Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in this House and speak to Bill C-29, which seeks to prohibit the use of manganese based products in leaded gasoline in Canada. It goes about it very indirectly, by prohibiting interprovincial trade and importation from the United States, where the product is manufactured by Ethyl Corporation.
The purpose of this bill is therefore to prohibit the use of manganese based products in leaded gasoline. We in the Bloc Quebecois are opposed to this bill, in its present form anyway, for a number of reasons.
First of all, it is interesting to note the emphasis of government officials on the risk to the environment of products such as MMT. You may have noticed that the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture spent almost eight minutes of his ten minute speech speaking about the risks and dangers of this additive in leaded gasoline, when this is simply not true. Nowhere in North America has it been shown that the use of manganese based substances in leaded gasoline is dangerous to the environment. There is not a shred of evidence.
Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has already argued to have this product banned in gasoline, saying that it was a risk to the environment, when this is not the case. Agency spokespersons have not been able to prove it. And not only is it not dangerous for the environment, but, if this product is now prohibited in leaded gasoline, then there really is a risk of creating a problem for the environment. According to studies, this manganese based product reduces emissions of nitrogen oxide that creates the greenhouse effect. This is a dangerous gas that is harmful to the environment. It creates a greenhouse effect, with disastrous consequences that, in some cases, are even world wide in scope.
By banning the use of manganese-based products in leaded gas, we run the risk of increasing the greenhouse effect. Emissions of nitrogen oxide may increase by as much as 20 per cent. The government or its representatives cannot truthfully say they want to ban the use of products like MMT because they are harmful to the environment. The evidence proves the exact opposite is true.
For instance, we are told that MMT may cause problems for car owners because it may lead to deterioration of the exhaust system, which is also clearly unfounded. There is no real reason, no sensible reason for reaching that conclusion.
This product does not create a specific hazard for cars, but in addition, if MMT is removed from leaded gas, this may actually increase the price of cars and the price of gas and also have a rather negative impact on the oil companies, especially in Quebec, because they will have to change their equipment as a result of the ban on MMT. This bill, which aims to ban the use of manganese-based products in leaded gas, has a whole series of negative effects.
Why should the government want to pass a bill, and ulterior motives are a factor, by banning not the product itself, because it is not in itself harmful, but the interprovincial trade in or importation from the United States of the product? Why does the Liberal government insist on doing so, although there is every indication that not only would this be harmful to the environment but it would also have a negative impact on the entire oil industry and the automotive industry in Canada, in addition to the loss of jobs?
Banning interprovincial trade in this product constitutes an intrusion in provincial jurisdictions. That is why six provinces are opposed to this bill. I repeat, this constitutes a federal intrusion in a provincial jurisdiction. Banning the importation of this product from the United States may put Canada in a very uncomfortable position with the U.S., because that would violate NAFTA. If this
bill is passed, Canada will be sued for damages to the tune of $200 or $300 million. Considering the current deficit, this is no time for the government to open the door to legal action.
So why is the government so stubborn, despite all the negative effects this bill may have on the environment and the automotive and petroleum industries, despite the predicted loss of jobs and possible legal action by the United States and the provinces? I will tell you why. The reason is they have decided to create an ethanol industry in Ontario, to create jobs in Ontario at the expense of the other provinces, at the expense of Quebec and at the expense of the entire country.
Sure, the government has the power, and so it can go ahead and develop an industry that is not harmful as such, and I certainly agree there is something to say for the production of ethanol and the use of this product as an additive to unleaded gas. It could be a bonus for farmers.
But doing it in such a roundabout way reminds me, as a Quebecer, of the Borden line, of how the federal government in 1963 managed to move most of the oil refineries into Ontario through a similarly roundabout approach. Montreal lost four out of six, no wonder Montreal is badly off. In those same years, in 1965, the government managed to concentrate the entire automotive industry in Ontario. You will not that Quebec has virtually no automobile industry. It is all in Ontario.
These unfortunate examples demonstrate how, once again, this Liberal government is attempting to concentrate its efforts on Ontario, despite the fact that there are a number of reasons not to do so, as in the case for Bill C-29.
It is patently obvious that removal of this product as an additive to unleaded gasoline will have a strong negative impact on the environment, on the automotive industry, on the petroleum industry. It can mean job losses, and a lot of hassle for the government in the form of lawsuits from the U.S. and the other provinces. This is, in my opinion, bad politics, and is the reason why we in the Bloc are opposed to Bill C-29, at least as it stands at present.