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Mr. Clement, remember, publicly shot down his own CRTC chief on the issue of usage-based billing for Internet service, he rejected BHP Billiton's hostile takeover of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, and he stepped in to boost wireless competition in Canada

Don't underestimate Clement
The oil industry should pay close attention to Tony Clement. This industry minister is not one to be trifled with, and he's not afraid to act.

Disputes between governments and Big Oil have oft been little more than sound and fury, to borrow from Shakespeare, but Mr. Clement has demonstrated more than once that he'll go where more timid types might not, though it's not exactly clear what Ottawa could or would do about high gas prices.

The Industry Minister announced today that he plans Parliamentary hearings on gasoline prices, having heard the "concerns" of consumers, The Globe and Mail's Richard Blackwell reports.

“No one can understand why last year, when oil per barrel was around $140 or $150, we were paying $1.37 per litre, when this year oil is south of $98 a barrel and yet we're paying more,” Mr. Clement told reporters, at a news conference fittingly held outside a family home.

(Mr. Clement knows how to get air time and stand up for the people.)

Earlier, in a statement, he said that "everyone is feeling the pinch at the pumps" and warned that he has the power to refer matters to the Competition Bureau, which has looked at this issue before, but found no evidence on a national basis of anti-competitive behaviour.

"I should note that this is not the first action the Harper government has taken on this issue. We passed the Fairness at the Pumps Act to ensure that consumers are getting what they pay for when they fill up. We have expanded the powers of the Commissioner of Competition, who broke up a significant price-fixing cartel in Quebec last year."

Mr. Clement's comments today came as Big Oil was on the hot seat in Washington, where the U.S. Senate Finance Committee pulled in the chiefs of several companies, Globe and Mail correspondent Kevin Carmichael reports.

Executives of Exxon Mobil Corp. , ConocoPhillips , Chevron Corp. , and the American operations of Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC were testifying amid calls in some quarters to kill sector subsidies.

“Businesses should make a profit -- that's what drives our economy -- but do these very profitable companies actually need taxpayer subsidies?” said committee chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat. “We can put this money to better use -- and we should.”

In response, the oil chiefs said higher taxes could lead to higher prices and job cuts.

“Raising taxes will lead to less investment, less production and most likely higher cost per gallon and less employment,” said James Mulva, the chief of ConocoPhillips.

Source: CTV News

Michael Babad - The Globe and Mail

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