Madam Speaker, we have noticed that most of the members taking part in this debate were from Ontario. We understand why.
The largest concentration of automakers is found in Ontario. In a way, we cannot blame the Ontario Liberal members for defending the interests of their province. At the same time, Quebec members, like me, cannot be blamed for defending Quebec's interests, not only the interests of Quebec but those of the other provinces as well. Ontario is somewhat in a minority position on this issue.
Earlier, the hon. member for Mercier talked about the businesses and the refineries located in her riding. I have the same situation in my riding of Lévis, where the Ultramar refinery, one of the most modern and the second best performing refinery in North America, is located. Even though it performs well and as such is less threatened than the one mentioned by the member for Mercier in the Montreal area, its managers have told me that if this bill passes as it is, that will have an impact on the refinery, on the jobs and most of all, as we should not forget, on car owners.
As for Quebec, the impact could reach $7 million, as was mentioned in a newspaper article this morning. I think it is a lot more, because some people want to change the rules in the interests of Ontario where all the automakers are located. But it is also for another reason.
What do they want to replace MMT with? Ethanol. Who are those most in favour of ethanol? Again, Ontario members. We have nothing against those who stand up for the interests of their riding, of their region; but we also have the right to stand up for the interests of ours. We can see that the bill only takes Ontario's interests into account. That is unacceptable.
Since I have only ten minutes, I will state ten facts that the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute pointed out in a letter in answer to the Automobile Club people.
The first point mentioned in the letter is the following: "The Canadian Petroleum Products Institute and its members are not opposed to prohibiting MMT and have pledged to withdraw this product should there be any evidence", and here comes the important part, "that the presence of this substance in gasoline is a threat to health or to the environment".
This is the problem. No harmful effect was demonstrated. If it was proven that MMT is dangerous, or that manganese, which is one of its elements, is dangerous, what would Health Canada or the Department of the Environment do? They would ban this product. This bill, however, merely seeks to prohibit its use in gasoline. A product is either toxic or it is not. The fact is that neither the health department nor the environment department banned this product.
Second point: "Car manufacturers never clearly and factually proved that MMT could adversely affect the operation of catalytic converters". This has not been proven.
Third point: "Health Canada formally, publicly and in writing, stated that there was no proof whatsoever that MMT was a threat to the health of Canadians".
As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I checked this out. A study commissioned by Health Canada reveals that only one manganese-related death was ever recorded in the world. This death, which occurred in 1941 in Japan, was not linked to MMT but to manganese, and a considerable dose was involved.
That was the only case ever recorded. Health Canada has experts who maintain that, in quantities such as those currently found in MMT, manganese is not dangerous. Not only is it not dangerous, it is necessary to neutralize certain products in gasoline and prevent pollution. In other words, it makes certain gasoline products less
polluting. It is used not only to reduce the octane number, but also to keep in check other pollutants found in gasoline.
Fourth point: "Putting MMT in gasoline helps reduce toxic emissions". This is what I just told you about.
Fifth point: "At the recent conference of the Canadian Council of Ministers of Energy, eight provinces opposed Bill C-29. Moreover, the premiers of Alberta, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan wrote the Prime Minister, asking that the bill be withdrawn. As for Quebec, the National Assembly unanimously approved a motion asking for the withdrawal of Bill C-29". This motion was adopted by all the parties, including the Liberal Party of Quebec. From time to time, members of the Liberal Party of Canada should listen to their provincial counterparts. But they do not.
Sixth point: "On the federal level, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister for International Trade have come out against Bill C-29." Obviously, they were swallowed up by cabinet solidarity at that point, and so nothing more has been heard from them, but they had already indicated their opposition to the minister.
Seventh point: "Bill C-29 banning international trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of MMT constitutes a violation of NAFTA-this is the written opinion of Gordon Ritchie, former Canadian NAFTA negotiator-and of the interprovincial trade treaty". That means there is a risk of prosecution, and I believe some legal challenges are already in the works.
Eighth point: "The automobile makers have refused our organization's proposal to have a fully independent body examine and report on the situation".
If a complete, independent, exhaustive study proved that there is indeed a danger, then we in the official opposition would also respect the findings. The official opposition is opposed, but this is because the government has not proven its case.
What are they doing instead? Yesterday, a motion was adopted to gag the House by limiting the duration of the debate, in order to get this bill through quickly. This attitude is becoming increasingly common, and the opposition objects. When someone wants to gag democracy, they try to paralyze the opposition. They try to rush bills through when the Christmas or summer break is coming up. As usual, the Liberal government is still trying to put one over us, thinking that we will soon forget about it, because it is nearly time for the Christmas parties to begin. But this is serious.
Ninth point: "Banning MMT constitutes a threat to the competitiveness of the Quebec refining industry, and would be contrary to the interests of Quebec drivers".
The tenth and last point is that the government stubbornly insists it is right in this case. The Deputy Prime Minister began this debate when she was Minister of the Environment in 1995, obviously also putting the interests of Ontario first. She started it, and the government tabled a bill. Now it has less and less faith in its evidence, as it has really not proven anything. The only way to proceed then is to push it ahead as fast as possible, by gagging the House, so that it can get its way as usual.
Former Social Credit leader Réal Caouette sometimes had some good quotes. He used to say: "The government has your good at heart, and it will manage to get its hands on your goods as well". That is what the government has on its mind with this bill. The heck with the financial consequences, it says, the heck with the consequences for hundreds, even thousands of jobs. It thumbs its nose at all of this.