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House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was privacy.

Topics

Prince George—Peace RiverVacancy

October 26th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. It is my duty to inform the House that a vacancy has occurred in the representation, namely Jay Hill, member for the electoral district of Prince George—Peace River, by resignation effective October 25, 2010.

Pursuant to subsections 25(1)(b) and 26(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act, a warrant has been addressed to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.

Canadian Forces Provost MarshalRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, copies of the 2009 annual report, “Canada's Front Line Police Service of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal”.

North Korean RefugeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present, on behalf of several hundred residents of the Toronto, North York and Mississauga areas, a petition that calls upon the House of Commons and the Government of Canada to support my Motion No. 383 and vigorously participate in an international effort urging the People's Republic of China to ensure the safe passage of North Korean refugees to South Korea.

Thousands upon thousands of North Korean refugees flee that despotic regime every year. They find themselves in the People's Republic of China and, unfortunately, far too often the government of the People's Republic of China returns them to North Korea. This means certain torture, punishment and, for many of them, death.

This petition from the residents of the greater Toronto area calls upon the government to support my Motion No. 383, which would make Canada an internationally strong intervenor to ensure that the People's Republic of China treats these North Korean citizens as true refugees and does not return them to North Korea's despotic and tyrannical regime.

Passport FeesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, my petition calls upon the Canadian government to negotiate with the United States government to reduce the United States and Canadian passport fees. The number of American tourists visiting Canada is now at its lowest level since 1972. It has fallen by 5 million visits in the last seven years, from 16 million visitors in 2002 to 11 million in 2009. Passport fees for an American family of four can be over $500 U.S.. While 50% of Canadians have passports, only 25% of Americans have passports.

At the recent Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, attended by myself and over 500 elected representatives from 11 border states and 3 provinces, the following resolution was passed unanimously:

RESOLVED that [the] Conference calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage[s] the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application;

To be a fair process, passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and, finally, promote a time limited two-for-one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States.

VIA RailPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition from two different ridings in support of my passenger rail bill.

VIA Rail was cut several decades ago along the north shore of Lake Superior and through Thunder Bay. The small towns of Schreiber, Marathon and Terrace Bay are now isolated. Quite often, bus service is not adequate. Many people who live along the north shore of Lake Superior have signed this petition in support of restoring rail service along that route.

I have another petition to present from people outside of my riding in support of my passenger rail bill. These petitioners are from Dryden and the riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River and they support their brethren along the north shore of Lake Superior.

It is my great pleasure to present many petitions regarding VIA rail passenger service along the north shore.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from October 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-14, An Act to amend the Electricity and Gas Inspection Act and the Weights and Measures Act, be read the third time and passed.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster has about 13 and a half minutes left.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, members will recall that when I was speaking yesterday I began by praising the member for Windsor West for his determination to force the government to take measures to stop the rip-off of ordinary Canadian families through both gas price gouging that we have seen across this country and from the whole issue of faulty gas pumps, pumps that do not give us the gas for which we are paying.

Even though the government has known about this issue for two years, and despite election promises to the contrary where it said that it would take action, rather than intervening and doing something, it has finally come forward with this bill. However, it is only because of pressure from the member for Windsor West and the entire NDP caucus pushing the Conservative government to finally take action.

As we know, the Conservatives love their gravy train and the gravy train that they give to financial institutions, the petroleum companies and telecommunications companies which does not seem to have a limit. No matter how much the public is ripped off, the Conservatives seem to feel that is okay. However, it is increasingly not okay with the public, which is why the member for Windsor West and his work is so important in this House.

Bill C-14, which is before us today, is a poor half-measure but we would not even have this poor half-measure before the House if it were not for the work of the member for Windsor West.

What we have seen from the Conservatives since they have come to power is progressively allowing the public to be ripped off and ordinary Canadian families to have their pockets picked without any sort of intervention or any sort of government responsibility being taken. We have the finance minister who, after it became clear that there was a major rip-off by financial institutions of ordinary Canadian families, wrote a letter to those financial institutions. That was the sum total of his work.

We see the same thing when we talk about gas price rip-offs. It has been very clear for years that gas prices were being manipulated. The large and incredibly profitable petroleum companies jack up world prices and automatically the retail price goes up and the retailers, the mom and pop operations, have no choice. I have talked to many of them and they say that they are being told to raise prices immediately. They have to live with that despite the fact that it is local people who are most impacted. The world prices go up on old stock and prices spike up, with windfall profits. Over the course of a weekend, particularly holiday weekends when there is a lot of travelling, those prices are maintained.

The world prices may change and they may go down. The new stock comes in at a lower wholesale price but those high prices are maintained. They are jacked up immediately on old stock, with windfall profits there, and then as new stock comes in at a lower price, the prices are maintained for more windfall profits. The petroleum companies do not want to be too greedy. They know the degree of public tolerance of their practices is really coming to an end. They are testing public tolerance every year, so reluctantly they bring the prices down to something more akin to what actually matches the wholesale price.

We have known this for years and have seen this happen for years. Ordinary Canadian families, whether they live in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, in Atlantic Canada, in central Canada in Ontario or Quebec, have to live with these rip-offs and the government has steadfastly refused to do anything to stand up for ordinary Canadian families at all, not one intervention.

We now come to the issue of the gas pump rip-offs, because this has been known for years as well. A study done by the Ottawa Citizen revealed that between 1999 and 2007, government inspections found that about 5% of pumps delivered less fuel than what was reported on the pump display, which means that 10,000 fuel pumps were overcharging hard-working ordinary Canadian families who are working harder and harder for less and less pay.

We also have seen a fall in real income over the last 20 years. The only people who are doing well in this country are the very wealthy who now take most of the income pie. That is something Conservatives do not like to talk about, but it is a reality just the same.

On the Liberal watch and on the Conservative watch, we have seen a hollowing out of the middle class. Poor Canadians have become much poorer and the wealthy now take most of that pie. They just sit down and gobble up most of the pie. What is left for the vast majority of Canadian families is a smaller and smaller piece of pie. Year after year, the wealthy take a larger and larger chunk, the middle class and poor Canadians a smaller and smaller chunk, and that is why real incomes have descended, even though the average Canadian family and the average Canadian worker is working harder than ever. Overtime has gone up over a third in the same period. We are seeing Canadian families struggling to make ends meet and working harder and harder for less and less pay.

As part of that whole dynamic, we have seen the government's inability to stand up for Canada. On the Conservative watch and the Liberal watch, we have seen the loss of half a million manufacturing jobs. Those were good, family sustaining jobs that were thrown out of the country by bad trade deals and dysfunctional trade policy. As a result, people are taking whatever job they can get, whether it is temporary or part time, which is often the case. The number of burger flippers in the country is expanding monumentally. The Conservatives love to stand up and say that, sure, we have lost half a million manufacturing jobs but we have created 400,000 burger flipper jobs. They somehow think that Canadians should praise them for replacing good, family sustaining jobs for jobs that are part time, temporary and low-paying. Somehow the Conservatives feel that they are economic geniuses in having achieved that end, the hollowing out of the Canadian economy, putting all of the Canadian economic levers into Bay Street, so that if one is a wealthy financial speculator, one is wealthier than ever, and nothing for middle class families.

That is where we come to the issue of the fuel pumps. We have 10,000 fuel pumps pumping less fuel than ordinary, hard-working Canadian families are paying for and the government has done nothing to intervene. It says nothing about this being absolutely outrageous. It does nothing to refund the tax it is getting from the consumers who are paying for less fuel than they receive. It has done nothing to organize an ombudsman department, as the member for Windsor West has called for, so that consumers would have somebody to go to, an ombudsman who would stand up for them. No, the Conservatives do not do that. They do not talk about refunds or any sort of compensation. They allow the rip-offs to go on for years and then finally but reluctantly, faced by enormous pressure from the NDP, they decide to bring in Bill C-14.

What does that do? Does it create the ombudsman office that consumers have been calling for? No. Does it actually allow for a refund or compensation for the years of rip-offs? No. Does it allow for any sort of refund of tax for what the government received from the consumers who were being ripped off? No.

What it does do is it allows for inspection. That is important, except that in most countries there is an impartial government inspection service. The Conservatives decide that what they can see as a profit centre. These mom and pop retailers and other retailers would now have to deal with mandatory inspections, which is a good thing. We would increase the number of government inspectors who would ensure those fuel pumps are accurate, which is also a good thing. However, instead of doing that, the Conservatives said no. They said that they would allow private companies to come in and the mom and pop retailers would have to pay whatever the private companies decide they will pay so that they have these mandatory inspections. It is not as if the mom and pop operations can stop it. They do need to have the inspection, which is not a bad thing if the government provided the service out of our taxes. However, instead of doing that, the retailers would now have to pay whatever the private companies charge.

The member for Elmwood—Transcona spoke to this bill yesterday and what he said was extremely relevant.

This is just another example of how badly this government has attacked and let down rural and northern Canadians. We see it time and time again. We saw it with the softwood lumber sellout. It is as if the Conservatives did not care about the softwood lumber industry and signed the deal because they could spin it any way they wanted. It is as if they do not care how many northern and rural jobs were lost and they really do not care about northern and rural Canada. That is the Conservative message, whether we are talking about the softwood lumber sellout, about this kind of bill, or about a whole range of issues.

As we well know, the worst farmer seats in the country are in Alberta. The provincial Conservative government and the federal Conservative government are bad news for Alberta farmers. The worst farmer seats in the country are in the province of Alberta because Conservatives do not give a damn about rural or northern Canadians. They just do not.

What the Conservatives care about is Bay Street and the petroleum industry's CEOs. They care about a very narrow range of interests. They care about lobbyists. But when it comes to rural and northern Canadians, they do not give a damn. We can see this in Bill C-14, as the member for Elmwood—Transcona said.

Perhaps this idea of privatizing and allowing private companies to enforce mandatory inspections may work in urban Canada where there is some competition. In rural and northern Canada when the private companies, perhaps the petroleum companies, decide that they are going to run the inspection operations they are going to charge whatever they want. The mom and pop operations are just going to have to suck it up because that is the attitude of this Conservative government. It will make sure that the local mom and pop operations in rural and northern Canada are forced to pay whatever the big private companies want to force them to pay. Couple that with everything else that is not in this bill that should have been.

The fact is that the government waited for years and allowed the ripoffs to go on for years before it chose to do anything about it. It took goading and determination from the NDP once again to force the government to do anything. After all of that we see it is not even a half measure in dealing with gas price ripoffs.

The government, in an attempt at irony I imagine, tried to say this is the fairness at the pumps act. Very clearly, it is not fair. It does not deal with gas price gouging. Yes, it deals with mandatory inspections, but in a way that penalizes mom and pop retailers. It does not tell the petroleum companies that they were wrong to allow this practice to continue for so long. The government does not say mea culpa and that it is sorry. Consumers need the government to say it is sorry that it allowed the ripoffs and that it will make it right.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to the latter half of the speech by the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster regarding Bill C-14. He lives in a community in a province in which the wholesale price of gasoline tends to be a little higher than that in the rest of the country. He will recall that the mantra of the oil industry many years ago was to have Canadians pay world prices for fuel.

I wonder if the hon. member would care to comment on the fact that each and every day in Vancouver and region the wholesale price of gasoline and the price people pay at the pumps, ex tax, is 9¢ a litre above world prices.

I understand the member has taken some liberties with the issue of the Ottawa Citizen article a couple of years ago. I want to assure the hon. member that a 93.11% compliance rate in the retail gasoline sector, according to Measurement Canada, gives it the second highest rating of most industries in this country. It is perhaps a question of a dragon slayer in search of a dragon.

More specific to the question, I wonder if the hon. member could tell us what he thinks of the 9¢ a litre ripoff occurring in Vancouver today.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I am aware, as are all members, of the member's work on this issue. He has been very dogged. The member for Elmwood—Transcona mentioned that it is the Liberal Party that allowed this originally. I think we make a distinction between the party and the member, and the member has done an exemplary job. He has put a lot of effort into the issue of gas prices. We need more members to take an interest in this issue.

I would disagree with him on the compliance issue. I know he knows the file exceedingly well, but the reality is the compliance rate should be higher. That is why we are dealing with the bill today.

What is happening in the Lower Mainland is extremely problematic. What we have seen regularly in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia is the jacking up of prices. I described earlier, that particularly around holiday weekends we see an immediate spike up and a long and prolonged high level of what can only be called windfall profits, a high level of gas prices despite the fact that old stock is coming into the system at the lower price and then when new stock comes in at a lower price, as well, we see a maintained price level that is far higher than is justified. It is very clear from the studies that have been done by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, among others, that this leads to enormous multi-million dollar windfall profits taken from consumers, ordinary families, in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, and other parts of Canada on a regular and sustained basis. This is unacceptable. That is why we pushed the government to take action. We are going to continue to push the government to take even more action. It is unacceptable that it is allowing the ripoff of ordinary Canadian families.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member made an excellent presentation on Bill C-14.

Clearly, the issue here is the empowering of the Commissioner of Competition to act against price fixing. The government has moved against monopolistic practices in real estate at least twice in the last 20 years, and against travel agents and other groups. The question is, if the government can enforce competition in real estate, travel and other industries, why can it not do something about price fixing in retail gas pricing?

To that end, the Bloc has introduced Bill C-452 which accomplishes exactly that. If the government is interested in actually doing something that would get to the root of the problem in this country, then perhaps the government should be looking at supporting the Bloc bill and allowing the Commissioner of Competition to conduct an inquiry into this issue.

Over 125 studies have been done over the last 20 years in the area of price fixing at the pump. The fact of the matter is pretty much everybody concludes that we cannot get a conviction under the current legislation. The key is to change the legislation. That is what we should be doing in this House.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona is absolutely right.

I think what bothers most Canadian families is the government's absolute refusal to act and its refusal to allow a real attempt to shut down what is monopolistic practices. There is no other way to put it when we see all the major petroleum companies moving their prices in sync. Even though there me be a few hours' difference from one to the other, there is very clearly a problem.

The Competition Bureau has to be beefed up. These kinds of practices have to stop. Yet we are seeing a government that simply refuses to act. When the big companies and corporate lobbyists come cap in hand, the government is ready to shell out tens of billions of dollars at the drop of a hat. We have seen that. It is willing to spend a billion dollars for a fake lake in a few minutes. It is willing to spend $16 billion to $19 billion on jets, even though those fighter jets have problematic financial repercussions. We are seeing a number of other countries starting to back off on the purchase because of the concern around open-ended financial liability.

The government takes all kinds of decisions every day that are worth billions of dollars, without any understanding of the impact. Having been a financial administrator before I was elected to Parliament, I can say that these folks do not know how to manage money. The Conservatives have no idea how to manage money. That is why we have record deficits. They are unable to say no to a corporate lobbyist. That is part of the problem and they are financially inept. That is the other part of the problem.

That is why Conservative governments simply do not manage money as well as NDP governments do. That is understandable. NDP governments are composed of ordinary Canadians and ordinary Canadians know how to manage money. They are not corporate CEOs; they are not high flyers or jet setters. They sit down and get to work, just like Tommy Douglas did, and make sure that budgets are balanced. That is why over a 20-year period, Madam Speaker, as you well know, NDP governments have the best record of fiscal management and balance the budget far more than Conservative governments do and far, far more than Liberal governments do. It is because we are composed of ordinary Canadians and ordinary Canadians manage money better than they do.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, as I understand it, there are now going to be private inspections. This will be another privatization move by the Conservatives. Inspections will increase from 8,000 to over 65,000 per year. There will be no ombudsperson's office to evaluate any problems or investigate complaints. There will be no refund or compensation for the consumers who have been abused by these problems and no refund or restitution of the taxes collected.

I would like to ask the hon. member whether I understand this correctly.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, as always, the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North has perfectly understood the legislation. I guess the question has to be why the Conservatives would move this bill forward. Have they not read the legislation? Do they understand the legislation? Why would Conservatives vote for legislation that is, as the member for Windsor West said, years late and millions short?

As the member for Thunder Bay--Superior North has said very eloquently, there is no ombudsman's office. There is no refund or compensation for the years of ripoffs. There is no refund or restitution on taxes collected.

There is an increase in inspections which we certainly agree with, but because the Conservatives are trying to find in a shell game some way to benefit, I guess their supporters, they are saying private companies have to do it and they can charge the price they want. This means that in a riding as far flung as Thunder Bay--Superior North, if a private company is set up it will be able to enforce on mom and pop operations any price it wants.

The inspections are mandatory. We will have a situation where a mom and pop retailer will not have a choice and the price will be set by the person providing the service, particularly in rural and northern Canada. This is yet another example of the contempt the Conservative government has for rural and northern Canadians. It is not just the softwood lumber sellout. It is not just the collapse in farm incomes, particularly in Alberta. For an Alberta farmer to vote Conservative I gather after their inept policies would be a sore mistake. It is a series of measures that go against what rural and northern Canadians stand for and what is good for them.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, for obvious reasons, I am comfortable with this subject. I cannot support a bill that promotes petty treatment of small gas retailers across the country. I thought that the government was trying to help at a time when rising energy prices cannot be explained by supply and demand. This is a real problem that the government does not want to hear about or deal with.

I am very concerned about Bill C-14 for a number of reasons, which I will be permitted to expand on at some length. Hon. colleagues will know that this is an issue that I have spent a considerable amount of time on. I have devoted my time. I thank the people of Pickering—Scarborough East for indulging me over the years, as well as the people of Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge and the people of Ontario riding, all three ridings over time representing a good chunk of Canadians, or well over half a million Canadians in that period of time.

I am concerned because this bill suggests, lends itself to or gives the impression that it is doing something which is patently false. The government is not going to give the public any reassurance whatsoever that prices they will pay at the pump, or in fact the measurement, are going to be accurate.

I mentioned earlier the concern I had with respect to how the government is portraying this particular issue. To suggest that somehow it is achieving fairness at the pumps, or as the Minister of Industry lamentably, and I would suggest slanderously, suggested that retailers in this country are chiselling people is simply not only incorrect; it is misleading and it is wrong. The minister ought to have apologized.

Given that the minister has not, he has constructed a body of regulation, which in my view and I think in the view of Measurement Canada, in and of itself will do very little if anything except to undermine the integrity of what is left of competition at the retail level in the gasoline industry in Canada.

Just before the Prime Minister provoked an election, breaking his own word, the industry committee had an opportunity to look at one of the major reasons why energy prices were going up in 2008. It had everything to do with a loophole created that allowed a lack of oversight to the commodities industries around the world. We can recall that energy prices in July 2008, as far as oil was concerned, reached $150 a barrel virtually. The price at the pumps went up substantially. There were a number of other causes and effects, including commodity costs for food and other forms of energy.

The industry committee had one day to look at this before the Prime Minister pulled the rug out from under us in order to obtain an election. Rather than looking at the issue that was confronting Canadians and undermining their standard of living and undermining, as it continuously does, their issue of balancing the cost of living, the government instead chose to pick an article that appeared in May 2008 in the Ottawa Citizen and give it some credibility by talking about it without any actual verification of the numbers, to allow wild extrapolations in terms of the number of pumps that are askew.

Rather than dealing with the fact that we have lost a significant number of refineries in this country due to mergers and acquisitions, rather than dealing with the fact that wholesale prices now move up in lockstep in most provinces and most large communities across this country, rather than dealing with the unfairness of temperature compensation, and I will explain that in a moment, the government chose to narrowly go after the odd gas retailer.

All this would be correct if in fact we learned that the government knew full well that 94% of all the pumps it tested over a rigorous years' period proved to be accurate. Of the 6% that were found to be inaccurate, 2% actually gave consumers more product, and while 4% may have been askew, one would really have to make an argument, both in court and in the public domain, to suggest that somehow gas retailers were involved with chiselling the public.

If the hon. members in the government who proposed this bill had taken the time to actually learn how a pump works, they might find, as we see in so many other instances, that there is obviously a duty of care but retailers may not know that a pump is broken, they may not know that the pulser, which is part of the electronic process, may have malfunctioned, they may not know there is a mechanical problem even after they have tested and even after they have calibrated.

Why is that important to know? It is because they may realize there is a problem, through no fault of their own, and they will test that. Why do they want to test that? It is very simple. No reasonable retail gas retailer in this country is going to want to have a gas pump that malfunctions. The reason is that their volumes will be out, and their logistics and inventory report, which they have to make day in and day out to ensure accuracy for their own economic reasons, are there.

The incentive to do something wrong is certainly not there, but more importantly, there has been no jurisprudence here. There has been no case, to my knowledge, where someone has been convicted of deliberately defrauding someone. If that is the case then I want to hear about it because I have not heard a single cogent argument coming from the government to justify this. It is in fact a solution in search of a problem.

We know that it can lend itself and head toward some very unintended consequences, including penalizing and skewing an industry whose representatives, mom and pop gas station retailers and other people, are working day in and day out, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to try to make a living. The government has the audacity of penalize them and call them chisellers and suggest somehow it is going to remedy the situation with a magic wand saying, poof, we now have new effective fairness at the pumps. This is misleading to Canadians. This is telling Canadians that something is going to happen that does not. I am surprised to see in a few media reports that somehow they have bought this line. It is not going to do anything to help Canadians. Let us understand that when we target a particular industry we had better back it up with facts.

The facts we have before us are very simple, and I suggest this to the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I have measurement compliance rates from 2005 to 2009, which will take in the period of the Ottawa Citizen article and all the other little things the government says it has done, through Measurement Canada by sector. I have about 30 of them here, which includes sectors where there are less than five data points, where there is not a lot of oversight and inspection, but it has a number of areas: hardware stores, retail rubber products, general merchandise, laundries, cleaners, piece goods, precious metals and stones, alcoholic beverages, honey and apiary, non-metallic minerals, quarries and sandpits, waste collection, transportation, metal scrap, fruit and vegetable, fur and skin, retail gasoline, dairy farms, dairy products, textiles, chemical products, food and beverage manufacturing, electricity, livestock, poultry and there are a few others.

In looking at Measurement Canada's own guide of these 30 or so industries, we find that retail gasoline is the second highest most compliant in the country. So we are going after an industry whose reputation is very good by our own analysis and yet we have a government that wants to target them. With a 93.11% compliance rate, it is only slightly behind honey and apiary at 93.33%. That surprises me because if it is not an admission that the government has this terribly wrong and is targeting the wrong industry, why for goodness' sake has it not gone after the quarries and sandpits industry with a 47.42% accuracy rate? Why has it not gone after the electricity industry? The government says that we use gasoline. Well the last time I checked, this place was lit up by electricity. Its compliance rate from Measurement Canada is 74.19%. One-quarter of what we are buying may not be accurate, and industries and consumers use it day in and day out. Our country is driven by this and yet Measurement Canada, through the direction of the government, decided we are going to target the good guys here.

We are going to go after them because we do not want the public to know that currently energy prices are being manipulated through a lack of oversight both in terms of the trading platforms at NYMEX and around the world. We do not want to let people know that there have been a number of strategic withdrawals of refineries in Canada, removing supply and as a result artificially bumping up the price of gasoline. We do not want to talk about a Competition Act, written in 1986 by the oil industry at the invitation of the then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to go and rearrange the Competition Act in such a way that it would be the first time that a western country has allowed its very act of policing the commercial industries to be policed by the very people it is meant to police.

It seems to me that we have missed the point here and the government has done something that is classic smoke and mirrors. This is a distraction. This is to give people the impression that somehow when they are pumping gasoline in fact they are not getting what they pay for.

There are probably in excess of 130,000 pumps in this country. There are about 70 billion litres of gasoline and diesel dispensed. I was able to get this document finally from Measurement Canada after three and a half months of requests. They finally gave it to me with one week's notice to review this in advance of this debate and of course for our presence in committee. I was surprised to learn that the $20 million from Measurement Canada, which the government is trotting out as being the annual average rip-off of Canadians, actually turns out to be $8 million, because it recognizes that $12 million of that could have actually gone in favour of the consumer.

That being the case, we know the government is somewhat challenged when it comes to statistics. We know it has a problem with Statistics Canada as it relates to the census, but that should not be surprising, given how it extrapolates its views with respect to statistics and data that it tends to trot out, which it knows to be wrong, which it knows to be false.

Let us put that into context. The average skew of gasoline in Canada is 0.018. That pales in comparison to what is occurring today, which the government does not want to talk about. I am not sure whether it believes that this is acceptable. We have not heard much from it. I have put forth changes to the Competition Act and suggested that we have a petroleum price monitoring agency, for which the Liberal government advocated and implemented and which the Conservative government killed as its first act upon taking over in Parliament in 2006.

Canadians would have what Americans and others around the world have, a better understanding of the inventory picture in the country, but no, Conservatives do not want Canadians to have that. They want Canadians to believe that 0.018% of the time, there might be a skew and they might not actually get what they pay for, but they say nothing of the fact that in Toronto today, there is a 5.3¢ ripoff. In Vancouver it is 9¢. In Montreal it is 6.3¢. In Ottawa today it is 6.1¢.

This is ludicrous. We are worried about 0.018% on a litre of gasoline, but we do not think that 5.5¢, 7¢, 8¢ or 9¢ is a problem. Do the math, and for the media that happens to be watching this, maybe they could do the same as well because, frankly, this is unacceptable. It is in fact not only false; it is a fraud. I cannot, in all good conscience, support something like this, which is meant to do something that it will not do, that is, to give false expectations to consumers who rightly ask the question, “Why has Ottawa failed us?” I could go into substantial detail of why that is, but let us talk about the bigger picture.

We know this morning that commodity prices on food, particularly corn, have skyrocketed. This may be in response to certain economic conditions around the world. The media seems to be focused on potash, but the bigger question is this. How do prices get manipulated? How is it possible that we have abandoned regulatory oversight of how trading on these markets, the energy markets above all, is avoided? Why do we not understand or care in this country, and why do we hear nothing from the finance minister, or anybody on that bench, about what the Americans and many other parts of the world, particularly Europe, France and Britain, are saying? They are saying that it is time to get control of the derivatives, the swap dealers. These are dealers that were created in light of a loophole created in 2000.

Some colleagues here in the House will remember that the year 2000 was the famous year in which the 262-page report of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act took place that allowed energy traders to establish their own exchanges in which to trade contracts and then of course be exempted on exchanges in their entirety from government regulation. That has led to the direct impoverishment and to the consequences of the 2008 period of time in which energy prices spiked.

We could talk about collusion and conspiracy, which is always a convenient argument that is brought out, but I have to remind colleagues that we have to have competitors who would otherwise have different prices, meeting in the dark of night under little lamps, conspiring to bring prices together. That era of competition at the retail level and, more importantly, at the refinery level, is gone. It is over.

Wholesale prices by city are established usually by a leader. In Canada, nominally that tends to be Imperial Oil, at about 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. every day. That wholesale price is simply followed within a microsecond, and whatever that price is, it is traded publicly. It is available to most Canadians if they want to see it. It is not, as a result, price-fixing but rather a distinct, severe and almost pathetic lack of competition in Canada at the wholesale level.

We had very little discussion recently regarding the affect of declining suppliers on the Canadian market. In eastern Canada the Shell refinery closure in Montreal has meant that a once slack supply situation throughout eastern Canada, particularly the Maritimes, Quebec and part of Ontario, is now affected. How is it affected? Let us look at it this way.

Three months ago, wholesale prices in Montreal and Toronto were on average a penny and a half below Toronto. As of last night, those wholesale numbers have changed rather dramatically. They are now a penny and a half above Toronto. As a result of the closure of the refinery in Montreal, Canadians, not the industry, not its apologists or those who ignore it in the media, pay the freight.

Canadians will have to pay more. Looking at that difference of 2.5¢ a litre in the past three months added to the bill of every ordinary Canadian, who uses 100 litres a week, winds up being $2.50 to the average family multiplied by 52 weeks. Canadians have now been told they can pay another $250.

The fact that we cannot look at this issue more intently means Canadians will continue to suffer. It means Canadians will continue to realize just how irrelevant Parliament, and more important the Conservative government, is with respect to coming up with solutions.

I know of no jurisdiction, particularly the United States or Europe, that would tolerate the exit from the market of a player. It would not tolerate the level of concentration in our country. It would it accept that the Competition Act, written by the very people it is meant to police, would ultimately be chaired by somebody who worked for the industry.

We all recall the issue in 2000 of Superior Propane. I brought a bill before the House to prevent a monopoly to occur in the propane industry, and it passed. Our friends in the other place, many of whom sat on the boards of directors of many of these companies, decided they would not allow the bill to go through. I was surprised to learn that the current Competition Commissioner, with all due respect, was counsel for Superior Propane, which obtained that monopoly. Talk about the fox marching into the chicken coop.

Nothing has amazed me more than this industry because money talks. We have been woeful in our ability to address the real substantive dollar and cents issues that Canadians want us to tackle. I am not against this industry. I want the industry to flourish. I want energy markets to behave in a way that responds to the fundamentals of supply and demand. However, what I have is thin drool and dribble coming from the government by it saying that it will target the very people who have been targeted for years.

The people who have lost in our country are hard-working independent gas retailers. Day in and day out they try to eke out a living with very skinny margins and are often subject to predatory pricing created by a Competition Act that has been decidedly in favour of one thing, and that is intensification of monopolization.

If I have done anything in 17 years as a member of Parliament, it is to try to illustrate the economic injustice that is occurring. I will not lend my name to this bill. I will not support this bill. I encourage members of Parliament to look at the bill, look at the bigger picture, look at the real issues and vote it down.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his long-standing interest and work in this area. I also thank him for sending me a copy of the measurement compliance rate, which indicates that retail gasoline has a current compliance of 93%.

The fact is Bill C-14 proposes that the inspection process will cover another eight areas, with perhaps more areas in the future. It proposes to cover retail food, which has a compliance rate, according to his chart, of 90%. Dairy farms have a compliance rate of 89%. Downstream petroleum has a compliance rate of 66%. There are also mining, metals, grain and field crops. It will cover a number of the areas that have a high compliance of the current rate and some which are under compliance. Interestingly enough, It does not include quarries and sandpits, which has the lowest compliance of 47.42%.

We have been observing that we would favour government inspectors over privatizing the expansion process. We are seeing an effort to outsource, to privatize the inspections and increase the number of inspections, which would create a lot of extra expenses for some of the smaller mom and pop operations, no matter what sector they happened to be in.

Could the member comment on that?

In 1995 when the Manitoba Conservative government privatized the car inspection process, the price of used vehicles went up substantially overnight and there was a lot of abuse. The CBC did some undercover operations that showed garages were ripping off customers by fixing all kinds of things that really did not need to be fixed.

Could the member also comment on that?

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member does raise some very important points. However, he should not be swayed by what Measurements Canada says. If we look at its website today, we will find that it says “fairness at the pumps act”. That is a very political, crass, irrelevant and, I would suggest, dishonest reflection of what the bill is purported to try to accomplish. We were told by Measurements Canada that was not the title. However, if we go to its website right now, and I am sure it is probably going to take it down in the next few minutes, we will see that it says “fairness at the pumps act”. Just punch it into a Google search.

The hon. member should not be swayed or somehow led down the garden path by either Measurements Canada or the government. This really is about going after and targeting, as the minister said, chisellers, chisellers who do not exist and are a figment of the government's imagination.

It is also important to know that with a compliance rate of 93% or 94%, it means the other 6% or 7% may in fact be favouring consumers, but through no deliberate attempt. Things can and do break down. If we find out there is an inspection process, it is in our interest to ensure that it is correct. If the inventory is lost or off, it can mean terrible consequences for the people who have throughputs or gas stations across the country, where they have hundreds of thousands of litres every year. If they are off by 1%, that is a lot of money at the end of the year.

The question is about private or public inspection. The issue is the NDP has a reason on this, and I do not disagree with it. There has to be absolute concern. One of the amendments I wanted to see was to ensure that our officials were in fact governed by, adhered to and are sworn in as public servants. It is important for the Crown to demonstrate due diligence.

One thing the Liberals did in committee was to ensure absolute due diligence by the minister to ensure those people were held to the highest account, that there was accuracy in their testing, in the various methods that they use. It is very difficult to test these things. There is not one universal way in which we test.

Because the government did not get rid of temperature compensation, it means we lose 4% or 5% of the amount of volume of gasoline we buy because we are at 15° Celsius. Fifteen degrees Celsius assumes that we have had over a year of that temperature. It is 6° in Canada. In Hawaii it is 15°. Therefore, the public is being ripped off by 5% or 6%. Again, the government wants to go after retailers who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to make ends meet. That is disgusting. That is an outrange.

Frankly, I hope the media is looking at this. I want to talk to it about its lack of understanding and precision on this issue. What I see is a target of an industry that has done very well, has done its best and is still the whipping post of the government.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to ask a question of my colleague, but I will begin by prefacing just how critical the issue of fairness at the pumps is for the Canadians who I represent in northern Manitoba. We have an area with extensive distance between us as communities. We have roads that, unfortunately, due to the lack of federal investment, are substandard in many cases. People have to purchase heavier duty vehicles, which costs them more money for gas.

On the other side, we also have communities with high rates of unemployment or people with very low incomes. They struggle to make it by and do not have money to waste at the gas pump.

In recent years, especially a couple of years ago when the prices went through the roof in our part of the country, there was a serious concern about the gouging and its impact on northerners and people who lived in parts of Canada like mine. There was much discussion about how we could solve this real challenge facing Canadians. Yet despite the work by many in the House and the push to get this issue dealt with in a timely way and effective way, nothing has happened.

Could the member comment on the effectiveness of this bill and the lack of an ombudsman's office to evaluate the problems that Canadians have brought forward and the absence of a refund or compensation for consumers who are ripped off? Their concern is they are spending more money and they are being ripped off, yet the plan is not looking at that. There is no refund or restitution on the taxes collected on the phantom gasoline purchases, the pumps which do not dispense as much gas as is shown. There are so many pieces that do not respond to what Canadians have talked about. I would like to hear the member's thoughts on these points.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for North Bay, a rural riding though it is a little closer to the smoke of Toronto, also brought forward very much the same concerns about the less travelled parts of the country, where there is a greater dependence on energy-intensive transportation fuels.

It will probably help the hon. member to know a couple of things about the price. In Winnipeg the gas is about 65¢ a litre wholesale, plus whatever the taxes are in the province of Manitoba. It is not very far from Ontario, so it would not have the HST, thankfully. That would be the tax passed by the federal Conservative government.

What concerns a lot of us, though, is the issue of transportation. If I understand the member correctly, her riding is about 500 to 700 miles within a geographic area. Transportation cost is about 2¢ for every 1,000 kilometres. One would think if it is at the outside, 2.5¢, maybe 3¢, that should make the wholesale price about 69¢. If we add the usual taxes, which come up to about 25¢, we are talking about 94¢, plus the GST, plus 7¢ for retailers, which is about what they need to turn the pumps on, especially in areas where they do not get a lot of activity. Therefore, the price should be $1.04 $1.03, $1.05, and I am sure it is a lot higher than that.

When we talk about calibrating and checking these pumps out, one of the unintended consequences I was referring to earlier in my speech would be that the inspection would have potentially the effect of removing gas pumps that currently exist because they would not compliant. I am not suggesting that should be the case, but we have to find a mechanism that takes into consideration rural Canada. The government did not it that into consideration. I propose a sliding scale that will see reviews take place in a way that will not be unduly burdensome of rural Canada.

The other thing the hon. member needs to know is that gas pumps can be faulty sometimes in favour of the consumer, based on how little they are used or based on overuse. There is a number of reasons, electronically and mechanically. These are all internal parts. When we look at the way a pump works, and there are 3 metres per every 5 or 10 or 12 pumps, the reality is the retailer will not know. That is why they inspect them periodically, usually within a three month period. In communities like mine in Toronto, for instance, they are inspected more frequently because retailers do not want the pumps to be off. They cannot afford to have them off. It is not in their interest to rip off the public. Not that the government would understand that because it has never actually taken the time to look at how a retailer runs.

However, in rural regions of the country, this would be a recipe for disaster, especially when we do not know who is inspecting the pumps. What if the inspector does not happen to like the retailer? There is a number of considerations about which the government did not think. As a result, in my view this is not a bill worth supporting.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Is the House ready for the question?

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Fairness at the Pumps ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?