Debates of Sept. 25th, 1996
House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.
- International Ploughing Match
- Canada Pension Plan
- Papineau Family
- Liberal Government
- Land Mines
- Port Williams Elementary School
- New Agenda For Africa
- 1997 Francophone Games
- Official Languages
- The Montreal Economy
- The Member For Pierrefonds-Dollard
- Canadian Forces Search And Rescue
- Quebec Economy
- Terry Fox Run
- Raymond Villeneuve
- Presence In Gallery
- The Constitution
- The Wording Of The Referendum Question
- Canadian Armed Forces
- Francophones Outside Quebec
- Government Contracts
- Cable Television
- Churchill Falls
- Family Trusts
- Goods And Services Tax
- Churchill Falls
- The Ethyl Corporation
- Federal Food Inspection Agency
- Goods And Services Tax
- Somalia Inquiry
- Presence In The Gallery
- Business Of The House
- Points Of Order
- Government Response To Petitions
- Committees Of The House
- Committees Of The House
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Motions For Papers
- Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
- Criminal Code
Motions For Papers
September 25th, 1996 / 3:30 p.m.
Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Madam Speaker, would you be so kind as to call Motion for the Production of Paper No. 3, standing in the name of the member for Fraser Valley East.
That an Order of the House do issue for copies of every bill submitted by Members of Parliament for reimbursement by the Government of Canada for any entire trip to, from, in or around Washington, D.C., which included the day of June 13, 1995.
Motions For Papers
Paul Zed Fundy Royal, NB
Madam Speaker, Motion P-3 is a question for an order of the House to issue copies of every bill submitted by MPs for reimbursement by the Government of Canada for a trip to and from or around Washington, D.C. The Government of Canada did not meet the cost of any trip to Washington. Further inquiries concerning this matter may be addressed to the Clerk of the House.
I therefore ask the hon. member to withdraw his motion.
Motions For Papers
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)
Since the hon. member for Fraser Valley East is not in his seat at the present time, is it the government's wish to have this Notice of Motion transferred to debate?
Motions For Papers
Paul Zed Fundy Royal, NB
Yes, Madam Speaker, transferred for debate.
Motions For Papers
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)
Transferred for debate.
(Transferred for debate.)
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
Sergio Marchi Minister of the Environment
moved 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.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased that this House is giving final consideration to Bill C-29, the manganese based fuel additives act, because this is an important piece of legislation that should be dealt with on the basis of both merit and good common sense.
I would ask my colleagues to view this legislation in the larger context. That context is as large as the great Canadian outdoors and as important as the air we all breathe.
This government has made clean air a priority. We have already introduced tougher standards for vehicle emissions for the new model year that will help bring cleaner air to all our cities and towns.
These new tail pipe emission standards for cars and trucks represent reductions over present standards of some 30 per cent of total exhaust hydrocarbons and 60 per cent of nitrogen oxide.
The MMT legislation before us at third reading today is another important stepping stone in the prevention of air pollution. This should not be interpreted as the end of our campaign for cleaner air. We will be making more announcements on this issue in the days and weeks to come.
When all these regulations and standards come into effect, Canadians will see the difference, smell the difference and breathe the difference.
Furthermore, this package of government initiatives will result in billions of dollars in health benefits saved to Canadians and for our health care system. They will help prevent the pain and suffering of choking and gasping attacks on the young and the elderly when bad air days shroud our cities with a dirty blanket of pollution, which happens too often in many of our cities, particularly during the summer.
Right now we have Bill C-29 before us, which I hope and trust will receive third and final reading from the House in a rather expeditious manner.
I think it may be easier to wrap our minds around the common sense of the government's position than it is to wrap our tongues around the pronunciation of what MMT actually stands for. MMT is the commonly used acronym for a more tongue twisting name which simply put is a manganese based fuel additive. This additive is used to increase the octane rating of gasoline.
MMT was first considered an alternative to lead in gasoline. It has been used in Canada since 1977. As the hon. members are aware, lead was gradually phased out of almost all fuels before 1990.
The phase out has brought considerable improvement in our urban air quality. Today, almost every Canadian motorist uses MMT simply because Canadian refiners use MMT. The exact amount of this additive may vary from one batch of gasoline to another. In general, though, premium grade gasoline contains a higher volume of MMT than regular grade gasoline.
However, it should be understood that MMT has always been controversial. In 1978 it was prohibited for use in unleaded gasoline in the United States because it was suspected then that the substance damaged emission control equipment.
MMT is certain to have no place in the higher tech, cleaner fuels of the future. So Canada in a certain sense is compelled to confront the problem of MMT not because of some new environmental threat that has just emerged on the horizon, but because our fuels and monitoring devices used to counter environmental threats are simply getting more sophisticated. Cleaning up our air involves using cleaner fuels as well as having cleaner cars and trucks.
While research has continued on the products that we put in our gas tanks it has also continued on our hardware, the engine that burns the fuel and the control equipment that lowers the emissions. Technological advances have steadily cut the harmful emissions coming out of our tailpipes. In fact, since the early 1970s and the advent of national standards, over 90 per cent of the most noxious tailpipe pollutants have been removed.
Now we have taken another major step forward with the introduction of sophisticated on board diagnostic systems.
These systems are of great environmental significance. They control vehicle emissions and warn the driver of any operating defect so that the necessary repairs can be made.
When used properly, they ensure that cleaner burning engines of today and of tomorrow operate as designed. They will also help warn drivers about proper maintenance needs that will result in decreased tailpipe emissions and improve fuel economy.
This is a very important technology, but even more important is that it work, that it does its job properly as originally designed. That is where the problem arises when we talk about MMT. The automobile industry strongly warns that gasoline containing MMT clogs and jams up the operation of sophisticated on board diagnostic systems.
Like many of us in this House, I have listened to the arguments and the debate from every conceivable side of this equation. I have read the science as well as the reports. The arguments and the debate for this legislation as well as against it, I suppose, would essentially fall into four distinct categories.
First, there is the importance of a healthy environment. Second, there is the issue of Canadian fuels in the larger North American context. Third, there are the issues of consumer protection. Fourth, there is the economic impact of the proposals underlying Bill C-29.
But for me, as Minister of the Environment, the driving force behind this bill is that a fuel additive with the potential to hinder the proper operation of pollution control systems will have indirect negative effects on the health of Canadians.
We cannot take chances with people's health. We cannot take chances with the air we breath. This is a precautionary principle that I and our government stand by strongly. This brings me to the main argument of my first point concerning the need for this legislation, the health of Canadians and a healthy environment.
Transportation, specifically the automobile, is the single leading source of air pollution in our communities. When 21 auto manufacturers are convinced that MMT clogs their pollution monitoring
equipment, including on board diagnostic computers which alert the drivers to problems and pollution dangers, and when those 21 auto makers petition and warn the government and members of Parliament about their concerns, it becomes clear for me and the government that we must heed that message seriously and respond in a responsible manner.
Let us all remember there are some 14 million cars on Canada's roads, each pumping out over four tonnes of pollutants every single year it is on the road.
Do we want to gamble with pollution monitoring devices in the backdrop of those kinds of statistics and facts? I think not. Nor does the government, especially when we realize that air pollution is linked to some health issues that are deadly serious.
As for the additive MMT, we have received support and representations from a wide spectrum of Canadians and organizations, and not only the environmental organizations, legitimately so, that I happen to represent as a constituency. The spectrum has been much more varied than that.
For instance, we have heard and been petitioned by the Canadian Institute of Child Health, the Asthma Information Association, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, the Ontario Public Health Association and the cities of North York and York public health departments and a litany of environmental organizations across the country.
We have also received international letters of support and requests from south of the border and other origins as well. All of them advocate discontinuing the use of MMT in our gasoline because, simply put, the margins of safety are just too narrow.
What are some of these groups saying? I read one letter from the Canadian Institute of Child Health and I was moved by one paragraph: "It would be both scientifically and morally irresponsible to repeat our country's past experience with lead additives".
The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada noted with apparent anger that the corporation that fought against removing lead additives years ago is the same corporation fighting against removing MMT from gasoline.
The Canadian Automobile Association said that MMT damages catalytic converters and coats oxygen sensors. The list goes on, as does the debate.
We need to ask ourselves one fundamental question: what is the point of pushing for new technology? What is the point of the government pushing for new national emissions standards from our auto makers so that the air that Canadians breathe can be protected, if it is then going to allow the wrong fuel to be put in the tank? This fuel could gum up the technology and not reach the standards that the government has set for the auto makers and that has been set for a modern, dynamic and caring kind of society?
As I have already indicated, any potential health threat is and should be of prime concern to the government. For example in Toronto, the city that I have the honour of representing, in 1994, the last year for which statistics and full figures are available, there were about 40 days when the air condition at the very best was moderate and at the very worst was poor.
As members of Parliament we hear about this. We may also have people in our families who feel these things. During such days asthmatics and especially asthmatic children because they breathe quicker than we adults are especially vulnerable. In fact the public health department in the city of North York said that it is especially concerned about the health of children because it knows from scientific evidence that children take in more manganese oxide than adults and eliminate it more slowly.
Is it any surprise that we were shocked to read news reports this spring which noted a 20-year study by the health department of the Government of Canada had found that in the metropolitan Toronto area when pollution levels are high-for instance one of those 40 days during 1994-two to three more Canadians died from heart and respiratory diseases.
Environmentalists and others who extrapolate figures from government reports have estimated that air pollution, mostly smog, which comes in large measure from our automobiles and trucks, adds and extra $1 billion every year to Canada's health care costs.
We have debates in this House about health care and we talk to Canadians who are worried about the affordability of health care. Are we to be indifferent to air quality when it has such a profound effect on Canadians and then it translates into $1 billion a year on our health care system? I hope not and I believe Canadians feel the same way.
Fifteen per cent of hospital admissions of infants for respiratory conditions are linked to ozone and sulphate pollution. We are living in an age when dangerous atmospheric pollutants, rather than hormones, are poisoning babies.
Consequently, if there is a possibility that MMT can cause problems with the technology that helps prevent pollution and sickness, put quite simply we cannot ignore such a threat. After all it was the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment that agreed on the need for cleaner vehicles and cleaner fuels.
In fact, the CCME, not my department, issued a report on cleaner fuels and cleaner vehicles which recognized that fuels and emission control technologies should be treated as an integrated system to reduce motor vehicle emissions.
I believe very strongly that Bill C-29 is consistent with the approach laid down by all the governments and ministers of the environment. I urge all my provincial counterparts, in the name of positive and progressive harmonization, not blind harmonization, and for the sake of moving toward cleaner fuels and renewable fuels, to follow the lead of Canada's national government.
Clearly this point should be put on the record. The approach represented by MMT legislation, brought forward today at third reading, is in keeping with a policy designed to encourage the development of renewable fuels such as ethanol. I am proud of being in a party that has championed ethanol. I am proud to be in a caucus with colleagues who would not give up the battle until they saw that the alternative became a reality.
It is the government's national public policy and Canada's sovereign right to encourage alternative fuels, renewable fuels and cleaner fuels. It is a policy that the government will pursue aggressively and without any apology to anyone or any corporation.
The second point that should be made concerns the United States situation and putting Canadian fuels and additives in a larger North American context. There has always been an argument that Canada's MMT legislation should be in harmony with the legislation in the United States and that the two should be a level playing field. It makes good economic and trade sense, in addition to common sense, that automobiles and trucks should be built with emission controls that work across the continent.
Let us make no mistake. The trend for cleaner fuels in North America is away from the additive MMT not toward MMT. It is important that everyone understands that despite a recent United States court ruling on a technical procedural point and not one of substance that ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to allow MMT to be marketed as a gasoline additive in the United States, at least 15 of the largest petroleum companies in the United States have said that they do not intend to use MMT. That list includes almost every major petroleum producer: Amoco, Anchor, ARCO, BP, Chevron, Conoco, Exxon, Hess, Marathon, Mobil, Penzoil, Philips, Shell, Sun and Texaco. They will not use MMT.
As well, health tests, as mandated by the United States regulations, will also continue on MMT. Again, on a health basis, the jury, despite the court ruling on a procedural technical aspect, is still out. If we do not believe we have enough evidence, about one-third of the United States market will use what is called reformulated gasoline, especially in areas that suffer from acute air pollution. Under the U.S. clean air act, MMT is not allowed in reformulated gasoline. It is prohibited by law.
Finally, the state of California, a recognized trendsetter when it comes to emission controls, expressly prohibits the use of MMT additives in fuels. What does this mean? It means that the playing field is still not completely levelled. It also means that level playing field is just around the corner. There will be both MMT-laced and MMT-free fuels in the North American market.
When all is said and done, currently the American market is approximately 85 per cent MMT-free. It is very obvious to this side of the House that when we talk about the larger North American context that MMT is going the same way as leaded gasoline. The legislation in Bill C-29 is in keeping with that trend. This is unlike my friends on the other side who want legislation which would somehow buck the trend toward alternative and cleaner fuels for our cars and trucks.
The third point to remember in this debate is consumer protection.
We in Canada are faced with a conflict between two major industrial sectors: the automotive manufacturers and the petroleum industry. The automotive industry claims that MMT damages their products and forces solutions on them which might increase their price to the consumer.
When the onboard diagnostics are gummed up by MMT, it is not the guys producing the automobiles in Windsor or the petroleum industry but the Canadian consumers-our constituents-who would have to carry extra warranty expenses. The auto dealers association spoke very clearly in its expression of similar concerns about MMT and car warranties.
Aside from the cost factor of added trips to the garage for Canadian constituents, there will also be the perception that Canadian autos do not work well because the warning lights will always be blinking, not because of a malfunction, but because of a gasoline additive.
Not only is there a health cost to be paid by Canadians if we continue to use MMT, but car owners will also be dipping into their pockets and into their purses a lot more often because of malfunctioning maintenance systems. Canadians do not need these unnecessary economic burdens foisted on them and this legislation will certainly help to prevent that from occurring.
My fourth point concerns the overall economic impact that Bill C-29 would have on our country and on our refiners. The petroleum industry claims that MMT reduces nitrogen oxide emissions-perhaps the opposition critic will quote that-by up to 20 per cent. I
say quite categorically that this figure is subject to much dispute and much debate. In any case, alternatives to MMT exist.
This legislation will allow the emission monitoring and control equipment to freely operate as it was designed: to prevent unnecessary vehicle maintenance. In this regard, it was not a study from my department but a study commissioned by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment which concluded that the impact on Canada's refining industries would not be overly excessive. The study estimated that the cost for refiners to remove MMT for all of Canada would total $150 million in capital expenditures plus $50 million a year in added operating expenses.
I would be prepared to admit that this will lead to an increase in the cost of gasoline and not a decrease. In pennies this translates to an increase in operating costs of .2 cents a litre for the refiners.
Let us carry on that conversation. If we take an average Canadian motorist, statistics tell us that the motorist will travel 20,000 kilometres in any given year, at a fuel consumption rate of some 10 litres of gasoline for 100 kilometres travelled. The average motorist in a year will use about 2,000 litres of gasoline.
If we apply what the refiners have told us it will cost them, .2 cents a litre, and multiply that by the number of litres that an average Canadian motorist uses in a year, it translates to an extra $5 per motorist per year.
I would submit, with all due respect, without underestimating the costs that Canadians have on all sorts of things, that a $5 increase per year for an average motorist is a reasonable price to pay for doing the right thing for their health and their environment. What does $5 mean?
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
An hon. member
It is a bargain.
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
Sergio Marchi York West, ON
A member says it is a bargain. He is absolutely right. On Labour Day weekend, when Canadians were getting into their cars, their trucks or on to their motorcycles going to close the cottage or visit family and friends, the average increase in gasoline prices at the pumps was anywhere between 2 and 4 cents per litre. If a person's mother-in-law lived far away they would almost make up the five buck increase in one weekend. It happens every holiday weekend. It will probably happen Thanksgiving weekend. It will happen at Christmas and New Year's. People grumble and complain and ask why the gasoline goes up when people are on the move the most.
The hon. member from London is absolutely right when he says that $5 is a fair price. He is also right when he says, in contrast to other increases at the pumps, that it actually becomes a bargain for Canadians when we think of environmental and health issues as well.
When we talk about the economic impact, there are also the financial benefits which one has to work into the equation. It is not only the negatives that the petroleum industry talks about, although as our mathematics show it is not as negative as that. We have to work in the financial benefits. The petroleum industry oftentimes conveniently forgets about the benefits.
In the 1994 study commissioned by the CCME, it estimated health benefits of up to $31 billion over 23 years if cleaner fuels and more stringent vehicle emission standards were put in place. Put another way, the cost to Canadians in extra health costs, in pain, suffering and death, could be pared down by almost $1.5 billion a year, depending on whatever comes out of the tailpipes of our cars or trucks.
If this debate were only an economic ledger sheet, which it is not, the economic plus in taking MMT out of gasoline is clearly and convincingly a lot higher than the economic minus in leaving it in.
As Liberals we know that the ultimate decision underlying Bill C-29 is not just about economics, even though the economics comes out on our side, for Canadians expect us to do what we can to protect their health and to preserve the environment. They also expect us to protect consumers and Canadian automotive technology.
I am surprised at the indifference of the Government of Ontario, which locates the big three, which suggests that it is on an air campaign, which talks about the IJC and the air coming from the United States. I am flabbergasted that the province of Ontario and that the new minister in Ontario have been absolutely silent on this issue. It prefers to sit on the fence rather than take the right decision. If one could be allowed to boast about Ontario's economy, the reliance on our automotive industry, I think it was, as my colleagues say, a shame for the indifference and the silence that the Government of Ontario has demonstrated.
It is for all those reasons, a healthy environment, the need to promote cleaner fuels and alternative fuels, the trend to North American harmonization, consumer protection and the economic pluses, that there is little doubt as to why this legislation is necessary. The absolute bottom line is that Canadians want to breathe their air. They do not want to chew it. They do not want to filter it. They do not want to cleanse it. They certainly do not want to scrub it. They want to breathe it and they want to breathe it freely.
This bill will most definitely help in this basic desire. I urge all members of this House to give speedy passage to what is a good bill in the interests of all Canadians.
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Madam Speaker, once again we are considering the bill to regulate interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese-based substances. The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the use of MMT as a fuel additive.
Bill C-29 before the House today is a reincarnation of Bill C-94, which died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued. The government nevertheless found a way to resurrect a number of bills, including Bill C-29, which has now come back to us for third reading. Bill C-94 did not make it through all stages during the previous Parliament because someone put on the brakes. For some rather vague, unspecified reasons, the Liberals decided not to pass this bill at the time. Today, the Liberals, headed by the Minister of the Environment, have brought the bill back to the House without providing any further clarification of those reasons. The same doubts remain, the same questions persist and the same issues are being raised.
One wonders about the real reason why the Minister of the Environment insists on passing a bill that arouses such controversy. You may be sure that the lobbies from Ontario are a major factor in the minister's decision. If that is not the case, he should come out and say so.
This bill has two major industries warring against each other. On one side we have the Ethyl Corporation, which produces MMT, supported by the oil industry, and on the other side the association of automobile manufacturers.
The lobbying done by these two players is considerable and unceasing. Both groups are leaving no stone unturned to win their case. The minister was exposed to all this lobbying and seemed to be at a loss at what to do so far. And today, he brings back C-29. The minister probably feels he should show up from time to time. So far, however, his legislative menu has been pretty meagre, and the same applies to what he has achieved.
We can hardly say the present minister is handling major issues these days. The environment is losing popularity, and the minister seems to be increasingly isolated within cabinet. Aside from a short visit to the Gulf of St. Lawrence this summer to watch the refloating of the Irving Whale , the minister is not seen very often, because he has no important issues on his plate. So to make an appearance in Parliament and not disappear altogether, the minister brings back Bill C-29.
If you ask me, this is not the way to go about increasing one's visibility. The minister would do well to go back to the drawing board and do his homework on the whole MMT issue.
The former Minister of the Environment, which she was in name only, in my opinion, if we consider her very mediocre record, made a present of this rather hot potato to her successor.
And he is no surer of his fact than his predecessor. That is the problem with this bill.
The government is not sure that banning MMT is a good thing, whether in environment, economic or legal terms.
The fault here rests mainly with the former minister, the minister of broken promises. At the time, the minister had asked both industries to work together to find a solution to the MMT problem, indicating-which was not very clever-that in the event a basis of agreement could not be found, she would put forward a bill to ban MMT.
From then on, it was clear that the negotiations were strongly biased and would be unproductive. So much for the former minister's fantastic skills as a maestro.
Another rather surprising aspect of this issue is the need for a Minister of the Environment to pass legislation regarding a given commercial product, in this case MMT.
If the minister firmly believes that MMT is a health hazard, why does he not just ban this substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act? Why take this roundabout way, through commercial or trade legislation?
There is no scientific evidence that MMT in fuel constitutes a health hazard. Studies on the neurotoxicity of manganese have been conducted and indeed show that a health risk exists. However, these results were obtained for major exposure to manganese, for workers exposed to very large concentrations and for prolonged periods.
It is therefore difficult to see the connection between the effect of overexposure and the effect of manganese emissions from car exhaust, the amount and concentration of which are not comparable.
The former Minister of the Environment, whose departure was noted-almost as a relief-by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, had used harmonization with the U.S. as an argument to justify introducing this bill. Since then, and as early as first and second reading, this argument has taken a dive. While the product had been banned for more than 15 years south of our border, the Ethyl Corporation, involved in a long-standing battle over this issue, was winning its case to have the product reintroduced in several American states. All this to say that harmonization with our neighbours to the south does not weigh very much in the balance.
We could ask ourselves the following question: What would happen if MMT was produced in Canada? What would happen with Bill C-29, which does not ban the use of MMT per se, but does ban its import? If MMT were produced, say in Ontario, would the
minister take the same action? He could certainly not ban the import of MMT. Would he then prohibit the product itself?
This is the point I made earlier about the strange way the environment minister is targeting this additive. He is attacking the sale of the product, not the product itself. And what about the prohibition against provincial trade in this product?
You will agree that the minister is acting in a strange manner on this issue. His predecessor did the same and she goofed in many other issues.
This bill is clearly in response to the representations made by the automobile industry, which claims that the MMT additive hinders the functioning of anti-pollution systems, including the OBD-2 system. The purpose of the OBD-2 is to detect any malfunctioning in the exhaust systems. The automobile industry claims that MMT can trigger the illumination of a red light on the panel, thus indicating the existence of a problem, when in fact there is no problem.
Consequently, the car owner would have to go to a garage to have a non-existent problem corrected, which has generated unnecessary costs to the consumer. The red light that comes on for no reason was one of the automobile industry's last arguments. Before that, the industry had claimed that MMT had an adverse effect on oxygen probes, spark plugs, catalysts, etc.
In fact, none of the points raised by the automobile lobby are supported by scientific evidence. The auto industry was never able to come up with serious studies supporting its claims.
Based on our information, the automobile industry is currently conducting tests to see if, indeed, MMT has all these negative consequences for anti-pollution systems. Would it not be better for the minister to wait for the results of these tests, so that car makers can finally support their claims?
Car makers have also threatened to impose on Canadian consumers a $3,000 increase in the cost of automobiles, to reduce the coverage provided by the warranty, and to simply disconnect the OBD-2 detection device. This pressure exerted on the minister has paid off. However, it should be noted that they have more to do with economics than with health or environment concerns.
Ethyl Corp. is the only one to have provided the results of tests conducted on its product. The company conducted serious, independent tests, in co-operation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA. The results of these tests totally contradict the claims made by car makers. In fact, the EPA itself recognized that the concerns of the automobile industry regarding the clogging of anti-pollution systems are not justified.
Given the results of serious tests conducted by one party and the unfounded claims made by the other, you will agree that it is difficult to support this bill. The MMT lobby was the only to provide data. We are anxiously waiting for the automobile lobby to do the same. In the meantime, is it appropriate to pass this bill? If the tests of the auto lobby revealed that MMT does not cause the claimed effects, will the environment minister change course and remove the ban on MMT?
The Bloc Quebecois is definitely concerned about this metal that is being added to gasoline. We are not indifferent to the issue. We too, of course, want to see 100 per cent clean fuel and cars that do not release emissions into the air we all breathe. In this regard, if the automobile industry truly wants to produce cars that are 100 per cent clean and emission free, why does it not build cars that use electricity or, better yet, water?
You will agree that it is somewhat difficult to follow the logic of the automobile industry regarding MMT when the automobile itself uses fossil fuels and is therefore one of the greatest sources of pollution on the planet. While we are at it, the automobile industry should be true to its own logic and also ban the use of gasoline in cars.
I would just like to digress briefly at this point to talk about the Liberals' failure in this area. Members will recall that in 1994 Senator Kenny introduced a bill to reduce smog and greenhouse gas emissions. This bill was passed in June 1995 and concerned the entire government fleet of vehicles.
The bill requires the government to phase out these vehicles with vehicles using an alternative fuel, such as propane or natural gas, and, by April 1997, that half of new vehicles bought must use alternative fuels.
The results to date are nonexistent. The Liberal government has not implemented this bill. Furthermore, the Senate recently denounced the government's slow progress in converting its vehicles. What is the environment minister doing about this? Can he not get his own government to do its duty and thus set an example?
I would like, if I may, to cite a passage from the report of the Senate committee that looked at the progress made in the implementation of Bill S-7. I quote: "The committee is of the opinion that one of the obstacles to the rapid conversion to vehicles using alternative fuels in automobile fleets is that members of the federal cabinet do not seem to be leading the way. Ministers should preach by example and have their cars converted. In fact, all ministers received offers of conversion from methane and propane suppliers. To date, only three have taken advantage of these offers. The
committee urges the others to follow their example in order to underscore the importance the government attaches to this bill".
In light of such comments, it is difficult to detect any real resolve on the part of the Liberals with respect to air pollution. I find it paradoxical to say that MMT must be banned because it is a source of pollution, and yet do nothing oneself to reduce this same source of pollution. That is Liberal logic for you. Hard to follow, you will agree.
I draw your attention to the environment minister's press release from last April 18, in which he announces that the bill will be tabled again. In the fourth paragraph, the minister states, and I quote: "Of importance to me, as the Minister of the Environment, are the potential harmful effects on air quality of the interference of MMT with automobile diagnostic systems monitoring exhaust emissions".
What strikes me in this paragraph are the words "potential harmful effects". Let us admit that it is hardly a strong case for legislation. Can a bill seriously be tabled using words like "potential"?
In this business of MMT, where we must base our decisions on scientific data, the minister's choice of words is vague to say the least. This shows the government's spinelessness and hesitation where this bill is concerned.
This press release goes along with an information sheet in which we are informed of the five key points on which the minister has based his decision. The first concerns the automotive industry. Of course, the minister rehashes all the same old stuff from the automotive lobby about the harmful effects of MMT on pollution control devices, particularly the diagnostic systems commonly called OBDs, and about how this in turn results in increased atmospheric pollution and health hazards.
All of these real impacts end up as mere statements. At the end it is written down in black and white that the automotive industry is so convinced of the negative effects of MMT that it is currently involved in a test program in the U.S. at the cost of $10 million, in order to obtain definitive proof to back their position.
That statement takes some of the wind out of the sails of the auto lobby, and of the minister as well. No test completed as yet, no definitive proof either. I am not the one saying this, the Minister himself is. How, then, can the minister table Bill C-29 while the auto lobby cannot as yet, as I have just said, prove its argument? We must admit that this is not a very effective approach for a Minister of the Environment to take.
This is a source of concern, for the minister and the government are showing that lobbies hold more weight for them than concrete evidence, verified facts, and definite results. That is not, however, any real surprise. We all know how those people across the way operate, and where their motivation comes from.
We have seen how, in many other sectors, the most powerful lobbies gain the upper hand over their little Liberal buddies. The minister has also been pressured by another group in this matter: the Ontario Corn Producers Association. This group wrote to the minister on April 24, as follows:
"The Ontario Corn Producers Association with a membership of 21,000 Ontario farm families congratulates you for your decision to reintroduce proposed legislation to ban the importation of MMT for use in Canadian gasoline".
Further on we read that other, more environmental octane enhancers exist, including ethanol. As you know, ethanol is now being used and is produced from corn, hence Ontario's eagerness to congratulate the minister and to see MMT prohibited. Imagine the size of the new market for ethanol if MMT were to disappear.
I would say this is of major importance for Ontario farmers and the processing industry that would develop as a result.
If I remember correctly, in December 1994, the former Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture launched a development program to encourage the production of ethanol from biomass material. In fact, the major projects for the construction of plants to produce ethanol from corn are all in Ontario, if I am not mistaken. And as the ministers said on December 21, 1994, in a press release, ethanol offers an excellent opportunity to diversify the economy and stimulate economic growth. It opens up a vast market for agricultural products, thereby increasing the incomes of farmers and making them less dependent on farm income protection programs.
I would not want to question the motives of the present minister nor those of the former minister, who resigned and has just returned to the House, saved by the voters of Hamilton East, but there are some strange coincidences in this dossier. The two main economic lobbies, automobile manufacturers and corn ethanol manufacturers, are from Ontario, and the two ministers who have been involved in this issue happen to be from Ontario as well.
Is there a connection? As I said earlier, the Liberals are very sensitive to lobbying. Unfortunately, there is still no product like SPF 35 sun cream, for instance, to protect us from lobbying. Also it is becoming increasingly clear that both ministers have met the expectations of lobbies from their own province. We need look no further.
For instance, under key item 5 of the minister's information sheet, which is headed: "Possibilities for cleaner fuels", it says that the withdrawal of MMT from gasoline will create opportunities for the introduction and use of ethanol and other substitutes that may become a major component of a comprehensive national policy on the nationwide production and use of renewable energy sources. This policy, we read, would reflect the commitment made in the red book of the Liberal Party of Canada to an agricultural policy that would eliminate MMT, and it would be in line with U.S. federal policy designed to create new markets for renewable fuels such as ethanol.
No need to look any further to see what the Liberals have in mind. Ontario will be the great beneficiary of the withdrawal of MMT. That is crystal clear. The minister also indicated that this will be in line with the promises made in the red book. So now we have a political decision.
I agree that ethanol seems to be a useful additive. But ethanol produced from corn also bears a major economic and environmental cost. From the environmental point of view, corn is a crop that causes considerable pollution and soil depletion. Economically speaking, the cost of production is high. Consider that today, the federal government provides an excise tax exemption of 8.5 cents per litre on ethanol sold on the market to make this product competitive. Some provinces have followed suit, including Onta-rio.
These negative aspects are never mentioned by the Minister of the Environment. A crop that causes pollution and depletes the soil should give the Minister of the Environment some cause for alarm. I think the minister should consult people on these negative aspects of using corn. Can you imagine a Minister of the Environment being in favour of a crop that pollutes?
This bill still raises a number of questions. But instead of finding the answer to these questions, the minister prefers to blindly accommodate the lobbies from his province. What will the minister do when automobile manufacturers who, I may remind him, want gas that is 100 per cent pure, ask him to prohibit ethanol as an additive? Will he come and tell us that ethanol is a hazard to our health and that it contaminates antipollution systems in cars? The withdrawal of MMT as an additive will indeed have certain consequences.
According to the Ethyl Corporation and the oil industry, there will be three major consequences, which I will list for you without blindly considering them. We in the official opposition have some reservations about the lobby group's arguments. We certainly would not want to fall in the same trap as the minister, who, influenced by the other lobby group, has lacked foresight and rigour in this matter.
First of all, according to Ethyl, MMT reduces smog-causing nitrogen dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. If MMT really reduces urban smog, why would we want to remove it from gasoline?
Of course, the auto industry tells us that cars will pollute even less in the future and that improved performances will more than make up for the loss of current MMT benefits. Of course, department officials told us that the urban smog problem was not as bad in Canadian cities. But who is telling the truth?
Another consequence of MMT's removal is that refineries will require costly modifications. According to the oil companies, these adjustment costs combined with other operating costs will raise the price of gas at the pumps. The oil companies' assessments show some $100 million in capital costs and tens of millions of dollars in operating costs. Can we ask the oil industry to make such changes to their refineries to respond to the other party's claims, which are not based on any scientific evidence?
Can the minister seriously initiate all these changes simply to increase his visibility and respond to the pressures exerted by his province? I know that the Minister of the Environment and his Liberal colleagues, who are blindly following him in this matter, will accuse us of being impertinent, of being anti-health, of objecting to the reduction of air pollution. They can shout themselves hoarse and say whatever they want about us, we do not care.
If MMT is so harmful, the Liberals should ban it as a hazardous product. The Liberals are saying that MMT is harmful so they should act accordingly and ban the product itself.
The third consequence we must look at has to do with the oil refining process. MMT increases the octane level in gas, thus requiring less oil refining. We know that refining causes pollution. So, if MMT is removed, the oil companies will have to do more refining in order to increase the octane level and will therefore cause more pollution. Is the minister ready to contribute to the increase in direct pollution caused by refineries? Are the Liberals, who are trumpeting their health concerns, ready to increase pollution?
The question the Liberals should ask themselves is whether it is more important to create a market for Ontario corn or to consider the economic, agricultural and environmental impact of this bill seriously and rigorously. They should carefully determine if the expected benefits will indeed be achieved, check and quantify these benefits, and align them in two columns for comparison purposes. At present, the Liberals are going nowhere. It may be for the best, but it is not very responsible.
These are claims made by the MMT lobby that still raise questions, and these questions warrant the minister's undivided attention. But the minister prefers to bury his head in the sand, just like the Deputy Prime Minister did before him. The minister keeps
repeating that MMT is a health hazard, while Health Canada assures us that it does not represent a significant hazard to human health.
In the September 12 issue of La Presse , the Minister of the Environment was quoted as saying the following.
But the Government of Canada can act as well to protect the environment and public heath.'' I will remind the minister that, on December 6, 1994, Health Canada published the results of an independent risk assessment based on new epidemiological studies and data on exposure in Canada entitled:Risk assessment for the combustion products of MMT in gasoline''.
Health Canada's study concluded that there was no health risk for any segment of the Canadian population associated with the use of MMT in fuel. More specifically, it was reported that: "Airborne manganese resulting from the combustion of MMT in gasoline-powered vehicles is not introduced in the Canadian environment in amounts or under conditions that would pose a health risk."
The study also concluded that no relationship exists between ambient air manganese levels and MMT sales or its use in unleaded fuel, regardless of the region or the time of year.
What else does the Minister of the Environment want to tell us about the adverse health effects of MMT, when Health Canada says that there are no adverse effects? He should consult his colleague, the health minister, provided of course he is not even more isolated than he is believed to be in Cabinet. The Minister of Health could run over the findings of theses studies for him, to refresh his memory so that he can finally tell us why he really wants this bill passed.
There is no shame in backtracking for a minister. Again, his colleague could remind him of his own experience with the famous issue of cheese made from raw milk.
To fuel the controversy about this bill, on September 10, the American parent company Ethyl Corporation gave notice of its intention to file a complaint and have the Government of Canada pay the company US$200 million under NAFTA for damages sustained by its subsidiary Ethyl Canada.
Ethyl argues that Canada is not fulfilling its obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement. According to Ethyl Corp., Canada does not comply with Articles 1110, 1106 and 1102, which deal respectively with expropriation, compensation, performance requirements and national treatment.
Ethyl Corp. is seeking US$200 million US in compensation, and the minister seems to take it lightly, saying that the government of Canada has the right to take measures to protect the environment and public health and that the company is entitled to its opinion. If I were the minister I would quickly put Bill C-29 on hold, at least for a while, and I would have in-depth discussions with my legal advisors, to make sure that Canada is in a strong bargaining position and can win its case.
The minister seems rather casual and nonchalant about the company's intention to sue. At a time when cuts are being made to the health, welfare and UI sectors, the minister should ask himself whether Canada has the means to throw away US$200 million. Should Canada lose its case before the arbitration tribunal, how would the minister justify his bill, which looks more and more like a measure designed to favour a specific interest group? Would he send the bill to car makers, or to corn producers in his province?
Canadian taxpayers have a right to expect fair and rigorous decisions on the part of their ministers, not partisan choices that could cost them a great deal.
NAFTA is not the only agreement that would be violated by Bill C-29. The whole issue of interprovincial trade is also affected, since Bill C-29 prohibits such trade. Some provincial ministers feel this is a case of federal interference. Bill C-29 would also contravene the federal-provincial agreement on trade in Canada.
In fact, no less than six provinces openly oppose this measure. Can the minister turn a blind eye to the provinces' appeals, when his cabinet colleagues are extolling the virtues of the federation and of co-operation in this country? Is the Minister of the Environment that isolated in cabinet, when it comes to this issue?
The minister's decision to go ahead with Bill C-29 has no solid basis. His arguments are not supported by any scientific evidence. The minister naively but willingly relies on the claims made by car makers, and on the hope that the anticipated income growth of his province's corn producers who, coincidentally, account for three quarters of Canada's corn production, will materialize. The minister's decision is also a source of concern for the future. It is not reassuring, for the future and for the environment, when an environment minister who has access to all the tools of a department is so lax regarding a major issue.
I will conclude by tabling an amendment to the bill. I propose:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:
"Bill C-29, An Act to regulate interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese-based substances, be not now read a third time but that it be read a third time this day six months hence."
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)
The amendment is in order. Resuming debate.
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-29 but it is also unfortunate in many ways.
I thought this bill would have been terminated in the last Parliament because there is so much contention surrounding this issue. Contrary to what the hon. minister said today, there is ample evidence to support that banning MMT in Canada is really a spurious attempt to do something that should not occur. MMT has not been proven to be damaging to onboard diagnostic devices, the health of Canadians or the environment. I will discuss this a little later.
This bill is very interesting. I will destroy the credibility of the government with regard to this bill. I will demonstrate that the comments made today by members of the government, both in question period and in debate, conflict greatly with what they have said previously and with what they really believe on this matter.
The banning of MMT is supported by a strong automaker lobby group in the previous Minister of the Environment's constituency, and that is the real driving force behind the bill. It is not based on scientific fact. It is not based on any fact at all; it has been done on a whim. The minister has been lobbied strongly for this by the automobile manufacturers and it is obvious the auto manufacturers have won.
It is my impression that Bill C-94 was not drafted in the same manner as other bills. Rather, it was drafted on a whim.
The previous minister did not give a comprehensive analysis to all the stakeholders, especially the hapless consumer. The previous minister had no conclusive evidence whatsoever that MMT was harmful to cars or to humans. All she was going on were the words of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, the big three. It is a sorry state of affairs when the big three, the industry, can actually push a bill through this House.
After the bill's introduction, the previous minister proceeded to hold a press conference where she informed reporters that the reason for banning MMT was because it caused problems with onboard diagnostic systems to all new automobiles. However, this was not the only reason the minister proceeded to ban the trade on MMT. She stated that Canada was one of the only countries in the world to still be using MMT in unleaded gasoline and that this should change.
As a member of this House and as a representative of Canadians in my riding, it is important that we weigh and pursue every available option to come up with accurate and scientific based conclusions before we create legislation on any topic. What is needed on these technical matters is the best that science can offer. The Liberal government can call itself responsible, but I ask whether it is really responsible to take the words of a few automobile manufacturers over the words of hard, scientific evidence which demonstrates that MMT does not pose a health hazard to Canadians? What I will demonstrate later on is that it is going to do the exact opposite.
We know that the bill was introduced last year and MMT was still not permitted at that time in the United States. The minister has stated today quite unequivocally that his goal is to harmonize gasoline with the situation south of the border. That is a very reasonable thing to do, but why are we attempting to harmonize our gasoline by banning a substance that is being reintroduced in the United States? Does this make sense? No, it does not make sense.
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
Sergio Marchi York West, ON
That is false.
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
The minister is saying this is false, yet he knows full well that the United States, I think it was in October 1995, stated unequivocally that MMT does not pose a health hazard to people, is not damaging to onboard devices and therefore ought to be allowed. In fact, this proves that it is going to actually improve the environment by limiting the amount of nitrous oxide emissions in the air.
I would be very interested to know the evidence the minister has, if he has any, to prove contrary to what I am saying in the House today.
To look at the history, in 1977 Congress made some amendments to the clean air act, which the minister referred to earlier today. One amendment dealt with the emergence of catalytic converters in automobiles. I want to read what the courts stated about the effect it would have on MMT. As catalytic converters could not be used with leaded fuels, their adoption had led to a sharp rise in the use of MMT as an octane booster and Congress responded to the concern that it and other fuel additives might harm the effectiveness of these converters. That was their belief back in the 1970s.
Congress however directed the EPA to grant a waiver once it was determined that the additive would not cause or contribute to the failure of an emission control device or system. The EPA deliberately stalled on making a decision until the courts instructed them to do the testing. On November 30, 1993 the EPA found that MMT "did not cause or contribute to the failure of emission control systems". However, not wanting to be outdone by the courts, the EPA denied the waiver on the grounds that the manufacturer, Ethyl, had not yet established an absence of health effects, another very reasonable conclusion.
The courts wrangled until about October 20, 1995 when the United States Court of Appeal in the case of Ethyl Corporation v. the Administrator of the United States, EPA, ruled: "We order the EPA to register MMT for use as an additive in unleaded gasoline as of November 30, 1993". Therefore, they proved that MMT did not show any adverse health effects. That is a very important point.
What is significant with this ruling is not that Ethyl won and MMT could be sold in the U.S. in unleaded gasoline by the year end, but rather it is the process which was undertaken by Congress and the EPA. They did not approve of MMT in unleaded fuels until it was proven that MMT was not a health risk and that it was not damaging onboard devices, which are the two concerns the minister expressed today. They are the same concerns which we have in the Reform Party. They are the same concerns which have been disproved by studies undertaken in the United States.
When the bill was introduced in May, both the environment minister and the industry minister said that eliminating MMT from our gasoline was essential in order to achieve a North American harmonization of fuel. Yet as I have previously said, the United States has now brought MMT back into play.
The minister said that 85 per cent of the fuel in the United States was MMT free. That is probably so, but let us not forget that MMT was banned until the end of 1995. One could also say that from the end of 1995 until now, MMT has been reintroduced into the American fuel system and has occupied 15 per cent of the total volume.
Both ministers were confident that the ban on MMT would remain in the United States. In May 1995 the environment minister was asked during question period about the fact that the courts would probably rule in Ethyl's favour. The Deputy Prime Minister's response at that time was: "I advise the hon. member that last week when I had the opportunity to speak with Carol Browner, head of the EPA, she reaffirmed the U.S. commitment not to allow MMT. She decried the fact that there is only one country, Canada, that still allows MMT and we intend to change that".
The Minister of Industry has in fact gone further than his colleague. He said last April during question period that the key is to have uniformity of standards between the U.S. and Canada. He said: "The member will know that MMT is not permitted in the United States by legislation. It is crucial that we have uniformity of standards".
If we are trying to create uniformity of standards, why are we banning MMT which is now being reintroduced in the United States? We are in fact going backward in time to create disharmony in our fuel.
The Minister of Industry also clearly stated on the record that it is important for U.S. and Canadian gasolines to have the same composite harmonization. I would suggest we have proven today that the government is very confused in what it means by harmonization.
When the EPA attempted to ban MMT it mistakenly believed it was harmful. The Liberal government wants to ban it not on substance, but rather on the basis of importation and interprovincial trade. Why can it not be banned in Canada? The reason it cannot be banned in this country is because it is understood that MMT is not a health hazard to people.
If we were going to be genuine about banning this substance, if we truly believed it was a substance which was harmful to Canadians, then we would ban it under that premise. The government is not pursuing that course because it understands that the scientific facts demonstrate very clearly that MMT is not a health hazard. Therefore, the government is taking this roundabout way of trying to ban the importation and interprovincial trade of MMT. It is very disingenuous.
The minister had every opportunity to let this bill die yet did not, even knowing full well that there was an extensive amount of opposition within his own party, in the backbenches, and even within cabinet. In a moment I am going to reveal a very interesting letter from the Minister for International Trade.
The Minister for International Trade sent a letter to the Minister of the Environment which was dated February 23, 1996. The letter reads:
"Dear Minister of the Environment: I understand that you are considering the reintroduction of Bill C-94 in the upcoming session. My department continues to have certain reservations concerning this measure which I wish to draw to your attention.
"One of the original arguments that favoured the ban on MMT was that the U.S. already prohibited its use as a petroleum additive. Recently the U.S. Court of Appeal overturned the U.S. ban."-And this is very important-"This has effectively removed harmonization arguments in support of Bill C-94".
I will repeat that because it is what the Minister for International Trade said to the Minister of the Environment: The U.S. Court of Appeal has overturned the ban and it has removed the harmonization argument that the Minister of the Environment has been speaking about at length today.
The letter goes on to say: "An important prohibition on MMT would be inconsistent with Canada's obligations under the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement. It would constitute an impermissible prohibition on imports particularly if domestic production, sale or use is not similarly prohibited. It could not be justified on health or environmental grounds given current scientific evidence".
The Minister for International Trade has told the Minister of the Environment that MMT cannot be banned because it is not a health hazard and MMT cannot be banned because it does not prove to be a risk to the environment and that it will not harmonize gasoline in North America.
In conclusion the minister said: "Let me stress my department's belief that Bill C-94 should not be reintroduced as it could have many adverse implications for Canadian trade without compensatory environmental benefits".
What the Minister for International Trade said is completely contrary to what the same minister said today in question period. Today he is supporting the bill giving an argument exactly counter to what is stated in his letter to the Minister of the Environment. That is hypocrisy. It cannot be both ways.
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)
Order. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: The hon. member for Rosedale, Canada pension plan; the hon. member for Bourassa, Immigration and Refugee Board.
Manganese Based Fuel Additives Act
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
CEPA was designed specifically to ban harmful substances. In order to add a substance to the schedule of banned substances under CEPA, it must be shown by Health Canada that the substance is hazardous to the health of Canadians, but it has been shown that it is not a health hazard. Health Canada reports that its analyses indicate that the combustion products of MMT in gasoline do not represent an added health risk to the Canadian population, period, end of story. MMT is not harmful to Canadians according to Health Canada. I would be very happy to share that report with the minister if he is interested.
From the very beginning we in the Reform Party have unequivocally stated that we would support banning MMT if the government could prove through independent scientific studies that MMT was harmful to Canadians or to the onboard diagnostic systems in cars. We have not seen that evidence and therefore we can only conclude that MMT should not be banned.
When the petroleum companies appeared before the committee, they suggested that they would have a tremendous amount to lose should MMT be removed from Canadian fuels. In their testimony it was suggested that the removal of MMT would result in an increase in manufacturing costs, as much as $69 million per year. Refineries would have to burn more crude oil in order to achieve the high octane levels needed for today's automobiles, without any economic benefit.
The refineries would be forced to burn a greater amount of crude oil in order to achieve different octane levels, but in the process, it would produce greater emissions through the burning of crude oil.
Therefore, it would increase the cost of energy for the transportation sector and would be a direct tax on jobs and ultimately a drag on the economy.
When this bill was introduced to the environment committee, one of the questions raised had to do with the possible alternatives to MMT. According to the auto makers, the octane of gasoline can be increased through changes to the refining process as well as through the addition of other octane enhancers such as MTBE, ETBE and ethanol.
The former environment minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, once made a comment that she did not need to conduct independent testing because the big three auto makers had said MMT was harmful. Who are we to dispute the big three auto makers?
On October 18 Rod Raphael, chief of monitoring and criteria in a division of Health Canada, appeared before the environment committee and said the following about MTBE, a possible alternative to MMT: "We have concerns with respect to MTBE and the fact is that MMT could prove to be carcinogenic and that the evaluation of MTBE is still out".
Why would we consider using MTBE when it has shown to have a potential negative effect on the health of Canadians? Why are we replacing something that has been proven to not be harmful to Canadians?
There is also data to show these alternative fuel enhancers have lower mileage rates, so much more that more gasoline has to be burned with more nitrous oxide emissions into the environment with a negative effect.
Bear in mind that nitrous oxide is one of the greatest contributors to pollution through smog. This bill has been brought through various stages. I want to make it clear and point out that at every stage we in the Reform Party have made every attempt to put this bill on hold until conclusive proof has been found that it demonstrates a negative effect on the environment or to Canadians' health.
It is clearly beyond me why this government continues to pursue this bill, showing as it were that it has not shown to demonstrate any negative effects on the health of Canadians.
Furthermore, the banning of MMT may prove to be deleterious to Canadians' health by increasing nitrous oxide levels within the environment. There is no disputing that the presence of MMT in unleaded gasoline actually reduces smog, and therefore banning MMT means an increase of nitrous oxide, and replacing it with an
alternative would result in an increased negative effect on the environment in a number of different ways.
As politicians we are very familiar with polls. One poll says this and another one says that. If we want a polling company to get a favourable answer, it is very easy to do that. That is what we have seen here in this case.
The same thing happened with MMT, with Ethyl having its studies to prove its case and the auto makers doing their studies to prove their case. It proves absolutely nothing. I must say, though, the studies done by Health Canada are conclusive and flow exactly contrary to what the hon. minister has been saying in this House.
I do not understand why the hon. Minister of the Environment is choosing to ignore studies that come out from the Ministry of Health that fly completely against his conclusions.
Other studies done, for example by Kilbourn Inc., show that the removal of MMT as a reduction of sulphur content in gasoline would result in an increase in capital costs of nearly a billion dollars and an increase of $200 million in annual operating costs.
These large costs, though, are sure to cripple many refineries in the country and force a lot of Canadians out of their jobs, in the order of thousands I might add.
Since the beginning we in the Reform Party have pushed for independent testing. If the minister were honest in his intentions, he would do that.
This need not have ever come to the House, not last Parliament or this one. Ethyl Corp. and the auto makers were dealing with this themselves. They were almost going to have a conclusion to it when the government stuck its big foot in. It has now completely polarized both these groups. Now it comes to our purview here.
We are wasting taxpayer money in this House by even discussing this bill which could have been dealt with in the private sector in a very effective and efficient fashion.
The negativism about this bill comes not only from within cabinet, not only from the government backbenchers, but from provincial ministers across this country. Throughout 1995 provincial environment ministers submitted letters to the Standing Committee on the Environment with regard to MMT. I am going to read some of these to make it perfectly clear what these provincial ministers are saying.
Ty Lund, Alberta's minister of the environment, states: "This unilateral federal action on a non-toxic component of gasoline will likely only serve to draw valuable resources away from consensus efforts to improve Canada's gasoline and deliver real air quality benefits. Canadian petroleum refineries may be dealt a legislative disadvantage if MMT is banned in Canada and allowed in the United States".
The former New Brunswick minister of the environment, Vaughn Blaney, stated that the province of New Brunswick raised concerns regarding the negative environmental impacts of proceeding with this plan, including the potential increase of emissions of greenhouse, toxic and acidifying gases from motor vehicles. The exact opposite intent of what the minister wishes to have is going to happen if MMT is banned. We are going to make our environment not cleaner but dirtier. To use the minister's words, nobody wants our air needed to be scrubbed, chewed on or otherwise. We want it cleaner, but banning MMT is not going to effect that change.
Wayne Adams, Nova Scotia's environment minister, stated: "We understand that the position taken by the federal government on the effect of MMT on vehicles equipped with advanced emission control technologies resulted from claims to its effect by the automobile industry. We also understand that they were not able to substantiate those claims with sound technical documentation. Further, there is proof that the removal of MMT from gasoline will cause increases in nitrous oxide emissions by up to 20 per cent. Therefore we cannot support Bill C-94".
Bernhard Weins, Saskatchewan's minister of the environment and resource management, stated: "In our view the scientific data on MMT do not indicate a net environmental gain that will result in the passage of this legislation. In addition to the cost implications, increased greenhouse gas emissions as a result of intensified refinery processes required to replace MMT and increased vehicle tailpipe emissions of smog forming oxides of nitrogen would also occur".
These are not people who are in the camp of Ethyl Corporation. These are not people who have any particular axe to grind other than the safety of Canadians and the health of Canadians. Why are these people opposing Bill C-94 on the basis of sound scientific data to show that banning MMT is not going to make our environment cleaner but rather will make our environment dirtier?
Guy Chevrette, Quebec's minister of state for natural resources, stated the bill will have a major impact on the competitiveness of Quebec's refiners. It goes on and on. There is a list of these statements. The words of these provincial ministers and the statements made by the Montreal Board of Trade clearly speak for themselves.
I ask the Minister of the Environment to please rethink his position on this bill. His provincial counterparts are not standing behind him. Part of cabinet is not standing behind him. I would venture to say that a large number of the backbenchers in the Liberal Party are also not standing behind him.
This bill should be dropped. This bill should never have come forward in this Parliament and it should be scrapped. I suggest the minister start to address the wide variety and number of significant
environmental hazards that are in our midst today which have simply not been dealt with by this government.
There are a litany of environmental problems that are affecting Canadians from coast to coast which in the three years since we have been here are simply not being addressed. Included are deforestation, salinization of soil, the damage to our wetlands, desertification, pollution in the Arctic.
Colleagues in the House here today, my friends from the Bloc Quebecois, friends from the Liberal Party, went to the Arctic and heard increasingly disturbing evidence of carcinogens, teratogens and toxins increasing in the Arctic. They are increasing through the food chain with dramatic, disastrous and deleterious effects for the health of the people who live in the Arctic.
I have not seen one thing come into this House since that meeting earlier this year to address that factual graphic evidence of the damage that has been done to our environment in the Arctic. The damage that is taking place among the people who are living in the Arctic is silent and is killing. I know the minister is very interested in this and I hope to see action on this.
On the endangered species legislation we have seen nothing. While we talk in this House at least two species are being eliminated from the face of the planet every single day, and Canada is no exception. We have dozens of species on the endangered list. We have dozens on the threatened list. CITES, the convention on the international trade in endangered species of wild flora and fauna, has repeatedly said interestingly and sadly enough that Canada has the ignominious reputation for being one of the top ten conduits of illegal animal parts in the world.
I did not know that, and I am ashamed to say that we in this country are a conduit for some of the most threatened and endangered species on this planet, species that are never going to be in existence again if things are not done to protect them: the black rhino, spotted cats, a wide variety of bird species.
In Canada we have the problem of bears being poached for gall bladders and other parts. We have the grizzly bear situation in British Columbia. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Correct me if I am wrong, but I have not seen a single piece of legislation that has come forward in the House to address endangered species. While we speak habitat is being destroyed and species in this country are being wiped off the face of the planet.
It would be very productive if we saw in this House efforts put from the government on endangered species legislation, on habitat protection, on habitat reclamation and on using novel ways of actually reclaiming habitat that has been destroyed by industry. Having the polluter pay is a sensible way of doing that without burdening the taxpayer and putting onerous demands on the already limited budget the minister has to work with.
Co-operative efforts with industry are going to improve habitat and perhaps expand the amount of habitat that we have, that we need, to protect our endangered species. In Canada, as in every other part of the world, habitat destruction is the single most important reason for the decimation of species.
There are novel ways to protect our parks. Our parks are under threat in a number of ways. The primary reason they are under threat is financial. You cannot blame anybody for this because that is the financial reality we all live under, but there are novel ways of doing that.
I think it is interesting for us to look at what other parts of the world are actually doing to preserve their wild spaces. There are interesting co-operative efforts that can be done with industry so that the parks themselves can earn revenues. Those revenues can be reinvested within the parks to hire enforcement officers, to increase the amount of protected spaces they have for education, for research and scientific study.
In doing that we would give the parks the ability to generate the revenues so they will be there for us in this House, for our families, for Canadians from coast to coast and for the generations of Canadians to come. It is a legacy that we have inherited. It is a legacy that is on our shoulders to give to future generations.
These issues have to be dealt with. I plead with hon. minister to bring forth good constructive suggestions and to work with other members to address the critically important environmental issues that affect us from coast to coast, not the banning of MMT which has not been shown deleterious to the health of Canadians.
Could he please bring his skills and those of his ministry to bear on these important environmental issues, on the pollution that is taking place in our oceans as we speak, to develop new ways to work with the Minister of Transport, to develop new co-operative ways with the municipalities and the provinces, to deal with alternative means of transportation.
The European experience is very interesting. Look at what they have done with respect to train travel and electric travel for mass transit. Even in relatively small communities of 60,000 to 70,000 people, they have established interesting transportation mechanisms which have led to a decrease in the utilization of cars, thereby decreasing the amount of auto emissions.
Co-operative efforts like that along with the use of non-electric, non-petroleum modes of transportation such as bicycles can be utilized very effectively. We might be put to shame by looking at
the European experience. We could take some of what they have done and apply it to some areas in this country.
The hon. minister comes from the city as I, Toronto. It is sad to see the environmental degradation that has taken place in this very fine city. I am sure he shares the concerns of everybody in this House who lives in urban centres about the environmental degradation they have seen.
Now is the time for this government to show and take a leadership role in developing cost effective, scientifically sound methods to decrease the pollution we have in our midst to improve our environment not only for us but, most important, for the Canadians of tomorrow.