and justify its prices.

We have no problem with making a profit or with the market dictating prices, as long as it works and is not profiteering and gouging ad nauseam, which is what we are seeing. We do not want the government to have to continue to on one hand give corporate tax breaks and on the other hand allow free rein with the cost of fuel then subsidize the industry by helping people pay for their fuel. Where does this end?

A member earlier talked about the NDP having some problem with taxes. It has no problem with taxes as long as they are used effectively and properly on behalf of those who need it the most.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a point and get the member's comment on it. The commodity we are talking about is energy. It is not about gas, or natural gas, or oil or hydro.

As an example of what we will be facing, on July 1 the Ontario Energy Board approved an increase in natural gas per cubic metre from 27¢ to 31¢, about a 15% increase. At the same time, the independent gas marketers were selling three-year contracts ranging from 40¢ to 42¢ compared to 31¢, the currently approved rate. The independent gas marketers purchase these gas reserves under long term contracts. That is the reality. According to these contracts, it is probably a one-third increase in the cost of natural gas by the end of three years.

There is no question that Canadians will be faced with higher energy prices over the next three to five years. We need a strategy to deal with it. However, there comes a point at which time we cannot cut taxes or the GST. It is $400 million per 1¢ of tax which means that 5¢ would be $2 billion. It will not be enough to deal with the massive increase. We need a strategy to deal with energy consumption, particularly with regard to some of the elements of Bill C-66, like the retrofits and the energy upgrades. We need to be smarter with our energy. We just cannot buy our way out of this one.

Could the member comment on this?

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree. That is why we support pieces of the bill on retrofitting and working with low income affordable housing units and low income citizens to help them replace windows and doors, which would reduce energy.

We agree that cutting taxes is not the answer. The CCPA said that if we look at what is behind the current high gas prices, we would find that taxes have virtually nothing to do with the increase price in gas. With the exception of the GST, all provincial and federal gasoline taxes are flat amounts per litre and do not go up when prices go up.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives also goes on to say that the cost of energy coming out of the plants that process it has not changed significantly over the last 10 years. It says that what we have is profiteering and gouging. I am asking the government to get tough with the industry, to go head to head with it and tell it that it cannot continue to raise prices in the way it has.

Energy Costs Assistance Measures ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the bill and the measures the government is taking to assist families with the cost of fuel and particularly with the cost of heating.

I am especially pleased that we have a bill in front of us that essentially has three prongs to it. The first one, which is important, is the direct financial assistance to low income seniors or households with children who will be facing increased heating costs this winter.

However we are also using this opportunity to inject extra resources into ensuring Canadians are less dependent on fossil fuels. This would have a benefit in long term savings for families who qualify for these incentives to make home improvements, but it would also have a hugely important environmental benefit, in that as we reduce our consumption of fossil fuels we also would be reducing our impact on the atmosphere and our contribution to the greenhouse effect and to global climate change.

Therefore, not only are we addressing the immediate issue of the cost of fuel, but we are also addressing the long term issue of how we reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.

We also are addressing issues around market transparency. How can Canadians know better about how the price of fuel is determined and where perhaps there are questionable practices in the cost charged for fuel, whether it is gas at the pump or heating fuel going into our homes in the winter?

There have been persistent concerns about competitiveness in the oil industry. Measures are in this bill, as well, to strengthen the oversight of the Competition Bureau and its ability to take action.

I will speak more about this after question period but I hope the bill and the measures the government has announced will be an incentive for the provinces to look at how they can contribute.

We are clearly at a point now where gas prices have returned to, and I think perhaps a bit below, where they were prior to the Katrina storm that impelled a 25% increase in the cost of gasoline at the pumps, but it does not take away from or minimize the importance of these measures in the bill.

Kiyoshi Thomas TsubouchiStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express condolences on behalf of all members of the House to the family of Mr. Kiyoshi Thomas Tsubouchi whose life was most tragically taken away at the age of 83.

Mr. Tsubouchi was born in Vancouver, raised in Duncan and at an early age left school to help support his family. At the outbreak of World War II, he was sent to an internment camp in northern Ontario where, despite the difficult conditions, he received his high school diploma by correspondence.

After the war, he and his family moved to Thunder Bay where he worked for a logging company, again to help provide for his family. After his marriage to Fumiko in 1951, he moved to Agincourt from downtown Toronto where for 20 years he successfully owned and operated Apex Dry Cleaners.

Kiyoshi was a man of great determination who, along with his wife, sacrificed all for his family. Kiyoshi also loved sports, especially his beloved Maple Leafs, the New York Yankees and, of course, Tiger Woods.

He will be deeply missed by his children, David, Dan and Lynn, his grandchildren and relatives, and remembered as a wonderful father, friend and great Canadian.

Sponsorship ProgramStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier today, Mr. Justice Gomery confirmed what members of the Conservative Party have been saying for years. The sponsorship program was a money laundering scheme by the Liberal Party that is the most shameful scandal in our history.

What is very clear from Justice Gomery's report is that the Liberal Party of Canada is a corrupt organization, plain and simple, and that the culture of entitlement runs rampant in the Liberal Party.

The sponsorship program was directed at the highest levels by Liberal appointees of the government. It was designed not to save the country but to enrich friends of the Liberal Party and to pay the Liberal Party's election expenses courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer. Every law and every rule in the book were completely trashed by Liberal ministers and Liberal lobbyists.

Mr. Justice Gomery has indeed confirmed that the Liberal ethical deficit is like a bottomless pit. It is time to throw the bums out at the next election.

Chief of Police for Peel RegionStatements By Members

November 1st, 2005 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to acknowledge the contributions of Noel Catney, the chief of police for Peel region, who is retiring on December 31 after 35 years of community service.

He has served the community in many capacities, from investigator to officer in charge to deputy chief of police. He is also a recipient of numerous awards, including the Ontario Medal of Bravery and the Queen's Golden Jubilee. He was also among the first to be awarded the Governor General's Order of Merit.

I personally know Chief Catney through his tireless efforts in helping raise awareness and funding for the JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

On behalf of the residents of Mississauga—Brampton South, I would like to thank Chief Catney for his remarkable community service and wish him well in his future endeavours.

Sponsorship ProgramStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the first question raised in this House on the suspicions of a scandal involving the program called “sponsorship initiatives” was raised by the Bloc Québécois.

On June 6, 2000, the leader of the Bloc Québécois and hon. member for Roberval asked the first of over 440 questions that would lead to the inquiry by Justice John Gomery.

Since then we have learned that Groupe Everest, Lafleur Communications and many others received contracts for several million dollars from Communication Canada or Public Works and Government Services Canada. These firms contributed to the electoral fund of the Liberal Party of Canada to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars—dirty money, as the government's political lieutenant for Quebec called it.

By following the dirty money trail, the Bloc Québécois denounced and uncovered the worst political scandal in Canadian history, a Liberal scandal.

Justice Gomery might not be able to punish anyone, but the public can. Inspired by Quebec's slogan, Je me souviens , Quebeckers—

Sponsorship ProgramStatements By Members

2 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.

People's Choice Business AwardsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Godbout Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, the Orléans Chamber of Commerce hosted the fourth edition of the People's Choice Business Awards.

This event is a means to thank the business community and welcome the input from the community at large. It also represents a mechanism for the collectivity and the businesses to work together for the betterment of the Orléans community.

This year, more than 9,000 people took part in this event by voting on the Internet for their favourite local businesses. The 15 winners were chosen from a wide range of businesses and entrepreneurs who were celebrated at the gala event.

I want to join the residents of Orléans in congratulating all the nominees and of course the winners. They are directly responsible for the economic development of Orléans and we are very grateful to them.

It is a job well done by the Orléans Chamber of Commerce.

AgricultureStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, while the government spends and abuses taxpayer dollars into the millions, rural communities and farmers in my constituency are struggling under the weight of increasing operating costs with the rising cost of fuel and fertilizer at a time of record low commodity prices.

The finance minister and the Treasury Board minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board has been dithering, as usual, by failing to increase the initial price for Canadian Wheat Board grains. The net price for feed barley is at 18¢ a bushel. It costs more than that to deliver it. That is as ridiculous as it is shameful.

When will the government act to increase the initial price of grain? Farmers need the cashflow.

In the midst of this dark moment, I wish to pay tribute to the small rural community of Ogema, a bright light in my constituency that, despite the government's national embarrassment, has recently been awarded the Canada Lands Company Sustainable Development Award in the 2005 national edition of Communities in Bloom.

Ogema was recognized in the category of community development. To its credit, it has been able to create 90 jobs through a series of business developments in the community.

I take my hat off to Ogema and its citizens for their dedication and community pride. However I give thumbs down for the government's inaction during a national agricultural farm crisis throughout Saskatchewan.

Suzie BernierStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to the hon. members' attention the recent passing of a great lady, a resident of my riding of Madawaska—Restigouche, Suzie Bernier of Connors.

Mrs. Bernier was always concerned for the well-being of others. She and her family were actively involved in, and committed to, the development of their community. A staunch defender of our heritage, she preserved numerous artifacts in her own home.

I invite hon. members to join with me and the people of Madawaska—Restigouche in expressing sincere condolences to the Bernier children, Armand, Lionel, John, Robert and Margot, and to all her other relatives and friends, in the loss of their loved one.