House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Private Members' Business
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Private Members' Business
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no consent.

I wish to inform the House that because of the deferred recorded divisions, government orders will be extended by nine minutes.

Is the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre rising on another point of order?

Private Members' Business
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, further to the goodwill I referenced just a minute ago, I would like to ask the House for unanimous consent to adopt private member's bill C-459, standing in the name of the member for Selkirk—Interlake, at all remaining stages.

Private Members' Business
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

Private Members' Business
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Private Members' Business
Points of Order
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There is no consent.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the third time and passed.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand today and to speak to this bill. I move:

That this question be now put.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to this bill once more in what is probably the last speech today.

As we know, the amendments to the bill that I put forward in committee were rejected. The checks and balances that we tried to introduced here in the House were rejected. Obviously I have no alternative but to vote against this bill, nor does my party.

I would like to review the process and give members a bit of a resumé of what has happened in regard to this bill. Our amendments, which could have put some checks and balances in this bill, were rejected in committee before this bill came back to the House.

One amendment would have prohibited the use of genetically modified grains, oilseeds or trees for biofuel production, except for those genetically modified grains, oilseeds or trees that were used for biofuel production in Canada before 2008.

A second amendment would have prohibited the use of lands protected by federal legislation and other sensitive biodiverse lands for biofuel production.

A third amendment would have preserved the biodiversity of lands used in biofuel production.

Other amendments would have: prohibited the importation of grains or oils for use in biofuel production; established criteria in relation to the environmental sustainability of biofuel production to ensure compliance with internationally recognized best practices that promote the biodiversity and sustainability of land, air and water; and, established restrictions on the use of arable land in Canada for biofuel production to ensure that biofuel production does not have a detrimental impact on the food supply in Canada and foreign countries.

As I mentioned earlier in debate on this bill, these amendments could have given us some checks and balances as we move forward with a sustainable biofuel policy. They were voted down in committee.

Here in the House, in the last motion that was defeated, we tried to ensure that this bill would go back to the committee so that the economic and environmental effects of introducing these regulations would not cause a negative impact on the environment or unduly influence commodity markets.

Yesterday when I spoke on this bill, I talked about the rising demand for ethanol from corn and the fact that this has been the main reason for the decline in world grain stocks during the first half of 2006. I noted, and I note again today, the need for a well thought-out biofuels strategy.

I would just like to say that it is important for someone in this Parliament to go on the record as stating that at least someone stood up to talk about the folly of blindly going forward into the whole area of biofuels, so that in two, five or ten years from now when people look at the record, they can say that at least there was someone in the House of Commons who wanted to look at this from a sustainable point of view and who was not part of how others were blindly moving forward in this direction.

We have before us what I would call a bizarre state of affairs. When government or the minister of agriculture should be moving quickly, government often drags its heels. For example, in 2006, when I was first elected, it took a long time for government to react with some kind of disaster relief in the Porcupine Plain area of Saskatchewan. As well, we saw almost a reluctance in a final reaction in regard to the pork crisis. Also, we still have not had a resolution in the crisis facing tobacco farmers.

However, when more planning and impact studies are needed, it appears that the government wants to move forward at a faster pace, as if it had blinders on. In other words, when the idea is to move forward with an idea regardless of the impact on the future or on the environment, communities or farmers, there is no concern for going a bit more slowly and looking at all of the ramifications.

For example, over the last couple of years we have had the government's rush to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board, a move based on ideology. No socio-economic studies have been done to look at the effects of this move, not only for today but in the long run. As we have seen, this has been an undemocratic process. There has been a gag order on the Wheat Board, which is still there. There have been discussions, but only with those who support government policy. There has been tampering with board of director elections. There have been a vague plebiscite and a vow to throw barley on the open market this year.

In regard to the Canadian Grain Commission, in spite of recommendations from stakeholders in the field that we should wait until 2010 before removing kernel visual distinguishability, KVD, the government and the minister decided to move ahead as of August 1 even though there is no adequate system to replace this.

Recently there was an announcement by the Prime Minister in regard to product of Canada labelling, which is a good announcement going in the right direction. However, in the announcement, he chose to ignore the work that the agriculture committee has been doing on this for the last month and a half or so and also to ignore all of the witnesses who took time to appear before the committee. It is almost as if committee work is irrelevant and the government will move ahead regardless of what happens or what recommendations we make.

Now we have a new biofuel policy unfolding before us in Canada. I again would like to repeat that I and my party are not against the concept of biofuels. However, we are against giving the government a green light with no checks and balances.

I would submit that we have to be very careful before trusting the current government to move in the direction of biofuels without looking at possible negative effects, for example on farmers, and there is also the fact that if this bill goes through there are no restrictions on importing feedstocks to fuel the biofuel companies or factories.

There are no criteria in the bill that say we have to put Canadian farmers first when looking at extra feedstocks. There is nothing that says we are going to stop further development of genetically modified organisms, specifically wheat, which, as we know, can contaminate and endanger the wheat industry in Canada.

It is understood, as we have seen already, that the biofuel industry does not offer top prices to farmers for grain. In fact, the industry would not be able to survive if it had to pay the high prices that farmers are receiving for grain on the world market. In the future, if there were no Wheat Board to protect farmers and stand up on their behalf in regard to multinational companies, we could have the possible scenario of prices controlled by the multinationals not only for food grain but also for those involved in biofuels.

What is the state of biofuel production in the world? We have to look at this in regard to the broader picture. I submit that what often happens, as I have noticed with the present government, is that we do not look at what is happening in the world on various policies.

We have seen that this has had a devastating effect on farmers in the southern hemisphere. Farmers have been forced off their land as large monocultures take over. Those farmers have been forced to migrate to cities where there is no work and they have to put up with high food prices. We also have seen their production curtailed and the importing of subsidized rice and grain from wealthy countries such as the United States.

We have seen the cycle of an increase in corn production in the United States to fuel the biofuel and ethanol industries, which displaces soybean production. That then means an increase in acreage for soybeans in Brazil and forces ranchers off their grazing lands. The ranchers then become involved in deforestation and taking down trees in the rainforests. That effect has been occurring.

I remember when the agriculture committee visited Washington last year and we were told by those involved in the biofuel industry that the United States does not want to import more oil. However, it wishes that the increase in consumption would be taken over by the biofuels that it is going to produce.

In the United States, there does not seem to be a policy of trying to decrease consumption. The policy is that as consumption increases, biofuels will fill that void, and I think this is madness. It is a direction that we in this country should not be taking.

Today I would like to have us look at some of the articles on this issue. Last month or so, I believe, Time Magazine entitled an article “The Clean Energy Scam”. I would like to quote from this article. For example, it states, “Brazil now ranks fourth in the world in carbon emissions, and most of its emissions come from deforestation”.

I would like to add the fact that one of the reasons this deforestation is taking place is the expanding of lands for biofuel production. The article states, “This land rush is being accelerated by an unlikely source: biofuels”.

I will move on to many interesting aspects of this article. It states:

But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous.

What this article is saying is that now, after the years during which biofuel production has been taking place in the United States, scientists and people are questioning the direction in which they are going. Yesterday I quoted from a couple of studies in Science magazine that bring home that point.

I will continue to quote from the article:

Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year.

I understand that the rise in food prices is not only because of biofuels. It is but one area that has been responsible for the rise in food prices. Nevertheless, it is a factor. The article states:

Backed by billions in investment capital, this alarming phenomenon is replicating itself around the world. Indonesia has bulldozed and burned so much wilderness to grow palm oil trees for biodiesel that its ranking among the world's top carbon emitters has surged from 21st to third, according to a report by Wetlands International. Malaysia is converting forests into palm oil farms so rapidly that it's running out of uncultivated land. But most of the damage created by biofuels will be less direct and less obvious. In Brazil, for instance, only a tiny portion of the Amazon is being torn down to grow the sugarcane that fuels most Brazilian cars.

The article goes on:

The environmental cost of this cropland creep is now becoming apparent. One groundbreaking new study in Science concluded that when this deforestation effect is taken into account, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel produce about twice the emissions of gasoline. Sugarcane ethanol is much cleaner, and biofuels created from waste products that do not gobble up land have real potential, but even cellulosic ethanol increases overall emissions when its plant source is grown on good cropland.

I would just like to share with the House a study that appeared in Science magazine on December 8, 2006. The caption summarizes the study and is talking about low-input, high-diversity grassland biomass:

Biofuels derived from low-input high-diversity (LIHD) mixtures of native grassland perennials can provide more usable energy, greater greenhouse gas reductions, and less agrichemical pollution per hectare than can corn grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel. High-diversity grasslands had increasingly higher bioenergy yields that were 238% greater than monoculture yields after a decade. LIHD biofuels are carbon negative because net ecosystem carbon dioxide sequestration...of carbon dioxide in soil and roots exceeds fossil carbon dioxide release during biofuel production.

We are seeing that there are alternatives. I understand that we talk about a second generation of biofuel production and that somehow if we bring this policy into place, we will shift into second generation. However, it is important for us to note that we should be looking at these alternatives now and not 10 years from now.

Yesterday I spoke a bit in regard to genetically modified trees.

I talked about genetic engineering. For example, in Canada, there have been field trials. There have been only one or two field trials since 1997. Since 2000, outdoor field trials have been conducted by government researchers with the Canadian Forest Service, not by private companies.

What happens is that the traits of trees are modified. For example, lignin is reduced so that the trees can be converted to ethanol and paper more economically. Given the explosion of the biofuel market and the desire to move on to a second generation of biofuels, the companies are calling for the use of genetically engineered trees as a potential source of cellulose from which to manufacture ethanol.

We have the possibility of introducing genetic modification not only in grains but in trees. What happens, of course, is that if this were to take place, there could be contamination, as I mentioned yesterday, as far as 1,200 kilometres from the source of use.

As a matter of fact, as we speak a conference is going on in Bonn, Germany, where countries are requesting that Canada support a moratorium on genetically modified trees, and so far the results have not been encouraging as Canada seems to have taken the position of looking at case by case. However, we will get the results I am sure very shortly.

I would like to conclude by quoting from a brief by REAP Canada presented at committee entitled “Analyzing Biofuel Options: Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Efficiency and Costs”. The brief stated:

This bill should be withdrawn for 3 reasons:

1. It won’t appreciably reduce GHG emissions.

2. It is not a “Made in Canada” solution. The legislation primarily will support markets for U.S. corn growers.

3. The legislation does not demonstrate fiscal responsibility.

The report gave some recommendations. I found in committee that this report was treated lightly. People did not take the time to really look at what is involved here. It went on to say:

To create effective GHG mitigation from biofuels that will support rural Canada the federal government should:

1. Implement results based management throughout its’ research and incentive programs to ensure the desired outcomes of GHG mitigation and rural development are achieved.

2. Embrace perennial energy crops and abandon the use of annual crops as biofuels.

3. Create parity in the bioenergy marketplace.

I and my party are not against the concept of biofuels. We still have an opportunity to put some checks and balances in place, so if we do this we do not make the same mistakes that have been made in other parts of the world, and we can support our farmers and have a sustainable and environmentally friendly industry.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry
Ontario

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I listened quite closely to my colleague's speech as I did yesterday. I was confused when he finished yesterday and I am even more confused today.

If I did not know better, I would think that he is making a case for big oil. I was under the impression that his party did not necessarily endorse big oil, but he is making quite a case for promoting the profits of big oil companies and supporting big oil companies. I question if that is where the NDP wants to go.

The reason I am confused is that at one stage of the game the NDP was for biofuels. Now, and as a matter of fact to quote the member, he said, “biofuels are madness”.

What has changed in the last month or so? What has changed since the NDP governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan began promoting the use of biofuels? I really do not understand the NDP and this particular member.

I would like to ask the member why the NDP governments in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan were in support of biofuels and at one time as a matter of fact the federal NDP was in support of biofuels and now he is calling it madness? I would like the member to explain that. There is a dichotomy there that I do not understand.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it hurts to see that my hon. colleague is confused. That is not a nice way to be. It is always better not to be confused. I will try to enlighten him.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

That might be hard to do.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

It might be difficult, but I will give it a try.

With regard to biofuels, the statements I made were quotations from articles that do say that it is madness. I said personally that I and my party support the concept of biofuels. There is a way of doing it correctly. I think Manitoba is on the right track. It is limiting 10% of its arable land for biofuel production.

There is nothing in this bill that puts any checks and balances on biofuel production. That is the problem. It gives a green light to the import of corn from the United States which does not support our farmers. It gives a green light to big oil, Husky Oil, to import this corn, and it certainly gives a green light to destroy the environment. I think we need to put some checks so we can move on with a policy that is good for all Canadians.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his interventions and for his stance on biofuels, and also his explanation. I hope my hon. colleague from the government party now understands our position. My colleague has explained very well that we do support the concept of biofuels, but we do not support the government's bill that is flawed.

My colleague said that there is a way of doing it and getting it right. I think we have an opportunity in this House to explore all the possibilities and get it right. It does not have to be a one off situation where we use grains for ethanol. We need to look at a whole host of things. We also need to make sure that we are not putting in jeopardy world food supplies and affecting the food markets in such a way that we are impacting people half way around the world. That is something that we definitely do not want to do.

I would like my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior to perhaps speak some more about our vision of what can be done to make sure that this bill is done right and what we could support.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the main thing is that we have to ensure that any biofuel program or policy in Canada looks at the environment in a sustainable manner, that we do not have a program that displaces oil and yet increases greenhouse gas emissions.

Let us not forget that this bill, Bill C-33, is part of the environment bill. It is a bill that is supposed to mitigate the negative effects on the environment. That is the first thing we have to do. So if in fact ethanol and biodiesel are increasing greenhouse gas emissions, then we should be looking at perhaps other areas, such as pellets, as my colleague from Western Arctic mentioned. According to the REAP study, solid biofuels have a much better efficiency and almost no negative effect on the environment. So, that is one area.

I know of a company in British Columbia that collects used oil from restaurants and converts it into biofuel. What better way is there of disposing waste? There are other enterprises. I think there is one in Alberta and also one British Columbia that is using waste and biomass to create biodiesel.

I think from the point of view of the environment and new energy sources, if we look at some more efficient areas of production, then this will have a much better effect on the environment as we try to battle climate change.