This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #221 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Davenport. We are on the same committee and I have a great amount of respect for the member.

In terms of the diagnostics and the unit that is already being made, I view this as industrial blackmail in that the automakers are saying they already have it on board and since it is already made we have to change the legislation. That is just absolutely wrong. We cannot have the automakers or any industry in Canada ruling the government which is what they are attempting to do here.

Again I will go back to my independent study. The member says that both sides have their studies. I agree but where is the independent study that is in the middle?

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, if some months ago someone had come to me saying that a political party in this House with a strong rural base is going to be advocating a position in favour of prolonging the use of MMT in Canada, I would have said to such a person that obviously they were wrong, that could not possibly be true.

Tonight we have in this debate something rather unusual happening. I submit this to the House and invite my colleague to respond.

I represent an agricultural constituency where corn is produced. With the use of ethanol there is little or no need for MMT. I understand there are other substitutes as well that produce octane enhancement.

The member opposite was challenging the hon. member for Davenport a moment ago in advocating that we need further independent tests. What kind of a reason do we have to prolong this product, which is largely if not totally made outside of the country, banned in the country where it is manufactured, used in this country principally because it is banned where it comes from, and furthermore damages motor vehicles, the health of Canadians, and does no good for the agricultural industry in Canada on top of that? With that kind of evidence, how much more independent testing do we need before we realize there is damage being done to cars, the health of Canadians and the agricultural industry? Why is the member supporting it given that kind of evidence?

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, the member simply backs up my point. There is a U.S. ban that has been overturned by the court of appeal and members on the other side fail to recognize that. They just seem to think that it will go away, and here we have an industry that is pushing forward.

The member was pushing the ethanol industry. Ethanol is fine. It is one of the additions, but it is not the answer. It takes more energy to make ethanol than it does to make gasoline. It is certainly part of the formula, but it is not the answer.

The hon. member was saying that he was surprised to see a member opposite stand up with this point of view. Again, it simply shows that the other side knows very little about where the Reform Party is coming from. They are going to see an awful lot more of the Reform Party. I am putting them on notice.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, if there is still time I want the hon. member to respond to the following.

Last year I was forced to replace my car. As part of the new car warranty I was told by the dealer that in Canada the oil in that particular model has to be changed every 6,000 kilometres, versus every 18,000 in the United States. I asked the dealer why. The only reason I was given was that the gasoline additives we use in Canada cause damage to motor vehicles.

I ask the hon. member how he could possibly be promoting and supporting the production and sale of a product that has been banned in the United States and somehow is still legal in Canada, given the damage it does to cars as well as to all the other things I mentioned previously? Does he not see that this product is not desirable for our environment, for motor vehicles, or for the health of Canadians? It does all this harm and the member opposite, for reasons I do not understand, says that all of this does not matter. It has not been used for years and years in the United States, and now, just because there has been a recent court decision, notwithstanding the fact that it has not been used in heaven knows how long, all of a sudden he takes a position in favour of this particular product which was banned south of the border.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

A very brief answer, the hon. member for Comox-Alberni. Your time has expired.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Reform Comox—Alberni, BC

Very briefly, Madam Speaker, I will just sum up. What can we expect from a member who is going to take his advice from a used car salesman?

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the privilege to speak to this Chamber about Bill C-94, the Manganese-based Fuel Additives Act.

Before addressing specific elements of Bill C-94, I would like to say a few words about some environmental concerns of mine regarding what the government has already done and, more importantly, what it is going to do in this area.

Allow me to underline a few facts supporting my concerns. World population is increasing at the rate of about 90 million people every year. In the last 150 years, it has climbed from 1 billion to 6 billion. According to projections, it will reach between 10 billion and 14 billion in the years 2000 to 2050. From 1960 to 1990, economic activity grew at a compounded annual rate of 3.8 per cent. The growth rate in any given year exceeded in absolute terms the global economic activity in Europe in 1939.

Clearly at the heart of our environmental concerns lies the historical trend of unprecedented expansion and acceleration of human activities that now threaten vital components of the earth's ecology. Major impacts include forests vanishing at the rate of 17 million hectares per year, 6 million hectares of productive dry land turning to desert each year, 140 plant and animal species becoming extinct each day, and air and water quality on a global scale is declining at an equally alarming rate.

The bottom line of all this is that the combined impacts of population and these other pressures cause environmental capacity limits to be exceeded locally, regionally, and globally. It is now clear that without some major shifts in policies and practices a continuation of these trends is ecologically unsustainable.

Clearly with our current transportation practices we are not winning the war. Canada has launched a number of initiatives to limit pollution from motor vehicles. We have eliminated the use of lead additives in gasoline. No longer will we have to worry about the potential threat to health, especially to the health of our young children, that the presence of lead in gasoline posed.

As of last fall we have reduced the sulphur content of diesel fuel, which when used with more technologically advanced engines will reduce the emission of particulates and black smoke emanating from large trucks and buses.

In the red book, the Prime Minister supported the development of renewable energy technologies. To this end, the government has launched the national bio-ethanol program. Announced last December, this program will support the development of ethanol production through a refundable line of credit to qualified candidates who want to establish bio-ethanol fuel production plants in Canada.

The program, which will be managed by the Farm Credit Corporation, will guarantee up to $70 million in loans between 1999 and 2005. In other words, the government will help only those renewable energy companies that initially invest their own capital and resources. There will be no subsidy, no megaproject. The government will lend its assistance only after the private sector has invested its own capital for five years.

This is the fiscally responsible way to help turn wood chips, straw, grain, and other biomass waste into energy that can be used to fuel our vehicles.

Properly blended ethanol gasoline can reduce carbon monoxide emissions, which degrade urban air quality, can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which are the primary source of greenhouse gases, and can also reduce benzene emissions, a substance declared toxic under CEPA, into the atmosphere. The program is targeted to encourage ethanol production in every region of the country.

This is a sound example of the concept of sustainable development. We can deal with an environmental problem and create jobs at the same time.

Our standards for exhaust coming out of the tailpipes of our cars and trucks are among the most stringent in the world. These standards set strict limits of nitrogen oxides which contribute to acid rain and are a key component in the formation of smog. They also set limits on the amount of hydrocarbons, another major contributor to smog, cars can emit and on carbon monoxide.

While pollution created by individual cars and trucks has gone down significantly, these vehicles are still a major source of air pollution, since their number has increased considerably. They are said to be responsible for 60 per cent of carbon monoxide emissions in Canada, 35 per cent of nitrogen oxide emissions, and 20 per cent of emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas primarily responsible for climatic changes.

This is why my colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment, is going ahead with a number of initiatives, including a comprehensive program designed to control pollution caused by motor vehicles. To that end, the federal government is pursuing a strategy to control motor vehicle emissions. That strategy includes, among other measures, the implementation of more rigorous standards to control exhaust emissions. This requires advanced technology, such as the sophisticated systems developed by Diagnostic Inc.

[E nglish ]

However there remains one obstacle to the introduction in Canada of the next generation of emission control technologies, the continued presence of MMT, an octane enhancer presently used in unleaded gasoline. Bill C-94 calls for a ban on the import and interprovincial trade of MMT. MMT is not manufactured in Canada but imported from the U.S.

In Canada the use of MMT as an octane enhancer is allowed in unleaded gasoline up to the maximum of 18 milligrams of manganese per litre. In the United States the use of MMT in unleaded gasoline has not been allowed since 1978. We have heard much discussion this evening about the case in the District of Columbia where the waiver has been ordered to be issued by the EPA to the manufacturers of MMT, but this does not allow the use of MMT in unleaded gasoline in the United States.

The automobile industry is convinced MMT adversely affects the operation of these advanced emission control technologies. All the domestic manufacturers and automobile importers agree that MMT adversely affects their sophisticated on board diagnostic systems.

These systems are planned for introduction on new Canadian vehicles starting in the 1996 model year vehicles. On board diagnostic systems will monitor the emission control components and alert the driver to a malfunction. This equipment could ensure that automobiles are properly maintained, resulting in decreased tailpipe emissions and improved fuel economy. In other words this is one more important tool to help us address pollution, including urban smog and climate change.

Clearly, reducing motor vehicle pollution requires a concerted effort on two fronts: first, improvements in motor vehicle emission control technology such as those allowed by the advanced systems used by Diagnostic Incorporated, and second, improvements in the composition and properties of fuels.

Therefore the government cannot allow MMT to compromise the ability of Canada's auto industry to design and deliver vehicles to Canadians that can achieve important pollution reductions. Canada's environment and Canadian consumers have the right to the latest emission control technology available. This is especially apparent when this same technology will be offered to American consumers starting with the 1996 model year because the United States presently has MMT free fuel.

To repeat what the Deputy Prime Minister stated, we cannot wait any longer. It is now time for action. Any additional delay would threaten the federal emission control programs.

In summary, this action is pro-consumer, pro-business and pro-environment. Therefore, I urge all members to support this action.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, I have listened to a number of speakers from the government side and to their rationalizations and explanations. I want to further respond because a lot of questions remain unanswered. In my questions and comments I will put some more questions and maybe we will get some answers. I have a dozen questions.

Why has the government refused to conduct an independent technical review to address issues in dispute as suggested by Ethyl, Canada's gasoline refiners and several provinces?

Having refused an independent technical review, how can the government justify removing MMT when the claims and concerns of the MVMA about MMT and vehicle emission systems, including the new OBD systems, have been considered and rejected by the U.S. EPA and the U.S. court of appeals?

Why would Canada ban the import of MMT as it is about to be reintroduced into unleaded gasoline in the United States? Why would the environment minister have chosen to address this issue by restricting trade?

How does the government square the restrictions of import and interprovincial trade of MMT with legislation currently before the House of Commons to remove interprovincial trade barriers?

Why is the government ignoring opposition and concerns expressed about this unilateral federal action by the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick?

How can the Minister of the Environment support an action which studies conclude will result in an annual 50,000 to 60,000 tonne increase in smog causing NOx from Canadian vehicles?

If MMT is replaced, what will the replacement be and what will the cost to consumers and refiners be? What are the environmental and health impacts of potential replacements? Why have the Minister of the Environment and all major automobile manufacturers refused to meet with Ethyl Canada?

What pre-1996 models have been impacted by these alleged MMT related problems and what specific MMT related warranty claims have been made and why have the manufacturers not notified consumers before?

Why did the MVMA turn down a specific proposal for a technical review of alleged MMT related problems made by key executives representing petroleum refiners and automobile makers at the joint industry task force in 1993?

How can the Minister of the Environment explain her statement if vehicle manufacturers carry through on threats to remove OBD systems? This would result in a tenfold increase in vehicle emissions; lots of questions and no answers.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is correct, there are lots of questions. I will give him several answers. I do not think I will be able to list them all because I could not write them down quickly enough.

In answer to the first question about the government's not ordering independent testing, for a party constantly telling us there should not be government intervention in the business affairs of the country, I find it very difficult to understand. This is an issue motor vehicle manufacturers and petroleum producers have been working on for quite some time. They have not been able to come to an agreement or to an understanding on it. Consequently the government is forced to act and I think that is appropriate.

The hon. member asks why the ministry is acting on a trade basis. It is not. It is on a consumer protection basis. CEPA is not being used. The hon. member is a member of the environment committee and knows the environment committee is completing and will be tabling tomorrow its report on the five year review of CEPA so that it is seen by many to be inadequate for the purpose and a very long and protracted reason. That is why the minister has chosen to take the course she has taken here.

Reference was made to the court case in the District of Columbia, and several speakers have referred to it this evening. The case does not guarantee or permit the reuse of MMT in the United States. That was a decision on a technical basis as it was read from the fax sent from the EPA on the technicality that the EPA could not use health considerations. It could use only the testing of the equipment in refusing to issue that waiver. Under the Clean Air Act there is still much testing to be done on the health issue. It is far from a given that MMT will pass all those tests.

On the question of substitutes, ethanol is a very acceptable substitute to MMT. The government has taken the initiative to assist with some tax considerations with the establishment of ethanol plants throughout the country, including in areas represented by our hon. friends in the Reform Party. That is a very reasonable substitute and the government is acting properly in allowing it.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, I have four questions which I was able to jot down while the member for New Westminster-Burnaby made his intervention. If MMT is replaced, what will happen then? Nothing different than what happened-

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I believe it was the hon. member from the government side who was speaking. The hon. member for Davenport is asking the hon. member from-

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

The hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster is correct. The person we should be asking our questions of or making our comments to is the hon. member for Simcoe North.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

I would be glad to ask the member for Simcoe North whether he would agree that the answer to the question posed to him by the member for New Westminster-Burnaby in relation to the removal of MMT has not been answered already in the United States by the fact that it has happily functioned in a very responsible way since 1978, the date when MMT was removed. Therefore there would be no difference in Canada to the pattern already established south of the border.

The question was also raised, and I ask again my hon. colleague whether he would agree, as to CEPA. That is a very legitimate question. The member for New Westminster-Burnaby is a member of our committee. The CEPA legislation does not permit at the present time to deal with substances like MMT. An amendment would be required to CEPA. He may want to take that initiative.

The other question was why move now when MMT is being reintroduced. This is the strange notion tonight that has emerged as a result of various interventions across the aisle. MMT is not being reintroduced. There is only a technical procedure in the courts that has been somehow upheld by way of a waiver. It has nothing to do with reintroducing MMT.

It was asked why the Ethyl corporation was refused a hearing by the government or by the minister. I can understand very well why Ethyl would not be given an interview. It is one of the most regressive and litigious corporations in North America. It has never taken to heart public interest or public health. In that respect Ethyl is out of luck with any good government.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, out of deference and respect for the hon. member for Davenport, I agree with all of his statements.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, despite the late hour of 11 p.m., it is somewhat of a pleasure to rise to address Bill C-94, the Manganese based Fuel Additives Act.

For those members who have been told they must vote for this bill and have therefore decided that they do not need to understand the whole issue, I would like to give them a few of the facts surrounding this lobby effort by the powerful auto industry.

MMT has been used in Canada in unleaded fuel since 1977. Contrary to some disinformation in the papers, MMT has also been used in the United States since 1978 in leaded gas. Congress passed laws that said that all additives for unleaded fuels had to get a waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency before they could be used-all additives, not just MMT.

In their previous applications to use MMT, petroleum companies were unable to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that MMT should be given a waiver. In the last application the EPA reviewed evidence from both sides. Auto manufacturers contend that MMT should be banned because they believe that MMT gums up the new anti-pollution systems mandated for all cars in 1996. The onboard diagnostic systems, or OBD as they are called, apparently get coated with manganese and the car companies claim this results in inaccurate readings. They state: "Manganese based additives precipitate the degradation and failure of vehicle emission systems".

The petroleum companies ran their own tests and did not find MMT adversely affected the performance of the OBDs. Further, they point out that the auto companies' own tests prove that MMT does not adversely affect the detection of emission failures. When the system detected a problem, the failure light went on.

This finding is important, because now Canadian auto manufacturers are threatening to disable the dashboard light that signals the control system is not operating at optimum. By disabling the detection system, the car companies are deliberately, and spitefully I might add, preventing Canada from achieving pollution and emission targets.

The EPA, with its very strict standards, reviewed the evidence from both sides. It found no reason to refuse a waiver for MMT based on its effects on the emissions control equipment. The EPA administrator first noted that "use of Ethol's product in unleaded gasoline at the specified concentration will not cause or contribute to a failure to achieve compliance with vehicle emission standards".

However, she went on to cover other factors beyond her mandate with respect to the waiver application. She found that "there is a reasonable basis for concern about the effects on public health that could result if EPA were to approve the use of MMT in unleaded gasoline". On those grounds the administrator again denied the waiver. However, on April 14 the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned this decision, noting that the reasonable basis for concern that she applied was not consistent with section 211(c) of the act, which deals with health factors. Specifically there must be "significant risk to public health", which was not found in this case.

I would like to know why the Minister of the Environment has not addressed this aspect of MMT. It would seem to be her duty to protect Canadians against airborne pollutants, which will negatively impact on their health. Instead of pursuing this, the main objection by the EPA administrator, she is passing legislation to ban the importation or movement of MMT across borders.

Why does the government not have the gumption to stand up to blatant threats by the auto industry? It has warned that it would slap an extra $3,000 on the price of all 1996 model cars, void all exhaust system warranties and simply disconnect the new anti-pollution devices if Ottawa did not act by August. I want to know what the $3,000 would be used for. Is it going to research and development to make slightly different pollution control systems for Canada? Or, is it a fearmongering tactic by the car companies?

We have had MMT additives since 1977 in Canada. Why were the effects of MMT not built into the OBD tests over the last several years?

Another reason the auto industry has given for its position is to harmonize the North American market. It does not want to invest in technology to meet Canada's requirements, only those of the U.S.

Harmonizing the North American market sounds like a great plan during this age of NAFTA and free trade, except for one thing: the EPA has been ordered to give a waiver to American petroleum producers to start using MMT in unleaded gas. The appeal date on that decision expired last week without an appeal by the auto manufacturers or the EPA. If they felt their facts were so solid, why did they not appeal?

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

No evidence.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Even more important for Canada, it appears that as a result auto manufacturers are now considering a joint testing program between the U.S. and Canada because MMT may be on the U.S. unleaded gas market within the year. And note I said "may be".

What will Canada be doing as MMT fills gas stations across the border? Preventing its movement to appease the current whims of the auto industry. While the government commits itself to eliminating internal trade barriers in Bill C-88, the

Minister of the Environment is busy erecting them in Bill C-94. Not only does this demonstrate the hypocrisy of the Liberal commitment to freer trade between the provinces. It also demonstrates the inability of the Minister of the Environment to act decisively and responsibly on an important issue. Lacking the hard evidence to defend the outright elimination of MMT in fuels, she is caving in to the lobbying efforts of one group. Instead of making her decision based on technical information regarding the problems with the use of MMT, she is completely sidestepping the issue.

Bill C-94 means MMT can still be sold and used wherever it is produced. So petroleum producers could produce MMT in southern Ontario, where most cars are driven, and they would not be prohibited from selling it at the pumps. Somehow I do not see how this addresses the real issue of whether or not MMT contributes to pollution or should be used at all in Canada. This merely prevents the transport of MMT across borders but does not prevent its use.

If I were a suspicious and cynical westerner I might question the regional economic impacts of this bill, which seem to far outweigh any environmental concerns the minister might have. I might wonder why the minister refuses to consider studies by petroleum producers in western Canada or the United States. I might wonder if she represents the interests of all Canadians in all industries or merely a select few in Liberal territory in central Canada.

If I were really cynical I might wonder at the timing of the introduction of this bill, during the Ontario election campaign, in the province most dependent on the auto industry. When faced with an ultimatum by the auto companies to ban MMT use by August, what did the government do? Did it get tough and try to determine what the truth is regarding its effects? No, that would be too much to expect.

The government has a very bad track record when it comes to standing up for Canadians in the face of pressure from big industry. Remember the powerful tobacco lobby last year, when the government refused to look at a real solution to the smuggling problem. Instead of raising export tariffs or beefing up our anti-smuggling patrols, it gave the tobacco companies what they wanted: lower taxes to add new teenage smokers to their growing list of the addicted.

Instead of finding out the truth about MMT, the government is acceding to the demands of the car lobby without independent proof of its claims. What is more, possibly because they cannot prove the harmful effects of MMT, the environment minister is not actually banning it, just restricting its movement.

Something is not quite right here. Why is the Minister of the Environment championing a bill that says and does absolutely nothing about protecting the environment? Until we have an independent study, the only things being protected here are the interests of the auto industry.

What will some of the consequences of this legislation be? For one thing, increased pollution from sulphur emissions in western Canada, where the refineries must change their processing. If MMT cannot be moved interprovincially, producers will spend an additional $100 million to switch over to another fuel additive and will have to refine the gas more for higher octane levels, thereby increasing sulphur emissions. Is that increase in pollution included in the minister's calculations?

There will be up to a 20 per cent increase in nitrogen oxide levels emitted by cars if we ban MMT. Of course now the car manufacturers dispute the 20 per cent figure because of the changes they have been forced to make with the new pollution controls.

Kicking and screaming, the auto industry finally started to invest some research and development dollars into eliminating pollution. Suddenly it has found that it can reduce nitrogen oxide levels substantially. It does not dispute that MMT would decrease nitrogen oxide levels further, only that it will not be as much as 20 per cent because it has finally started producing more efficient cars. However, no one has calculated how much nitrogen oxide levels will go up once a final balance is reached between more efficient cars and less efficient alternate fuel additives.

Let us look at the other side of the equation. How much would it cost auto manufacturers to develop a flushing system or technology to deal with the effects of MMT? I think $100 million seems a little steep, but I am not a scientist or a chemist. I do not pretend to understand why research to solve the problem would cost more than $100 million. Either way, it is the Canadian driver who is going to lose.

MMT has been in use in Canada for 18 years. There is no guarantee that it will not be around for another 18 years. If the auto industry had such grave concern about the effect of MMT on emission systems, why was that not built into the original R and D? Why should the federal government legislate a ban on the movement of MMT because the auto industry did not deem the Canadian fuel market important enough to consider it while it was developing its OBD systems?

On the one hand, if we do not use MMT we have the potential for increasing hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and other smog ingredients, with their various negative health effects. On the other hand, if we keep MMT no one will know if or when the emission systems fail because the detection systems will be disabled.

I want to turn now to the second part of the debate, which seems to have been buried in Canada but was the reason the EPA initially denied the waiver for MMT in unleaded gas in the U.S. That is the issue of airborne manganese and its effects on the health of Canadians.

We have known for more than a hundred years that airborne manganese is harmful and results in neurological disorders similar to Parkinson's disease. It has been an occupational hazard in manganese mines, where workers breathe in an extremely high level of manganese dust.

One would think that the Minister of the Environment would want to ban MMT if it contributed to unsafe manganese levels in our air. In light of the EPA statements, one would think she would want to conduct tests to see whether Canada should control airborne manganese. Why does she not? Why instead does she go through a ridiculous loop to ban the interprovincial trade of manganese based substances? Should she not as Minister of the Environment be more concerned about emissions?

Although Environment Canada has not conducted studies on this issue, Health Canada has. Its findings are very interesting and refute the EPA administrator's reasonable concerns about the health risks of MMT with hard evidence. The Health Canada study attempted to determine a safe daily intake of airborne manganese. Our bodies can handle ingested manganese much better than airborne manganese. It is an essential part of our diet. However excessive intake of manganese can result in an accumulation in the brain, which will cause the neurological problems I mentioned. Infants and older people are particularly susceptible to the negative effects.

What did Health Canada discover? After establishing a safe daily intake level it studied airborne manganese, particularly that related to MMT. Even garage mechanics fell well inside the acceptable range of manganese inhalation. The major findings regarding MMT are as follows, and I quote from the study:

Levels of respirable manganese in major Canadian urban centres have remained constant or decreased from 1986 to 1992, and do not reflect major changes in MMT use during that time, suggesting that MMT does not contribute substantially to manganese concentrations.

The part of the study I found most enlightening was with respect to why the minister might be reluctant to initiate a study on the effects of MMT related specifically to airborne manganese in particular industrial towns. The study reads:

Inhalation exposure to manganese has been assessed for residents of cities with large manganese-emitting industries such as steel mills. Current mean ambient air manganese levels are at, or substantially above, the acceptable daily intake. Inhalation uptake from all age groups approaches or exceeds the total daily uptake. This raises concern regarding chronic exposure to manganese for residents in these cities and recommendations are made regarding this issue.

If we had an environment minister truly concerned about the effect of emissions on Canadian health one she would be right on top of trying to control manganese emissions from steel plants in towns like Hamilton. Perhaps that is expecting a bit too much.

Obviously we need an independent review or study to determine the truth. Each side has studies supporting its particular view. The petroleum industry has been pushing for such an independent study but the auto industry has balked. I wonder why that would be. Why has the Minister of the Environment not proposed an independent study? A number of reasons come to mind.

One reason might be the power of the auto industry in southern Ontario, a veritable Liberal stronghold. Maybe she does not think we need an independent study because she only believes the studies by the auto industry and not the ones by the petroleum producers.

Before putting this ban in place, the Minister of the Environment must act responsibly and commission an independent investigation into the environmental effects of MMT and its use in cars. This must include pollutants such as the expected increase in sulphur and other emissions at refineries and the increase in nitrogen oxide levels estimated at the equivalent of one million additional cars on the road.

Then it should look at the other side of the equation that might result from the removal of MMT, at the increase in airborne manganese levels, verification of a Health Canada study which indicated there was not a health risk linked to MMT use, the failure of emission control systems and the overall failure rate. Car manufacturers have not provided such numbers to my knowledge.

When all these factors are considered perhaps the government could make a rational decision based on hard evidence rather than just cave in to the auto industry and the jobs and votes they represent in Liberal ridings.

The main objective of the car companies appears to be to standardize fuels in North America. They could not care less about pollution or emissions in Canada. Because they cannot change the American market, they will get their wish by coercing the Canadian government. Do we not have a right to our own standards in this country? Why should any industry be able to dictate terms to us?

In conclusion, the Minister of the Environment by passing this bill to block the interprovincial trade of MMT is not acting in the best interests of the Canadian people. If there are significant health risks and pollution problems associated with the use of MMT, I would be the first to stand behind her, back her up and support her. However she refuses to conduct an independent study.

A reduction in nitrogen oxide levels for every car may far outstrip any potential pollution from a few failed OBD systems. It is time the minister starts acting like the Minister of the Environment for Canada, not the minister of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association.

The minister should do the right thing and order an independent study.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member, as did the other two speakers on behalf of the Reform Party, called for an independent study. I am a little bit at a loss to understand what is going to be accomplished by this independent study.

The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association issues warranties. It is to the benefit of consumers that we have warranties with our motor vehicles when they are purchased. If an independent study was done and the petroleum industry was proven right, what would that do toward compelling the auto industry to change its opinion and issue warranties? As far as I am aware, this is done strictly as a business decision by the manufacturers. There is no legislation compelling them.

What would be accomplished by the result of an independent study favouring the opinion of the petroleum industry?

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:20 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

It is my understanding that the OBD systems on these vehicles were requested by the American government, obviously to control pollution.

One of the biggest problems with the whole issue has been the inability of the petroleum industry on one side and the car manufacturers on the other side to get together and develop something that would benefit both industries and all Canadians and Americans. I hope that would be the outcome of an independent study. If the two sides could agree who should conduct the study and to abide by the results of the study, that is the kind of thing Canadians are looking for.

Suffice it to say that the two sides should be brought together, which has not been the case in the past. We have been getting these constantly conflicting statements from one side versus the other.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:20 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I imagine that the Reform Party had the same experience as us last week. The Minister of the Environment came to our offices to brief us on MMT.

As the official opposition critic on environmental issues, I asked to see the studies conducted by car makers to find out why they oppose the use of MMT. We were told that these studies were not available because they were secret.

It is very difficult to take a stand on an issue when we cannot have access to documents and when we are not informed. It is true that the department's position was explained to us and that officials from Ethyl Canada also came to present their own position. Yet, we cannot get a clear picture of the real situation.

I certainly understand the position of the member for Simcoe, as well as that of the chairman of my committee, who are environmentalists, but they are also members of the Liberal government. What we are asking for-and I agree with Reform Party members, this is a rare event, but it sometimes happens-is a clear, independent study, conducted according to the rules of ethics.

I want to ask the hon. member if he agrees with that and if he had access to the studies by auto manufacturers to the effect that MMT is really harmful to the anti-pollution system in cars?

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:20 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is quite an occasion for me to completely agree with a member from the Bloc Quebecois. I thank her for the kind comments on this subject.

It is indicative of the difficulty that Canadians and industries have trying to deal with the issue. We agree that we require a neutral third party to look at the issue rather than forge ahead based on the information on one side of the argument.

It is interesting to note her comments about the studies the automobile industry says it has done and yet these studies are a secret. If the studies support their side of the argument, why would they not bring them forward? To me that would be obvious.

I support the position of the Reform member for Comox-Alberni who earlier said that at the very least if the government is intent on forging ahead and ramming through the legislation as it has done with so many others in the past month. I would hope, following the vote at second reading, that the issue would be referred to the environment committee with a mandate to do a very intensive study and hear the various sides.

I certainly prefer, as does the Bloc obviously, to see an independent neutral study done but at the very least the environment committee should be given the mandate to look at this issue.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is fascinating to hear the member for Prince George-Peace River insisting on this question of an independent study.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Is the hon. member on questions and comments or is this on debate?

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

The Speaker

It is questions and comments.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

11:25 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

I will make it short. The member admits that there are conflicting opinions on this matter. They are conflicting because these are industries with diverging if not conflicting interests. Therefore the study would have to be carried out by an independent source.

Is the hon. member willing to have these studies, which are rather expensive, conducted by the government at the expense of the taxpayer? That is my first question.

My second question has to do with the statement he made earlier about the cars costing $3,000 extra. This is a cost, assuming the figure is correct, that would be levied on the Canadian consumer in his riding as well. Would it not make sense to the hon. member to support a measure that would prevent an additional cost being charged to the consumers in his own riding?