Obviously I have touched a raw nerve somewhere here.
That contrast is quite stunning. We know, with the HST coming in July, that $2,000 to $5,000 will disappear from a family's pocket, and that was passed in two days. In this case, however, when millions of dollars are being lost at that pumps, no action has been taken. It takes a long time.
Maybe we should not be surprised. Even though we have raised the issue of tax subsidies to big oil and gas companies over and over again, we still see at least $1.2 billion in tax incentives going to the big oil and gas companies that are making billions of dollars of profits. We have noticed that there is a bill that is about to get third reading with the support of the Liberal party and members of Parliament here, Bill C-9, which would again give these very profitable oil companies a total of $6 billion with all the corporate tax cuts.
In the other bill, we have seen that oil companies would be able to skirt around environmental assessments. Also in that bill, environmental assessments are being removed. Companies do not need a federal environmental assessment if they get a few dollars of federal funding.
A different kind of assessment or check and balance is supposed to be done through the environment side. Instead, however, whether or it is drilling or oil sands explorations, it will to be done now through the National Energy Board. It apparently has nothing to do with the environment. We just recently had a huge oil spill that is having a devastating negative impact on the environment, wildlife, birds and the species in the water. This whole addiction to oil is really quite astounding.
Bill C-14 does not deal with the price fluctuation. Sometimes the price could be at an all-time low in terms of gasoline prices and yet at the pump it is high. All of a sudden it goes up to $1.20 for no reason. It is supposed to be about supply and demand but it seems that often there is no connection.
The bill also has no increase in the number of government inspectors. It is all done by non-governmental inspections. Government has a role to play, which is to inspect to ensure that industry is doing the right thing, and yet that is not in this bill.
The bill does not establish an ombudsperson, something that the NDP has asked for over and over again. We need an independent office to evaluate the problems, investigate complaints and to ensure consumers are given justice and fairness. It is not here in this bill and it is not fair.
What else is not fair? If people were being cheated, they would think that they would get some of that money back. In this bill, even though the government would be collecting more fines, which we support, the bill says that the government would be fining minor offences up to $10,000, major offences up to $25,000 and new fines for repeated offences up to $50,000. Hopefully the government will send a message out there and fine a few gasoline companies.
However, one would think that if the government were collecting a few dollars out of it, that it would at least compensate and ensure the gas companies compensated and refunded those who were being ripped off, but no, there is nothing in here to protect the consumers. This is, in many ways, really unfair because every dollar counts, especially if and when the price of gasoline goes up.
What else does it not do? It does not actually repay the GST. The gas tax right now is 10¢ per litre but if the consumers are being shortchanged, which the last I saw amounted to $240 million, one would think that with the taxes that are charged on these so-called phantom purchases at least there should be a refund on the taxes being collected on the purchase. The bill says nothing about a tax refund or any type of compensation for those who have been ripped off. It contains nothing to deal with the price fluctuations and nothing to protect the consumers. It says nothing about an ombudsperson and there is no place to file a complaint. It is no wonder the government is known to just make a lot of noise. It makes it appear as if something is being done but it takes very little action.
Our consumer critic and industry critic will be making a lot of amendments when this bill comes to the committee and if the Conservatives and the Liberals really want to protect consumers, they will support the kinds of recommendations and amendments that the New Democrats will be pushing.
I suspect that this bill, unfortunately, may not pass until the fall. With long weekends and the summer coming up, how will people who are travelling to visit their friends and families protect themselves? I looked up some pointers. One of the pointers that I found quite fascinating was that we should put in 10 or 20 gallons and then multiply the price by 10. We would then know precisely how much we were paying and know exactly the amount of gas that we paid for. It looks like the consumer needs to resort to those kinds of activities to protect themselves since the Conservative government, unfortunately, is dragging its feet and not taking real action.
We will support different aspects of this bill, such as the mandatory inspection frequencies and the additional fines, but we will not support using private sector authorized service providers. We will not support the kind of privatization of inspections that we see in front of us because we believe that regulations put out by government should be done by government. We have seen far too many times that when we privatize inspections, it just means that the retailers end up having to pay more and the consumers continue to get ripped off and hosed.