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Evidence of meeting #42 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was vehicles.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Steve Clark  Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation
Todd Mouw  Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech
Cameron Stewart  President, Maxquip

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Again, again, I know.

First of all, Mr. Mouw, I noticed that in 2011 you won Green Fleet's Sustainable All-Star award. What is it?

9:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech

Todd Mouw

It's a publication in the United States that promotes organizations or people who are out promoting the use of alternative fuels versus conventional fuels.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

So you're a good promoter.

9:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech

Todd Mouw

I'm trying, yes.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

I noticed that.

Mr. Stewart, or Mr. Mouw, why do the insurance companies have such problems with the safety issue with propane?

9:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech

Todd Mouw

I'll speak, and then I'll turn it over to Cameron.

I think it's an educational issue. Propane is safer than gasoline or diesel. The tanks that we're putting on these vehicles are made of a quarter-inch thick steel versus the ones for gasoline which are blow-moulded plastic. The flammability range of propane is much narrower than gasoline. Again, I think it's perception. There's a reason that propane is the third most commonly used fuel in the world, with 17 million vehicles using it. It's because it's safe, it's available, and it's low cost compared to the alternatives. I think it's an educational issue.

9:20 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

I would agree with that. It's my understanding that there have been some instances in the past with tanks being overfilled and product being released in underground parking garages. Some of the regulations came in as a result of some instances relating to improper use. The newer technology that has been incorporated since the mid-1990s with the auto-stop filler valves has made it impossible to overfill a tank. With the newer technology and some awareness and education, I think some of these requirements can be....

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

The insurance companies and the government are too slow. They don't understand. They have a cultural problem regarding safety.

9:25 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

I suspect that it might be more about an awareness of new practices.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

But there were incidents in the past.

9:25 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

That's my understanding.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Was it just a manipulation issue?

9:25 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

Prior to the auto-stop filler valve, people were required to open what's called a spit valve when they were filling the tank, and if they didn't do that, they could overfill the tank.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

The spit becomes the blow. That's the issue.

First, I don't have any problem with propane or natural gas. I think it's local fuels. We had people from Montreal, from the transit organization. First of all, in Quebec or in Manitoba, you have more electricity, so when we talk about alternative technology, that's how we should use it. One of the issues regarding propane is the climate and the issue of maintenance inside. It's not just that it costs less. Because of our climate, if you want to have all that maintenance infrastructure for the fleet, it's costly. It has another impact there.

Do you think what they were saying was accurate? This is for both of you guys.

I'm going to Mr. Clark next. Don't worry. He's on my list.

9:25 a.m.

Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech

Todd Mouw

Every technology fuel, if not handled properly, has safety issues. I believe that just like cell phones and computers, it's evolved. There are companies such as Roush and others that have put lots of money into making sure that it meets the needs and is safe. We wouldn't put our brand on it if we didn't believe it to be safe. I'm sure that Canada Post wouldn't put their drivers in them if it weren't safe.

Propane is heavier than air. When it's not under pressure, it settles and then evaporates. With respect to the impact on garages, typically, most of the garages are set up to ventilate for gasoline and diesel. They have similar operating properties, so if they're ventilated for gasoline and diesel, they'd be fine for propane. In contrast, for natural gas, typically major modifications have to be made to a garage.

Again, as Cameron mentioned, it's an educational issue, because the technology has evolved, not only on our side but on the dispensers. So it is safe.

9:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

I think the three of you can answer this.

I am going to switch to French, because I quite like my translator friends and I want to create employment.

If indeed there is a problem around education or culture—that is what you are saying to some extent—and since that also involves the rules and regulations, should Transport Canada, specifically, not have some sort of oversight body for the private and public sectors? That way, the regulations and safety rules applicable to propane would be clear. I believe there is a similar body in the U.S. Isn't that a possible solution in Canada?

Mr. Clark, financial incentives are well and good. Everyone knows it always comes down to that, but the government's job is also to create conditions that are conducive to safety. And to do that, an oversight mechanism is needed. Would that be something that appeals to you? Would the private sector support a recommendation like that?

9:25 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

You're probably exactly right.

Today there are a number of different governing bodies issuing regulations in different provinces and municipalities with respect to propane—how it's handled, how it's inspected, the frequency of inspection, and what details are required to fuel or not to fuel. They don't reciprocate provincially sometimes. If there were a federal body that could promote or allow for standard regulations, it would be easier for large fleet operators that operate in every province of Canada to standardize their training, what their vehicles look like, and the systems they use. In the end, we'd be efficient and productive and it would be the right system.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Go ahead, Mr. Mouw.

9:30 a.m.

Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech

Todd Mouw

I would concur.

We're an engineering company. It's been difficult for us to figure out exactly how to get it done and how to bring the technology here. We would gladly participate and be involved in those discussions to make sure that it's done right and is safe for everybody involved, starting with fleets and then moving over to consumers, once those platforms are available.

9:30 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

I would tend to agree with that.

We have the CSA standards, the B149, that we work to. We also work to the Inter-provincial Gas Advisory Committee standards. We have to keep our pulse on all the different rules and regulations. So I would agree with that.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Thank you very much.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Poilievre.

June 7th, 2012 / 9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Canada Post has 8,300 vehicles in its fleet. Is that correct?

9:30 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

Correct, just over 8,300 vehicles.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

How many use alternative fuels in total?