House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ethanol.

Topics

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is precisely what I am getting at and precisely what I think we need to do. What we need from the government is a proper evaluation of what choices we are making and why. Let me illustrate in practical terms for Canadians.

The government brought in a tax deductible transit pass. Here is what we know about a tax deductible transit pass. We know that the Minister of Finance was told by his own officials not to do it. We know that the economic analysis backstopping the measure said the cost was too expensive per tonne of greenhouse gases reduced. It was about $1,800 per tonne of greenhouse gases reduced using the tax deductible transit pass.

That is not intelligent hockey. That is not a proper allocation of scarce public resources. That is not good economic policy and it is not good environmental policy, but we see it right through this whole announcement in choices that are being made. Where was the evidence to support investing $1 billion-plus in this, over $1 billion-plus in that? It is not put forward. I am not even sure if the numbers have been crunched.

The member is precisely right and I would like to thank him for raising it. Those are the questions that I think have to be raised in committee.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member's comment about cellulosic ethanol and it is my recollection in last year's budget that $180 million was targeted for the cellulosic ethanol operation that he mentioned in his riding, Iogen, to build the first commercial plant in Canada, fortunately in Saskatchewan, my home province.

However, the member referred to it as being an incoherent policy, that we are just emphasizing grain-based ethanol. Is the member suggesting today that the $180 million funding for the Iogen project to move ahead is a one-sided, incoherent strategy?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. I fought hard and supported the request for support for Iogen Corporation to pilot, to groundtruth, and to set up exactly the kind of plant that we should be setting up. What is incoherent is how any of these connect.

What about the plant in the riding of the member from Cornwall? How does that connect with this one? What about the actual removal of the excise fuel tax, the exemption, the exception? How is that going to have a bearing on pricing in the marketplace? These things are all connected, but unfortunately, I am still looking to see how it is coherent.

It certainly is not coherent, if I may share with the hon. member, with the climate change plan that absolutely no one believes. It was not believed domestically and it was completely rejected internationally.

In fact, it was so bad internationally, the Minister of the Environment, who was scheduled to give a speech to 100 international dignitaries and the media, skipped out three minutes before it was to take place. He did not come and present it at all. We do not know where he was. If he is that proud of it, maybe he should come to the House and defend it more regularly.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening to Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to provide for the efficient regulation of fuels. It allows the minister to regulate the content of fuels. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill. We obviously want to examine it in more detail in committee.

I am nonetheless surprised to hear the government this evening. It is as though it were presenting the seventh wonder of the world. This Conservative government thinks this bill represents a shiny new energy policy, agriculture policy, and greenhouse gas reduction policy, but it is nothing more than an administrative measure that addresses some of our concerns. That is why, as I was saying, we support the principle.

We want—and everyone agrees on this—to increasingly reduce our dependence on oil. Maybe some people do not want that, but we certainly do. We also want an effort to be made in the transportation sector in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the use of agricultural and wood waste products. Some hon. members have mentioned certain pilot plants as far as cellulose ethanol is concerned. An increasing number of projects are being implemented. During this speech I will take the opportunity to talk about what is going on in my region in particular. You will understand why when I do.

The government has already announced that it will implement a regulation requiring fuel to contain an average of 5% renewable fuels by 2010. Regulations will also require diesel and fuel-oil to contain an average of 2% renewable fuels by 2012. We know that the Government of Quebec intends to have gasoline contain 5% ethanol by 2012. It has invested $6.5 million in building two demonstration plants for cellulose ethanol production in the Eastern Townships, not far from my riding.

The cellulose ethanol process promotes the use of agricultural residues, such as straw, and forestry residues, such as wood chips, trees and fast growing grasses. This could be an excellent opportunity for the agricultural and forestry sectors, which desperately need additional sources of revenue.

Such a project is underway in the Bromptonville area, in Sherbrooke. I know the area well. Indeed, during my first election campaign, the former municipality of Bromptonville, which amalgamated with Sherbrooke, was in the Richmond—Arthabaska riding. The pilot plant or pilot project involved the Kruger forestry company, located in the area. The second project is still in the Eastern Townships, in Westbury, where the residues from table making are turned into ethanol. It is still in the early stages, but it is a path worth exploring further in terms of these kinds of projects.

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food also had the opportunity to meet with the managers of an Ottawa-based business, Iogen Corporation. Some members have mentioned other plants elsewhere in Canada. These people built a pilot plant that has been producing cellulosic ethanol for a few years now. The process is not yet “profitable”, although I think it is a profitable venture anytime we do something to reduce our oil dependency. For now, this is very much still in the experimental stage, but this is a very promising new form of energy.

The biofuel industry is also becoming increasingly important. Moreover, under new regulations, some cattle farmers are left with specified risk materials, or SRMs, that are worth nothing at this time and they must pay to dispose of them. It would be beneficial for these farmers to be able to send these materials to biodiesel plants so they could be turned into fuel.

I know that the Fédération des producteurs de bovins du Québec is already asking the federal government for assistance to conduct a market study, at the very least, to determine whether constructing a biodiesel plant would be feasible. It would be a very good idea for the federal government to listen to the representations of the Fédération des producteurs de bovins du Québec regarding this issue. Indeed, a very profitable market could be developed. Of course, all animal oils, all animal product residues, could eventually be turned into biofuel.

Earlier I said that I would provide examples from my riding. My hometown is known as the cradle of sustainable development. This is even written on the signs. In my area, the late Normand Maurice was known as the father of recycling. Recycling started in Victoriaville, in central Quebec. We are very proud of that. The city is the cradle of sustainable development. We fulfilled our desire to take sustainable development even further by converting the city's 35 trucks to run on biodiesel. In Victoriaville, the foremen are already driving around in hybrids. This example gives an idea of the philosophy of my region. All the other vehicles run on ethanol fuel. Biodiesel comes from vegetable oils, animal fats and used frying oils.

In Victoriaville, the Centre de formation en entreprise et récupération, or CFER, was responsible for an interesting partnership. Normand Maurice, whom I mentioned earlier, created the CFERs in Quebec. In the beginning, there was only the one centre in Victoriaville. There are now 17 throughout Quebec. Young people with learning difficulties learn to work as part of a team in a plant. Now, CFERs are specialized in recycling all kinds of materials, including cellular phones or anything Hydro-Québec no longer uses, from wires to lamp posts. A recycled paint plant was even opened in Victoriaville. It belonged to the CFER, but is now independent. They are still together, but thanks to them, a whole new industry was developed. The CFER is what started all of this. Pioneers like Normand Maurice and Yves Couture, the current director of the CFER in Victoriaville, have made it possible for these young people to learn job skills, and most of them to find jobs. Of course, all the projects aim to promote public awareness about the importance of recycling.

In addition to the CFER, this project accommodates the Centre de formation Vision 20-20, which is a school, and Peinture récupérée du Québec, about which I have already spoken. Together, they decided to set up a used vegetable oil recovery and treatment project to produce biodiesel. At present, about ten Victoriaville restaurants provide the vegetable oil. We already have a pharmacy delivery vehicle that uses the biodiesel. The vehicle was modified and has a biodiesel reservoir. This entire project is branching out.

That is not all. Victoriaville is also home to the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, INRS, which is interested in the sludge from Victoriaville's water treatment plant. Apparently we have good sludge. I do not know much about the different qualities of sludge but one thing is for sure: the INRS believes that Victoriaville's sludge could be useful in the future. One day, it could be processed into biofuel. That is a scientific possibility. It could also be turned into biopesticides, detergent for the agriculture sector or paper mills, and microbial additives for treating wastewater from the agri-food sector, among others.

To close, I would like to point out that the INRS plans to open in Quebec City, in the near future, an agricultural, industrial and urban waste bioconversion laboratory that will be a pilot project. A small idea has taken off and I have only talked about what is happening in my riding. Every MP who has spoken has been able to give a few interesting examples of the strides taken in developing alternatives to traditional fuels. Everything I have spoken about can be found in Victoriaville's newspapers. The local media have kept the citizens informed. In my opinion, these are projects that could be replicated in other regions.

There are some very interesting possibilities with regard to the production of biofuels, but we still do not have large-scale production. As I mentioned, in many cases, things are still at the experimental stage. Unfortunately, we are still dependent on oil.

The Bloc Québécois put forward a plan to reduce our oil dependency. The government would do well to go along with our plan rather than believe that introducing an administrative bill will fix everything. The government should go along with this plan instead of giving mind-boggling tax cuts to big oil companies. If I am not mistaken, this year alone, the government gave $922 million to big oil companies that certainly do not need the money. Everyone knows this, so I will leave it at that.

I want to emphasize that Quebec could reduce its dependency on oil by half within 10 years. One way to reach that goal is to reduce the amount of oil used in gasoline. That is one way to reduce our oil dependency. However, we will not be able to reach that goal if the Conservative government continues to shoot down Quebec's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As we all know, not long ago this government thought that the whole climate change issue was a socialist plot and that global warming was not really happening. Representatives of this government have been hard at work on the international scene sabotaging the efforts of countries that want to do what has to be done to reduce greenhouse gases.

Contrary to what we heard earlier, this bill will not solve the problem. We agree that we need much stricter solutions. For example, we could demand absolute targets, particularly for big oil companies. We could do the same for transportation. We could also set up a carbon exchange. There has been enough talk here and in the public arena to realize that while some countries are taking action, our government is, unfortunately, asleep at the wheel when it comes to environmental issues.

Among other things, the federal government should take action within its jurisdiction to table a bill requiring auto manufacturers to improve the fuel consumption of all road vehicles sold in Quebec by 20% within 10 years. That kind of bill would be interesting.

Unfortunately, Bill C-33, which is currently before us, does not go that far. All it does is allow the minister to regulate the content of fuels.

The committee will have to look at this very closely to figure out exactly what the government is trying to accomplish with this bill. For example, we want to know if the government intends to copy our American neighbours' energy system development strategy.

It is important to understand that Canada will never be able to copy the United States, which heavily subsidizes its grain producers through the Farm Bill. The U.S. also heavily subsidizes ethanol plants. The American government pays 50¢ of the cost of producing a gallon of ethanol. If we do the math, we see that the U.S. is currently producing 12 billion gallons of ethanol, which means $6 billion in subsidies. The Americans' goal is to produce 36 billion gallons of ethanol in the relatively short term. Subsidies in the U.S. are staggering.

Clearly, Canada will not be able to go that route. We would like to know what the Conservative government's policy is on this. The minister did not make any mention of it in his speech this evening.

We need to know the federal government's real strategy for developing the energy system, if it has a policy. That remains to be seen.

To date, the government has talked a good game. Some steps are being taken—and we agree with them, of course—to promote certain biofuel plants. But as I said earlier, we will not give this government a blank cheque based on its environmental record. That is out of the question. This government's responsibility for the sustainability of agriculture in Canada will not disappear with this bill, even though it does promote the use of biofuels.

As I said, we need to be increasingly aware of new fuels. It is important to study all the environmental impacts of introducing and using biofuels. That is why it will be very interesting to hear the explanations and testimony in committee about the actions the government wants to take.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the member's speech. I have two questions for him.

At the end of his speech, he talked about the subsidies given to the agricultural industry in the United States and how they hurt Canadian farmers. Would the member comment on how effective the government has been in trying to convince the United States and Europe to stop harmful subsidies, which are hurting our farmers so much?

The second question I have is related to the types of ethanol and from what they are produced. At a Canadian Renewable Fuels Association reception last night, I talked to some of its major officials, and they are always very helpful. I commend that organization for the lobbying it has done over the years for renewable fuels. The officials explained how ethanol production was moving more and more away from using the actual food part of the corn and using only the rest of the product. The Liberals have made a great deal of mention today to the use of cellulose.

If the emphasis, motivation and incentive is toward producing a type of ethanol from fuels that will not hurt fuel production, how is this incorporated in the bill?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not see that in the bill. However, the reason we are insisting on hearing about it in committee and inviting more and more witnesses is precisely in order to fully explore the matter, to determine the government's direction in terms of its policies concerning energy and the use of renewable fuels. As I was saying, we hear the government saying that this bill will revolutionize the planet, but, in reality, it is a much more administrative measure. There are some promising features, however. Of course, we must shed full light on the matter, as we do for each and every bill that comes before us.

As for subsidies, it must be understood that Canada, which is supposed to be a major player on the world stage when it comes to agriculture and agrifood, has been described—and I am not the one who said it—by many associations, federations and farmers' unions as a boy scout compared to other countries that constantly give huge subsidies to their farmers. This is definitely the case in the European Union and the Unites States.

WTO negotiations are currently underway in Geneva and it seems that none of those countries wants to make any concessions. Canada, on the other hand, must put its foot down and assert its rights.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for giving us his point of view, especially when he spoke to the larger issues of energy policy, where much of this has to fit into the design of a green energy future for Canada and for Quebec.

One of the largest debates in Quebec right now is about the importation liquefied natural gas to the province. It is my understanding the Bloc has not taken the position of opposing this. Natural gas is used for space heating. Biomass energy and biological fuels can be used as well for the same purpose.

Is there not a higher quality in developing green energy in Canada for the use by Quebeckers over the importation of a potentially very expensive form of energy from places like Russia and Qatar?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thought it was rather clear in my speech that promoting the use of renewable energy is completely consistent with sustainable development. This is what Quebec has been wanting for a long time.

Earlier, I heard one of my colleagues give some examples of what Manitoba and other provinces with rather interesting renewable energy policies are doing.

It is always very important to keep developing these types of products instead of importing gas or other energies. That is obvious. However, as I said earlier, we must understand that biofuels and all the new technologies are still in the experimental stage. We cannot wake up one day and say that we are changing our production and that we are using only such-and-such a product to fulfill or meet our needs, in the industries, in the transportation sector, or elsewhere. If we do nothing, we will certainly remain dependent on oil and other expensive energies. However, if we are smart and keep investing the necessary money and implementing the necessary policies, while still respecting the importance of sustainable development, we will clearly be able to wean ourselves off these very expensive energies at some point.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my esteemed colleague from the Bloc is the vice-chair of the agriculture committee and is very learned on this topic. We enjoy a great relationship while working on issues that are important to farmers across the country.

He talked about other types of biofuels and biomass. Outside of Montreal, Rothsay has a biodiesel plant that is based upon using animal byproducts, the fats from rendered product, to make biodiesel. It has proven to be extremely successful. I can see that business expanding across the country thanks to the good work at its plant outside of Montreal.

Iogen, just outside of Ottawa, has been working on developing cellulose ethanol and is getting further down the line to seeing that technology commercialized. This will also provide another marketplace for our agriculture producers, whether it is waste coming out of livestock yards, or the straw left out in the fields after harvest, or making use of things like wood chips from the pulp and paper industry or the lumber industry. There is an opportunity to take waste material and turn it into a valuable product.

I am glad my esteemed colleague has made the intervention outlining the fact that those benefits are there for agriculture as well, on top of this great new story for all farmers across the country.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is not really a question but rather a compliment for my speech. Many thanks to my colleague, whom I hold in high regard as well.

He is quite right. As the chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, he is passionate about the evolution of agriculture; however, we do not always agree on everything. He feels the same way and therefore it is mutual.

There are definitely very interesting prospects for cellulose ethanol—as he just said—and all types of residue. This would benefit not only the agricultural sector but the forestry sector as well. What do we currently do with residue and animal waste? We throw them out. Often we even have to pay to dispose of them.

At some point, if it becomes possible to recycle this type of waste into biofuel, everyone will win.

The House resumed from January 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to implement the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention), be read the third time and passed.

Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-9.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #31

Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Settlement of International Investment Disputes Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 5:58 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.