House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was energy.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, the question is particularly relevant, and typical of our colleague from Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

When I met with the Franciscans International, they provided me with the ratification schedule. With respect to the convention in question, for example, more than 100 countries have ratified it. I am not familiar with the details of this convention, however, and I do not know why Canada did not ratify it.

I hope that someone on the government side—the parliamentary secretary or anyone else in a position of authority—will be able to enlighten us. This is very disturbing. I think this situation ought to be remedied.

Of course, my hon. colleague understands that this in no way affects the relevance of Bill C-49. The Bloc upholds its brilliant tradition of defending the interests of Quebec. As the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie points out in many of his speeches, when a bill is good for Quebec, the Bloc supports it, and when a bill is bad for Quebec, the Bloc opposes it. In this particular case, we stand for the interests of Quebec and will therefore support the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's comments. He knows that his province of Quebec has a very serious problem with the trafficking of not only people but of guns, drugs, alcohol and other contraband, particularly at Kanesatake and Kahnawake.

The issue at hand is a very serious one for police officers. They find it very difficult to deal with an issue that has become much more than one can find within Kanesatake and Kahnawake reserves. It is one that deals with issues across the border between Canada and the U.S., and is intimately entwined with organized crime. Our hearts have to go out to the aboriginal people who live on the reserves and the terrible problem they have with organized criminal gangs, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, that act like parasites within those communities and essentially destroy and eviscerate a lot of the social structures within those areas.

The hon. member knows the area quite well and the problems with which the aboriginal people are confronted. What advice could he give the Government of Canada and how we could help the RCMP to deal and address the serious problem on those reserves?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague. This is a very relevant question. This is something that is of concern to me as a Montrealer.

I few weeks ago, I attended a press conference with tobacco manufacturers and people involved in retail. As far as tobacco smuggling is concerned, we must recognize that our colleague was right when he spoke of the native reserves.

I have put a motion before the Standing Committee on Health. My colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin did the same at the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and so did my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot at the Standing Committee on Finance. We have put forward four proposals dealing with tobacco taxation, among other things. We have called for a campaign to ensure compliance with tobacco product labelling requirements. We have considered a moratorium on new production licences in Indian reserves.

I would gladly send the hon. member a copy of the four motions we have put before these various committees. I thank him for sharing his concerns, which are completely legitimate.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity, even at this late hour, to speak to Bill C-49. I want to take the opportunity to recap some of the items in the bill that relate particularly to vulnerable persons.

We have heard some very eloquent testimony here this afternoon on some of the situations that young people in this country find themselves in. The message that Bill C-49 sends is both strong and clear. It sends the message that the full force of the criminal law will be brought to bear on those who seek to take advantage of those who are indeed the most vulnerable among us.

We know that the crime of human trafficking disproportionately impacts on vulnerable people, particularly women and children who are preyed upon, exploited and abused for the profit of others. About 98% of those forced into commercial sexual exploitation are women and children. They are often lured through false promises of employment and working conditions that would benefit them and their families. This type of exploitation runs contrary to the very essence of who we are as Canadians and what we value: equality, liberty and justice.

Bill C-49 would strengthen our legal framework to combat trafficking by creating three new criminal offences. These offences directly address the very heart of this terrible crime of exploitation.

The main offence of trafficking in persons would prohibit anyone from recruiting, transporting, harbouring or controlling the movements of another person in order to exploit or facilitate the exploitation of that person. It carries the Criminal Code's strongest punishment, up to life imprisonment, accordingly reflecting the abhorrent nature of this crime, the impact it has on its victims, and importantly, society's condemnation.

As I indicated, exploitation is at the very heart of this crime and Bill C-49 properly acknowledges this fact by making it a key element of the offence. This approach is important. It reflects the international community's understanding of human trafficking and more importantly, squarely addresses the very behaviour that targets the most vulnerable among us. Bill C-49 proposes to create two additional offences providing law enforcement with an expanded ability to address the full range of conduct involved in human trafficking.

The second offence would prohibit anyone from profiting from the misery of others. Bill C-49 would make it an offence to receive a financial or other material benefit knowing that it resulted from the trafficking in persons. This offence would be punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

The third offence would criminalize the withholding or destroying of travel or identity documents in order to commit or facilitate the trafficking in persons. This is an integral response to trafficking because we know that traffickers often withhold such documents in order to maintain control over their victims in essence to ensure that victims' vulnerability is perpetuated.

Canada continues to be in the vanguard of nations in the global struggle against injustice and inequality. I am pleased to note that Canada has recently ratified the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. This ratification underscores our commitment, both domestically and internationally, to protect children from all forms of exploitation including trafficking.

Bill C-2, which received royal assent in July, further underscores this commitment. Bill C-2 builds upon already expansive criminal law protections and offers even greater protections for children and other vulnerable persons through enhanced penalties for those crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children and through expanding the use of testimonial aids to children and other vulnerable persons.

The government has an ongoing and strong commitment to the protection of the vulnerable and I believe that Bill C-49 is a further step in the right direction. I understand that the whole of government's approach to trafficking reflects the international community's approach to human trafficking, namely, to prevent trafficking, protect its victims and prosecute the offenders. A working group has been tasked with the development of a federal strategy and that work, I believe, is currently underway. Bill C-49 is an important part of this comprehensive approach and it will help us accomplish these prevention, protection and prosecution objectives.

I appreciate that Bill C-49 represents one component of a larger federal response to this issue and supports as well the government's numerous activities to combat trafficking in persons in all its forms. These include, for example, partnering with members of civil society to develop the capacity to properly respond to the needs of victims of this terrible crime. I also understand that the government has been active in developing prevention and awareness materials and in delivering training seminars on the dangers of human trafficking.

I, along with most members of the House, support all of these efforts. Bill C-49 is a critical step toward better addressing human trafficking in all its manifestations, both domestically and internationally. It proposes welcomed criminal law reforms that will enable Canada to continue to show global leadership on the protection of the vulnerable. I hope all members of the House will strongly support this bill. It is an important one for our communities.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I found my colleague's comments very interesting as she got to the nub of the matter which is this big challenge of trafficking.

I draw the attention of the House to a very good study that was done by the United Nations. It did a comprehensive overview of the trafficking in people, particularly looking at the Far East and West Africa. There is a very big problem of trafficking in West Africa, particularly children. A lot of them go into a form of indentured slavery, which is a profound tragedy.

Many people watching may not be aware that slavery is alive and well in parts of Africa, particularly in parts of West Africa. Niger has it as well as a number of other countries along the coast. That is why it is extremely important for us, as my colleague and friend mentioned, to work with our international partners to address this scourge.

In the commission of this, does she feel that the workings that we have internationally through the RCMP, Interpol and other agencies are sufficient at this point in time to address this scourge? Where does she see the future going with respect to addressing the profound problems and the human tragedy that encompasses the trafficking in people?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, the government has taken many important steps on the international scene to address the whole issue of trafficking. Certainly, agreeing to the protocol in 2002 has been an important first step. There is an international labour convention that has a number of instruments touching on the forced labour and minimum ages for employment.

It is important that we remain vigilant as a government, and that we engage in all international forums that provide the opportunity for it. We have a number of both not for profit and government bodies actively engaged in this area. It is incumbent upon us all to work together to address this matter in a vigilant and aggressive manner.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

moved:

That the House do now adjourn.

Madam Speaker, before I begin, I want you to know that I will be sharing my time with the member for Mégantic—L'Érable.

First, I want to thank all my colleagues who unanimously agreed to this emergency debate this evening. The entire House recognized that my motion was a priority.

This is the second such gesture since the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology met to discuss gasoline last Thursday. The committee was also unanimous about its desire to hear from witnesses, summon oil companies and senior public servants and invite people to appear before the committee.

Today, the House was also unanimous. Why such unanimity? I think that there are two reasons.

First, there are the astronomical increases in the price of gasoline over the past few weeks, months and year. In early 2005, gas cost about 78¢ per litre. Now it costs $1.08. For years now, we have seen the same thing happen time and again: a significant increase, followed by a small decrease to soothe public opinion, followed by another increase. We are trying to break this cycle.

That is why we want the government to act as soon as possible. This is the second main reason for holding an emergency debate this evening: the government has no action plan.

The only action the government took was when the Bloc Québécois tabled the first phase of its action plan. The Prime Minister said then that we might be able to examine the situation facing the most vulnerable people in order to determine if we can help them. Since then, there has been no news from the government.

The senior public servants who testified before the committee last Thursday told us that the plan was not ready and that they did not know exactly where we were headed. The situation is such that committee members unanimously decided to summon the five ministers responsible for transport, energy, finance, industry and the environment. These are all individuals who are concerned by this issue and who will ultimately have to come before the committee to show their will to act and to present their action plan. So far, we do not know anything about this plan.

The Bloc Québécois wants to contribute. It has already done so by introducing a plan of action. My comments this evening will specifically deal with the various aspects of this plan.

The first point is that consumers must get a break in the short term. As we saw, people were directly hit by this increase. Low income earners who rely on oil for heating purposes will be particularly affected this winter if they are not given the possibility of making up for the loss incurred in terms of their net purchasing power.

We are not talking about subsidizing oil. I think we should pay for energy at its actual cost for our society, and that includes environmental costs. On the other hand, we must ensure that the poor do not have to pay for things for which they are not responsible.

We cannot tolerate the diversion of wealth created by the gas price increase. Profits by oil companies are increasing exponentially. Over the past four years, the profits of the six oil companies in Canada have doubled, from $5 billion to $10 billion. Given such profit increases, we must find a way to calm things down. Otherwise there will be a permanent diversion of wealth that will benefit oil companies rather than consumers and people living in remote areas.

Take the case of a resident of Saint-Pamphile, in my riding, who must travel 50 or 60 kilometres to find work and then to get there. If the gasoline price increase eats up all the revenue drawn from a job that pays $9 or $10 per hour, this will have a very negative impact on the economy and it will slow things down. People must absolutely be compensated.

In this connection, the Bloc Québécois has proposed a tax deduction of $3.75 a day, up to 10% of income. This is already available in the regions far from major centres. It is a measure that would make it possible to help out people in the regions and offset the effects of higher gas prices.

We also want to help the affected economic sectors. This not only concerns consumers but also others whose jobs are affected. I am thinking for example of self-employed truckers, not those employed by a major trucking company whose contracts are lined up six months or a year in advance.

What we want is for a small trucker to be able to benefit from a kind of compensation when he sees his costs rise as soon as he puts gas in his tank, so that he can remain competitive. So we are talking about a tax credit for independent truckers.

We also want to see the tax credit we have in Quebec for taxi drivers and owners made general, so that they can continue to charge a reasonable amount for their services. Here again, it is not a matter of subsidizing gas prices, but of ensuring that the increase in company profits goes back into the pockets of people who need it if they are to keep their businesses running normally.

The same goes for agricultural producers. With the price as it is, there is a forecast of $250 million in added costs to our farmers. Just think about the mad cow crisis they have had to deal with in recent years. If we add an additional debt of $250 million to their burden, they will have to give up their farms, will be forced to sell up. This crisis absolutely must be addressed.

Finally, there is a fourth group: independent logging companies. These are people who operate multi-function machines, harvesters, in forests. These machines use substantial amounts of fuel, and their owners have high payments to make. They were taken by surprise by these skyrocketing fuel prices. We believe that they too should be compensated for their additional costs.

These are short term measures for those currently affected in their daily lives. In our opinion, there should be more medium term measures. The government would be well advised to act on our suggestion to establish a petroleum monitoring agency. Basically, every year for three years, this agency would report to the House of Commons on market conditions and make recommendations.

Had such an agency been established two years ago, when the committee recommended it, changes would have already have been suggested in order to face the kind of crisis we have gone through recently, and we could have influenced the situation. There is a very important factor: uncertainty of fuel availability must be reduced. The current up and down scenario is hurting the economy as a whole, and the government's inaction is seriously interfering with the ability to react appropriately to the situation.

Also, the Competition Act must be strengthened. We have been asking for five years that it provide more powers, so that investigations that are not quasi-judicial can be conducted. There is no need for written or recorded proof of collusion, but a review of the economic sector is required to determine whether or not the market is functioning properly.

This afternoon, the minister gave an indication that the government might be prepared to amend the Competition Act along those lines. We can assure him of our cooperation: our amendments are ready, and we are prepared to submit them to him, so that he can amend the act as soon as possible to ensure that the Competition Bureau can start its investigations.

So, there are short term measures, structural measures, but also measures to redistribute wealth. We can see that petroleum companies are making very substantial extra profits. There is a way to put a tax on these extra profits. We believe that an extra $500 million in taxes could be collected from these companies to finance these aid measures.

Given the fact that profits of more than $10 billion were made over the last year, an amount of $500 million might be considered reasonable. Indeed, at this time, the increase in profits is exponential and will remain so in 2006. Given the new prices, no one would think this is disproportionate. Instead, it would be a reasonable and realistic way to redistribute wealth where it should be, to ensure that our economy continues to run.

Measures must also be taken to reduce our dependence on oil. The Minister of Environment told us last week that the price was high, that it would remain high and that was good for the future. I repeat that I am not against paying the real price for gas. However, we must ensure that profits as well as the proportion of taxes that we are paying are reasonable, so that we can use them for other purposes.

As for measures to reduce our dependency on gas, we could invest substantially in wind energy and encourage the buying and building of less energy consuming vehicles. We are waiting for the government to take action on this.

To implement these measures, we first need the political will, instead of the government currently giving up. Why is the Prime Minister not intervening with the G8 to say that this issue must be dealt with, that this is important? He must make this position known publicly.

Why does he not call on the oil companies at the national level, as the committee had the courage to do, to tell them how this works and what extra efforts they could make?

And finally, he should implement an action plan, like the one that the Bloc Québécois is suggesting on this issue, so that we can feel there is really a government, that people want to tackle this problem and overcome it. This is what this debate is about tonight.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot comment on everything, but I would like some clarification with regard to the truckers.

First, the federal excise tax on diesel fuel is 4¢ a litre. It is fixed regardless of the commodity price, so there is no impact with regard to that.

Second, with regard to the GST, for truckers who are not the end users but rather providing a service, they get to claim an input tax credit and fully recover all the GST paid on all their purchases including fuel.

If I heard the member correctly, he is talking about truckers who pay excise tax of 4¢ a litre regardless of the what the price of the diesel fuel is and fully recover the GST. He also wants to give them a tax credit for the taxes related to the overall taxes they may have may paid on the purchase, not taking into account the revenue offsets of the recoveries.

Would the member care to clarify how truckers are impacted in terms of their pocketbooks, seeing that they are passing this service through to others? Knowing the volatility of fuel prices, they would structure contracts in a way in which they would have probably full recovery or very close to it.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to tell the member that the problem we identified is not that taxes are too high. No one ever likes to pay taxes. Our current problem is not taxes.

Since January 2005, the price has risen from $0.78 to over $1.08 per litre. So, overall, when it comes to gasoline, there has been a major increase that has nothing to do with increased taxes. These truckers, who travel about 320,000 kilometres each year with engines that drink over 50 litres per 100 kilometres, are currently experiencing a very significant increase in actual costs. For every 20-cent increase in the price of oil, it costs an additional $30,000 to operate each truck. In the short term, something has to be done for these people who have no protection, unlike the major trucking companies. People working for Freightliner or other kinds of companies often have protected contracts. Oil will stay at the same price for 6, 12 or 18 months, but independent truckers do not benefit from such protection.

When the price went up on September 4, or on the morning of September 5, if they needed gas, they had no choice but to pay the new price. Here is an example. Back home, someone told me: “I earn about $800 a week, but now, because of the gasoline price increases, I am driving for nothing, I no longer have an income”. That person can do it for a week or two, but he will not be able to last longer. We must absolutely find a way so that the diversion of wealth that has occurred with the huge surpluses generated by oil companies can go back into the pockets of the people who continue to make the economy run.

The situation is somewhat similar to that of the thirties, during the Great Depression. At the time, there was no social assistance, no unemployment insurance. Some companies were making profits nevertheless, but we were not able to put the money back into the pockets of consumers, so that they would continue to function. They were losing their purchasing power. The same thing is happening to small businesses because of the oil prices. They are losing their purchasing power. This means that will leave the market if we do not find ways to compensate them.

We are talking about a 30% increase. Let us try to see the impact of that 30% increase in the various economic sectors, as the value of our dollar goes up. Considering that 85% of our exports go to the United States, the additional cost of gasoline will often make the difference between life and death for a small business. This is why we are asking for this credit for independent truckers.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup for his excellent work on the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology, particularly in this regard. This member is extremely dedicated, and this file is very well managed.

I am very pleased to speak on this motion, during this emergency debate, all the more so because I am speaking as a member of the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology.

This is a priority. As was mentioned earlier, the Bloc Québécois believes this is an important and serious issue. It is wide-reaching. For example, national, regional and local economies are threatened by excessive gasoline prices. This can cause, and is causing, damage.

However, the government is using the same unremitting logic it applies to other matters, which is to do nothing. It is always the same, be it the fiscal imbalance or textiles. This government is dragging its feet in taking the necessary steps to resolve this crisis.

I spoke earlier. I asked the Minister of Industry a question. I want to demonstrate somewhat the mentality of this government and the Minister of Transport. I asked him a question. I had condemned him for his inaction and I was asking him what he intended to do with regard to gasoline. He answered that we were dinosaurs with no understanding of the economy.

It was the same thing this summer. On Maisonneuve à l'écoute , we asked the Minister of Transport what it would take for the government to intervene and help businesses and the regions. He gave the same kind of answer. I am quoting loosely here, “There is nothing we can do. There is nothing the government can do. Globalization is to blame. Iraq and the war are to blame”. He added that the “government will not start handing out coupons so that people can buy gas”. This shows the mentality of this government and how it wants to operate.

The purpose of the motion is very clear. Last Thursday, in committee, we heard from a number of different groups. The major oil companies were there, and so were representatives of the Competition Bureau, the Finance Department, and consumer protection groups, to name but a few. There was one point on which they all agreed: the exorbitant and excessive profits being made by the oil companies. That was the topic of discussion. The oil companies themselves acknowledged it and did not try to conceal it. They unabashedly reported profits of $7 billion to $8 billion.

They also told us that hikes of 6¢ to 40¢ were understandable. It seemed that we were in some alternative reality, one unfortunately being maintained by an arrogant government that is refusing to take action. The Prime Minister is also refusing to intervene, claiming there is no solution and nothing can be done. From time to time, today for instance, there have been little openings, but nothing concrete has been done. We have not made any progress.

However, as far as this situation is concerned, we were quickly brought back to reality by the consumer protection associations, the agricultural sector, the trucking sector and the small and medium businesses. The current impact of gasoline prices on the regional economy, be it Chaudière-Appalaches, the Eastern Townships, Centre-du-Québec, the Saguenay or anywhere else, is devastating for families, for industry, for agriculture and for the economy in general.

My colleague has just spoken of the tendency to neglect the impact of gas prices on the agricultural sector. There is frequent mention of shipping . In the agricultural sector, over $2 billion worth of gasoline and energy is consumed annually. My colleague has just pointed out that we will be obliged to add close to $300 million if we want to manage successfully. There are many bankruptcies on the horizon in my riding: maple syrup operations, metallurgy, tourism, or any other industry.

No steps have been taken. There has been no intervention. In regions like mine—and I will allow myself to speak of it once again— small and medium businesses abound. Some sectors have been very hard hit with considerable job losses. Once again, government inaction.

It is important to mention this a number of times. The lack of control over this spike in the price of gas is totally devastating regional and local economies. Clearly, the government is not a regional government and everyone knows it. In the regions the textile, softwood lumber and in agriculture industries are being devastated. Now add gas to that.

We keep hearing there are no solutions. My colleague listed a few earlier. There are solutions; some are for the short term and others for the long term.

One of the first solutions is to discipline the industry. That is what the government is there for. We have a democratic government elected by the people. It must defend the interests of the people, the regions and the families. It is not industry that is supposed to run the country, but the government. The industry needs to be disciplined.

We talked about creating two agencies including a monitoring agency. Furthermore, the Competition Bureau should be given more power. Last Thursday, during testimonies, it was interesting to see that the majority, except for the government or its representatives, agreed with having this monitoring agency, which would have probably helped resolve this crisis.

This agency could assign witnesses. That is important. It could ensure protection and confidentiality, examine every aspect of the oil industry and offer solutions. We even got commitments from several representatives from agencies that came to testify, who agreed with this.

The first important point is that we must not be afraid of the industries. We must not be afraid to stand up and discipline this industry.

The second solution the Bloc proposed was to give consumers a break. Consumers need to be defended. There are associations and members of the Bloc Québécois who defend them. However, the government also has to take its responsibilities and give consumers a break. Earlier, my colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup talked about tax credits. It is important.

There needs to be help for converting to alternative energies for heat, and subsidies are needed for public transit. These are two very important measures that the government could take immediately without much difficulty.

There is a third measure that consists in helping people in remote areas. It is a problem in these large areas. When you have to travel, the distances are quite great. Again, a credit for people from remote areas could be effective.

It would also be important to help the economic sectors that are affected. I talked about this earlier. There is the agricultural sector. This is really disastrous for this sector. Those who are responsible for that sector are saying that the situation is terrible. The same goes for the taxi industry. We are killing the independent truckers. We are choking them. These job creators, our small and medium businesses at home, they are our industries, they are working families. They are really pushed to the limit. The same goes also for forest industries in our rural or semi-rural ridings. These industries that create jobs are important. They have budgets. We will drive these businesses into bankruptcy.

It is the same for the textile industry. A comment was made about that this morning. We saw how the government is totally inactive on this issue and does not take any decision.

There is also another thing that my colleague talked about, which is the redistribution of resources. For example, we can talk about the $500 million in taxes of oil companies. We must also take action on this. Finally, there is the dependency on oil. We must invest and get help from the government.

All this contributes to the fact that we must absolutely have an emergency debate to suggest measures so that this government realizes that our local and regional economies are in jeopardy. We must act as quickly as possible to save jobs and to save our regions.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments. I am glad he mentioned that some of the solutions are public transit and alternative fuels. I hope that some of the members who speak later tonight will outline the amounts, but as the member must know, the government has already put hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into public transit for that very reason.

We have also put all sorts of research money and support into various types of alternate fuels, such as ethanol, and the recent budget had a huge increase for wind energy, with the alternative renewable energy. Natural Resources Canada has been doing excellent work in that area and is continuing to expand year after year, as was contained in the green plan.

The member suggested the oversight committee would have stopped this disaster, but this is a worldwide increase, partly because of speculation, partly because of the loss of a huge amount of refining capacity in Texas. The gulf coast area produces an amount virtually equal to Canada's total refining ability. If world prices change like that, exactly how would an oversight body in Canada work? I am not saying it is not a good idea, but if that oversight body just publishes the information and makes it transparent, how would that actually stop a world crisis like this?

I have another question. How would these industries the member is talking about be at a competitive disadvantage when all of their competitors have increased prices, whether that is in Canada, the United States or anywhere else in the world? They all have the increased price, so how would there be a competitive disadvantage for these industries?

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the monitoring agency would play a very significant role in that respect.

At present, the government is providing information, but we can see that the information on the market, competition, price hikes and oil refining profits overlooks certain aspects and is incomplete. For instance, this may be information received from groups not altogether objective, contracted by large oil companies.

So, we are suggesting that a monitoring committee review the figures to determine what happened, whether profits were generated and why. This committee would carry out a comprehensive analysis of everything concerning oil energy.

I do not agree with the hon. member who cannot see how this can influence the crisis. We are convinced that, on the basis of this research, the testimonies, the figures and everything having to do with global competition—Canada could make this information available to the public—solutions could be developed using this information.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I wish to congratulate my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable on the quality of his remarks, and the same goes for the Bloc member who spoke before him.

I would like him to tell me something about the work of the committee. While I realize that what was said in committee cannot be disclosed, I would appreciate at least knowing what direction was given to the committee's work, given especially how the oil companies have justified their oil refining profits. Are there any sensible answers available to allow us, for one thing, to look at the possibility of acting in that respect?

I have a second question. Does anyone understand why there was such reluctance on the part of the Canadian government to call the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology? The Bloc, and our colleague from Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup in particular, had to put up quite a fight.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, as for the debates in the Standing Committee on Industry, Natural Resources, Science and Technology, it was a given that the profits, initially, were excessive. We posed this question to representatives of the Competition Bureau, and they made the distinction between excessive profits and illegal profits.

Here are a few figures. In 2004, for example, after-tax profits of the five major oil companies in Quebec and Ontario, Petro-Canada, Shell, Husky, Suncor and Esso, were $7.2 billion and were expected to hit $9 billion in 2005. This is an important reason. Also, since 2002, net profits have risen by over 100%. The attached tables illustrate this.

What is also remarkable is that while profits are increasing, there is a parallel increase in refinery margins, as the table illustrates. Refining generates a more than excessive profit. This is where we had thought to intervene. The government could intervene with regard to these margins.

Why does the government not intervene? We saw why on numerous occasions: it is working for the oil companies.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7 p.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.

Liberal

David Emerson LiberalMinister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague, the newly minted Minister of Natural Resources.

On behalf of the government, I am very pleased to respond to the motion before the House. There are few occasions when one gets an opportunity to debate an issue with such direct and obvious consequences for Canadians. The price of energy, the price of oil, home heating oil and gasoline is something that all of us deal with in our daily lives. It is something we have seen and felt in terms of prices at the pump in our communities.

We see it through the whole chain of energy prices. The price of electricity is affected by the price of oil and natural gas and coal. All of these are energy products. There is a complete chain of prices affected by some of the gyrations we have seen in recent months to world energy prices and it has effects throughout our economy. It has effects clearly in our ridings where people driving to work face substantial increases in the cost of commuting to work, in the expense of earning a living. We see it as well in commercial areas. In my province of British Columbia the price of oil and fuel was a fundamental cause behind the dispute at the port of Vancouver this summer. That dispute had major implications not just for British Columbians but for all Canadians as we saw shipments and containers held up at the port.

We can all see there are specific ways in which the price of gas and oil does affect Canadians and the economy in a number of ways. It is important to bear in mind the underlying causes of the current price situation we are facing, whether we are talking about the price of gas, diesel, heating oil, propane, natural gas or any of the other energy products that are part of the energy chain. We all recognize that there is no silver bullet. There is no magic solution that is going to quickly realign international supply and demand and bring prices back down very quickly.

Let me touch on some of the fundamentals of the supply and demand for gas and oil. Clearly, oil is a globally traded commodity. There has been strong demand around the world but it is combined more than ever before with uncertainties about the supply of oil, the reserves and various other shorter term disruptions to supply.

If we go back to January 2002, the world price of crude oil was about $20 U.S. per barrel. Today it is more than $60 per barrel. On a Canadian average basis the retail price of gasoline was 73.2¢ per litre in 2003. Over the first eight months of 2005, it averaged 89.4¢ per litre and of course today it is over $1 a litre.

We hear a lot about the tax issue as one of the drivers of the price of gas and oil, but the reality is that of the 16.2¢ per litre increase between 2003 and the first part of this year, 14.9¢ per litre was crude oil costs. That means that less than a penny, or .8¢ per litre was accounted for by federal taxes. Just half a cent was made up of provincial taxes on average.

If we look at the rise in gasoline prices and we recognize that it has been driven by international market conditions, we should look at those market conditions. Clearly the impact of recent hurricanes on the American oil and gas sector in the Gulf of Mexico was a major factor, but it was a temporary factor.

There are other longer term factors. In fact, the Prime Minister pointed out one of them recently. When he spoke to senior public servants on September 20, he mentioned the major forces shaping the future for Canada and this government's agenda. One of those was the rise of nations such as China and India as global economic powers. He stated:

Consider that in 2004, as measured by purchasing power parity, the United States accounted for about 20% of the global economy with less than 5% of the world's population. Together, China and India also accounted for almost 20% of the world's economy, but with 40% of its population -- so it's clear where the growth potential lies.

It is not just potential. It is happening now as we speak.

It takes a lot of energy to run the factories of China and to get products to markets overseas. It takes a lot of energy to power the growth of emerging consumer societies with a rapidly expanding middle class and populations that strive to achieve the kind of standards that we have in North America. They see energy use as a critical part of achieving those increased living standards.

Since 2001 China and India's demand for oil has grown by more than 2.3 million barrels and that is per day. This accounts for nearly 36% of world oil demand growth during this period. In 2001 China and India accounted for 9% of world oil demand. Today they account for 11% of that demand. It is a trend that will likely continue. That is on top of the growing demand for energy from the traditional high demand industrial economies like Canada, the United States and Europe.

These are some of the fundamental drivers of the rising demand for oil. It drives the demand for natural gas and the products that are made from gas as well, but supply issues are also important. World crude oil production capacity is still exceeding demand, but the gap between supply and demand has been closing in recent years.

The OPEC countries used to have spare crude oil production capacity of between four million and six million barrels per day. They could bring this spare capacity into production in less than 30 days and take the edge off price spikes as a result. Estimates today are that spare capacity is now down to less than two million barrels per day.

Not only is demand rising and supply not keeping pace, but there are other factors. There are a lot of steps in the supply chain between crude oil coming out of the ground and gasoline going into our cars' gas tanks or heating oil going into the tanks in our basements.

Consider the capacity for petroleum refining as an example. Today the refinery capacity all around the world is operating virtually full out. Here in North America both American and Canadian refiners are operating at 97% utilization rates, which for all intents and purposes is operating full out at full capacity. As the demand for petroleum products continues to grow, the refining system's inability to keep pace is going to lead to continued upward pressure on prices.

Why not build more refineries? An important part of the answer has been that these are big and extremely expensive investments. Until quite recently the profit margins in refining were simply not good enough to attract more investment into the refining business. The bottom line is that the refining business is going to have to become more profitable to attract the kind of investment that will be required to increase refining capacity and deal with that weak link in the supply chain.

Many hon. members may ask what the world market has to do with Canada. Are we not self-sufficient in oil and gas? The reality is that we may be, but we represent only 3% of the world's crude supply and that really means we are a price taker. We cannot affect the world price.

Hon. members will have suggestions tonight as to what we should do about this situation. I want to talk a bit about price monitoring. I am very comfortable working with my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, to develop a more transparent, authoritative mechanism for analyzing and keeping track of energy, oil and gas prices in Canada. I am very happy to hear members' suggestions and comments about that. I think it is something that we should consider. Our citizens and consumers and businesses have the need for good information and if we need to create a new mechanism to do that, let us do it.

With respect to competition, I have said many times that there have been at least five investigations in the last 15 years into the competitive conduct in the gas and oil business. No anti-competitive behaviour has been found.

Clearly, I believe that Bill C-19 which is before the House would help us with administrative monetary penalties. I am open to suggestions from hon. members as to further amendments that we could make to the Competition Act, such as giving the Competition Bureau the power to initiate its own investigations without reacting to a complaint. I am open to other suggestions as to what we might do with the Competition Act that could be helpful in dealing with this situation on behalf of Canadians.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pose two questions to the Minister of Industry.

First, there have been some members of this House who seem to imply there is some collusion going on in component parts of the gasoline prices in this country. I would like him to answer very directly, does his department or any other federal department or agency have any evidence whatsoever of any collusion at any level, whether it is at the rack level, whether it is at the crude level or whether it is at the retail level?

Second, I would like to ask the minister why he has not proposed or his government is not willing to accept some reduction in taxes so that we can give immediate relief to consumers. The most variable aspect of the price of gasoline that we can actually affect as parliamentarians is the taxes on gasoline. It is about 42% component cost right now. Why will the government not reduce the taxes on gasoline?

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Emerson Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the matter of anti-competitive conduct, it is not really a matter of whether people in my department believe there is evidence of anti-competitive conduct. I do not think we have any evidence of that. The issue is really whether the Competition Bureau, which is a legal body charged with undertaking those investigations to a high standard of professionalism, has found any evidence of anti-competitive conduct, and the answer is no.

We can all rail about price gouging and some kind of rhetorically satisfying allegations about pricing behaviour, but the bottom line is that after repeated investigations, there has been no evidence of anti-competitive conduct at the retail or wholesale ends of the market.

On the matter of taxation, I believe that this government is committed, and we will be moving forward in the weeks and months ahead, to deal with the issue of the competitiveness of the Canadian economy. The price of energy is a factor that has to be considered. There are many other factors. The exchange rate is another factor.

We have to worry about Canadians who are disadvantaged and hurt by some of the transitional spikes in energy prices or other impacts that negatively affect Canadians who may not be able to handle those burdens. We should deal with that, but I am not prepared to stand today and say that a micro movement in a gasoline tax would solve the real problem that Canadians have. It would take a more fundamental approach than that.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I see that the minister is open to the fact that Bill C-19 amending the Competition Act is insufficient and that he is prepared to broaden the mandate with regard to investigations. That is a request the Bloc has been making for many years. The same is true for the need for reliable information. We currently do not have impartial information. Some people do very good work in the private sector, but it does not have the same sense of fairness that a governmental source of information would.

I agree with him on the matter of taxes, except for the tax to fight the deficit, which should disappear since it no longer bears any relevance to reality. For the rest, that is not really the problem.

I would like to hear what the hon. member has to say about profit margins in refining. This seems like a major topic for investigation. We now realize that over the past year, and the past few months, the price of crude has not necessarily increased. It is truly the refiner's margin that has increased significantly.

Are there no measures we could come up with to increase this refining capacity in such a way for there truly to be greater competition and no more jolts in the price like we have been experiencing lately? Is there any way to get a more in-depth investigation from the competition commissioner, more information and a true action plan from the government? So far, no concrete action plan has been proposed. We learn about things fact by fact, like in tonight's debate.

I think it is high time for the Prime Minister to come forward with a specific action plan that clearly shows that the government has decided to act and deal with this problem head on. I would like to know what the minister has to say about this issue of profit margins in refining.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

David Emerson Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's interest in the refinery part of the supply chain. As I said in my remarks, the refining segment of the supply chain has been under extreme pressure over the years because we do not have enough supply capacity in the refining segment to support significant increases that are needed in a short price-spike situation such as we have today. We do not have enough refining capacity.

He asks why we do not have enough, that there must be a conspiracy out there because all of a sudden the refiners are making a lot of money. They are making a lot of money now because they have not made enough money in the past to invest new capital into refining capacity that would correct the problem and not put us in the situation where the extraordinary profits may be realized right now.

In order to invest hundreds of billions into refining capacity, investors will demand a long term, sustainable, reasonable rate of return for putting money in that business. It is very capital intensive. It is regulatory and burdensome. There are not many communities that are keen to have refineries next door. If we start to undermine profitability in the refinery business, we simply will end up with a worse shortage as we go forward.

However, if there is evidence that there is collusion or anti-competitive behaviour in the refining sector, I am with the member 100%. Let us go after it, let us attack it and let us deal with it.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:20 p.m.

Markham—Unionville Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to discuss Canadian oil markets and the recent changes in the international situation which have resulted in major increases in the price of petroleum products in Canada.

The Government of Canada understands the difficulties Canadians are currently facing due to rising energy prices. Energy matters more to Canada than to any other advanced economy in the world. The products produced by these sectors generate $60 billion in exports and are an important source of our international trade balance. More than 230,000 Canadians work in the energy sector in well paid, highly skilled jobs often in remote regions of the country. As such, energy plays a crucial role in supporting a high living standard for Canadians.

Partly of course this is a matter of our geography and climate, but the cost of the energy supplies that Canadians purchase has an important impact on their economic well-being. Consequently, increases in energy prices naturally attract a good deal of attention.

Since January 2002, world prices for crude oil have more than tripled, from $20 US to over $60 US a barrel, which corresponds to over 30 cents a litre in Canada.

In recent weeks all Canadians have been conscious of increases in the price of gasoline. Much of this increase has been weather related. It has been due to the damage caused by Katrina and concerns that Rita could cause even more damage in the refining sector. This has caused a rather anomalous situation where gasoline prices have increased much more rapidly than crude oil prices. However, if we take a step back and look at longer term trends, it is clear that gasoline prices have moved almost lock step with crude oil prices.

As an example, the average price of gasoline country-wide was 73.2¢ in 2003. So far in 2005 it has averaged 84.9¢ a litre, an increase of just over 16¢. In other words, the increase in gasoline prices over the longer term is fundamentally due to an increase in the price of crude oil.

There are a number of reasons behind this large increase in crude oil prices.

The situation was exacerbated by the unprecedented demand for oil products in less developed countries, China and India in particular. Since 2001, the demand in these countries has increased by over 2.3 million barrels a day. This represents close to 36% of the world increase in demand over that same period. China and India now account for 11% of the world demand.

At the same time as OPEC's spare capacity was falling, there were growing concerns in the market about political instability in a number of important oil producers. That led to an increase in the risk premium on crude oil. In other words, people were willing to pay higher prices to ensure supply in the future and that risk premium may have been exacerbated by an increase in activity by non-commercial traders or speculators. They represented 3.5% of the crude oil futures market in 2003, but over 20% by the summer of 2004. A number of international factors over which Canada has no control have combined forces to produce this very high world price of oil.

I am sure it is of interest to members of the House and to Canadians what the federal government can do in the face of these large price increases. First, as my colleague, the Minister of Industry, has said, we are working very actively on a monitoring process to improve transparency.

In terms of the immediate challenges following Katrina's impact on oil prices, the Government of Canada also has been working closely with its international partners to ensure that Canada and other countries have access to adequate supplies of oil at prices that are as reasonable as possible.

The government also is actively looking at measures it can take domestically to protect Canadians who are particularly vulnerable to increasing oil prices. Here I note that the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister have said that the government is looking at ways to assist Canadians and I am sure that an announcement about these deliberations will be forthcoming in the not too distant future.

In addition, the federal government can help Canadians become more efficient in the ways that they use energy and to develop fuels that can substitute and compete with petroleum. This is an area that is of great importance to my own department. Essentially this is a matter of supply and demand, concepts with which I have some familiarity given my background. This is important in the medium term where we will work to increase the supply of non-oil sources of energy, while at the same time reduce the demand for oil through measures to improve energy efficiency. It is in those two areas, by both reducing demand and increasing supply, that we will move to reduce the dependence of Canada on oil. This will not bring relief tomorrow, but over the medium term these are measures which will produce significant benefits for Canadians, including an improvement in the quality of our environment.

We have begun this process and we are making progress. In transportation, we have many programs in place aimed at raising awareness among drivers about how they can make smart choices.

In my own riding of Markham, the town council, led by Mayor Don Cousens, recently passed a bylaw limiting idling time to three minutes. We may think this is not a big deal or huge thing, but if every municipality in the greater Toronto area and across the country were to adopt measures such as this, one would save a lot of gas and one also would improve the environment.

We are also working to diversify our sources of fuel. We have announced $118 million from the ethanol expansion program for the construction of new ethanol plants and this will greatly increase the availability of this renewable fuel. In addition to measures regarding wind energy announced by the Prime Minister last weekend in Prince Edward Island and measures regarding clean coal, all these I believe are vital in the medium term.

We also are supporting Canadians in their effort to make their homes more energy efficient. We have information available to give advice on how to do this. We also have a retrofit incentive that will help Canadians cover the cost of making energy efficiency upgrades. Through our program EnerGuide, evaluators go to people's homes, do a thorough assessment of energy use and make recommendations for improvements. A grant is then based on the measurable improvements that the homeowner makes. This program has been highly successful, which is why it was quadrupled in budget 2005.

We are also working with industry to make their own operations more energy efficient through the Canadian industry program for energy conservation. Since 1990, CIPEC companies associated with this program have collectively reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 megatonnes from what they otherwise would have been. They have saved billions of dollars in energy costs as a result.

The government itself is also doing its bit through our federal house in order program. We have set a target to reduce emissions from our own operations by about one-third and we are well on our way to achieving that target.

In conclusion, the government recognizes the challenges faced by many Canadians as a result of the increases in energy prices. The government has been active on many fronts to help ease supply disruptions, support energy efficiency, and facilitate the development of alternative fuels. We will continue to work on a plan to deal with the rising cost of energy.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the two ministers speak and I was also a part of the committee that went all day last Thursday on fuel prices. The Liberal line that we are getting today is so very different from the Liberal line we got on Thursday.

For example, the Minister of Industry spent considerable time defending the refineries and the refinery margin in a way that makes some common sense. We do need more refinery capacity. Billion dollar investments take a long time to build and we need investor confidence to achieve that, but what we witnessed on Thursday was Liberals attacking the refining sector, accusing it of gouging, and doing everything it could to remove any onus or responsibility from the government to address the issue of fuel pricing through the one thing it can control, which is the taxation regime.

The Liberals were taking every opportunity to slag the industry, particularly the refining sector, to accuse the industry of price gouging, and to start panic in the consumers by bringing a high profile to a few stations across the country that had decided to push the envelope on pricing. They brought a magnifying glass to that which helped create a consumer panic which I witnessed when I left committee at 10 p.m. There were lineups in Ottawa of people trying to buy 99¢ or $1.09 a litre gasoline.

What is it that leads the Liberal members to have so many different messages which are actually doing a great disfavour to the Canadian general cause?

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am only recently into this position so naturally I was not at that industry committee meeting, but I gather I might be receiving an invitation to appear. I can tell members that I will be very happy to do so and to offer my views on this subject.

When it comes to refineries, the industry minister just made comments about the need for sustainable return. In my remarks I mentioned that in the longer term, even though there were distortions because of the hurricanes, the world price of oil tends to move in lockstep with the price of gas.

I am not making accusations in my comments but, as both the Minister of Industry and I did say in our remarks, we do believe that there is a need for better monitoring of those prices, so Canadians can be assured of these facts and a need for greater transparency in terms of information regarding prices. This is something that we are working on at this time.

Regarding the rush to buy gas, perhaps the hon. member exaggerates a little the importance of his industry committee. My impression was that the panic had more to do with hurricane Rita and fears of what that might do to the oil refining capacity in the southern United States, which would be a large fraction of total oil produced in the U.S., than it did with anything that happened at the industry committee.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, minister after minister tell us about the multiple causes of these gas price hikes. It is certain that we do have an opportunity to intervene into some of its causes, but not others, admittedly. It seems to me, however, that at no time should the presence of those causes rationalize the government's inaction.

The minister presents us with some solutions, such as investing in the fuel economy and mass transit, or creating a monitoring office. These are certainly worthwhile solutions and are what we in the Bloc Québécois are calling for.

Action is, moreover, urgent and necessary. I wonder to what extent the government is going to not just justify its inaction but rather provide us with an action plan indicating the specific points at which there will be intervention, thereby avoiding public panic.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member at least recognized that to a very significant degree, the world price of oil is beyond the Government of Canada's control. We are a country of more than 30 million inhabitants in a world of billions and we have no influence over the storms in the United States, the political situation in the Middle East, or the growing demand in China and India. These are truly significant factors that explain why the price of oil has increased quite significantly on a global scale.

That being said, it is inaccurate to say that the government has done nothing. I have mentioned the fact that the Minister of Finance has said he would help low-income Canadians heat their homes in the winter. We have talked about a monitoring system. In the medium term, my department has set up programs for increasing supply and reducing demand. We are committed to discussing a large number of possibilities in order to improve the situation. There is not any inaction whatsoever.

In the meantime, as the hon. member said herself, we must realize that the world price of oil is not under Canada's control.

Gasoline PricesEmergency Debate

September 26th, 2005 / 7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Randy White Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with our industry critic from Edmonton—Leduc, and if I should finish earlier, I would hope that you would give him my additional time as well.

One of the problems is that people are listening to what is being discussed but in some cases they do not understand. I am going to point out some of the things that they will likely not understand.

I first want to give people in Canada an idea of what gas prices are like. Gas prices yesterday in Williams Lake were $1.09 per litre; in Edmonton, they were 92.9¢; in Bedford, Nova Scotia, they were $1.11. In fact, the difference between one city to another in one case was 19¢ a litre. We can trace some of this difference right back to speculation, which I want to talk a little about.

In Marystown, Newfoundland for instance, on September 1 at 5:52 p.m. the price per litre was $1.25. At 5:55 a.m. the price was $1.16. That is 0.09¢ in that rapid amount of time. When someone comes up to that pump, they do not understand this price fluctuation and, quite frankly, some of the reasoning given by our Liberal members over there does not make sense at all to many people. In my own town, for instance, we watched how on September 5 at 3:54 p.m. in the afternoon it was 90¢ a litre and at 3:56 p.m. at one pump it was $1.00 a litre. It goes like that.

We can stand here and give all the excuses we want but tell the person who is earning that kind of money, trying to earn a living out there and watching the price go like that at the pump.

Forty per cent of the cost of a litre pays federal, provincial and municipal taxes, including the GST. Thirty-eight per cent of the cost pays for the crude oil, 17% is the refiner's margin and 5% is the retail margin. So clearly, 40% of the cost of a litre is taxes. That is pretty well known. It is on every sticker at every gas station.

In fact, I went to a gas station in my community and I talked to the owner. I asked him how much money he was making. He said it was the same, he got the same amount. In fact, he gave me one of his invoices from the oil company and the price before taxes per litre was 0.67266¢. That is 67¢ a litre. Then it shows provincial fuel tax, 14.5¢; federal excise tax, 10¢; and goods and services, 6.4¢. It raised the price of that fuel per litre from 67.2¢ to 91.7¢. Then of course the owner adds on his margin and it goes to 98¢, and that is what we see at the pumps.

The minister said there is no magic bullet for this, and perhaps to some extent he is right. He talked about supply and demand in economic terms, and I suppose to that extent he is right. But then he said hurricane Rita was at fault. Now, it happens that the dates that I read out were not necessarily dates that hurricane Rita caused the problem. It was panic marketing that caused the problem and whoever is out there, whether it is industry, or media, or politicians, or whoever it is at the pumps, this is really not purely supply and demand. This is called panic marketing, and the people who gain from this, quite frankly gain 40%, are in the House of Commons.

I listened today to some answers in question period. Basically they said, “Well, gee, we are not making that much. After all, the money is going to a good use”. I think hospital equipment was named; it was also said that it is going back to the municipalities for infrastructure. Yes, the municipalities are getting some income for infrastructure. However, the government is recovering a great deal of that just by price fluctuations and increases and a percentage on the increase of the take.

The problem here is that government, on that rare occasion of being in a position of trying to keep the price of goods and services low, is highly motivated, like industry is, to make the best profit. That is not the role of government in pure economic theory. We can read any book there is. I am a cost accountant by profession and I have read many. In pure economic theory the role of government is not to have a bottom line profit margin, but that is what is happening here. It is difficult indeed to convince anybody in this country that this government is not benefiting from a price fluctuation, and in fact an increase in price, because the government is.

What do we do? We have called for some reduction in taxes, but the motivation to do so is not there on the other side. How are we going to get a grasp on a government that has an insatiable appetite for revenue so that it can spend that revenue for whatever purposes it has?

It does not matter which government it is. I am not finding fault just with this government; it just happens to be the Liberal government in power. For any government to be in a position to profit from industry profit is wrong. I think that is an economic theory which we have to deal with in this House.

I asked for this debate some weeks ago because of the growing concern across the country, with the support of my colleagues. I asked for some things to be covered here tonight. I would like to hear from members opposite the answers to the following questions.

Who is really profiting from the increases and by how much? Because, quite frankly, we are dealing with a sad case of denial here.

What forecasts and consumer protection are related to the increases? Can we forecast what is going to happen? Is there anybody brave enough to stand up and say that we will not have these price fluctuations up to $1.30, $1.40 and $1.50 or, if they do, the following will take place and we will kick in the following formula?

What is the proper role of and action for the House of Commons? I think that when the government members speak they have to identify that. People across this country are looking to the government for some direction. It cannot just be saying “it's not our fault” or “they're getting money for infrastructure”. It has to be something more concrete to the consumer.

What are the ramifications of cutting the federal tax on fuels? The government must tell Canadians about it. People want to know.

Last, what is the impact on various businesses and industries?

I think we have to get out of this rut we are in, where we are asking the consumer to pay more and more at the pumps. We have to get into a situation in this country where government is not motivated for high pricing structures in any industry, but more importantly in gas.