Mr. Speaker, seldom in recent times have I witnessed a debate into which so much misinformation has been injected and so much confusion has been put on the record in order to create a lack of confidence in the actions of the government.
With all due respect to the member for New Westminster-Burnaby, this matter is not a new one. It is not one that has prompted
the Minister of the Environment and the government to make a rash decision. It has been around for some time.
If I remember correctly, in October 1993, the Minister of the Environment announced that if the petroleum industry would not take voluntary action to resolve the issue of MMT in gasoline by the end of 1994, she would have to take action to prohibit its use. This deadline was extended to February 1995.
This decision has a long history. The government has carefully watched a dispute between two industrial sectors and despite the prompting and the time extension, a solution was not found and it was found necessary to intervene. In the face of the inability of the two major stakeholders and one proponent to meet and come to an agreement on MMT, the onus must fall on the government to determine what needs to be done in the public interest.
The most informed judgment available at the time in this case was the judgment that MMT as a fuel additive had to go. So much for the accusation that the government has not thought it over and has not given the parties sufficient time to come to a solution on their own. This matter was also pointed out when we had our hearings in committee.
A number of issues are at stake. One issue is the question that emission systems would fail prematurely because of the presence of MMT in gasoline. There is the issue of unnecessary repair costs when these emission systems are not plugged in. Millions of motorists would be affected by the presence of MMT in the new model cars. Data and analyses only come from companies that make MMT or from automakers and the government as an independent agency has to judge both and decide which way to go. There is the risk of increased warranty repair costs to the consumer and the possible reduction of the warranty coverage for Canadian motorists.
An overall encompassing issue and a matter I would like to bring to the attention of those who oppose this bill is that technological progress is pushing legislative changes. That is what it boils down to. This is technology which is moving ahead and is impossible to ignore. We must take that fact into account and find ways of protecting the consumer. I am sure the constituents in Athabasca, the constituents in New Westminster-Burnaby and the constituents of that great Canadian patriot from Laurentides will all benefit from this measure.
Cars coming onstream into the marketplace have OBDs, the onboard diagnostic systems, which will ensure that the mix of emissions produced are under control in the most advanced levels that technology has reached. If we do not remove MMT from gasoline, this technology cannot be utilized by the consumer. The manufacturer of the car, as we were told in committee, will simply disconnect the diagnostic system from the engine.
Initially I had some difficulty understanding what manganese does. I found it very helpful to hear the explanation given to us by people in the know who made two points.
The exhaust of an engine passes over the specially coated surface of a catalytic converter, which we all know is that little box under the car which was installed some time ago in order to reduce car emissions. When the exhaust gas passes over it, certain pollutants are removed. Manganese is produced by virtue of the consumption of gasoline in the engine. If the manganese covers the surface of the catalytic converter, then this type of catalytic converter cannot function properly. As a result, vehicles will pollute more over time. Here is the link between the effect of manganese and the catalytic converter in a very linear form.
Engines in recent times have adopted the technology of oxygen sensors. They determine how much oxygen goes into the air and fuel mixture in the engine. If manganese is used in gasoline, over time the manganese will coat the sensors. When it coats the sensors, the sensors give a false signal that air must be injected into the mixture. As a result the engine consumes more fuel because the air-fuel mixture becomes too rich.
The cars built for the North American market are equipped with onboard diagnostic systems. The system tells the motorist when the emission equipment must be looked at. Unlike the emission inspection systems of the past, the onboard diagnostic system identifies the first moment the vehicle begins to pollute excessively. That is important to remember because unlike what we were told by the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby, there are health implications. There is no need, thanks to the onboard diagnostic system, to have inspection stations, to wait in line ups, to pay inspection fees, and the like.
The majority of motorists whose vehicles are not polluting excessively need not be inconvenienced. All they need is the onboard diagnostic system. It helps the motorist and the environment. It improves the control of the emission of various gases produced in the combustion engine.
The oxygen sensors are important. We must keep that in mind. The catalytic converter is important. The removal of manganese is a function of the performance of these two items, the catalytic converter and the sensors.
We want to achieve something which is good for the consumer and which is also good for the quality of the air we breathe, particularly in densely populated urban centres from Vancouver to Halifax.
A number of red herrings have been brought forward during the debate. I will not spend too much time speaking on the comments which were made the other day by the great patriot from Laurentides when she had to drag in and quote Terence Corcoran of the Globe and Mail who was criticizing the Minister of the Environment in a rather pathetic way. If it were up to Mr. Corcoran, our environmental standards would quickly return to the middle ages. The criticism was that the removal of MMT would produce more pollution. The theme of the hon. member for Laurentides was also picked up quite extensively by the hon. member for Athabasca. He was very strong in committee on that.
In committee we heard the views of Ethyl Corporation, which is opposed to the bill, as it was opposed to the removal of lead in gasoline 10 years ago, and quite adamantly so. We also heard views from the car manufacturing industry. We had to conclude that the claims about increased pollution as advanced by Ethyl Corporation were seriously exaggerated. They were based on data collected by Ethyl from test cars and not on data from a Canadian fleet. I am told there is a big difference between the two.
The Canadian fleet tests took into account world operating conditions and concluded that the NOx reduction was more in the order of 5 per cent than the 20 per cent claimed by Ethyl. The claim that removing MMT will lead to a higher production of NOx is one that has not been sufficiently and clearly substantiated in our committee hearings. Actually, the matter was put to rest quite effectively when we heard that the operation of the diagnostic system permits a control of all polluting gases produced during the combustion process. This is important. The overall impact of the diagnostic controlling system is that it will reduce the overall engine pollution in all of its components, namely carbon monoxides, NOx and hydrocarbons.
With respect to the lack of provincial support, a letter was read from the New Brunswick minister of the environment. I believe we also received a letter from the Saskatchewan minister, but we certainly have not received a letter from the minister of the environment for British Columbia. We understand that British Columbia is very much in favour of this legislation. We have not heard from the province of Ontario, which I suspect is also very much in favour. I suspect the same for the province of Quebec. I believe that the provinces, by and large, have expressed either directly or indirectly considerable support.
I submit with all due respect to my knowledgeable and esteemed colleague from New Westminster-Burnaby, it is hard to believe that this matter could be put into the category of being an anti-free trade measure. This measure really does not have to do with free trade.
The NAFTA agreement gives much relevance to matters related to labour and the environment. This comes clearly under the environmental heading. It is a very legitimate initiative and it is certainly not motivated by anti-free trade reasons.
I dealt with interference by the minister earlier. This is an intervention by the government by two ministers who, after having exhausted all alternative avenues, had to conclude there was no other course of action relevant than to proceed and provide the necessary protection for the consumer.
The technology is inexorably moving ahead. We have reached a new plateau in the knowledge of how to control and reduce pollution emitted by motor cars. We have to move with the technology. We have very little alternative other than to allow the disconnecting of the onboard diagnostic system by the car manufacturer if manganese is not removed. Surely that measure would be reminiscent of another era when we pretended that certain evidence was not staring at us and we looked the other way because we did not like the evidence.
We have to take the evidence into account. We would be seriously criticized and quite rightly so by members of the opposition if we were inactive on this matter. In the end this measure will lead to a reduction in air pollution in highly populated areas. The performance of the engines will be improved. There will be an improvement in mileage with the same consumption of fuel, and there will be an improvement in terms of reduced emissions.
We all know from studies conducted by a number of esteemed medical doctors that there is a connection between air pollution and hospital admissions, particularly in connection with asthmatics. These have been measured in the past. They have been scientifically supported by way of printouts of admissions to various hospitals in the province of Ontario. This fact cannot be denied.
It seems to me that for all these reasons we are moving on the right track. If we did not do that we would be in the same league as countries like Bulgaria, Argentina, or perhaps Taiwan. Let me see what other countries are still using manganese in gasoline: Russia, the Ukraine. I am sure that sooner or later, if their automotive technology will allow, they will be glad to also move away from the use of MMT.
We are moving from one stage of improvement in technology to the next. In the 1980s we were concerned with lead. In the 1990s we are concerned with MMT. In another decade we will be concerned with some other aspect of this technology. But it is quite clear that as the number of vehicles on the roads increases and as the population increases and as the number of people who want the freedom of movement a car allows increases, we will have to
tighten up the system and find ways to reduce the pollution that accompanies the operation of a car.
In that context, this measure makes sense and fits into the progression. It is not the first step of this nature, because we already took an important step in the 1980s by removing lead from gasoline, and it will not be the last. There will be other measures following in the years to come.