House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was competition.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Pickering—Scarborough East (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Competition Act (Inquiry into Industry Sector) May 12th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I would like to commend and congratulate the member for having introduced this bill. I know he cares deeply about this. He has worked very hard on this matter.

There is one thing that will be raised in the debate if this bill is referred to committee—and I hope it is—namely, is the authority to conduct inquiries really a good idea for the Competition Bureau, which can usually conduct investigations? That is why I am asking him if it relates only to the inquiry itself or if it is also a question of ensuring that the laws and regulations in the Competition Act are strict enough.

If, after an inquiry, it is determined that the Competition Act has some shortcomings and does not meet the requirements for strong competition, as we have raised many times in this House, will this process end up not having the impact that is expected of this bill?

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 12th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I was glad to hear the hon. member for Windsor West speak on this matter. We have worked on this issue over a number of years.

I certainly know the hon. member will recognize that what happened 30 years ago in the gas industry was very different from today. The comment made by the previous questioner demonstrates that even temperature compensation did not exist in those days and it takes a lot more than two minutes, using a proper prover and clinical requirement, to ensure that there is in fact an appropriate and accurate calibration.

The hon. member's riding is very close to the U.S. border. In the days of the NEB there was a made at home Canadian price. Now we are subject to international prices and it has become alarming not just with what happened last Friday, with a 1,000 point decline in the stock market, but the hon. member will probably know better what has happened with Goldman Sachs, its commodities and the fact that there has been a significant involvement of swap dealers, hedge traders, funds.

I am wondering if the hon. member would like to comment on the fact that it means that today, as we pay for another increase in the price of fuel, the price of fuel may in fact be overrated by some 30% to 40%. Because the Enron loophole has not been closed and we have subjected ourselves to international pricing, consumers in his riding and mine are now being badly affected, to the tune of not 1% of 1 in 25 pumps but, in fact, 30% to 40% of the actual cost of fuel regardless of where one is in the country.

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 12th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges, and I am pleased to see that she is very knowledgeable about this subject. I know that this issue will be discussed later this afternoon, when we examine a bill from one of her Bloc colleagues. The former commissioner of competition clearly indicated that he needed the power to initiate investigations. I will quote the then-commissioner, Konrad von Finckenstein, in English, because I unfortunately do not have this quote in French. It was in response to a question he was asked by my former colleague, Serge Marcil, who unfortunately passed away in Haiti. Mr. von Finckenstein's response at the time was:

We have the power to undertake investigations ourselves, but we generally respond to complaints. If you are talking about tools, yes, we have all the tools we need. The provisions of the Competition Act give us the mandate we need to do our work.

What I am trying to say to the Bloc member is that we are talking about a power that perhaps already exists. Perhaps there truly was a misunderstanding, despite the good intentions of the member who will present his bill later this afternoon.

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 10th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I found it interesting to listen to some of the comments the hon. member made, including dealing with issues of transit. She would not have complimented the Liberal Party for being the one that initiated the GST tax on tax to be used for the very purpose which she well knows as a former councillor in Toronto is extremely beneficial and helpful in the early days of pioneering transit as an alternative.

The hon. member also may have erred on a number of occasions about the facts, that 5% of the pumps that were the target of the study by Measurements Canada was in fact only 4%.

The hon. member seems to suggest that there is a problem. I am concerned as she is with the fact that we are asked to measure on our own to see if these things work. The reality is if we put something in a plastic container that is 10 litres or 20 litres, or whatever the case may be, there is room for expansion, as well. Exposing gasoline from ambient temperature in the tanks eight or ten feet below ground versus the temperature outside may contract or in fact expand the volume. Those are not effective measures.

I want to ask the member this one thing because I think she is concerned, as I am, about what impact this is going to have on gas retailers, as well as on consumers.

The theory goes that some things that are too onerous, like spill containment and environmental standards that have been advocated in the past, have had the unintended effect of actually reducing the number of retailers in this country.

I wonder if, as a councillor, or now as a member of Parliament, she might not take into consideration the actions of municipalities that have had a devastating impact on the licensing and zoning and the ability for small independents and other retailers to survive. This may in fact have contributed to the demise of many retailers, many wholesalers and, at the same time, may have driven up prices.

I wonder if she would like to comment on that, given her experience on Toronto council.

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 10th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I have two very brief questions. First, in his capacity as a scientist, does he agree or disagree with the 15°C temperature compensation, which is currently invoked and foisted on consumers?

Second, will he work hard to end the Enron loophole that is destroying the integrity of our markets and hurting consumers with inflated prices one way or another? It is a skew that could be 30%, 40% or 50% higher than it ought to be. Is that right for his constituents?

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 10th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North for the compliment on some of the work that has been done. I think we agree with far more than we would disagree.

Could I get from the hon. member a better understanding of where he sees the greatest impetus to be placed on the cost of energy? Would he encourage his colleague, the finance critic for his party, to gently persuade the Minister of Finance to make market manipulation, particularly in the commodities futures market, a priority, particularly as one understands the role that derivative and swap dealers have played in distorting the market as much as 40% and 50% today on the price that we see?

The hon. member will know there is a 4¢ increase coming to his constituents tonight, even though markets and the Canadian dollar have shown virtually no increase whatsoever. I am very familiar with the concerns in his riding having lost a number of independents like Domo and Mohawk, which have been taken over by large players.

Perhaps he could focus his comments on where there is a real problem driving the cost of energy over and above the issue of taxation, over and above the scandalizing of the odd gas retailer that somehow he or she is a chiseller? Could he encourage his members to focus on the G20 and G8, focus on market manipulation, one of the reasons we are spending $1 trillion to help bailout a couple of countries?

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 10th, 2010

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member a simple question. Has he noticed a supply problem in Canada and Quebec in relation to the number of suppliers in this industry?

Also, is he worried that companies like Ultramar sometimes pursue predatory lawsuits that are really harmful to retailers, not only in Quebec but also in Ontario?

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 10th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure and tribute to the hon. member. I know his fine standing. We have worked together on a number of files. I appreciate the opinion of the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex. I value his concern and commitment to this issue, as do many others. It works well for me to be with him on the industry committee once again. Much was accomplished in the previous Parliament. I hope the same for the next Parliament.

I am wondering if the hon. member might be able to indicate to us the willingness among his colleagues to look at the big fry. It is important to recognize there are people who might, by accident, create problems with a pump. A pump may break down and the retailer of course would be responsible for that, but we would not say that the retailer had done it deliberately. The member made a very good argument to that effect.

However, when a bank in Canada advocates that people buy a barrel of oil or one of the commodity offerings because oil will be $200 a barrel, it drives the price up artificially and has an enormous impact and damages the economy, industries and consumers alike. I am wondering if he has given any thought to discussing with his colleagues, in advance of the G20 and G8 meetings, the prospect of raising the issue of market manipulation and limiting those who, as swap dealers or as derivatives traders, ought not to have anything to do with the commodities markets.

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 10th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I would want to ensure that there are a number of regulatory organizations, TSSA being an example, that could qualify and ensure that the apprentices are properly trained. That would also limit the conflict of interest.

I understand where the member is coming from, but I want to make it abundantly clear that it is not who inspects. It is how many inspect and the credentials which they bring. Otherwise, there is no veracity to the system and we may be impugning people who ought not to be.

I want to remind the hon. member. Our party got rid of the GST as it relates to rebates for people on home heating fuel and other things. We were concerned about the price of fuel back in early 2000. We acted on those on two occasions.

Fairness at the Pumps Act May 10th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the member for Madawaska—Restigouche is quite right. Clearly, the government's position is not meant to solve the competition problem or reassure people that they are getting what they pay for, and it will not do either of those things.

I said earlier that if the government were serious, it would do away with the standard of 15 degrees Celsius, which is what the provincial Conservatives did when they approved the report I submitted in 1998. When you pull up to a gas pump, it indicates that the volume is corrected to 15 degrees Celsius. This means that the volume the consumer gets is lower, because this correction is far higher than the Canadian norm.

The average temperature in Canada is five or six degrees. Even with heat and global warming, it is not 15 degrees. The 15-degree norm is good for Hawaii.

I think this is wrong. If the government really wanted to do something, it could do away with this standard. The other thing it could do would obviously be to reverse its decision to kill the petroleum monitoring system that told us how much was produced in Canada.