Right Hon. C. D. HOWE (Minister of Reconstruction and Supply):
Mr. Speaker, I feel that I should make a statement on fuel oil. Last summer I convened a meeting of the various oil producing and distributing companies for the purpose of reviewing the domestic fuel oil situation. Hon. members will recall that at that time there was very serious concern about Our coal supply, arising partly because of the coal strike in the United States and partly because of the shipping strike on the great lakes.
The oil companies agreed that if they were given assistance in the creation of storage facilities, they could meet the increasing demand for domestic fuel oil. Assistance was rendered by the steel controller to the oil companies and to the burner manufacturers. As a result, a considerable number of heating units were installed in domestic establishments throughout Canada,
I am now advised that the fuel oil supply for the next heating season is definitely limited, and that the producers and distributors will not be able to cope with the greatly increased demand. In fact it has been stated by some of the companies that there may be difficulty in providing oil to existing customer.
The demand for fuel oil has become so acute that even were it possible to provide substantially increased storage facilities, it is most unlikely that adequate supplies of oil could be imported or produced.
The government has no control at present over the production and. distribution of fuel oil. Responsibility for supply rests wholly on the oil companies and. their agents. I am bringing the matter to the attention of the house in order that the Canadian public may be warned of the situation that obtains. In our view, any householder who is proposing to instal an oil burner or oil burning space heater in his home should first make sure that he has a firm contract for the supply of fuel oil directly with the manufacturer or importer of fuel oil, or a contract that otherwise clearly ensures a supply of fuel oil from these suppliers.