May 8, 2007

BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It is as interesting as the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean.

Everyone agrees on the Competition Act. The government says that the price at the pump is the responsibility of the provinces and Quebec, but that is just another excuse. Profits are not made at the pump; they are made at the refinery.

We want to know why the refining margin has gone, as I have already mentioned, from 8¢ or 9¢ to 26¢ in the past few years.

As I said, price setting needs to be transferred from the criminal section of the Competition Act—where it is now—to the civil part of the act because the burden of proof is lower in a civil case.

Furthermore, as far as the Competition Act is concerned, a petroleum monitoring agency needs to be created in order to monitor what is going on and to be able to provide information to the public. Consumers would know exactly what is happening and under what conditions things are happening. It seems to me that with these two items, we would have the means to discipline the major oil companies in relation to setting the price at the pump.

Obviously this would not solve all the problems. The real solution to this problem is to cut our dependence on oil and gas, which is what we should be doing in Canada and Quebec.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
LIB

Dan McTeague

Liberal

Hon. Dan McTeague (Pickering—Scarborough East, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for bringing forward this motion and the two amendments. A number of the proposed recommendations were presented by my party in 1998.

If possible, I would like the hon. member to explain the net impact this has had not just in the regions in Quebec, but in every region in Canada and North America. So many refineries have closed. In fact, of the 44 refiners that existed in 1986, when the Conservative government pointed out the shortcomings in the competition legislation, there are just 13 remaining.

What is the true impact? The hon. member indicated that there is a refining margin of 26¢. Clearly this has an impact. Could he explain this further? Going from 44 refiners to 13 is a fundamental source of the problem.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. One has to wonder why Canadian oil companies—and U.S. companies, too—have closed so many refineries.

I understand very well that they wanted to streamline operations in order to increase productivity. When supply more or less matches demand and there are extraordinary circumstances—an international event, or hurricane Katrina, or an ice storm—they do not have the necessary reserves to absorb the rise in prices and so prices skyrocket. I do not understand why the oil companies do not have these reserves that would enable them to weather the storm.

Perhaps the federal government should force them to establish such reserves—or perhaps the government should do so itself—to avoid this type of situation. One has to wonder if this is what the oil companies were hoping for. It may not necessarily be collusion but not producing enough at the refinery creates an artificial shortage or artificial pressure on prices. We must take a closer look. The purpose of the motion is to shed light on the issue and to find the means to decrease the supply-side pressure toward price increases, while ensuring the availability of gas when needed.

I will close by saying that heavy demand during periods such as the Easter and Christmas holidays and the construction holidays are not unpredictable. These events occur at the same time every year. How is it that prices magically increase?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
BQ

Paule Brunelle

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Paule Brunelle (Trois-Rivières, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to this motion, because the price of gas affects our entire economy, the entire population and, above all, many workers, who, in order to earn a living, must constantly contend with very high gas prices. The price is skyrocketing, the refining margin is three times too high and oil company profits are truly obscene. The price at the regular pump was $1.15, on average, last week in Quebec City, and $1.17 in Trois-Rivières on May 7. The average refining margin reached a record high at 23¢. That is three times too high, as the hon. member for Joliette was saying, when we know that a profit of 5¢ to 7¢ is enough for the oil companies to earn a reasonable profit on refining.

The price of petroleum products could remain high over the summer, especially since the cost of crude oil continues to rise. Who is pocketing the profits in the end? It is the oil companies, of which there are only six major companies. There are six major oil companies in Canada, and together, they earned a record profit of nearly $12 billion in 2006, an increase of 25% over 2005. It was unbelievable, but that record profit of 2005 was 70% higher than in 2004. It is becoming apparent that the oil and gas sector really needs to be controlled. The entire economy is threatened by the increase in the cost of this very strategic resource. We in the Bloc Québécois believe it is possible, at least in part, to avoid increases in prices for gasoline and other petroleum products.

Clearly the rising price of petroleum products has many consequences in our day-to-day lives. For example, in the case of taxis—to give just one example—they cannot change their fares every day according to the gas prices. With vacations coming up, how will our low- and middle-income families cope with this rise in the cost of gas? It increases the cost of all goods, since obviously the rise in transportation costs will be passed on to consumers through increased product prices. In my riding, the Kruger company, in an industry that is already in trouble, will have more problems transporting its wood chips. We think of our truck drivers, whose incomes are constantly dropping. They will have to put in longer hours to make ends meet, and that will lead to higher risks of accidents. Their profits are already very low and they will have something to say about this to the members of this House.

And certainly the increases in the price of gasoline are very harmful to the government, which itself is a very large consumer of gas.

Four main factors explain this rise: the price of crude oil, of course; the refining margin; taxes; and the retail margin.

When we talk about the retail margin, this is the difference between the price paid by retailers to buy their gas and the price they sell it for. Taxes, even though we often find them high, barely fluctuate and in our opinion do not explain the variations in the price of gas since most of these taxes are fixed. Certainly the price of crude oil is set internationally. It is hard to do anything to control this price, but there remain certain factors on which we can have an influence. While supply can still meet demand, it nevertheless has an effect on the rise in prices. Increasingly we see that oil prices are negotiated on the stock market. They are very sensitive to speculation, like any other commodity.

Professor Antoine Ayoub was talking in this connection about the new players, that is the pension funds, that have got into the oil speculation market and that have more influence on the market. We see that, by basing themselves on a number of uncertainties, which my colleague from Joliette talked about, such as the Iraq invasion and the resumption of Iraqi exports, which are always threatening to become problematic, they manage to make the price rise artificially by about US$15 per barrel.

This brings us to the key point of this motion, which has to do with refining.

In North America, companies have significantly streamlined refining activities since 1990. Obviously, to cut costs, they have closed a number of refineries, thus increasing use of their production capacity.

The gap between supply and demand has narrowed, with the result that the smallest climatic or technical problem upsets the balance between these two factors and leads to an increase in prices. The smallest increase in demand for gas sends prices up, as we can see on long weekends and holidays, as though refineries had no way of anticipating this. Why could they not have built up reserves? Any businessperson knows that during peak times, there should be a little more merchandise to sell, to be sure to meet the needs of customers. This remains very hard to understand.

If the government had not stubbornly refused to follow up on the recommendation to create a petroleum monitoring agency, it would have been better able to understand the market and see the crisis coming. We think a petroleum monitoring agency could prevent this situation by sounding the alarm, and propose solutions.

The Bloc Québécois is suggesting that the Competition Act be given more teeth to examine the role of refining margins in the determination of prices. A reasonable refining margin is in the range of 4¢ to 7¢ per litre, as mentioned earlier. In March and April it was more than 15¢ per litre. Last week, it was about 23¢ per litre, four times the reasonable margin. The industry must be disciplined, the Competition Act must be strengthened, the Competition Bureau must be able to investigate and must have real powers of investigation, which it does not have right now, and a petroleum monitoring agency should be established.

Furthermore, this was a recommendation made by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in November 2003. We wonder what the government is waiting for to take action.

As I only have one minute left, I will move the following amendment. I move, seconded by the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, the following amendment:

That the motion be amended by adding after the words “said prices” the following:

and that the government also move to amend the Act to decriminalize the anti-competitive pricing practices and treat them as reviewable under the abuse of dominance provision and furthermore, the government should create a petroleum monitoring agency such as the one proposed by the Bloc Quebecois and recommended in the Fifth Report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology presented in this House on November 7, 2003”.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

I assume that the hon. member has the consent of the mover to put this amendment forward.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette

Naturally.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

The amendment moved by the hon. member for Trois-Rivières is therefore in order.

The debate is on the amendment. The hon. member for Victoria.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
NDP

Denise Savoie

New Democratic Party

Ms. Denise Savoie (Victoria, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments this morning.

It is clear that the taxpayers have to be protected against sudden prices increases, especially given the financial results of oil companies for the first quarter of this year: Imperial Oil, $774 million, and EnCana, $497 million. Taxpayers do need protection, because the big oil companies are making incredibly big profits.

At the same time, it is clear to us, in this House, that the consumption of petroleum products in this country has to be curbed.

What strategy could my colleague suggest to the government to protect in the long term the Canadian people, and the environment also? For the time being, it is clear that the Conservative government is prepared to do neither; it does not want to protect the taxpayers, and it is not prepared to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in absolute terms.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
BQ

Paule Brunelle

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Paule Brunelle

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. She is, of course, giving me the opportunity to talk about an issue that I care about, namely the environment. Obviously, we have to try to reduce our dependency on oil. In order to do so, any measure that would provide more energy efficient vehicles would be welcome. We know that some technological advances have been made in Quebec regarding the electric vehicle. So, if there was less pressure from the automobile industry, we could use this type of vehicles. That would solve part of the problem. It would be one option.

The issue is particularly problematic in Quebec, because we must import all of our oil. Therefore, it is really important to rely on alternative energies and reduce our energy consumption. We must also promote public awareness and continue to educate the public, so that we can truly have a clean environment. In this regard, the Conservative government is definitely showing a lot of flaws and no real political will.

However, one thing that we notice and that is encouraging is that the public is developing what could be called a “green” attitude. Public pressure will certainly come into play and appropriate solutions will be found.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
BQ

Louise Thibault

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Louise Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, Ind.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières has provided concrete examples of the problems experienced by people in various areas. I wonder if she could comment on the whole issue of location, and particularly the regions, where many people live off industries such as agriculture and forestry. Until affordable renewable energies are found, people living in regions will remain very dependent on gas, fuel and oil. I am not saying that we are worse off than others, because everyone is affected.

It is the same thing with the tourism industry, which is hurt by these drastic increases. As the member for Joliette mentioned, every year, of course, these increases always seem to coincide with the summer holidays. Last year, we talked about this issue in June, and this year we are doing so in May.

I wonder if the hon. member could comment on the whole issue of location.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
BQ

Paule Brunelle

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Paule Brunelle

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

It is obvious that land occupancy is a major issue. If we want to keep our regions from emptying out and our large downtown areas from becoming increasingly polluted , we must develop the land. We must be able to develop our natural resources.

In my riding, in particular, there are many businesses, including large paper mills. These excessive fuel costs really represent an enormous problem. Companies have to travel farther and farther for lumber, at increasingly higher cost. In addition, after so many years, the softwood lumber agreement led to the collapse and closure of many companies. It also obliged our companies to leave a billion dollars on the table. As a result, there has been a drop in profit margins, which has led to mass layoffs.

Yes, indeed, this whole question of gas is crucial to our economy.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
CPC

Colin Carrie

Conservative

Mr. Colin Carrie (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Langley.

I am pleased to rise today to take part in the debate on the opposition motion with respect to gasoline prices.

I have heard the comments of my colleagues during their speeches. Both as a member of Parliament and as a consumer, I too share their concerns about high prices, whether for gasoline or any other product.

I certainly understand the impact of high gasoline prices on individuals and businesses, particularly small businesses. No one wants to pay any more than they have to for anything.

The matter we have before us today, however, is whether the proposal put forward by the Bloc is appropriate.

I understand the reaction of Canadian consumers to recent price increases. They are frustrated and they are angry. They are looking to the government to do something to stop the increases in gasoline prices. The frustration goes even further when average Canadians hear of a petroleum company's announcement of record profits.

However, gasoline prices are a complex issue. Many different factors come into play in determining the price Canadian consumers pay at the pump. Some of these factors are international, national, regional and even local in nature. As we have seen the last couple of years, events halfway around the world can impact the price of gasoline right here in Canada.

The question we have to ask is whether the Bloc's motion will actually accomplish anything. I submit that it would not.

In the Canadian economy businesses are generally free to set their own prices, dictated by market forces. Sometimes prices go up; sometimes they go down. The setting of prices is dictated by the market forces of supply and demand. For example, rising prices are often an indication of low inventory.

The Bloc's motion seeks to amend the Competition Act to give the Competition Bureau the power to initiate investigations into the price of gas. The Competition Bureau has already investigated the price of gas numerous times since 1990. While I know some of this has already been discussed, I believe the following bears repeating.

The Competition Act ensures that Canada has a competitive marketplace and that all Canadians enjoy the benefits of competitive prices and product choices, including a convenient and ample supply of quality products that respond to consumers' preferences.

When it comes to high prices, the Competition Bureau will be concerned only when they are the result of anti-competitive conduct contrary to the Competition Act.

The Competition Act includes provisions against price fixing, price maintenance, and abusive behaviour by a dominant firm resulting in the lessening of competition. The act applies to gasoline and other petroleum product markets as well as every other sector in the Canadian economy.

Pursuant to the Competition Act, if the Commissioner of Competition has reason to believe that an offence has been committed or that a company has abused its dominant position in a market, the commissioner can either refer matters for prosecution or seek a remedial order by the Competition Tribunal respectively.

Over the years the Competition Bureau has been very active in matters relating to gasoline and other petroleum products, including prosecution and merger reviews. In addition, the bureau has commissioned expert reports on an array of issues related to the sector. Documents related to these activities are available on the bureau's website. I would encourage all hon. members to go to the bureau's website and see for themselves.

When examinations of the petroleum industry yielded evidence of conduct contrary to the act, the bureau has initiated enforcement action. Since 1972, 13 inquiries relating to gasoline or heating oil prices have led to trials. Eight of these cases concluded with convictions.

Since 1990 the Competition Bureau has conducted six major investigations related to the gasoline industry. In each case it found no evidence to suggest that periodic price increases resulted from a national conspiracy to limit competition in gasoline supply or from abusive behaviour by dominant firms in the market. Instead, market forces such as supply and demand, and rising crude oil prices were found to have caused the price increases.

Last year the Competition Bureau concluded its examination of high gasoline prices following hurricane Katrina. The bureau found no evidence of a national conspiracy to fix gasoline prices. The dramatic reduction in supply resulting from severe damage to the North American refining capacity caused the spike in gasoline prices.

It is also important to mention that the Competition Bureau monitors gasoline prices to ensure that they are the result of market forces and not the result of anti-competitive acts which would be contrary to the act.

Gasoline prices across Canada have risen lately due to increases in the world price of crude oil, the major cost component in a litre of gasoline, as well as low inventories. Nothing in what I have just reviewed indicates that there is any need to amend the Competition Act.

In considering this motion, I urge all hon. members to recall that the Competition Bureau exists to promote and maintain competition in all sectors of the economy, including the petroleum industry by educating businesses and consumers, promoting compliance with the Competition Act and taking enforcement action when necessary.

In conclusion, increases in gasoline prices resulting from anti-competitive behaviour are already dealt with through existing provisions in the Competition Act. Therefore, I see no need for this motion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the easiest approach to the gas issue is to do what previous governments did and what the present government is doing, which is nothing. It is simple. There is competition in the gas sector. Six big companies are constantly getting richer, and the prices rise at the same time, at the same intersection, in the same way, quite by chance. In Montreal, there are four companies at the same intersection. It is curious. Between 10 o’clock and 10:15, the prices all go up at the same time by the same amount. And they tell us there is competition. When certain products are on special at Provigo, they are not necessarily on special at Métro, because there is real competition. At a given time, the price of other items falls. That is how it works.

The gas companies tell us —and this is what my question will be about— that if the price of gas goes up, it is because things are not going well in the world. It is strange that things never go well around the Saint-Jean-Baptiste holiday, just before Christmas holidays and just before the start of summer vacation, the construction holidays.

If there is no need for closer monitoring of the gas companies in terms of competition, how does he explain that when the world price of crude increases and the price of a litre of gas should go up by 2¢, 3¢ or 4¢, it goes up by 20¢, 25¢ or 30¢? Why do events in the Middle East influence the profit margins of Shell, Exxon, Imperial, etc., here in Canada? The fact is that the world price of crude is only a pretext. We need a monitoring agency. I ask the member why he does not see the need for one.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
CPC

Colin Carrie

Conservative

Mr. Colin Carrie

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and for giving me the opportunity to clarify things a little bit.

When we are looking at the absolute price of gasoline, it is not just as he said, one event around the world. We have to take in events in combination, internationally, nationally and locally. We are looking at issues of supply and demand, the market.

What is really curious in this debate though is why Bloc Québécois members are supporting Bill C-288. If their issue is the price of gasoline, they are supporting a bill that would cause a 60% increase in the cost of a litre of gas. I find this quite hypocritical. If today we are going to be debating and standing up for consumers, saying consumers are paying too much for gas, why would the official position of the Bloc Québécois be to support a bill that known economists say would dramatically raise the price per litre? It could be $1.60. It could be up to $2.00 per litre of gas. I see that the whole motion that the Bloc brought forward is very hypocritical.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
LIB

Dan McTeague

Liberal

Hon. Dan McTeague (Pickering—Scarborough East, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about hypocrisy. He is a member of a party that has proposed changes in its own act which will in effect have the effect of raising gasoline prices.

Let us not go back that far. Let us go back to what his leader said in 2004. He ran in the campaign in the riding of Oshawa. I know him very well. He is a decent individual. The Prime Minister made it very clear at the time that he was going to drop the GST on gasoline prices as they went above 85¢ a litre. That hon. member and his party know that they broke a campaign promise.

Since the hon. member has so much faith in the Competition Act, how does he reconcile a Competition Act written in 1986 by McMillan Binch Mendelsohn representing Imperial Oil? Is it any wonder that it has never been able to find any evidence of conspiracy or collusion? Has the hon. member taken the time to look as to whether anybody has even made a request to look at conspiracy or collusion?

He knows full well that we have four dominant players who do not compete against each other right across the country. The price of wholesale gasoline is in fact 3¢ a litre this morning in Oshawa, higher than it is in the United States. How can that member stand up and say there is nothing wrong? With his arguments, he is ripping off his own constituents. He should explain himself now.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
CPC

Colin Carrie

Conservative

Mr. Colin Carrie

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member did bring up, we did mention that we would be reducing the GST and we did reduce the GST from 7% down to 6%.

I find it ironic again that the Liberal Party would bring forward this issue when in fact when it was in government, it did absolutely nothing on this entire issue. If we are looking at the Liberal Party position right now, I have some interesting quotes and some statements made by the leader right now of the Liberal Party--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. Resuming debate.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
CPC

Mark Warawa

Conservative

Mr. Mark Warawa (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Oshawa, for his hard work on the environment. He is doing a great job.

I am pleased to rise in the House to participate in today's debate. The price of gasoline is a serious issue and an issue of great concern to Canadians from coast to coast. But it is much more than a cost issue. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, I see how the government is balancing environmental protection and economic prosperity.

As Canadians, we want a safe and healthy environment, one that contributes to our well-being and quality of life. Canadians care about the environment. They expect government to lead in acting to protect the environment. At the same time, they want a government that balances environmental protection while ensuring a successful economy. The record of the other parties in achieving that balance is miserable.

Let me turn for a moment to the record of the other parties in this House on the cost of gasoline to Canadian consumers. On August 24, 2005, the Montreal Gazette published the following:

Canadians and many of his own colleagues might be cringing when they see the price at the pumps these days, but high gas prices are actually good for Canada in the medium and long term, said [the] federal Environment Minister.

That person is now the leader of the Liberal Party.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
?

An hon. member

Unbelievable.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink
CPC

Mark Warawa

Conservative

Mr. Mark Warawa

It is unbelievable.

Of course, then there is the deputy Liberal leader who, during the leadership debate, called for a form of carbon tax that would push up the price of gasoline. Just a couple of months ago, the Liberals were praising a $100 billion carbon tax, which again would have increased the price of gasoline.

Then there is the Liberal member for Ajax—Pickering who was quoted in the September 11, 2005, Toronto Star as having said, “A lot of analysts say gas at $1.50 a litre is well within sight”. Then there are the Bloc members who have signed on to supporting the Liberal carbon tax plan, Bill C-288.

The costs of this so-called environmental plan were independently analyzed by some of Canada's leading economists and experts, people like Don Drummond and Mark Jaccard. Don Drummond was a former senior public servant under the previous Liberal government and is now a vice-president of the TD Bank and Mark Jaccard is another well-respected expert on environmental issues. What did they find? They found that under the Liberal plan, backed by their buddies in the Bloc, Canadians stand to lose 275,000 jobs. That is terrible. Also, under the Liberal plan, the price of gasoline would increase a whopping 60%.

I am from the Vancouver area, the riding of Langley, and the price out there right now is $1.269. If we add 60% on to that, it is over $1.90 a litre. That is what the Liberals want and that is what the Bloc wants. I guess that $1.50 a litre predicted by the member for Ajax—Pickering just was not enough tax on the backs of Canadians and families and businesses. That plan from the Liberals and the Bloc does not get it done on the environment or the economy.

Let us talk about the actions that our government is taking, not only to improve the environment but also the economy. For example, our government is taking a number of actions to reduce pollution from the transportation sector. These actions would not only reduce our greenhouse emissions but would also have economic benefits for Canadians.

The government is also assisting small communities and large cities by investing $33 billion in infrastructure, including public transit. The tax credit for public transit passes, first introduced in budget 2006, is being extended to initiate fare products, such as electronic fare cards and weekly passes.

All these resources are designed with one goal in mind; and that is, to help Canadians make better and more environmentally responsible decisions.

Renewable fuels are cleaner fuels that reduce air pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The government recently announced its intention to develop a regulation requiring a 5% average renewable content by volume, such as ethanol, a Canadian gasoline, by 2010. Renewable fuel production is a new market opportunity for farmers and the rural communities.

Budget 2006 included $365 million to assist farmers in realizing opportunities through agricultural bioproducts, including renewable fuels. To meet the requirements of the proposed regulations, over 2 billion litres of renewable fuel will be required, creating tremendous business opportunities for Canadian renewable fuel and agriculture producers.

Budget 2007 invests up to $2 billion in support of renewable fuel production in Canada to help meet those requirements, including up to $1.5 billion for an operating incentive, and $500 million for next generation renewable fuels.

Support under the program to individual companies will be capped to ensure that the benefits are provided to a wide range of participants in the sector, not just the large oil producing companies. That is fair.

Budget 2007 also makes $500 million over seven years available to Sustainable Development Technology Canada to invest in the private sector in establishing large scale facilities for the production of next generation renewable fuels. Next generation renewable fuels produced from agricultural and wood waste products, such as wheat straw, cornstalk, wood residue and switchgrass, have the potential to generate even greater environmental benefits than the traditional renewable fuels.

Canada is well positioned to become a world leader in the development and commercialization of next generation fuels. For example, the Ottawa based Iogen is one of Canada's leading biotechnology firms. It operates the world's only demonstration scale facility to convert biomass to cellulose ethanol using enzyme technology. I encourage a visit to that wonderful facility.

Transportation is one of the largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases in Canada. Cars, trucks, trains and planes all add to air pollution and they account for over one-quarter of all greenhouse gases and air pollutant emissions in Canada. For the first time, the Government of Canada will regulate cars and light trucks to ensure they use fuel more efficiently. Our standard will be based on a stringent North American standard. We will work hard with the United States to pursue a clean auto pact that will create an environmentally ambitious North American standard for cars and light duty trucks.

We will make air pollution rules for vehicles and engines that are sources of smog, like motorcycles, personal watercraft, snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, and align them with world leading standards. We will also continue to take action to reduce emissions from the rail, marine and aviation sectors and we will work with our U.S. neighbours to administer these regulations as efficiently as possible.

Those are all great things that the government is doing to balance the environment and the economy. Unlike the Bloc members, who have done absolutely nothing but complain in this place for years and have nothing to show for it, it is this government that is getting it done for Canadians and the environment.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Business of Supply
Sub-subtopic:   Opposition motion—Gasoline Prices
Permalink

May 8, 2007