THUNDER BAY – Leader’s Ledger – This week I am away on naval training with the Canadian Forces. It’s a program offered to parliamentarians to help us better understand what our men and women in uniform do on a day-to-day basis by joining them on the job. I will fill you in on that experience later, but for now I would like to take a look recap the findings of a survey that I sent out on the issue of gas pricing a few weeks ago.
I like to send out surveys since they offer every household an opportunity to have their voice heard on important issues. In late July, my office sent out a survey on the issue of gas prices, and your response was overwhelming. Only one or two other surveys have had a response rate of similar proportions – about one in 60 households – so it is safe to say that gas pricing is a high priority for families in our riding.
Your responses are still coming in, but I am finding that in general people believe that they are being gouged at the pumps, that taxes on fuel are too high (specifically the HST which adds about 13% to price alone), that the oil and gas industry needs some sort of federal oversight, and developing a national strategic petroleum reserve to help ease shortages and drive prices down when necessary sounds like a good idea. Of course, not everyone agreed on each of the above points, but an overwhelming majority appears to be of the same mind.
In response to the survey findings I will be taking some action. First, I will ensure that a New Democrat MP re-introduces our bill to create the position of an ‘Oil and Gas Ombudsman’ who would have real power to investigate consumer complaints and ensure that there is no collusion between the big oil and gas companies that set our prices at the pump.
Presently, Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP are campaigning on a pledge to remove the provincial portion of the HST from our gas prices, no doubt after much thought, research, and economic analysis. Like my Ontario cousins I also oppose the HST, but it would be irresponsible for me to commit at this point to removing the federal portion on gas without checking with our own economists and researchers first, so I will be asking them to look into the costs and benefits at the federal level.
Finally, members of my staff have started their research on the idea of creating a national strategic petroleum reserve – for gas, home heating oil, and jet fuel – in Canada that is similar to those in other industrialized country of the world. What we have found so far is that Canada and Denmark are alone when it comes to not have such a reserve and that the US government has effectively used their reserve to drive prices down during acute shortages or peak consumption periods. I think a Canadian strategic petroleum reserve, which would stock up on petroleum when prices are low and release their stock when the prices are high, could also work for home heating and jet fuel as well which are also very volatile petroleum based commodities that our families and economy depend upon. Our research on this issue is just beginning, but I will keep you posted on what we find and what I actions I plan on taking to move the issue forward.
So thank you again for the overwhelming response to our survey, and I assure you that the issue of gas pricing will be at or near the top of my legislative agenda moving forward. Throughout the last campaign and in your responses to this survey you have made it clear that gas pricing is a high priority issue, so I am very eager to continue my work in Ottawa and begin again to promote policies that could make life more affordable for families during these tough economic times.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River