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View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Speaker, I rose earlier to question the Leader of the Opposition, but I did not get recognized, so I will question the government House leader instead on the same subject.
We have had a great deal of discussion, quite appropriate discussion, on issues such as accountability and transparency, the possible use of taxpayers' money by political parties, and the actual use in some cases. The Leader of the Opposition failed to mention that the greatest area where we do not have transparency and where we do not have accountability is in the process whereby he became Leader of the Opposition. Nobody knows where the money that was contributed to his leadership campaign came from.
The reason I ask the hon. government House leader this question is that only last Thursday, a week ago today, Mr. Conrad Black, also known as Lord Black of Crossharbour, was indicted by the United States government of diverting some $51.8 million of United States funds in what is called in the United States by the U.S. government, the Canwest fraud scheme. This gentleman, with his two close associates, David Radler and Peter White, has been extremely prominent in the neo-Conservative media and in the neo-Conservative political movement in this country for the last decade and a half.
I think it is important. We are informed by the American government that this money was stolen from Hollinger International shareholders and the Canadian tax authorities. I would like to know from the hon. government House leader whether he is willing, at the request of the Leader of the Opposition, to have an investigation as to whether any of those moneys, which were allegedly stolen from Canadian taxpayers, wound up in the hands of a Canadian political party or in the leadership campaign of any Canadian political party leader?
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, the member has quite rightly pointed out that money stolen from the public treasury and paid to the Liberal Party should be paid back. That is exactly what has happened. He has also called for transparency and for accountability in government. That is very appropriate, too. There should be.
Last Thursday United States authorities indicted Mr. Conrad Black of diverting some $51.8 million U.S. in the CanWest fraud scheme from Hollinger International shareholders and, this is interesting, from the Canadian taxpayers. Given the prominent role of Mr. Conrad Black and his associates, David Radler and Peter White, in the neo-con movement in this country over the last 15 years, would the deputy leader of the opposition be willing to have a release of the names of donors to the Leader of the Opposition's leadership campaign so that we could determine whether or not any of these moneys, which we only knew might have been stolen last week with this indictment, wound up in the campaign of the Leader of the Opposition?
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague from Vancouver Island as he rambled over a number of issues, but I really wonder whether he has thought through some of the issues that he raised. There are a number, but I will take up one for this comment and question, which is it is his criticism that any person who happens to have served in the House of Commons should therefore and thereafter not be considered for any appointment or public office. He made that abundantly clear in his references to David Dingwall that because that person had served here, somehow he should not be considered for any public appointment.
I point out to him that his predecessor, the Reform member of the House of Commons, Group Captain Fraser, was appointed by the Liberal government of the day, the Chrétien government, to the Veterans Appeal Board. In fact, the member would not be here if it had not been for the appointment of that gentleman to another position. Why was he appointed? Because he was qualified.
The government and Mr. Chrétien recognized that Group Captain Fraser had many qualities. I absolutely agreed as minister for British Columbia that this person was fully entitled to be considered for the appointment and in fact he got it, and so he should have. That is the predecessor of the member who got up in the House and said that those of us who have served in the House have no abilities and therefore should not be considered afterward. That is an insult to 308 members of the House of Commons who certainly should be considered for appointments, if they wish to put their names forward, following their time in the House.
It is a criticism I level also at the NDP. In fact the member for Ottawa Centre, when he ceased to be a member for a certain period, was appointed by the federal government to the Institute of Race Relations in Montreal. The leader of the NDP in Ontario was appointed ambassador to the United Nations by the federal government, an NDP politician. He is now, of course, the UN special envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis. There is Mike Harcourt, an NDP premier of B.C. In fact there is even an NDP premier of B.C. who happened to be appointed the Minister of Health of the Government of Canada.
I am saying that the hypocrisy of the Conservatives and the NDP on this issue of appointments needs to be challenged. The fact is there are people in the House who have come here with abilities. The hon. member can speak for himself as to whether or not he has them. I will leave that up to him and the people who have watched his performance on television. The fact is that people come here with abilities, and if they have abilities, they should not be barred from serving the Canadian people in some other capacity in the future simply because of public service here in the House.
It is time to stop this constant denigration of members of the House of Commons of all parties, but particularly the type of speech we just heard which boradcast criticisms on everyone who happens to have been elected for the majority party, in fact, still the party that has the largest number in the House and therefore is the government. That is the type of behaviour which casts aspersions on every member of the House. It criticizes every person who takes up public office, whether federally or provincially. It is a shame and should not be countenanced in this chamber.
It is fair enough to criticize on the issue of the sponsorship program, on the issue of the funds that went into the hands of people who did not earn the money. That is absolutely correct and positive. However, to broadcast criticism of that type is quite outrageous.
If we wished to broadcast criticisms of the Conservatives for what went on before, we would find that there was plenty, particularly when we think of the helicopter contracts of the Mulroney government.
Why does the member get up here and insult all 308 members of the House in the manner that he does? Why does he not get up here and be specific? Why does he not recognize that Group Captain Jack Fraser was a worthwhile member of the House, a worthy person for appointment, and people of other parties are also worthy of appointment when they get appointed, if that happens subsequent to their time in public life?
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, what struck me about the comments by the hon. member was the fact that he clearly indicated throughout his speech that he had confidence in the government and in the many things the government was bringing forward. He said that he wants these things to come along, to be voted on and that many of them he wants to see brought into law or into policy. Now, from what I heard him say, he clearly has confidence in the government.
He went on to complain about the fact that the Prime Minister would not accept something which is not within the normal rules of the House and not within normal parliamentary practice. He went on to say that because the opposition parties agree that this contorted, convoluted way of proceeding should be adopted, the Prime Minister somehow should ignore the normal procedure in the House and follow that.
It seems to me that the member simply does not have the courage of his convictions. Does he want the government defeated or does he not, as of now? If that is the case, I will have a much better idea of what I heard him say. However right now I am puzzled by his clear indication that he does not want the government defeated.
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I listened with considerable interest to the hon. member speak about the importance of democratic processes. He quoted Blackstone, the Constitution and the balance between legislative and executive branches, all of which are excellent. I also heard him refer frequently to other democratic principles but there is a fundamental democratic principle that he seems to have forgotten, and that is that we in the House follow rules. We have procedures and ways of going about it.
He talked time after time about the need to defeat the government. I disagree with him but, nevertheless, it is absolutely his right to bring such views forward. He then said that it was this government that was having trouble maintaining consistency. The fact is that his own party, month after month after month, since the tied vote in the House broken by the chair, has been saying that the government should immediately be defeated. That is fair enough, an official opposition is expected to do that, but what he cannot square in logic or in democratic principle is accepting a motion from the NDP that flies in the face of both, a motion that says it has lost confidence in the government but not yet. It is sort of like saying, oh yes, yes, yes, that it wishes to be in a certain state but, oh no, we cannot go there yet.
The member knows full well that the House of Commons and every other similar legislative body depends upon some fairly clear rules. The clear rule is that if there is to be a confidence vote, as there was last May, as the Tories can put forward or could have put forward at other times, then the House votes on it. If the government were to lose the vote there would then be an election because the government would resign. However this type of situation creates a forward looking system that is totally novel. They have not been able to give a single example anywhere in the British constitutional system of any other country which has had such a motion. They come forward with this concocted rubbish and say that if we do not follow it, it is undemocratic because three parties in the House believe we should follow it. I say that democracy is democracy and it means following rules. It is not simply the will of a majority.
Why has he reversed himself? Why has he turned himself into a pretzel as he tries to accept this motion instead of accepting the clear and constitutional position which the Conservative Party, up until recently, actually held?
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the concerns of my hon. friend and particularly to his last remarks with respect to increasing bureaucracy. There is no question at all about that. Members of the House should be concerned about this and should be looking out for it when new proposals come forward. In fact, I probably will be saying a few things about that myself later in this debate when I speak.
However, there is a question I would like to put to him. His party has frequently proposed that the ports police be reconstituted or has said that it was a mistake to disband the ports police. Yet bureaucracy was exactly why that relatively small police force, which had to work with the RCMP and with the port of Vancouver police, was disbanded: because in fact there was more bureaucracy and there were more police forces than necessary.
I believe I heard him mention in his comments this area of protection of the ports. I wonder if his party has now adopted the approach that in fact it does make sense to have the same police forces who handle the onshore security aspects, the same police forces who handle behind the port security, also work on that narrow band of actual waterfront where the docks, some of the warehouses and the ships are. Has his party now accepted the fact that it was a sensible decision or is it still advocating yet more bureaucracy in the ports police area?
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in this debate. I regret, however, that the conceptual approach to Pacific trade has not been stressed heavily by the two previous opposition speakers.
It is important to recognize what the approach is and not to get bogged down in whether there is a specific rail bridge, or highway crossing or left turn lane for trucks, which is a problem at the present time. Every one of us from western Canada, Ontario, Quebec or the Maritimes could probably come up with quite a long list of things in their ridings for which they would like federal money.
We have to recognize this is a very strategic issue. As we know, Canada was created because of the construction of western rail transportation links to British Columbia. That is why my province came to be in 1871 instead of 1867. However, because there was a considerable length of time, while the railway was being built, there were some doubts as to whether that connection with Canada would remain.
We have created the links and the fastest transportation system from the Orient to Europe. Crossing the Pacific by Canadian Pacific ships, or crossing Canada by Canadian Pacific Railroad or crossing the Atlantic by a number of shipping lines was the closest and fastest connection. We developed extensive trade through the port of Vancouver and eastern ports as well by that means.
This also should be looked at not just from the point of view of Canadian exports and imports, but as something which will allow us to continue that same type of development. This time it would not necessarily be to Europe. Through the United States, we would have the ability to bring goods in from China, South Korea, Japan and other countries of Asia. Then they could be distributed by rail throughout North America, Canada and the United States, and even Mexico as well. This is where we have some real advantages. I know that will be pursued because it has been the approach over time with our development of western transportation.
I had a look at the speeches of the opposition when this was first presented. The major criticism is that this does not do enough, and I believe $4 billion was mentioned as being necessary for transportation improvements in western Canada. Maybe it does not and maybe $4 billion is the correct figure. I am quite sure that if we all got together, we could work that up to about $10 billion or $15 billion quite easily, as we added little things or big things to the list.
We are starting with a more conceptual approach to the whole issue, not just of the port of Vancouver trade, or the port of Prince Rupert trade or the port of Victoria trade, but of the whole Pacific coast and the rest of Canada in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and right through to Ontario. A lot of trade will cross this link through the facilities, about which we have spoken, into Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes as well. As I mentioned a moment ago, they will also cross into the United States. Remember that this is an attempt to take a more strategic look.
The Vancouver airport has similarly attempted to place itself as the gateway. We have been talking about that time after time in the House and outside of it. Those of us who have been involved in public life in British Columbia over the last decade and a half and before have talked about the need to ensure that same concept of making the west coast the gateway for this tremendous development takes place in Asia as well.
I should add that the trade increases in the countries involved are extensive. We should never overlook the importance of Japan. Much of the talk has been about Korea. I gather the Conservative Party's first spokesman on this did not like the levels of trade with Korea. He thinks it is a hazard to us in some respects such as the automobile industry. That is fine. I think we can compete and he does not. That is a point we will see in due course.
Also, we should recognize that there is a tremendous increase in China trade which has taken place. I have had the privilege of seeing that. I also had the privilege of living a good part of my life on the other side of the Pacific in then British crown colony of Hong Kong , now the autonomous region of China. Before me, my father spent some 30 years in Hong Kong. There has been a close family connection with the Pacific transportation link that had the family partly in Hong Kong and partly in Victoria.
There is a tremendous opportunity in China, but we must not overlook the opportunity in Japan. Once again, I would differ with my Conservative friends across the way who have said that somehow to deal with China, we have to link up with Japanese companies. That is not the case. We can compete directly. We can link up with Japanese companies, European companies, American companies or companies from anywhere else in the world. However, there is no need to think that there is any particular country which will be our logical and obvious partner in a general sense for trade with China, any other country other than China itself.
This proposal, as has been pointed out rather frequently, is for a council. The criticism that has been made is that the council has some $30 million or $35 million allocated, under the approach outlined by the hon. the Minister for Multiculturalism when the bill was introduced, and that this is somehow too much or extravagant. Those criticisms may be correct. Time will tell.
However, as I mentioned to my hon. friend from Edmonton who spoke earlier today, my concern is more the issue of duplication of roles. We have the gateway council. It is only advisory to the various governments. Therefore, the representative from the governments of Alberta, Saskatchewan or British Columbia who sits on the gateway council will be unable to negotiate or discuss with any authority to make decisions. That is a weakness at which we will have to look.
It seems to me that frequently we set up councils of this type. Then when they in turn report to the provincial government of British Columbia, the federal Department of Transport, the Alberta minister of overseas trade or the Manitoba minister of agriculture, as the case may be, we start to get a disaggregated voice and we do not have the correct line authority to make decisions.
If the council is to be so important, all governments should consider giving it the authority to make such decisions and giving it a separate budget much greater than $30 million. However, if on the other hand we just want the views of a wide-ranging number of people, I have to admit I kind of wonder why the Government of Canada and Minister of Transport would not pick up the phone to the Alberta minister of trade, or the British Columbia minister of forests responsible for wood exports or something like that. We know what will happen. We know those intergovernmental connections will be made. Therefore, I see the role of the council as being a bit difficult to envisage in the smooth working system of decision making which I think should take place.
That is something we have to watch for, and we certainly will. The costs of it are definitely very important.
I would like to quickly point out however, as a British Columbia member of the House, that there has been strong support for the gateway concept. The Premier of British Columbia, the hon. Gordon Campbell, has been very supportive. He said:
It is critical that we recognize our [transportation] infrastructure reaches beyond the mountains....This Gateway will invite jobs and opportunities into the country, and invite people to come and trade through Canada to provide their goods to North America.
That was a very positive statement. We recognize and thank Premier Campbell for those comments.
Gordon Houston, the president and CEO of the Vancouver Port Authority, called the initiative a “great announcement”. He said:
The federal government's announcement of $600 million in funding for infrastructure and programs to enhance the Pacific Gateway takes British Columbia's ports a giant step closer to realizing the tremendous economic potential of expanding Asia-Pacific trade...
Fred Green, the executive VP of CP Rail, praised the announcement as:
--an encouraging sign to the private sector...The federal initiative helps further strengthen the Pacific Gateway as a key access point for all of North America. It also complements the Province of British Columbia's efforts to reinforce the importance of the gateway.
Bruce Burrows is another very important player in the transportation sector. He is the acting president and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. He praised the strategy for helping to fast track infrastructure needed to “enhance Canada's role as a preferred trading partner with China”.
Mr. Burrows also said:
--the federal funds to be spent on Canada's international trade routes, coupled with the railways' own operational and capital spending plans, will help them cope with their customers' significant growth in overseas trade.
Many others have added comments.
Kevin Evans, vice-president of the Retail Council of Canada, welcomed the strategy “as strengthening Canada's position as a trading partner with China”. The Canadian Trucking Alliance talked about this. Peter Marshall, vice-president for western Canada for CN Rail, praised it. I will not go on. There is very strong support for this strategy, and I am trying to give a flavour of it.
I come back to where I started this discussion. In debates like this we have to recognize the importance of taking an approach which is beyond simply specifics of political advantage on a day to day basis. We need to spend public money to get good infrastructure. If we do not, the private sector does not have a prayer of taking advantage of economic opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region. I hope this final point is well understood. We have heard it misapplied and misunderstood time after time by the opposition. We need to have public expenditures at a level for a number of--
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Speaker, this is an important point which all members of the House really must understand, particularly the comments from many opposition people associated with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and others who do not understand. If governments do not make infrastructure expenditures, we will not have the educated workforce that is needed. We will not have the transportation links that we need. We also will not have the myriad of other requirements of the modern state that make it possible for us to enjoy the high standard of living about which the preceding government speaker talked. We have not had these successes--
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Speaker, neither question is in the slightest way connected to the gateway bill.
Let me deal with the first question of the project to have a generating plant at Sumas just across the border in the Fraser Valley. The member is simply unaware. I must now tell the member, and he should understand this, that the way that project was turned down was on the basis of the science work done by Environment Canada. Without that work being presented in a dispassionate, scientific way, rather than as a partisan or political way, we would never have persuaded the authorities who were involved at the decision-making level to turn it down.
Rather than his statement that somehow or another my department that I was then responsible for was not involved, it was the key department. The member could get a large number of people who were quite willing to come to meetings, and there were plenty of them and I appreciate that work. They had a different role.
The role we had was critical in having it turned down. There can be demonstrations. People can stand up and say that they do not like an American plant across the border. If we do not get the right information before the decision makers, which in this case was the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council and the other bodies involved, including the NEB, and it is not reliable, then we do not get the right decision.
The member's position is simple, unfortunately, and I guess based on some of the comments made in a partisan sense in his area rather than on scientific information.
On the second issue dealing with Victoria, the issue has been looked at by scientists from Washington state. Unanimously, there is no negative impact on the environment. That is my riding. I do know it is surrounded by ocean on three sides. We have seven treatment plants. Wherever there is a situation that requires them we put them in. However, there are two outfalls in the south end, Macaulay Point and Clover Point.
The capital regional district is now spending some $630,000 to have a complete review on it done by an international organization with outside people. We have had that done before by Washington state scientists, Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists, and University of British Columbia scientists. We have never had a recommendation.
In fact, last week the capital regional health officer said there would be no health benefits from treating sewage in Victoria. Why? I will explain it to the hon. member. The fact is vast amounts of fast moving well oxygenated seawater moving through at anything up to six knots does what a treatment plant does artificially. It oxygenates the sewage. It eliminates the problem of pathogens. Essentially, we wind up with nutrients, just as farmers do in the member's riding who puts manure on a field. The two problems that we are always watching closely that are always very important--
An hon. member: Oh my goodness.
Hon. David Anderson: I wish they would just listen. The reason they make mistakes is because they just do not listen over there.
The two problems of course are heavy metals, which have been dramatically reduced by source control. The other is gender bender pharmaceuticals. They would not necessarily be removed by any treatment. We find that in areas where we have treatment plants, gender benders go through at a substantial rate. Therefore, we are using source control. We are quite willing to put in treatment plants when the indications are that it would be a sensible expenditure of money.
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, during my remarks on this bill the other day, I referred to the three objectives the ministers have for this bill: first, to provide financial assistance to low income seniors and low income families with children; second, to help Canadian families reduce their heating costs by making their homes more energy efficient; and, third, to make the market more transparent and increase accountability.
Let me quickly say that there has been much discussion of whether the government ministers chose the right target group. We have to recognize that energy is so pervasive in the economy that essentially we come to a certain point of trying to help people affected by high costs where the government is trying to pull itself up by its bootstraps. In other words, the government is taking tax revenue from the same people it is giving the benefit to, so it makes sense to focus the attention on low income Canadians in particular circumstances as outlined by the government. I certainly agree with that approach.
The second point, however, is more difficult for us to get our minds around fully. Certainly there is a substantial increase in the amount of money being put into assisting people to be more efficient in the use of energy in their homes and of course we all applaud that. The trouble we face is that we keep hearing that the government intends to increase energy efficiency in Canada because of climate change reasons, high cost of energy reasons, and many reasons, but it only does a very small amount.
For instance, with respect to the houses that are to be assisted in this bill, not a large percentage of the Canadian stock of homes will be affected. In terms of homes in Canada, we are talking about 11.5 million and with respect to single-family dwellings or detached housing probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of 8 million; I do not have the exact figure. Here we are dealing with only a small percentage of that number, probably less than 5%. The question is simply this: if it desirable to do, why are we doing so little? That is the question I would put to the parliamentary secretary of the minister who will be handling this bill in the House.
We certainly agree with these issues such as energy efficiency, but that clearly is not being done on anything approaching a major scale and is clearly not a national objective, as outlined in this bill, despite a great deal of talk about a national objective in this area and also in the area of climate change.
The second point related to that is of course the increase in money for public transit. It is a very good thing to do. It is very desirable. I believe that our bus fleets in Canada are about four years older than the bus fleets of United States cities. A lot more can be done. This is just one indicator of many that we can do more to make sure public transit is efficient, quick, clean and of course more attractive for the public to use than the private automobile.
We must do that right across Canada. The companies attempting to provide public transit are doing so. They are doing a great job and I admire the work they do, but we certainly need to have a much more substantial system. The municipal governments, let us face it, must do much more in their field to give the advantage to public transit, such as one way streets for buses or public vehicles only or changing parking regulations to encourage the use of transit. This is the type of thing that can be done.
It is not just a question of putting money into buses. If we put money into buses that run on roads and the buses are empty, they are worse than useless. In those circumstances, of course, we would be blocking the roads for other vehicles and using a lot of diesel fuel for the buses, or natural gas in some cases, or whatever the fuel might be, but we would not be achieving the objectives of the bill.
I think there is a question that really has to be answered here. Why is so little being done here? Why, when it comes to the private dwellings, is so little done? Why, when it comes to transit, is so little done?
With respect to commercial buildings, I believe the number in the background information suggests that there will be a little over 2,500 assisted with this program and yet that is probably less than 2% of the total number of commercial buildings in Canada. Why are we only dealing with such a small fraction? Why are we not trying to deal in a comprehensive way with what we and this bill recognize is a serious issue?
My time is limited. I have already had a few minutes in the previous discussion of the bill, but now I would like to turn to the third aspect of the bill: where does the money come from?
If we look at the papers provided with this bill, we will realize that of the $2.3 billion or $2.4 billion, more or less, that this is going to cost, about $1.3 billion is from new sources, new revenues, new moneys, and the remainder comes from other programs. Of this total package, a large amount is recycled moneys. We must not get away from that. It really is a much smaller package than it looks at first.
Of the new money, the more than $1 billion that needs to come into this, it is coming from general tax revenue. It is coming out of money that would otherwise be used for health, education, paying down the debt and the many things that public funds go to in Canada. There are of course many benefits to the public that come from the use of their tax dollars. That is what is happening here.
What really worries me is the fact that there has been such a massive increase in the price of energy, with a corresponding massive increase in the profits of the producers and the refiners of crude oil, and indeed of the distributors, and yet we have done nothing to have that massive bubble of money, and it was in the billions, diverted to pay the costs for these low income Canadians. In fact, what has happened is that instead of that unearned increase, that windfall profit of dramatic proportions, going to help the poor, we are having to take this out of the moneys that normally would be used for other public purposes. That is the worst problem we face in this area.
Let me give members a few examples. We all know that at somewhere between $10 and $20 per barrel even the oil sands break even and make money, yet we have seen the price of oil go up to over $65 a barrel, to virtually $70 U.S. a barrel. We are seeing really dramatic increases in profits.
Let us say there has been an increase from $20 to $60. Then $40 is profit for producers of crude oil. Of course the argument is made by the industry that nothing can be done about this, that it is a world market and so on. Nevertheless, it is a massive increase in profit and nothing was done to recoup that profit to help the low income people who had to pay the dollars that made those profits for the companies.
That, I think, is a very important issue that has to be answered for by the government. Why was nothing done to increase the taxation level so that we would in fact have a transfer from those who made the money, these enormous profits, to those who had to pay them and therefore are suffering financially? That is point one.
Point two is about the refiners. The refiners happily said it was the price of crude going up that caused this massive spike in the price of gasoline when it went up to $1.35. If we were to take the $10 increase in crude between the beginning of the summer and September and work it through the system, we would find that the maximum the refineries and distributors should have charged by reason of that increase in crude oil would have taken the price of gasoline to 90¢. Yet it went to $1.35.
That is another massive increase in profits. That is okay. That is the way the system works. I am not questioning that. I am simply asking why some of that was not transferred to the people who actually paid out those profits, the people who bought the fuel. I do not know why that was not done. Again, that question relates to both the production side and the crude side.
Let me quickly deal with the third part of the legislation about how we are going to have a new agency set up to deal with this problem of whether the oil companies are on the straight and narrow. As far as I can see, this agency is going to be useless, useless because we already have the Competition Bureau, which time after time correctly says there is no collusion among the companies. It says the prices go up because of competitive factors, not collusion.
I believe that, because it is the system causes the prices to go up. The companies do not have to collude. They do not need to have a few people sitting in a room dishonestly trying to say what the price will be. It does not happen that way. That is why we are trying to set up our organizations like the Competition Bureau and this new agency to look at petroleum prices. That is what they will focus their attention on: the system means that the price goes up. Then we see in the bill that there is going to be a $25 million fine if it happens that the organization finds anything wrong.
On the Labour Day weekend when the spike occurred in gasoline prices, in regard to the extra made by the companies--and not the producers of the crude, but the companies that refined and distributed the crude and gave us the gasoline--the extra profits they made per day over what they were otherwise legitimately entitled to make and in accordance with the price of crude was $49 million to $50 million a day. Yet under the bill, we are going to have 12 hours of that profit as the maximum fine. It would make sense to collude under those circumstances if the fines are going to be so trivial.
I would like to know from the parliamentary secretary to the minister shepherding this bill through the House or some other parliamentary secretary, particularly the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, why is it that we are setting up this new organization?
I have another point on this same issue. I have on my desk a series of documents from Statistics Canada dealing with what are called fuel facts. I cannot wave them around because that would be a prop and that is not allowed, but day after day, week after week, month after month, Statistics Canada gives out extraordinarily detailed information on the industry, which we can use. All members can use it and all Canadians can acquire this information from Statistics Canada.
Why are we setting up yet another organization to look into this? We seem to set up organization after organization in the House. They all overlap, they get in one another's way, and they do not necessarily do a great job.
I would like to know why we would not continue with Statistics Canada, which has a phenomenal reputation for accuracy and precision. Why do we not continue with its work rather than setting up a new agency? If we are going to set up a new agency other than the Competition Bureau and Statistics Canada, what, really, is it going to do? Is it just that the people who drafted the bill did not know about the good work done by Statistics Canada? I do not know. We have that as another factor.
Going over the bill as a whole, we can see a number of issues that I think are really important for us.
First, with respect to who gets the money being allocated, we could argue until the cows come home about whether to add a group such as truckers or another group, but ultimately we reach a point where we are just taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another. We are taking tax revenue from ordinary Canadians and passing it back to them as a so-called rebate for high fuel prices. We really have to concentrate on low income Canadians.
The second point that I think is really important, which we must stress and recognize, is that in the whole area of trying to be more energy efficient, this bill will do very little. Furthermore, it will do it on the basis of money that was already allocated in other speeches by ministers, basically for climate change and eco-efficiency measures.
The third point I want to stress is that we have not actually touched at all on these unearned windfall profits of the oil companies. We should have. I actually wrote a letter to the Prime Minister--and if anyone wishes to have a copy, I will provide one--asking him back in September to call in the heads of the companies and say to them that we would not tax those windfall profits, but that they should be using that money to help people in distress from hurricane Katrina, the people whose misery led to these windfall profits. Of course I received a reply, which was less than satisfactory, I unfortunately have to admit.
Nevertheless, what I am saying is that if we are not going to do it through taxation, it is about time that the oil industry itself stepped forward and started dealing with some of these issues on their own, using their own enormous windfall profits to assist. ExxonMobil, which in Canada we call Imperial Oil, has never had such profits as it did in the last quarter. Company after company, with the exception of EnCana or Enbridge, I think, which gambled wrong on futures, have had these enormous profits.
We have a tremendous amount of money sloshing through the system. There has been a tremendous amount of money. It is not all needed for increasing supply. Some of it should be devoted to some of the purposes of this bill, namely, achieving eco-efficiency and helping people who are in need to meet their bills.
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has just honestly admitted that he is speaking on behalf of the constituents in his own riding. I am sure members on all sides of the House would like to ensure the constituents in their ridings are given cheques by the government.
However the fact is that middle class Canadians, who again are singled out as a group, pay the basic tax burden in Canada. Therefore if we start handing out regular tax money to middle class Canadians we are simply taking from one hand and giving with the other. It is like taking from Peter to pay Paul or, in this case, it is taking from Paul to pay Paul and taking from Peter to pay Peter.
The issue is quite straightforward. We reach a certain point in these rebate schemes where it becomes self-defeating because of the very people who are paying. My hon. friend has perhaps missed the point of the enormous importance of getting the oil industry, both the production side and the refining side, to cough up the money to assist his farmers perhaps, if we had a bigger pool, and not to take it out of the normal money that is used to help farmers, that is used for education, for health care or for the many other things that people get.
I am in no way unsympathetic to the concerns of anyone or any group affected by these high energy prices but I think the member will have to admit that where the incomes are lower the impact is worse.
The increase in the consumer price index was 4.3%. Half of that is due to energy cost increases, a full 50% of the increase in the CPI.
Therefore it is not a question of us disagreeing. We would all like to hand out cheques to everyone, but it is a question of where the money comes from.
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Yes, Mr. Speaker. What the hon. member has stated so clearly most definitely applies to any government program. There are areas that the programs do not reach, and so some people, some citizens, are not helped.
In his speech he has proposed changes, or perhaps he will do so later. I am in favour of a good discussion on points of contention, but in the time I have allocated to me I cannot say that we can settle this to the satisfaction of the 307 or so members. Each one has something different to propose, as the hon. Conservative member who has just spoken did. Each one of us needs to propose something. I hope the government will listen carefully to the comments from all parts of this House.
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to hear the hon. member agree with me on the basic point of my speech, which is that we are taking moneys, normal tax revenues contributed by every Canadian who pays taxes, that could be used for education, environmental purposes, health or to pay down this terrible debt we are leaving our children, and we are helping poorer Canadians to meet the energy increases.
We are not taking it from those whose very profits have come from those poor Canadians as well as other middle class Canadians. That is the point. The oil industry has made a substantial profit. One senior executive told me that in his entire lifetime in the industry there has never been a year like it. He would not comment any further than that, and he was right. This has been a remarkable windfall year but we made no effort to take the excess profits, the windfall profits, which came, let us face it, largely out of the misery of hurricane Katrina. To profit from misery and disasters of that kind raises a major moral issue, and I think my hon. friend agrees with me.
In any event, if we are not going to do it from the government side, and I certainly have urged them to do so but I have failed to do that, I suggest we ask them to voluntarily to do it. They should make their own funds available for the impact of those dramatic spikes that have led to these enormous profits. It is ridiculous to say that they will use it up creating more energy sources, discovering more, expanding refineries, et cetera.
They have so much money. If we look at the Imperial Oil quarterly results and the results in the United States, which again, for the same company were astronomical, I think it was $8 billion. If we look at that kind of money we have to wonder why some of that has not been diverted to the people who need it. The government needs to answer that question. Why did it not do it through the tax system or why did it not call in the people, as I recommended to the Prime Minister, and tell them that this should be done?
I told the Prime Minister that this issue was about the unjust enrichment of the industry through the totally unearned price increases. The issue is the immorality of allowing the industry to benefit from the natural disaster of hurricane Katrina, from the misery of those affected and from the financial exploitation by the industry of gasoline consumers everywhere. That is the nub of what happened and that is why something should be done about it.
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, when I spoke earlier today, I neglected at the end of my speech to table a document that I had quoted. With your indulgence and the agreement of the House, I would like to table the document at this time.
View David Anderson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the House generously gave unanimous consent to extend the question and comment period of the minister by five minutes. Instead, the generosity of the House is being abused by the hon. member who succeeds in making a speech on a series of subjects, none of which are directly related to the bill.
I suggest if he has no question that we move on to another questioner.
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