Hon. Alastair Gillespie (Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and Minister of State for Science and Technology):
Mr. Speaker, in my remarks this afternoon I dealt with some aspects of the bill before us, and I pointed to the incredible complacency which the official opposition has shown with respect to this bill. They have taken the position right from the very start that there was no emergency, that there would be no oil emergency, and that it just could not happen here in this country. There may be a revolution in Iran and shortages of
March 20, 1979
oil, but it is just not going to affect Canada and there is no reason why we should prepare against this eventuality.
Against that complacent, short-sighted, irresponsible attitude, the opposition has also taken a relaxed attitude with respect to the process of this bill. They have felt that they could eat up valuable time in the House as they have done. We spent over one week on the report stage, which in itself is quite unusual particularly as we dealt with many of the same amendments in the committee stage and disposed of those amendments during that stage.
However, they reintroduced these amendments, particularly amendment No. 2, on which we spent three days. We spent another day or so on three other amendments introduced by the hon. member for Peace River (Mr. Baldwin) which, as the hon. member for Sault Ste. Marie (Mr. Symes) pointed out, if they had been accepted, would have subverted the very intention of the bill itself. They would have removed power from the emergency supplies allocation board and emasculated the ability of the board to deal with an emergency in Canada created outside of Canada by a revolution in Iran, by events in the Middle East, or by OPEC actions which might be related to the recent events in the Middle East.
Canada has solemn treaty obligations under the International Emergency Agency which the official opposition has never faced up to. Those solemn treaty obligations require us, as a nation, to institute demand restraint policies and programs in the event that the International Energy Agency, through its emergency oil-sharing arrangement, decides that there has been a reduction of 7 per cent in the consumption of the member countries or for any one particular country-and that is important-or any one identifiable region within any one particular country.
If consumption of oil is reduced by 7 per cent as a result of a shortfall of supplies, which could mean a reduction of imports in any one country or any region, then the international energy emergency oil-sharing arrangement could be activated for all 19 members of the International Energy Agency. As hon. members know, we are now very close to that number. At the present time the shortage as a result of the revolution in Iran is equivalent to about 5 per cent of world oil consumption. Having gone from zero to a 5 per cent reduction in the few months since Iran cut off production in late December, it does not seem to me that it requires any great stretch of the imagination to see how, if that could happen in three months, it is quite possible we could be faced with a situation where reduction in world consumption would be close to 7 per cent, or that it could be in any one country such as, for example, Japan, which is a very exposed country. If that one country were exposed, it would have the right, under the articles of association of the International Energy Agency, to ask the agency to apply the emergency oil-sharing arrangement. As a country, we would have to comply with these treaty obligations and Canadians would want us to do so. The only way it could be done, however, is with the powers given in this bill. That is why it is so important to the government that we proceed with dispatch.
The bill was introduced for second reading debate over a month ago, and I submit it has received more than sufficient attention. Indeed, it has been subjected to a great deal of delaying tactics. As I pointed out, when one looks at the history of the opposition with respect to energy measures, that is not surprising. They have never regarded a policy position on energy as important for Canada. Historically they have taken the view that we could let somebody else decide- perhaps the province of Alberta. That has been the position of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Clark). He has not addressed himself to any one of the series of important energy questions.
In this debate we have once again seen that complacent attitude. It has been manifested by the energy critic of the official opposition, the hon. member for Northumberland-Dur-ham (Mr. Lawrence). He has taken the attitude which in an energy crisis would be to say, "Let the multinationals do it. Let Exxon decide what is best for us." On this side of the House we are not prepared to accept that kind of an attitude.
I have gone over the reasons for the bill, Mr. Speaker, and the possibility, indeed the increasing probability, of having to use the measures in the bill in a shorter period of time than one might have speculated even a few weeks ago.
Hon. members will have read in the press about the situation in the United States and the measures that President Carter will be placing before Congress. Congress will address those measures very shortly as they consider how to deal with the important demand restraint obligation they have. They are looking at the possibility of closing down service stations on Sundays and, if that is not sufficient, they may have to close them down for whole weekends as well. One can see the series of events which could be triggered by this kind of move and which could impact on Canada.
There are significant powers in this bill, Mr. Speaker. There is no question about that. It contains arbitrary powers. It is our contention that that is the only way to deal with an emergency which this bill is designed to take care of. These powers are, in one form or another, conditioned. They are necessary to discharge the purposes of the bill but they can only be used in an emergency. They can only be used to achieve these ends.
There are a number of built-in safeguards and controls. For example, parliamentary approval will be needed for the declaration of an emergency and the authorization of the mandatory allocation program as set out in clause 11(3). The mandatory allocation program will lapse each year. It can be authorized for no longer than a year and, at the end of that year, it will automatically lapse and have to be initiated by the government again. That measure will have to be placed before parliament. Approval will have to be sought and given before the mandatory allocation program can continue after one year. There are significant safeguards built in to the mandatory allocation program and the declaration for emergency energy purposes.
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Similarly, the orders and reports are provided for in the bill. Orders with respect to the mandatory allocation program and the amendments to that program and the energy supplies allocation board, which is the administrative board, must provide monthly reports to the minister during an emergency as set out in the bill. It is also set out that any approvals with respect to the mandatory allocation program or amendments to it must be set out and laid before parliament for its information.
If a rationing program has to be introduced-and let us hope it never will-it, too, must be laid before parliament.
There are provisions with respect to environmental concerns, such as sulphur emissions, which provide power for the minister to reduce the environmental standards in particular, exceptional circumstances. In those situations there is provision for public hearings and a report on sulphur emissions. There are a number of other built-in provisions, safeguards, and controls in the bill which contains significant arbitrary powers.
The emergency oil-sharing arrangement of the International Energy Agency will depend for its administration and implementation largely on the multinational oil companies of the world. That is why we have specified in an amendment that Petro-Canada, the Canadian national oil company and a major policy instrument created by this government, should be attached to the standing group on emergency questions, which is the senior executive body of the International Energy Agency concerned with the administration of worldwide emergency programs. That particular group is advised by the International Advisory Board which is made up of multinational oil companies.
The emergency group will issue its instructions for implementation of the program to the office of the International Energy Agency allocation co-ordinator. He will be served by a secretariat and industry-supported advisory group. That secretariat will be working with multinational corporations; that industry supply advisory group will be composed of multinational corporations.
I have taken a few moments to outline the particular arrangement. It is important for Canadians to understand that the multinational oil companies will be the key to the administration and the implementation of any emergency oil-sharing arrangement throughout the world. That is why we believe the Canadian policy instrument, Petro-Canada, as part of Canada's representation, should be associated with the executive body which will be making decisions. In that way we can be sure that decisions which are taken are not taken just for the benefit of others but are taken for the benefit of Canada.
We were reminded recently of how an international company thought it would decide what was best for Canada; it took a decision that was best for somebody else. I am referring to the Exxon diversion of oil from Venezuela. The official opposition has taken the position that maybe the international companies do not always perform in the best interests of Canada. In this connection I am referring to remarks made a
few nights ago by the hon. member from Northumberland-Durham. Maybe right now they are not looking after our best interests but this is not the time, he said, to introduce Petro-Canada to look after Canada's interests. He implied that we should continue to be happy and accept the decisions of international companies-"let them decide what is best for us."
That stand is not acceptable to the Canadian government. But that position is consistent with the position of the Leader of the Opposition who, as recently as last Sunday morning, in a broadcast on CBC radio stated that if he were to form the government and become Prime Minister, he would take action against Petro-Canada, the policy instrument set up to deal with Canadian energy priorities. On earlier occasions he has talked about winding it down, getting rid of it, selling parts of it, or in one way or another emasculating it, but he has now said more than that. He has said that Canada does not need an energy policy instrument like Petro-Canada and that he would get rid of the policy instrument function. I believe his words were, "We would move out of the policy instrument area."
The Leader of the Opposition has not faced up to the fact that over 90 per cent of this strategic industry is controlled by foreign corporations. I do not think he has even faced up to the fact that the oil industry is a strategic industry for Canada. I suggest he has ignored the question until it is now too late. One has seen the unseemly scrambling that the hon. member has gone through recently trying to put together an energy policy which has been described by the critics as a pathetic effort. It has been ridiculed by those who are familiar with the energy situation in this country.
1 commend the Energy Supplies Emergency Act to the House of Commons and to the Canadian people. I would like to conclude by saying that while I recognize the official opposition do not agree with the government's position on energy questions, or on this particular bill, the hon. member for Edmonton West (Mr. Lambert) said in his remarks during debate in this House that the Ontario government does not support this bill. He went on to imply that the Alberta government does not support this bill. He went further than that and said the Canadian people will not support this bill. I do not think he has a very good understanding of how the Canadian people see the energy situation right now.
I issue a challenge to him. If he and his party believe that, let them have the courage of their convictions, let them vote against this bill. This will be an honest position for a party which has shown so little interest in these questions. After having voted against the bill, then I would suggest it might be a good time for us to turn to the Canadian people and say, "Here is the issue. The opposition has made it quite clear how it feels about it. You know how we feel about it. You choose."
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: ENERGY SUPPLIES EMERGENCY ACT, 1979 MEASURE TO CONSERVE STOCKS