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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was friend.

Last in Parliament October 2000, as NDP MP for Kamloops (B.C.)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply September 21st, 2000

Madam Speaker, my friend from the Canadian Alliance indicates that somehow we were attempting to distort the situation. To be fair, he has done exactly that.

The point made by my friend from Palliser and reiterated by me was that when we looked at the record for question period, the number of questions asked by the Canadian Alliance over the last number of months, there were no questions we could identify which related to oil prices or gasoline prices. We stand to be corrected. My challenge would be to correct that, but that is what our research indicated.

I looked at it. My friend looked at it. Our researchers looked at it. During question period, which is the time when we focus the concern of a political party as opposed to speeches generally and so on, there did not seem to be any record of that.

I stand corrected, but looking at the results, of the hundreds and hundreds of questions posed by the Canadian Alliance in question period, to our knowledge not a single one was calling for the government to take action on gasoline prices.

Supply September 21st, 2000

Madam Speaker, I will agree with half of the point my hon. friend from Pickering makes. That is, I will follow the suggestion of the present leader of the Canadian Alliance. When he was treasurer of Alberta he was concerned about the same thing, that having a small tax reduction without any controls on it would likely result in the oil companies making even greater profits. They would take advantage of the confusion in the marketplace and do that.

Also, if my recollection is clear, Premier Harris was also warning us of this possibility, that removing a point or two of taxation simply means that the oil companies would probably make even more profits than they are today. That is not the point of this.

The point on page 34 is well taken, that simply to take this initiative and result in greater oil company profits is obviously not what is intended. To be fair, I do not think that is what is intended by the motion before us. It is a concern that we would have to find some way to monitor it.

I do not think it would warrant voting against the motion simply because the follow-up is yet to be determined or arranged or some policy put into place to ensure the benefit is passed along to the Canadian consumer.

Supply September 21st, 2000

That is what they said, that they are the grassroots party.

I said “Listen, I will check”. I came back and checked with some of my friends here and was told that it was $25,000 a table. I had to wonder who on earth had $25,000 to go to that lunch to help out the Canadian Alliance. Well I noticed the other day that the hottest stocks on the market these days are the oil and gas stocks. They are rocking and rolling in the oil patch. This is looking very good.

I then began to wonder about the profits of the big oil companies. I will give a few examples. Imperial Oil's profits from last June to this June only went up 120%, Shell's profits went up 155%, PanCanadian's profits went up 271%, Petro-Canada's profits actually went up 314%, Canadian Occidental's profits went up 429%, Canadian Natural Resources' profits went up 518%, Alberta Energy's profits went up 616%, and Husky Energy's profits went up 2000%.

The oil companies are doing extremely well. I guess that is why the oil and gas stocks on the exchange these days are just booming. That is where people are putting their money these days to make some good income. I guess the first mystery as to who will be able to afford the $25,000 tables has now been solved. I suspect a lot of the oil company reps will be there but we will have a look at that when we find out who is attending.

There is also another mystery. I think all of us know that just before a holiday weekend, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving or May 24, the prices go up all over the country. The price will go up 10 cents a litre overnight because they know that people are travelling and they have no choice but to buy gas. There is a little spike of super profit before every holiday weekend. The oil companies, when asked, say that is just the way the market is. Well, fair enough, that is the way the market is for them.

There are other mysteries. On one of the corners in Kamloops there are four gas stations. When we checked last week, the price was 71.9 cents at every single gas station. Where is the competition? When we go into a 7-11 to get milk, it is always priced differently from one store to another. Chocolate bars are different. Everything is different, but when it comes to gas it is always the same. That is a mystery of the marketplace that we hear of all the time.

As a matter of fact, among those four gas stations, three are self-serve and one is full serve. In other words, people are hired at the full serve station to clean our windows, check our oil and tires and yet it has the same price as the stations that have no people serving us, just a little machine. This is a mystery.

The biggest mystery is that we are having a debate today that was initiated by Canadian Alliance members. I am trying to think, as my friend from Palliser said, when they have asked questions in the House of Commons about gas prices. I think he said that out of the 1,400 questions asked recently there were virtually none asked by the Canadian Alliance members. All of a sudden there is a reborn gas prices type of person who has seen the light and knows that gas prices are of concern to Canadians. However, to be fair, at least we are having this discussion today.

Forty-two per cent of the price of gas at the pumps is a result of taxation. We agree that the 1.5 cents a litre surtax put on to combat the deficit ought to be taken off. We have also said that now that the deficit is under control there are all sorts of things we should be doing. What about health care, education and all sorts of useful programs that have been cut over the last number of years?

The other issue I have is double taxation. I think anyone in the country who is honest and fair with themselves, as the Liberal task force actually was, would say that double taxation, taxes on taxes, is kind of nutty, inappropriate and just not right. I think it was the Liberal task force that said it is a dumb thing to do.

Later today we will find out if the Liberals will actually follow their own advice and do what Liberals tell them to do.

What are some of the other solutions? Let us face it, this is an interesting initiative put forward by the Canadian Alliance, but will it really solve the energy crisis in our country? The answer is, no, much more is required.

My colleague already mentioned Bill C-384, an energy price commission, and said that we regulate all sorts of things. Canada is the second largest country in the world geographically where the price of fuels is factored into the cost of every single good and commodity in our country, everything from pantyhose to grain. One would think that if there was ever a country in the world that would be concerned that whatever the increases were that they would be reasonable, it would be Canada.

My colleague from Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre is suggesting that we put together an energy price commission as they do in P.E.I. It works reasonably well in P.E.I. It could even be doing more. If we regulate stamps and all sorts of other things, why would we not regulate the one commodity that touches the cost of living of every single person? It just makes nothing but sense. That is one good idea we will put on the table for consideration.

Another good idea is the one suggested by my friend from Elk Island, which is the fact that oil companies pay world price for oil. That is only partly true. Who does the drilling? Let us talk about Imperial Oil. Imperial Oil explores for oil, drills for oil, transports oil, refines oil, trucks oil, wholesales oil and retails oil. In other words, vertical integration. It has the whole thing sewed up. When we talk about the world price that the OPEC nations are influencing, Imperial Oil does the whole thing, from finding it, digging it out and pumping it into our tanks.

Another thing we could do is what some of the states do in the United States, which is to break up that retail sector so that we would actually have real independent retailers and the oil companies would actually have some competition in the marketplace.

Right now I think it is fair to say that we have four big oil companies virtually controlling the entire market. Is it collusion? Is it price-fixing? Is it a cartel operating? Is it a monopoly or an oligopoly? It probably is but it is hard to prove, as my friend from Pickering knows. However, we all know that is what takes place, a sort of informal form of price-fixing, which is why we need a regulator. We need to break up the oil companies so that the retail sector is an independent sector with some real competition in the marketplace as we see even in that bastion of capitalism, the United States of America.

More important, if we are looking at the future, all of us will have to acknowledge that fossil fuel is not and cannot be the future because one day it will simply cost too much to develop, it will be too remote, too difficult and too environmentally unsound.

My friend mentioned Kyoto and what we have to do about that. We have to start putting more of an effort into the development of alternate forms of energy. Alberta is doing that now and is leading the way in wind technology. It is looking at geothermal technology and the big cell development like Ballard's fuel cells and so on. Canada is actually leading the way in terms of developing those technologies.

We could be doing all sorts of things but we seem to be fixated on the oil companies, who, I hate to say, will probably be buying most of the seats at the Canadian Alliance fundraiser at $25,000 a table, where they may have undue influence in terms of public policy development.

We have to acknowledge that we have to develop alternative forms of energy at a much greater rate than we are doing today.

There are some other alternatives on the table. This is a very small step toward a resolution but the New Democratic Party will be supporting this initiative when it comes up for a vote later today.

Supply September 21st, 2000

No, it is $25,000 a table. I just cannot imagine it.

When I raised this with some of my Canadian Alliance friends in Kamloops, they said “Mr. Riis, you are wrong. The Canadian Alliance would never have a fundraiser where the price is $25,000 for a little table”.

Supply September 21st, 2000

Madam Speaker, first, I want to say that the New Democratic Party will be supporting the motion when it is put later today in terms of what could be one small effort to deal with what has become a major issue, indeed a crisis in much of the country.

There is a lot of mystery, mythology and confusion surrounding this issue. For example, I was trying to think the other day, when the Canadian Alliance holds its fundraiser in Toronto in a few days, and it is charging $25,000 a table—

Petitions September 21st, 2000

Mr. Speaker, in the second petition the petitioners point out a number of concerns with the Criminal Code of Canada. They are asking the Government of Canada to amend the code to prevent persons convicted of serious crimes from being released from custody pending the hearing of their appeal except in very exceptional circumstances.

Petitions September 21st, 2000

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to have the opportunity to present a petition pursuant to Standing Order 36 on behalf of, they say, 700,000 British Columbians. This is a sample of the 700,000 who point out that insufficient funding for the national highway system has resulted in hundreds of lives lost and thousands more injuries because of structural deficiencies in the highway system. They point out a whole number of reasons why national highway system funding as a priority would be a good idea for Canada.

Petitions September 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition pursuant to Standing Order 36 on behalf of a number of constituents who I am sure are concerned about the high cost of fuels, particularly in terms of transportation fuels, but also home heating fuels.

They question the validity of keeping the 7% GST on the price of fuel. They are concerned about the fact that the money raised by the federal excise tax on fuel is not used for the development and maintenance of highways.

They are concerned that this will result in an increase in inflation. They are asking the Parliament of Canada to do whatever it can to get the government to come to its senses on this issue.

Points Of Order September 20th, 2000

Mr. Speaker in the absence of our House leader who is busy doing other duties at the moment, I want to add some comments to the points that have already been raised by my hon. colleagues.

We are all cognizant of the fact that Canadians are concerned about the nature of business conducted in the House. It is in the interest of all parliamentarians and the interest of Canada and the parliamentary system to conduct, as much as possible, the serious business of Canada in the House. Today when we watched television and saw the Minister of Finance talk about the surplus and the whole issue and policies surrounding the surplus, the question that came to all of us was why was he not making this now under ministers statements when there would be an opportunity for others to respond and to start this discussion in terms of how to deal with this surplus.

I appeal to not only you, Mr. Speaker, but to the government members, and particularly to the Cabinet ministers, to use this House and give it the due that it deserves. If we do not use it seriously ourselves how can we expect Canadians to take it seriously?

Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada Act September 18th, 2000

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I know you were paying attention to my colleague's remarks, but I think he erred when he said that the Canadian Alliance was actually having a fundraiser where people were paying $2,500 for a table. Surely he must be wrong.