Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to speak on a bill that I am confident will benefit every Canadian from coast to coast. I am especially honoured to speak on the bill as it directly affects my riding of Kent in Ontario. Next Friday will be the ground breaking day for a world class ethanol plant in Chatham, Ontario.
Alternative fuels are the wave of the future using corn as the base product. Ethanol is an environmentally friendly, cost efficient and job producing substance. It is my hope and belief that some day every vehicle in Canada will run on alternative fuels.
Speaking of the ethanol plant in Chatham, I would like to give a little history of how it came to be. Approximately four years ago I was approached by Doug MacKenzie of Commercial Alcohols to try and promote this to the federal government and get its backing.
Over the years we had a very busy time. We met with every minister and every potential minister at that time to try and sell this project for the county of Kent. Every Wednesday morning at caucus we would present different proposals to all the ministers. Every Wednesday morning it seemed as if I was approaching them with a summons. I showed up every Wednesday with an envelope for every minister which had information and articles on ethanol and how it would benefit the Canadian population.
There are 21 municipalities in Kent, not the riding of Kent but in the county of Kent, of which I had the fortune of being a past warden. All 21 municipalities sent in their support not only once but twice to every member of Parliament.
I remember one cold day in January, in fact I think it was the coldest day we had that year, the administrator of the city of Chatham and the administrator of the county arrived here to meet with the finance department. They were in their raincoats as they were used to the weather in southwestern Ontario which we refer to as the banana belt of Canada. We walked to the minister's office which is approximately five blocks from here and both gentlemen were completely frozen. They were not used to the weather in Ottawa. The administrators met twice in Ottawa with the finance department and the minister.
Over the year we had thousands of petitions from the riding of Kent supporting an ethanol plant in Chatham. Really they were not asking for money; what they were asking for was a tax deferment. Since alcohol is not taxed in Canada they wanted to make sure that it stayed off to give the company a kick off start.
This company is a $153 million project. On next Friday October 18 will be the kick off party to starting to build this project. The ridings of Kent, Essex-Kent and Lambton-Middlesex, the corn belt of Canada, will supply this company. It is another way of people in agriculture being able to utilize their produce. Any commodity that helps agriculture is to the benefit of all.
There will be approximately 90 to 100 jobs within the company and a spinoff of approximately 400 jobs. People who work in agriculture, truckers, labourers and shippers will all be involved with this plant in Chatham. It is not only a benefit to the environment, it is a benefit to the economy.
Over those years we tried every way possible to get the ministers and the members of this party and the other parties to agree to having this tax deferral. I must mention a chap who worked for me by the name of Emery Huszka. Emery drove down to his hometown of Bothwell filled a pickup with a load of corn and drove all the
way back to Ottawa. One weekend he and his wife wrapped ears of corn and our proposal with a ribbon. I must compliment Emery and his wife Julie for all the work they did in such a novel way to get attention. All the offices received an ear of corn with our proposal wrapped by ribbon.
I must thank the member for Halton-Peel and the member for Lambton-Middlesex who co-chaired the ethanol program for the environment here under the former minister, the hon. member for Hamilton East. They worked night and day to get this project off the ground.
I would like to thank all the members of Parliament who supported this. It was almost unanimous. I believe there was only one member who fought me on it, the member for Sarnia-Lambton. I do not blame the member for Sarnia-Lambton one iota. We are very close friends. But living in the chemical valley of Canada he has to stand up for the people who support him.
There were debates in Windsor. I debated along with Robert Wheeler from the city of Chatham who is the head of economic development against the member for Sarnia-Lambton and Ray Curran, the chair of the Lambton industrial society. Our debate was on the pros and cons of ethanol versus MMT. Later Doug MacKenzie and I debated in the city of London against the chemical companies themselves which were there to debate why they felt MMT should not be banned and why we should not go ahead with ethanol.
It was a very busy year and a half. My staff worked night and day. But had it not been for the ministers of our government and the members not only of the government but of the opposition who gave their support, we would never have attained our goals.
Let me now address another important issue. As more and more cars make their way onto our city streets and highways, we face a major environmental problem. Every year the 14 million cars on Canada's roads release about four tonnes of pollutants into the air. Not only do excessive emissions infect the air we breathe but they also pollute our water systems and environment. This is a massive problem that is only getting worse.
I have personal evidence that ethanol is very beneficial as I have used ethanol in my car for some 20 years or more. I drove one car for over 450,000 kilometres without any trouble with its catalytic converter or motor. Ethanol certainly benefits with a cleaner running motor. I still use ethanol today after 20 years. I always pick a gas station that sells ethanol.
I congratulate both the ministers of environment and agriculture for taking hold of this problem, for tightening emissions regulations, for improving fuel compositions and for encouraging Canadians to make careful and environmentally sound transportation choices.
As I mentioned earlier, I come from a rural area. It is the corn capital of Canada. We do not have public transportation. My community relies almost exclusively on automobiles for travel. We do not have bus service or trains in our area so all individuals must use their own transportation.
With the economy the way it is, husbands and wives work, children work. They all have cars and they are all polluting our environment. I am certain this is the case all over Canada. If we accept that people are not going to give up their cars, then we have to accept a cleaner, cheaper and better fuel product. MMT is the exact opposite.
MMT is the gasoline additive that increases octane. It is not essential to the operation of a car and many experts, including automobile manufacturers, say that it causes significant problems with pollution control components. That is why, relating to the car I have, the catalytic converter is the same as the day I bought the car new.
Cars today are very sophisticated with onboard diagnostic systems. These onboard systems are used to help drivers maintain their car's pollution control systems. I understand that if one had to be replaced it would cost approximately $1,000 with labour. Studies have shown that MMT corrupts these systems.
The decision to ban MMT was made after serious consideration. Along with many of my colleagues and the Ministers of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Environment, I have spent over two years consulting automobile manufacturers, oil companies and environmental groups. We are certain that banning this nasty American fuel additive, and it is not a Canadian additive as it is made in the southern United States, will improve the health and safety standards for all Canadians.
Banning MMT also makes sense when we are already producing better alternative fuels such as ethanol. There are several ethanol plants in Canada. The one in Chatham is not the original as there are several out west and down east.
When ethanol is made I talk of corn but ethanol can be made out of anything: wood, straw, beans. It can be made out of any product that is grown and is renewable.
As I mentioned before, ethanol is a cheaper and cleaner alternative fuel. Banning MMT makes way for corn growers across the country to contribute to the new exciting industry of alternative fuels. I am confident that this bill will benefit all Canadians by improving their health and their environment.
There are questions why Bill C-29 is important. Bill C-29 represents a prudent approach to ensuring that Canadian consumers and the environment are protected in view of uncertainties regarding the long term effect of MMT on advanced emission control
technologies such as the onboard diagnostics that are now only emerging in the motor vehicle fleet on a widespread basis.
Why is it important to have OBD systems in Canadian vehicles? OBD systems are designed to monitor the performance of pollution control systems, in particular the catalyst, and alert the driver to a malfunction. This could prevent cases of increasing tailpipe emissions, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, which impact on local air quality, as well as carbon dioxide, the principal contributor to climate change.
Properly functioning OBD systems are in essence an inspection and maintenance tool in the vehicle. Inspection and maintenance programs require vehicles to be emissions tested on a periodic basis. I feel the environment committees and ministries will be doing more of this to improve our society. Successful implementation of properly functioning OBD systems will permit all Canadians to benefit from such an emissions reduction strategy.
For example, an assessment of the emissions benefit attributed to the air care inspection and maintenance program in the Vancouver area, conducted on an annual basis, shows that hydrocarbon emissions have been reduced by 20 per cent, carbon monoxide emissions by 24 per cent, nitrogen oxide emissions by 2.7 per cent and fuel consumption by 5 per cent from the tested fleet.
What are automakers going to do if MMT remains in Canadian fuels? The automakers have indicated that if MMT remains in Canadian gasoline they would take action ranging from disconnecting OBD sensors to removal of the OBD system and decreased warranty provisions for consumers. General Motors of Canada has already advised the government that it has disabled certain functions of the OBD system on 1996 model years.
As I mentioned, by using ethanol these motors can run almost indefinitely. In our positions as members of Parliament we travel many miles in a year. Unfortunately, I must keep a car for a long time because I am not in a position to trade it too often. I put an immense amount of mileage on a vehicle.
How is this action to eliminate MMT from Canadian fuel consistent with what is happening in U.S. fuel? The current Canadian situation is not consistent with the U.S. MMT is permitted up to twice the level in Canada today compared with the level now allowed in conventional U.S. gasoline. When we test gasoline for purities we use American gasoline to check mileage and emissions here in Canada. I think this is wrong. We should be using our own fuel to test.
However, there remains considerable uncertainty about the widespread acceptance and the use of MMT in the U.S. First, there already exists a patchwork of fuels, that is, some that use MMT and some that are MMT-free in the North American market.
MMT is still not allowed in reformulated gasoline in the U.S. which is required in areas that suffer from extreme air pollution. Air pollution is starting to build up in the city of Toronto. Second, the Environmental Protection Agency supported by the Environmental Defence Fund has expressed serious concerns about the lack of data related to the use of MMT in gasoline and consequently has advocated a cautious approach with respect to the use of this additive.
Third, many of the larger petroleum companies in the U.S. have indicated that they do not intend to use MMT. In Canada right now certain service stations use only an ethanol blend. In Chatham three different companies use an ethanol blend.
The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment task force report on cleaner vehicles and fuels recognized that fuels and emissions control technology should be treated as an integrated system to reduce motor vehicle emissions. The ministers have further agreed to require that cleaner fuels be mandated for use in all Canadian motor vehicles. The MMT initiative is fully consistent with that approach.
I would like to thank all members of Parliament both on the government and opposition sides who supported the ethanol plant for the city of Chatham in the county of Kent. Without your help and the help of the minister it would never have been realized for our area. Chatham is still in a recession and this company will certainly benefit the area. For all the people in the riding of Kent and the county of Kent I wish to thank everyone for the efforts that helped to implement this project. I also wish to thank the Government of Canada for supporting this ethanol plant.