House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mines.

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The House resumed from October 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-29, an act to regulate interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese-based substances, be read the third time and passed; and of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
Government Orders

November 29th, 1996 / 10 a.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, in the past 30 to 40 years the evidence has been accumulating that all is not well with mother earth. The list of endangered species lengthens, the flocks of migratory birds dwindle, the lakes and rivers die. Even the oceans are becoming toxic sinks. We are warned not to go out in the sun. A tan is no longer a sign of health.

The aboriginal people understood these things. Many young people understand them. Many adults do not, or will not. Our modern, industrial, developed society is characterized in these words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem, God's Grandeur :

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil

crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

and all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil

is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black west went

Oh, morning, at brown brink eastward, springs-

because the Holy Ghost over the bent

world broods with warm breast and Ah! Bright Wings.

Hopkins' hopeful ending suggests that all may yet be well with God's help. But this poem was written over 100 years ago and human technology is now outstripping nature. We as citizens of this planet must redress the balance with nature which is the only way to ensure a sustainable future for all humanity. Unless we change our attitude to the environment, we will destroy it and ourselves into the bargain. The time is now.

This brings me to the bill before us today. Bill C-29 seeks to ban the fuel additive MMT from Canadian fuels. I support the bill because the most efficient way to protect the environment is to prevent pollution. Bill C-29 accomplishes this.

Canadians know how important their environment is and they expect the federal government to take a leadership role in preserving and protecting it.

Some members of the House may ask why Bill C-29 is important. Bill C-29 represents a prudent approach that ensures the Canadian consumers and the environment are protected. It deals with the uncertainty regarding the long term effects of MMT on advanced emission control technologies such as on board diagnostics, OBD, that are now being built into the motor vehicle fleet on a widespread basis.

On board diagnostic systems are designed to monitor the performance of pollution control systems, particularly the catalysts, and alert the driver to a malfunction. These systems prevent increased tail pipe emissions, including carbon monoxide and other hydrocarbons which impact on local air quality, as well as carbon dioxide, the principal contributor to climate change.

Properly functioning OBD systems are in essence an inspection and maintenance tool in the vehicle, and inspection and maintenance programs require vehicles to be tested on a periodic basis for emissions.

The industry wide implementation of properly functioning OBD systems will permit all Canadians to benefit from an emissions reduction strategy. For example, an assessment of the emissions benefit attributed to the air care inspection and maintenance program in the Vancouver city area conducted on an annual basis shows that hydrocarbon emissions have been reduced by 20 per cent, carbon monoxide emissions by 24 per cent, nitrogen oxide emissions by 2.7 per cent and fuel consumption by 5 per cent from the tested fleet.

Auto makers have indicated that if MMT remains in Canadian gasoline they would take action, ranging from disconnecting OBD sensors to removal of the OBD systems and decreased warranty provisions for automobile owners. General Motors of Canada has already advised the government that it has disabled certain functions of the OBD system on 1996 model year vehicles.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to MMT. Alternative fuels can replace this additive as an oxygen enhancer in gasoline. For instance, ethanol is a renewable fuel that I and many of my rural caucus colleagues have supported for its obvious environmental and economic benefits. The ethanol plant in Chatham will have an enormous economic benefit for southwestern Ontario. The plant will be producing over 150 million litres of this cleaner burning fuel which will ensure that a better alternative to MMT as an oxygen enhancer is readily available for the Canadian consumer.

The earth is a global spaceship. The delicate envelope of atmosphere which surrounds us is all the environment we have. As human beings we share with all other species of animals and plants this layer of air, soil and moisture. All citizens of Canada need to keep in mind that wonderful picture of planet earth taken by astronauts which shows it swathed in blue green swirls of atmosphere floating in the black void of space.

Until all of us are aware of the finite, fragile and unique nature of our world, and treat it accordingly, we must pass laws which will protect this planet for future generations. Bill C-29 is such a law and I am proud to support it.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
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10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill on manganese based additives, but at the same time I find it sad that the government continues to obstinately insist on passing a bill to ban MMT, when there has been no proof of any real danger to the environment.

In this matter, the official opposition has had the very constructive attitude that, yes, it would be worthwhile to look at this, that there would have to be impact studies, that we would have to look at the potential advantages, impact and risks associated with this additive. But the government has found no proof and has no justification. It seems that the sole reason for the government's continuing pressures is the lobbying by Ontario MPs, who see this bill as a way of improving the cost-effectiveness of a not very successful industrial sector in Ontario.

The government's insistence on pushing the bill through, no matter what, has had several effects. As was said this morning, Ottawa wants to push through a bill that will be harmful to Montreal. It is, moreover, harmful to all of Canada, for there is the possibility of a nearly $200 million lawsuit by an American company, Ethyl, under NAFTA. The Canadian government, in irresponsibly pushing this bill ahead, will once again be costing Canadians a great deal of money.

Why does the government absolutely insist on adopting this bill, when it could simply be sent to a committee for study, as long as necessary to prove the environmental effects of MMT? Are there harmful effects, yes or no? Could the validity of the Ethyl claim be verified? When it comes down to it, will we be stuck with a major legal battle, with millions of dollars spent on defending Canada in a case about which we are not even certain? What is more, the governments of Alberta and Quebec have already announced that they intend to take Ottawa to court, and they are not alone. A total of six provinces have spoken out against the federal government's bill on MMT, this gasoline additive which has not been proven harmful to health.

There are, therefore, some important elements to be considered: the cost to Canadians, and the tarnishing of Canada's image by defending a case about which there is no certainty under the free trade agreement. What is still more dramatic for Quebecers, however, was summarized very aptly by the president of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, Alain Perez, when he said "At this time, there are several factors threatening a Montreal refinery, one of which is this bill".

Is this one more case of the federal government putting Ontario before Quebec, or changing the rules of the game? The competitors are already in the marketplace, the rules of the game are already in place, and if the refineries in the Montreal region are able to survive, those in Ontario must be able to as well. If there are problems with ethanol production, efforts must be made to make it more profitable, to improve production processes and other procedures, but not via political interference. Political interference changes the rules of the game.

We are seeing an increasing number of instances under the current Liberal government. The same is being done with Canadian International. By playing this kind of game, the government is promoting unfair competition. On the one hand, the government upholds a certain principle and the principle of free competition is supposed to rule the market, because it will make us competitive and people will get a better deal. But on the other hand, whenever there is a very strong political lobby-in the case of Canadian, it is western Canada, and in this particular case it is Ontario-environmental considerations which are not justified are used as an excuse to go ahead and rush a bill like this one through the House.

I think that in this case, the federal government has clearly shown that it is more or less being led by its strong delegation from Ontario, by the lobby of ministers from that region. When a decision is to be made here in Parliament, all aspects of a bill must

be considered. Whether we are talking about economic costs, the legal problems that can be expected with the provinces, the potential damage to our international reputation and the impact on employment in a region like Montreal, if the federal government adopts this bill, if the Liberal majority manages to ram it down our throats, they will prove once again that Canadian federalism is good if it is good for Ontario.

When there is a choice to be made between economic benefits for Ontario or for Quebec, like the Supreme Court in this country or the Tower of Pisa, it always leans in the same direction. The federal government always leans toward Ontario, which is more less what is happening in this case.

In the coming year there will be an election campaign, when Quebecers will be asked to consider the relevance of all this. It will be up to them to decide, in this case as in so many others, who conducted the best defence of Quebec's interests. Was it the federal government, which is ramming down our throats a bill that will benefit Ontario, without giving any scientific proof of the environmental impact, or was it the Bloc Quebecois, which defended Quebecers and the entire Canadian market, saying that political lobbying was the only reason and that the lobbies fully supported the federal government's position?

It looks as though the federal government has taken advantage of the silence of the Conservative Party. Defending the interests of Quebec does not seem to be its main concern. When one has a federal vision of Canada, there are many things one does not talk about. We in the Bloc Quebecois have no such constraints. We have no wish to form the government, and so we are in a position to defend consumers, Canadians and Quebecers, to ensure that the choices made by the Canadian government produce long term benefits for the Canadian economy and the Quebec economy.

When the Liberals vote on this bill later today, especially the Liberal members from Quebec, I hope they remember this position that was reported in the papers today. I am referring to what was said by Alain Perez, president of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute: "At this moment, the existence of a Montreal refinery is threatened by a number of factors, including this bill, the bill on MMT, on manganese-based additives".

When the Liberals vote on this bill, every time a Liberal member, especially those from Quebec, rises in the House to vote in favour of the bill, he will be hurting Quebec's economy, and Quebecers are sure to rembember this in the next election.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
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10:15 a.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, the environment as a topic currently is not the headline grabber that it once was. However, the worrisome fundamental trends for our planet remain.

The real problem is to determine what are wise actions for governments to take to protect the environment in view of science, economics and politics. Often it is the apparently obvious quick fix that is tried and then eventually realized as no real solution. In addition there is always the politics of balancing and reconciling the vectors that pull in different directions. It seems in this case that the vectors or forces of politics win over the policy vectors indicated by science.

With this bill we have a political headstrong approach that is characteristic of governments that think they are high in the polls, believe their own press releases and have an arrogance that only they have the divine right to govern. My how the tone has changed from when these Liberal members were in opposition. Back then they howled like coyotes when the other old arrogant members, the Conservatives, used closure. The Liberals were outraged when closure was used. Now that they are in power they do the same thing.

Voters have to remember this and resolve that such breaking of faith with the community should not be rewarded in the next election with support and a vote for any Liberal. What is being done today reveals the inner heart of what drives Liberals in government. It is a prime example of why federal politicians are rated no higher than insincere used car salesmen. It is understandable that Canadians turn off on politics.

Before us we have a bill which is anti free trade and which is supposed to help the environment but it is not supported by credible scientific evidence. This bill should have died on the Order Paper but now we have it back again under the closure rules.

I despair that we will ever see a Liberal Minister of the Environment who will be content with the best that science has to offer for environmental policy. The quest for short term political payoff is evidenced in this bill to ban the importation and trade of MMT in gasoline.

We were not even close to having a realistic minister when the member from Hamilton had the job. She had a manner of finding her own departmental officials two steps behind her on nearly every erratic policy course change in her quest for the heroin fix of the political hit. Unfortunately now with the new minister, Canadians are getting little improvement on the MMT score.

In the environment portfolio there has not been an abundance of legislation. Since the Liberals took power in 1993 there have been only six bills brought forward by the Minister of the Environment. It is a stark comparison to the active Department of Justice which has introduced 30 bills. With extra time to consult and consider,

one would think that environment would only produce wise and quality law. How wrong to surmise.

In May 1995 the former minister introduced a bill that would ban the interprovincial trade and importation of the gasoline additive MMT. Bill C-94 which is now Bill C-29 has easily become one of the most starkly divided issues during this Parliament. No legislation during the 35th Parliament has lasted this long in the House. The reason is that the so-called science is in conflict. Ways and means do not match up in this bill. When a basic idea is flawed, the resultant legislation is bad. It does not deserve to be passed.

However the former minister and her political friends at the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association had a half baked idea that went too far. The MVMA wanted MMT to be removed from unleaded gasoline in Canada because it claimed that the additive which is used to boost octane and reduce pollution was creating havoc with the new onboard diagnostic pollution sensors in late model automobiles.

There were only two ways to get MMT out of Canadian gasoline. One would have been for the MVMA to conclude negotiations with the stakeholders including Ethyl Corporation which manufactures MMT as well as the petroleum companies and conduct independent third party tests that would conclusively demonstrate if MMT was harmful. The other was the strong arm approach to directly legislate with the government trying to scare Canadians, claiming that if MMT was not out of fuel, automobile manufacturing plants could close and the price of cars would dramatically increase. Those latter arguments put forward by the government proved to be false.

The weighing of the policy options must have taken at least two minutes for the minister to decide as the choice was so poor. The choices were politics or science, and the minister chose politics.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA, was designed to create environmental protection and among other things to ban substances that are harmful to the public health and the environment. The former minister wanted to put MMT on CEPA's toxic list but Health Canada did not find it harmful to our health. Unfortunately for Canada's most unenvironmental environment minister, Health Canada had already proved that MMT in its present manner of use presented no harm to health and it later stood by their conclusion on the record.

With the new minister, Environment Canada has been no better off with this bill. He had his chance to put Bill C-94 on a permanent shelf to collect dust. One wonders who is really in charge of legislative initiatives with his department as it was brought forward again in full view of the bill's discredit. The mistake of this bill will certainly remain as a legacy to Liberal environmental legislation.

Reformers have opposed this bill without pressure from lobby groups because the inherent nature of the original idea was bad. Thorough and rigorous independent testing is the only way to resolve the regulatory question of whether we should have MMT in gasoline.

At present MMT helps cars run cleaner with better distance to fuel consumption ratios so that less gas is burned which helps the global warming agenda. I am told that MMT in gasoline is significantly better for gas mileage than reformulated gasoline. Further, we should carefully test some of the proposed alternatives to reformulated gasoline as they may not be inherently as environmentally friendly as first thought. Choices turn out that way when politicians seek the short term rewards of political success over what science may show as the long term public interest.

We also have to look at the taxpayer subsidies the Liberals are pouring into ethanol production which may be an uneconomical choice that in total in the big picture may not be very environmentally friendly. The issue of MMT and why the government does not like it I suspect has a lot to do with money and who pays rather than doing the right thing for the environment.

Above all, the use of closure as a principle in Parliament on this type of bill is disrespectful to members of the House. It is an example of how old line system defenders, the Liberals in this case, continue in their traditional ways and reinforce public cynicism about representative government versus responsible and accountable government to the people.

The bill is bad. Its methods are perverse. Now we have the final insult of it being driven by closure. I hope Canadians will remember this in the next election.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
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10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

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10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
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10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

Question.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, there has already been a certain amount of co-operation among all the parties involved in this debate, and I must also acknowledge that the Chair has asked if we wished to resume debate. In a spirit of co-operation, we would ask the Chair to please return to the matter under debate so we may complete this nevertheless important bill.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
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10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I acknowledge the remarks of the hon. government whip but I would remind this House that, on two occasions I called for a resumption of debate,

and no one seemed interested in doing so. I will call for it a third time. Resuming debate.

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, on a point of order. There is a practice in this Parliament that has gone on for three years at least whereby the parties agree to provide you with a list of those who will be speaking. The opposition has always co-operated and is prepared to continue doing so.

However, a procedure, even if you did say it twice, must not be used to speed things up and take people by surprise. We are prepared to co-operate. I thank the chief whip of the Liberal Party for recognizing the need to facilitate debate, but I do not want things hurried up and the debate adjourned earlier than planned, before everyone on the list has had a chance to speak.

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10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I would nevertheless like to say that, in presiding over our debates at this time, the Chair has certainly followed our Standing Orders in asking members if they wished to resume debate. No one rose on either side of the House. I do recognize that the Chair was right in following the procedure and putting the question.

That said, and still in the spirit of co-operation among the parties in this matter, I hope we can continue the debate.

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10:25 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Point of order.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
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10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The hon. whip of the Reform Party has to be in his seat in order to be recognized.

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10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

He is.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives Act
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10:25 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to reinforce the position taken by the government whip. The Chair has acted entirely appropriately in this case. She asked repeatedly for speakers, for anybody to stand. There was no attempt to rush things through at all that I could see. I do not agree, of course, with the time limitations and some of the other things that are going on, but the Chair has acted appropriately.

By all means, if somebody wants to debate, then we will not stand in the way of doing it. However, the Chair is absolutely right.