Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to this opposition day motion that would put together a rather important plan to give consumers security around the cost of a product that is of course a world market commodity. Crude oil has a limited ability to be refined within Canada and seems to move with the rapidity of lightning in its price range.
We have heard these complaints over and over again. We have seen inaction from the previous government because it had a laissez-faire attitude. Certainly, we would hope better from this government and in a minority government situation we would hope that the majority in the House would have the opportunity to make a difference.
Earlier today I spoke to reporters about the northern prosperity gap faced by working families across the north due to the high cost of living. High gasoline and energy prices are just two things that contribute to the high cost of living that northerners face on a regular basis.
A little over two weeks ago I was back in my home town of Fort Smith, which is the most southern community in the Northwest Territories. It has excellent road access and the price of gasoline was $1.20 a litre. I received a phone call from my daughter last night and she was outraged at the fact that the price of gasoline at the pump had gone to $1.31. This community, located some 800 miles away from the Strathcona refinery in Alberta, had seen a larger increase than most other places.
To me this suggests something about petroleum monitoring agencies. It would be very important for this country to have an agency that could look at not just the price of gasoline in the large cities, but the smaller communities across Canada, in the north and rural Canada, the communities that do not have a plethora of gas stations that perhaps are competitive but have to deal with one or two outlets in their own particular communities.
The situation is that the price of gas goes up 5¢ in Edmonton and nothing has changed in Fort Smith. The cost of transporting the fuel there has not changed. The wages for the person in the gas station have not changed. However, the price in Fort Smith goes up twice as much as it does in Edmonton. This is intolerable in any situation.
People expect that there would be some rationale in the pricing of a product that is delivered to their communities. In Parliament we should certainly look at ways to protect the consumer at all levels of society. I trust that a petroleum monitoring agency would have the opportunity to look at not only the larger picture but at the situations in various regions of the country.
Lower gas prices are something that all northerners want and I suppose all Canadians want as well. The NDP supports the effort to ensure that the day to day fluctuation in the price of gas is not conspiratorially exploited, that it is actually the cost of the product reflected in the price.
Every one of us in the country recognizes that oil is a world market commodity and will rise and fall, and that will cause changes in the price of the retail product. We can all accept that. We can all accept as well the deliberate act of government to ensure that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the development of hard targets over the next few years.
Interestingly enough, a poll was done in Alberta and some 70% of Albertans were in favour of hard targets for emission reductions. That speaks well of Albertans who understand the industry and understand the enormous problems that industry will face in the future, but they are not giving up on it. Albertans are not like that. They do not give up on problems. They recognize them and work to solve them, I hope, in the future. The leadership we are hearing from Alberta, though, is far behind the people of Alberta.
Higher gas prices are a symptom of a much larger disease. It will be more and more apparent in Canada as time goes on. Really, to solve the larger problem, we need to look at a national energy strategy in this country. We need to look at how we deal with energy as a whole. We will not get to a situation of reduced emissions for Kyoto without it and we will certainly not control prices and control the economy as far as energy costs go without some kind of nationally recognized strategy with buy-in from all the provinces and territories.
Recently, people in Ontario saw gas prices rise because a fire damaged part of a refinery. The fact that a fire at one refinery results in gas shortages and high prices shows a system for delivering fuel for consumers in trouble. There is no excess capacity and the likelihood of getting more excess capacity is limited.
We need to look at conservation. The primary goal of any national energy strategy today and into the future has to be conservation.
The government has come out with a number of solutions for climate change. One of them was renewable fuels. We are seeing an investment of $2.2 billion over seven years into renewable fuels. It is a great thing for farmers, a great thing for the agricultural industry, but not really a great thing for conservation. Renewable fuels are not part of a conservation cycle. They are part of a demand cycle. They will continue the demand.
The investment of $2.2 billion in conservation practices, in reducing the use of automobiles, the increase in public transit, the ability to change the way we are dealing with the movement of our goods, services and persons across this country is much more toward the conservation side.
In fact, the jury is still out on the ability of renewable fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, their ability to reduce smog in the cities and all these things. That part of the Conservative platform, although interesting and useful in some respects, is really not a conservation strategy and certainly the door is still wide open as to whether it is a useful tool in reducing air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.
What we have is a situation where we are continuing the consumption orientated economy of this country, and that will not work. We know the world is running out of oil. We know that we are in a finite situation with oil and if we put it on a cost curve, we are rapidly approaching a point where the costs will escalate past many alternatives that are in place.
Where do we go with it? If we continue in the way that the Liberals set out 13 years ago on energy with a laissez-faire system, let the industry decide how much energy will develop, how it will move ahead, we will end up with situations like we have today.
I will use natural gas as an example. It was very interesting to hear at the natural resources committee the other day that the president of the Canadian Gas Association admitted that by 2015 we will be looking at 20% of our supply from liquefied natural gas. This is an individual who represents the sale of natural gas through its distribution system. He is not trying to frighten customers away. He is facing the reality of the situation that we have incurred under the laissez-faire policies of the last 13 years.
The Alliance pipeline was sized to a point where it has forever altered our ability to provide natural gas for our own market. It has also taken away most of the available expansion in the petrochemical industry through the movement of raw gas through Chicago.
These were decisions that were made for the future of the country in the absence of any significant strategy, without understanding the nature of how those decisions would play out in the future.
To think that we would continue this pattern of accepting that industry is going to make the decisions for us about energy, I look at the Mackenzie gas pipeline right now. There is a lot of trouble with that project. It is a $16 billion project. Imperial Oil is saying it is too much money and it looks like it is going to have to go to LNG for the supply. Interestingly enough, Exxon, the parent company is heavily involved with liquefied natural gas in Qatar. We have a situation where one of these multinationals has two conflicting interests on the supply of energy to Canada. Where do we as Canadians sit, with no input, with no direction? We are simply going to allow this to play out as it may.
Every other energy exporting country has taken a stronger nationalist approach than Canada has taken. Every other country engaged in the business of exporting energy being, as the Prime Minister says, part of the energy superpowers of the world, has taken hold of its resources. What we saw in Venezuela recently was a complete state takeover of oil.
Within the national energy strategy there is the conservation and development of renewable energy. We heard the Minister of Natural Resources talk about the great amount of renewable energy that the government has promised. Four thousand megawatts sounds like a lot but it is not really.
The Canadian Wind Energy Association says that there are 100,000 megawatts of wind energy available to the existing grid within distance of the existing transmission system. That is renewable energy. There is hydro power and the opportunities for much more use of solar energy. Our solar energy ability is great.
On biomass, we are facing a crisis in the forests where our product is being downgraded. The bugs and climate change effects are destroying our forests. We need an active forest program. We need to move more heavily into biomass energy.
Part of that would be an east-west energy grid. We need to link this country together so that it works better for renewable energy. There is no way we can operate in isolation as we have province to province in dealing with energy. We need a national strategy. We need to move ahead with this.
We can sit here and talk about reducing greenhouse gas emissions for four years or ten years, but without a national energy strategy that changes the way we use energy, we will not achieve those larger targets that are coming in 10, 15 or 20 years.
This is a good idea, a petroleum monitoring agency, using the Competition Bureau to ensure that Canadians have some trust in what they are doing, but this is only part of the picture. We need a bigger look at this. We need to have an expanded view of the country's energy system. Parliament is the only one that can do it. If we forsake this role, we are forsaking the future of our children and grandchildren.