Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to applaud the motivations of the member for Lac-Saint-Louis in bringing forward a bill that aims at improving the environmental performance of vehicles. The government, with the support of members like my hon. colleague, has taken and will continue to take strong action on air pollution.
The particulars of this bill, however, including some of the environmental as well as economic consequences, make it impossible for the government to support it. We are, however, moving forward with programs that have equivalent or even better environmental results than the ones intended in this bill.
On February 19 the minister announced a 10 year regulatory road map for cleaner vehicles and fuels which will give Canadians cleaner air to breathe and will better protect their health from airborne pollutants. These actions follow a significant clean air event of 2000, the negotiation of and the signature to the historic ozone annex to the 1991 Canada-U.S. air quality agreement.
The ozone annex is a major accomplishment in the transboundary field. Studies show that up to 90% of the smog we see during the summer months in central and Atlantic Canada comes from the United States. Clearly pollution does not need a passport.
The ozone annex contains commitments for action by both countries and will deliver clean air to up to 16 million Canadians in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada and millions more in the 18 American states as they apply the commitment to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.
Reaching an agreement in 2000 on the ozone annex was an opportunity Canada did not want to miss. The government's implementation plan for the annex is a major step forward in capturing opportunities. The plan represents $120 million of investment from the Government of Canada for cleaner, healthier air.
While the ozone annex commitments and benefits are targeted at Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, the regulatory and other initiatives unveiled on February 19 will benefit all Canadians. Over 30 million Canadians will benefit. These are national benefits because, clearly, clean air is a national issue.
Science tells us that more than 5,000 Canadians die prematurely each year because of air pollution. Hundreds of thousands suffer from aggravated asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses. Now we are learning that air pollution affects our health at levels lower than we previously believed. The people most vulnerable are children and the elderly.
In our election platform and in the Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada promised opportunities for all. Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. If a smog warning prevents a child with asthma from playing outside, that is a missed opportunity. If an elderly person becomes a virtual shut-in during a heat wave, that too is a lost opportunity.
This investment focuses on action in two key areas, transportation and industrial sectors, backed up by better air quality monitoring of air pollution and an improved and expanded reporting system so that Canadians can follow our progress.
Transportation is the biggest cause of air pollution in Canada. For that reason, our 10 year regulatory plan of action contains stringent new low emission standards for passenger cars, light duty trucks, sport utility vehicles and new standards for the fuels that power them.
With this package, nitrogen oxide emissions, a key ingredient of smog, will be reduced by 90% for vehicles of the year 2004 and beyond. However there is more. The package of regulatory initiatives will also apply to the off road sector which includes diesel engines for construction vehicles and farm vehicles, and gasoline utility engines for snow blowers, lawnmowers and chain saws. These handy household recreational vehicles and tools account for approximately 20% of the transportation sector's smog inventory.
In addition we are also looking at new measures to reduce sulphur in residential and industrial fuel oils, as well as taking action on the gasoline additive MTBE.
It is understood that a major tenet of Bill C-254 is the support for clean, renewable, biomass based fuels such as ethanol. To this point the government has recently increased its support to ethanol production through the action plan 2000 to address climate change. We have committed an additional $150 million in loan guarantees for construction of biomass to ethanol plants to be delivered through the Farm Credit Corporation.
It is expected there will be five additional world scale production facilities commissioned in Canada, producing approximately 750 million litres of ethanol per year as a direct result of the loan guarantee program. Additionally, $3 million has been earmarked to support the promotion of ethanol blended gasoline and increase consumer demand for this environmentally friendlier gasoline. We will continue to support ethanol production through the excise tax relief program.
These actions are in keeping with the government's desire to see clean, renewable fuel ethanol expand and thrive upon solid footing in a response to normal market forces.
What the Minister of the Environment unveiled in the 10 year plan is a major step forward in bringing cleaner air to Canadians, but the federal government's job is far from finished. The government wants to engage more Canadians in direct actions that they can take and to empower them to hold governments to account to meet clean air commitments.
Our search for scientific understanding for the sources of air pollution and the solutions we take must continue. The 10 year plan for cleaner vehicles and fuels is another step along the road to cleaner air and healthier Canadians.