The hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East will have four minutes remaining, should he wish it, when the House next resumes debate on the question.
The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has expired. The order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
It being 6:31 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 6:31 p.m.)
Before I recognize the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East to resume debate, I will let him know that there are only about six minutes remaining in the time allocated for private members' business for this evening. I am not sure if he will need all of that time, but if he does, we have six minutes. Of course, he will have his remaining time when the House next resumes debate on the question, should he need it.
The hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.
Mr. Speaker, over the past decade, thousands of Canada's brave men and women have deployed to Afghanistan to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. That includes the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East, who served a tour of duty there and several of us who had the honour of spending time there with our troops.
Our nation is well-served by these courageous individuals who have helped strengthen Afghanistan's capacity to rebuild its country and provide basic security. We helped establish security and now for the past two years, Canada has been helping train the Afghan security forces. Now the Afghan security forces are taking over responsibility for all security.
Could the minister please update the House on Canada's contribution to this significant milestone?
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Pickering—Scarborough East for a very articulate and well thought out speech in terms of what the responsibilities are, what the Constitution demands and where our government is planning to go.
I would like to ask the member this: if we were as irresponsible as the NDP and actually voted for this motion, what would the practical outcomes be and how would this actually completely impede the ability of our government and our country to continue to do the important work we need to do?
moved that Bill S-213, An Act respecting a national day of remembrance to honour Canadian veterans of the Korean War, be read the first time.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Pickering—Scarborough East, for seconding the bill. To my knowledge, he is the only member of Parliament sitting here who has not only had a distinguished military career but is an Afghan war veteran as well. I would like to thank him for his support of the legislation.
I am introducing private member's bill, Bill S-213, an act respecting a national day of remembrance to honour Canadian veterans of the Korean War. The bill would designate July 27 each and every year as Korean war veterans day to remember and honour the courage and sacrifice of Canadians who served in the Korean War. I would like to thank my colleague, Senator Martin, for her active and positive role in this file.
Canada's remembrance of the Korean War is one that should be brought to bear given the significant battles that happened there and the number of Canadians who lost their lives in Korea. Also, given that this is the 60th anniversary of the armistice and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, I would appreciate the support of all members in getting the bill passed speedily in the House.
(Motion agreed to, bill read the first time)
The time for government orders has expired. As such, the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East will have five minutes for questions and comments when this matter returns before the House.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Pickering—Scarborough East for his service as a soldier and a member of this House.
NATO did in fact award Canada the Dominique-Jean Larrey Award, the highest NATO awarded bestowed for medical support. This is in recognition of the excellent work Canadians did at the Role 3 hospital established and run by great Canadians at the Kandahar airfield between 2006 and 2009. It recognizes the exemplary health care provided to the wounded in an extremely difficult security environment in Afghanistan. Casualties treated at Role 3 facility had a 98% survival rate. This is a testament to the extraordinary dedication and professionalism of the Canadian military health care providers. I congratulate them all.
Order, order. Order. I am certain that the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East would like to hear the question from the member for Malpeque. There is too much noise in the chamber.
The hon. member for Malpeque has the floor.
We have had sufficient interventions. I would ask that members keep their comments to themselves. If they wish to carry on conversations with their colleagues, I would ask them to please take it out to the lobby. The House is where we are presenting speeches, asking questions and making comments for other hon. members who wish to listen.
The hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.
I think we are really talking about a matter of debate with respect to the facts that hon. members have said. The hon. member will know that members are given a great degree of freedom in terms of the ideas they wish to express in the House. I did not hear anything that was unparliamentary in that respect.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.
Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat odd to hear the NDP member talk about time allocation. I note that he has actually spoken to the bill twice, taking up a slot of the onslaught of NDP members who, apparently, want to speak to this bill.
I wonder if the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East could talk about some of the dangers to the Canadian economy of the reckless NDP attitude to filibuster this bill, hold it in the House and not allow it to go to committee so that we could actually hear from more witnesses, perhaps consider some technical amendments, such as the Liberal member noted, and bring back a bill that works for Canadians and that protects our artists and our creators?
The hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East.
Mr. Speaker, I also look forward to my colleague's speech. I think it was former Bill C-427 by the member for Pickering—Scarborough East.
I have a question for the hon. member for Malpeque, the legend from Malpeque, as we call him. When it comes to this legislation, I find it, in many regards, highly restrictive, which he has already touched on. However, could he bear down on some of the details of just how restrictive this is? One of them is the civilian staff being dictated to about its membership and about the way it is to be organized.
We always hope that when progressive legislation is brought forward in this place, especially when it comes to the rights to collective bargaining, we like to raise the bar to better representation than a group had before. This one, however, lowers the bar in many respects according to the member's speech.
The article that he pointed out is a good illustration. If he could comment on that, plus just how restrictive it is and what key amendments should be made here.
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Pickering—Scarborough East for his work on copyright over the years and also IP protection. He spearheaded an all-party effort as we dealt with knock-offs, everything from the products developed to go in to the airline industry, to the hospitals, circuit breakers, a series of things. We looked at the consequences of those who stole those ideas and designs that affected everyone else. He has done a commendable job on that issue.
On this issue, I have a concern with regard to students, and I would like to hear his response to it. One thing suggested in the bill is if students purchase lessons, they have to destroy them within a certain time period after the completion of the lesson. I am of the view that is pretty harsh on students. They should be allowed to purchase that information and keep it.
In the past, although my French language skills are poor at best, and I have tried many times, I have purchased programs and gone to some different classes for that. I was able to keep the material to reference later on. Taking away what we have purchased is not fair if we use it the way it was supposed to be and do not produce it for others or share it them. If we own it, we own it and we should be able to maintain it.
Could the member share his views on that? There are a few learning issues related to the copyright bill that need some attention. I do not think it is balanced for those issues just yet.
Madam Speaker, for obvious reasons, I am comfortable with this subject. I cannot support a bill that promotes petty treatment of small gas retailers across the country. I thought that the government was trying to help at a time when rising energy prices cannot be explained by supply and demand. This is a real problem that the government does not want to hear about or deal with.
I am very concerned about Bill C-14 for a number of reasons, which I will be permitted to expand on at some length. Hon. colleagues will know that this is an issue that I have spent a considerable amount of time on. I have devoted my time. I thank the people of Pickering—Scarborough East for indulging me over the years, as well as the people of Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge and the people of Ontario riding, all three ridings over time representing a good chunk of Canadians, or well over half a million Canadians in that period of time.
I am concerned because this bill suggests, lends itself to or gives the impression that it is doing something which is patently false. The government is not going to give the public any reassurance whatsoever that prices they will pay at the pump, or in fact the measurement, are going to be accurate.
I mentioned earlier the concern I had with respect to how the government is portraying this particular issue. To suggest that somehow it is achieving fairness at the pumps, or as the Minister of Industry lamentably, and I would suggest slanderously, suggested that retailers in this country are chiselling people is simply not only incorrect; it is misleading and it is wrong. The minister ought to have apologized.
Given that the minister has not, he has constructed a body of regulation, which in my view and I think in the view of Measurement Canada, in and of itself will do very little if anything except to undermine the integrity of what is left of competition at the retail level in the gasoline industry in Canada.
Just before the Prime Minister provoked an election, breaking his own word, the industry committee had an opportunity to look at one of the major reasons why energy prices were going up in 2008. It had everything to do with a loophole created that allowed a lack of oversight to the commodities industries around the world. We can recall that energy prices in July 2008, as far as oil was concerned, reached $150 a barrel virtually. The price at the pumps went up substantially. There were a number of other causes and effects, including commodity costs for food and other forms of energy.
The industry committee had one day to look at this before the Prime Minister pulled the rug out from under us in order to obtain an election. Rather than looking at the issue that was confronting Canadians and undermining their standard of living and undermining, as it continuously does, their issue of balancing the cost of living, the government instead chose to pick an article that appeared in May 2008 in the Ottawa Citizen and give it some credibility by talking about it without any actual verification of the numbers, to allow wild extrapolations in terms of the number of pumps that are askew.
Rather than dealing with the fact that we have lost a significant number of refineries in this country due to mergers and acquisitions, rather than dealing with the fact that wholesale prices now move up in lockstep in most provinces and most large communities across this country, rather than dealing with the unfairness of temperature compensation, and I will explain that in a moment, the government chose to narrowly go after the odd gas retailer.
All this would be correct if in fact we learned that the government knew full well that 94% of all the pumps it tested over a rigorous years' period proved to be accurate. Of the 6% that were found to be inaccurate, 2% actually gave consumers more product, and while 4% may have been askew, one would really have to make an argument, both in court and in the public domain, to suggest that somehow gas retailers were involved with chiselling the public.
If the hon. members in the government who proposed this bill had taken the time to actually learn how a pump works, they might find, as we see in so many other instances, that there is obviously a duty of care but retailers may not know that a pump is broken, they may not know that the pulser, which is part of the electronic process, may have malfunctioned, they may not know there is a mechanical problem even after they have tested and even after they have calibrated.
Why is that important to know? It is because they may realize there is a problem, through no fault of their own, and they will test that. Why do they want to test that? It is very simple. No reasonable retail gas retailer in this country is going to want to have a gas pump that malfunctions. The reason is that their volumes will be out, and their logistics and inventory report, which they have to make day in and day out to ensure accuracy for their own economic reasons, are there.
The incentive to do something wrong is certainly not there, but more importantly, there has been no jurisprudence here. There has been no case, to my knowledge, where someone has been convicted of deliberately defrauding someone. If that is the case then I want to hear about it because I have not heard a single cogent argument coming from the government to justify this. It is in fact a solution in search of a problem.
We know that it can lend itself and head toward some very unintended consequences, including penalizing and skewing an industry whose representatives, mom and pop gas station retailers and other people, are working day in and day out, 24 hours a day, seven days a week to try to make a living. The government has the audacity of penalize them and call them chisellers and suggest somehow it is going to remedy the situation with a magic wand saying, poof, we now have new effective fairness at the pumps. This is misleading to Canadians. This is telling Canadians that something is going to happen that does not. I am surprised to see in a few media reports that somehow they have bought this line. It is not going to do anything to help Canadians. Let us understand that when we target a particular industry we had better back it up with facts.
The facts we have before us are very simple, and I suggest this to the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. I have measurement compliance rates from 2005 to 2009, which will take in the period of the Ottawa Citizen article and all the other little things the government says it has done, through Measurement Canada by sector. I have about 30 of them here, which includes sectors where there are less than five data points, where there is not a lot of oversight and inspection, but it has a number of areas: hardware stores, retail rubber products, general merchandise, laundries, cleaners, piece goods, precious metals and stones, alcoholic beverages, honey and apiary, non-metallic minerals, quarries and sandpits, waste collection, transportation, metal scrap, fruit and vegetable, fur and skin, retail gasoline, dairy farms, dairy products, textiles, chemical products, food and beverage manufacturing, electricity, livestock, poultry and there are a few others.
In looking at Measurement Canada's own guide of these 30 or so industries, we find that retail gasoline is the second highest most compliant in the country. So we are going after an industry whose reputation is very good by our own analysis and yet we have a government that wants to target them. With a 93.11% compliance rate, it is only slightly behind honey and apiary at 93.33%. That surprises me because if it is not an admission that the government has this terribly wrong and is targeting the wrong industry, why for goodness' sake has it not gone after the quarries and sandpits industry with a 47.42% accuracy rate? Why has it not gone after the electricity industry? The government says that we use gasoline. Well the last time I checked, this place was lit up by electricity. Its compliance rate from Measurement Canada is 74.19%. One-quarter of what we are buying may not be accurate, and industries and consumers use it day in and day out. Our country is driven by this and yet Measurement Canada, through the direction of the government, decided we are going to target the good guys here.
We are going to go after them because we do not want the public to know that currently energy prices are being manipulated through a lack of oversight both in terms of the trading platforms at NYMEX and around the world. We do not want to let people know that there have been a number of strategic withdrawals of refineries in Canada, removing supply and as a result artificially bumping up the price of gasoline. We do not want to talk about a Competition Act, written in 1986 by the oil industry at the invitation of the then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to go and rearrange the Competition Act in such a way that it would be the first time that a western country has allowed its very act of policing the commercial industries to be policed by the very people it is meant to police.
It seems to me that we have missed the point here and the government has done something that is classic smoke and mirrors. This is a distraction. This is to give people the impression that somehow when they are pumping gasoline in fact they are not getting what they pay for.
There are probably in excess of 130,000 pumps in this country. There are about 70 billion litres of gasoline and diesel dispensed. I was able to get this document finally from Measurement Canada after three and a half months of requests. They finally gave it to me with one week's notice to review this in advance of this debate and of course for our presence in committee. I was surprised to learn that the $20 million from Measurement Canada, which the government is trotting out as being the annual average rip-off of Canadians, actually turns out to be $8 million, because it recognizes that $12 million of that could have actually gone in favour of the consumer.
That being the case, we know the government is somewhat challenged when it comes to statistics. We know it has a problem with Statistics Canada as it relates to the census, but that should not be surprising, given how it extrapolates its views with respect to statistics and data that it tends to trot out, which it knows to be wrong, which it knows to be false.
Let us put that into context. The average skew of gasoline in Canada is 0.018. That pales in comparison to what is occurring today, which the government does not want to talk about. I am not sure whether it believes that this is acceptable. We have not heard much from it. I have put forth changes to the Competition Act and suggested that we have a petroleum price monitoring agency, for which the Liberal government advocated and implemented and which the Conservative government killed as its first act upon taking over in Parliament in 2006.
Canadians would have what Americans and others around the world have, a better understanding of the inventory picture in the country, but no, Conservatives do not want Canadians to have that. They want Canadians to believe that 0.018% of the time, there might be a skew and they might not actually get what they pay for, but they say nothing of the fact that in Toronto today, there is a 5.3¢ ripoff. In Vancouver it is 9¢. In Montreal it is 6.3¢. In Ottawa today it is 6.1¢.
This is ludicrous. We are worried about 0.018% on a litre of gasoline, but we do not think that 5.5¢, 7¢, 8¢ or 9¢ is a problem. Do the math, and for the media that happens to be watching this, maybe they could do the same as well because, frankly, this is unacceptable. It is in fact not only false; it is a fraud. I cannot, in all good conscience, support something like this, which is meant to do something that it will not do, that is, to give false expectations to consumers who rightly ask the question, “Why has Ottawa failed us?” I could go into substantial detail of why that is, but let us talk about the bigger picture.
We know this morning that commodity prices on food, particularly corn, have skyrocketed. This may be in response to certain economic conditions around the world. The media seems to be focused on potash, but the bigger question is this. How do prices get manipulated? How is it possible that we have abandoned regulatory oversight of how trading on these markets, the energy markets above all, is avoided? Why do we not understand or care in this country, and why do we hear nothing from the finance minister, or anybody on that bench, about what the Americans and many other parts of the world, particularly Europe, France and Britain, are saying? They are saying that it is time to get control of the derivatives, the swap dealers. These are dealers that were created in light of a loophole created in 2000.
Some colleagues here in the House will remember that the year 2000 was the famous year in which the 262-page report of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act took place that allowed energy traders to establish their own exchanges in which to trade contracts and then of course be exempted on exchanges in their entirety from government regulation. That has led to the direct impoverishment and to the consequences of the 2008 period of time in which energy prices spiked.
We could talk about collusion and conspiracy, which is always a convenient argument that is brought out, but I have to remind colleagues that we have to have competitors who would otherwise have different prices, meeting in the dark of night under little lamps, conspiring to bring prices together. That era of competition at the retail level and, more importantly, at the refinery level, is gone. It is over.
Wholesale prices by city are established usually by a leader. In Canada, nominally that tends to be Imperial Oil, at about 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. every day. That wholesale price is simply followed within a microsecond, and whatever that price is, it is traded publicly. It is available to most Canadians if they want to see it. It is not, as a result, price-fixing but rather a distinct, severe and almost pathetic lack of competition in Canada at the wholesale level.
We had very little discussion recently regarding the affect of declining suppliers on the Canadian market. In eastern Canada the Shell refinery closure in Montreal has meant that a once slack supply situation throughout eastern Canada, particularly the Maritimes, Quebec and part of Ontario, is now affected. How is it affected? Let us look at it this way.
Three months ago, wholesale prices in Montreal and Toronto were on average a penny and a half below Toronto. As of last night, those wholesale numbers have changed rather dramatically. They are now a penny and a half above Toronto. As a result of the closure of the refinery in Montreal, Canadians, not the industry, not its apologists or those who ignore it in the media, pay the freight.
Canadians will have to pay more. Looking at that difference of 2.5¢ a litre in the past three months added to the bill of every ordinary Canadian, who uses 100 litres a week, winds up being $2.50 to the average family multiplied by 52 weeks. Canadians have now been told they can pay another $250.
The fact that we cannot look at this issue more intently means Canadians will continue to suffer. It means Canadians will continue to realize just how irrelevant Parliament, and more important the Conservative government, is with respect to coming up with solutions.
I know of no jurisdiction, particularly the United States or Europe, that would tolerate the exit from the market of a player. It would not tolerate the level of concentration in our country. It would it accept that the Competition Act, written by the very people it is meant to police, would ultimately be chaired by somebody who worked for the industry.
We all recall the issue in 2000 of Superior Propane. I brought a bill before the House to prevent a monopoly to occur in the propane industry, and it passed. Our friends in the other place, many of whom sat on the boards of directors of many of these companies, decided they would not allow the bill to go through. I was surprised to learn that the current Competition Commissioner, with all due respect, was counsel for Superior Propane, which obtained that monopoly. Talk about the fox marching into the chicken coop.
Nothing has amazed me more than this industry because money talks. We have been woeful in our ability to address the real substantive dollar and cents issues that Canadians want us to tackle. I am not against this industry. I want the industry to flourish. I want energy markets to behave in a way that responds to the fundamentals of supply and demand. However, what I have is thin drool and dribble coming from the government by it saying that it will target the very people who have been targeted for years.
The people who have lost in our country are hard-working independent gas retailers. Day in and day out they try to eke out a living with very skinny margins and are often subject to predatory pricing created by a Competition Act that has been decidedly in favour of one thing, and that is intensification of monopolization.
If I have done anything in 17 years as a member of Parliament, it is to try to illustrate the economic injustice that is occurring. I will not lend my name to this bill. I will not support this bill. I encourage members of Parliament to look at the bill, look at the bigger picture, look at the real issues and vote it down.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-14 today.
I wanted to start out by making some comments about the Bloc's initiative in Bill C-452, because I really feel that that is a game-changer. That is an actual solid response to a long-term problem.
The bill is a very short bill, but it basically amends the Competition Act to authorize the commissioner to inquire into an entire industry sector. As the previous Bloc speaker has pointed out, in order to launch an investigation under the Competition Act, a complaint has to be made, and that is essentially the problem that has occurred over the years. We really need the Competition Bureau to be able to act very independently and be very proactive when it sees price-fixing going on in the gas industry.
I have been dealing with this issue now since probably 1988, when we went from government to opposition in Manitoba, and my job was to ask a lot of questions every day about gas prices. We looked at a whole range of ways to deal with the issue. As a matter of fact, the Conservative minister in Manitoba at the time, Jim Ernst, who was very frustrated too, I might say, was determined to follow this issue through as far as he could. He was aware that there were already 125 studies on this very topic sitting on the shelves gathering dust. Nevertheless he went and commissioned another one, so we are up to 126 now probably, and at the end of the day that study came up with the same conclusions that all the others did, that yes, in fact there was price-fixing going on but the Competition Act would have to be changed in order to get a conviction. So we found that that was not going to be the route to go.
Once again, he was the minister and I was the opposition critic, so we were not exactly working together on the subject because I was asking him questions every day as to what he was doing about the matter.
That was the issue of the study. Then we looked at the regulatory options, and we were aware that in the Maritimes there were regulatory boards available, regulating gas prices, but we watched them closely over the years and found out that they were not the answer either, because in fact they tended to regulate simply to the highest price.
I think the public would be very supportive of a monitoring agency or a regulatory agency if in fact they were going to see a regulatory agency with teeth, one that was going to be able to reduce the prices and not just approve the increases. What we will find, if we look at the Maritime regulatory boards, is that they regulate up to the higher price, and that has always been my objection to that approach.
At the end of the day of course, the gasoline prices are pretty much dependent upon world pricing, world events and availability of supplies. When there are examples of refineries impacted by severe storms and hurricanes in the southern United States, such as Louisiana, when refineries are shut down because of weather, storms, explosions or work stoppages, there comes a shortage of product and that creates problems.
We have seen a huge reduction in the number of refineries over the years. In Manitoba, as recently as 20 years ago, I believe we had 2 refineries in the province, and today we have none.
So during this period of the early 1990s, when we were looking at the whole area of studying the issue and changes to the Competition Act and we were looking at regulating gas prices, we were also observing some other developments that were happening within the market. One was to look at possibly bringing gasoline through the port of Churchill because, as members know, we have a port in Manitoba that is very underutilized. However, we have some tanker farms up there where there are a number of tanks, which hold gasoline products that are actually shipped further north. And so, we were looking into the possibility of actually shipping them down to the south by rail.
We also had a number of independent operators who were taking advantage of a very low American price at the time. There was at least one in particular, but I think there were two or three. What this operator would do was drive down to Fargo or Grand Forks, North Dakota, load up from the pipeline there, truck the gasoline up into Winnipeg and sell it at perhaps 10¢ or 20¢ less per litre. It was a substantial amount. The point was that when we turned on the evening television news on a day-by-day basis, we would see cars lined up for blocks to buy gasoline from this gas station, which was being supplied by tankers that were bringing the gas up from the States. But of course this fellow could only operate to the extent of his ability to fill up his tanker truck and bring it back up. He could not get beyond supplying the gasoline for one or two gas stations.
We did look at perhaps expanding on that a bit and trying bring in more tankers of gasoline into some other stations, and we did encounter a lot of different problems in that the transfer of gasoline is certainly not done the way it used to be done years ago. Some of the members opposite who were on farms in the 1950s would know that gasoline was transferred from a little truck that drove to the farm. It would be transferred by a hose into a big tank and then transferred from there into the farm equipment, the tractors and so on. However, things have changed and we cannot drive into town or into a big city anymore with a big tanker truck and start selling gasoline out of the tanker. We did discover that was a fact.
So, we did look at all sorts of areas to try to act on behalf of consumers at that time, and it is easy to do when the prices skyrocket very quickly.
I want to take a minute to talk about the member for Pickering—Scarborough East because he is a long-time Liberal member in this House. We have had Liberal members today talk about this issue as if it were something that they had newly discovered and other members who think it is a big Conservative problem, that this problem only surfaced since the current Prime Minister and the current Conservative government came to office and now this is all their problem.
The fact of the matter is that all through those periods of time that I spoke about earlier, the Liberals were in power, from 1993 on, and every attempt that was made to do something about high gasoline prices was thwarted. As a matter of fact, with regard to the member for Pickering—Scarborough East, his own Liberal caucus thwarted his efforts on many occasions, I believe. I used to hear him many times over the years, on the radio, being a champion of the consumer and trying to do things with regard to the Competition Bureau and trying to deal with competition and the price-fixing issues in this country, and he was getting nowhere with his own caucus, with his own government and with his own prime minister.
This has been a longstanding problem. Price-fixing is not something that is just peculiar to the gasoline industry. Since the mid-1980s to the present, we have seen at least two major initiatives on the part of the federal government against price-fixing in the real estate industry. The latest one is being resolved as we speak. Within a number of weeks, the real estate boards across Canada will be getting together to ratify a deal that was made to prevent price-fixing. If that deal is not ratified then, of course, they will proceed through court action.
There are anti-competitive activities that have been around in our society for many years and they have been allowed to foster over the years. It takes strong initiatives on the part of government and law enforcement to attack this and try to break it up, so that the public is better served by true competition.
It is not only real estate agents that have been dealt with over the years but the travel agency business and the property and casualty insurance business. I believe the Toyota Motor Corporation was challenged when it tried to set a fixed price. I am sure members will recall five or six years ago when Toyota tried to dictate to its dealers that in fact there was a fixed price, there was a no-haggle pricing and they could not cut the price. That was dealt with by the government in a positive way.
This is not exciting stuff for the average member of the public, but it is very crucial to a proper competitive environment in which business has to compete. A series of monopolies governing the country is not the way our system is supposed to be operating. We try a lot of things, like monitoring. People think it is a good idea, but we have proven it does not work. However, there are a lot of other things we could look at here.
I want to talk about some of the elements of this bill that people on our side of the House have found objectionable. I do not think we would have a problem if, in fact, these gas pumps across the country were being inspected by government inspectors.
I mentioned earlier that for many years in the province of Manitoba, and maybe some other provinces too, we had a system of random inspections of cars. If a car was bought today, owned for 10 years, it would probably be called in once or twice for an inspection and repairs would have to be made to keep the car in good shape to keep it on the road. People trusted that system because they knew it was government inspectors who were doing the inspecting.
Around 1995, the Conservative government of the day decided to turn the whole inspection system over to private garages. The economy was probably tight, they were not making enough money and this was a way to give them a bit of a cash cow. When cars needed inspecting, they would have to go to a local garage and it was up to the garage to tell the owners what was wrong with their cars. We have seen many terrible examples of gouging, where people have bought a car, taken it to a garage, and found out they have to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars for repairs before they could put that car on the road. We have seen totally different examples of people who have taken cars in and have found out later from a friend in the business that in fact cars that are really not safe at all are being approved, are being certified as safe and being allowed to be driven on the road, because someone has an in with somebody or has a relative in the garage or dealership.
This system was brought in as a sop to the car industry, and overnight the price of used cars went up. We used to see $50 cars, $100 cars, back in the early 1990s. Then, overnight, because of the safety inspection system, the worst-looking car on the road was a $1,000 vehicle.
After a couple of years, the CBC and other news outlets, based on complaints, started to do investigations of what was happening. They found all sorts of examples of gouging in Manitoba, where people were being taken advantage of. The CBC would take in cars that they had previously had inspected; they knew what was wrong with them. I will not mention the garages, but some of them hon. members would know, because they are nationally known chains. The cars would be taken to five or six different garages, and most of the garages, if not all of them, would find huge problems with the cars, when there was nothing wrong with them. That was a blatant example of gouging. Some of the garages lost their licences because of this. Then, a year or two later, a follow-up was done. They found still more cases of gouging. In fact, the second time around, some of the same garages that were caught the first time were cited once again.
Hon. members should know that we cannot get rid of the system once it is in place. The NDP, under Gary Doer, became the government in 1999. It did not get rid of this system and go back to a centralized government inspection system. In fact, it changed the safety inspection period, from two years to one.
As for keeping cars safe on the road, safety inspections are required only when we sell our car. If we have a car and it is sold three or four times in the first two or three years, it will have safety inspections over and over again. However, if we buy the car and drive it ourselves and keep it, we could drive the car forever and it will never be called in for a safety inspection. Potentially, we may have many unsafe cars on our roads. This is a result of turning a perfectly functioning system over to the private sector.
Let us take a look at what could happen and probably will. Members have already said that, if we are dealing with rural areas, northern areas, then we are talking about the private sector. Who will be doing the inspections of the pumps in Yukon? Who will be doing them in the Northwestern Territories, northern B.C., in rural areas? It is a licence to print money. It is a recipe for abuse to have a system like this.
I also want to deal with some aspects of the weights and measures issue. But this is not the way to go. The public and the retailers would accept it if the government were to do the inspections. The inspections should be done over a period of time, but the government should do them. We should not allow the private sector to do these inspections.
Mr. Speaker, I have high regard for the member for Pickering—Scarborough East. However, I was shocked at the speech that I heard regarding the census. I do not know if I was shocked more by the lack of substance or the basketfuls of hyperbole that he used.
One of the things that amazes me in this debate is how often the members of the opposition conveniently leave out two important facts: first, the mandatory short form is still in place; second, this form accounts for a great majority of the information needed for public policy.
They also leave out the fact that the long form is still available in a voluntary format, unless, of course, they want to brush it aside and discredit it.
I will ask this one question of the member. Could he please table in the House evidence that a voluntary survey has less efficacy than one that is forced by statute? He must have that evidence. He speaks so confidently about it.
Mr. Speaker, the member raised two very important points.
Since 2003, when a private member's bill was brought forward by the member for Pickering—Scarborough East, all sorts of new technologies have come on board. The member mentions that we are now getting fraud in all sorts of other ways as well.
We need some type of annual review or at least the legislation be open to deal with all those technologies. As the member mentioned, we need to have an ongoing discussion and a coordinated effort with international partners. We need to invest in that to ensure we stop this from happening in other countries that are close to us and where emails originate for all of us.
The electoral district of Pickering--Scarborough East (Ontario) has a population of 106,602 with 76,709 registered voters and 200 polling divisions.
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