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House of Commons Hansard #110 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

The House resumed from October 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-29, an act to regulate interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese-based substances, be read the third time and passed; and of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

November 29th, 1996 / 10 a.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, in the past 30 to 40 years the evidence has been accumulating that all is not well with mother earth. The list of endangered species lengthens, the flocks of migratory birds dwindle, the lakes and rivers die. Even the oceans are becoming toxic sinks. We are warned not to go out in the sun. A tan is no longer a sign of health.

The aboriginal people understood these things. Many young people understand them. Many adults do not, or will not. Our modern, industrial, developed society is characterized in these words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem, God's Grandeur :

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil

crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod? Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

and all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil

is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod. And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black west went

Oh, morning, at brown brink eastward, springs-

because the Holy Ghost over the bent

world broods with warm breast and Ah! Bright Wings.

Hopkins' hopeful ending suggests that all may yet be well with God's help. But this poem was written over 100 years ago and human technology is now outstripping nature. We as citizens of this planet must redress the balance with nature which is the only way to ensure a sustainable future for all humanity. Unless we change our attitude to the environment, we will destroy it and ourselves into the bargain. The time is now.

This brings me to the bill before us today. Bill C-29 seeks to ban the fuel additive MMT from Canadian fuels. I support the bill because the most efficient way to protect the environment is to prevent pollution. Bill C-29 accomplishes this.

Canadians know how important their environment is and they expect the federal government to take a leadership role in preserving and protecting it.

Some members of the House may ask why Bill C-29 is important. Bill C-29 represents a prudent approach that ensures the Canadian consumers and the environment are protected. It deals with the uncertainty regarding the long term effects of MMT on advanced emission control technologies such as on board diagnostics, OBD, that are now being built into the motor vehicle fleet on a widespread basis.

On board diagnostic systems are designed to monitor the performance of pollution control systems, particularly the catalysts, and alert the driver to a malfunction. These systems prevent increased tail pipe emissions, including carbon monoxide and other 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, and inspection and maintenance programs require vehicles to be tested on a periodic basis for emissions.

The industry wide implementation of properly functioning OBD systems will permit all Canadians to benefit from an emissions reduction strategy. For example, an assessment of the emissions benefit attributed to the air care inspection and maintenance program in the Vancouver city 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.

Auto makers have indicated that if MMT remains in Canadian gasoline they would take action, ranging from disconnecting OBD sensors to removal of the OBD systems and decreased warranty provisions for automobile owners. General Motors of Canada has already advised the government that it has disabled certain functions of the OBD system on 1996 model year vehicles.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to MMT. Alternative fuels can replace this additive as an oxygen enhancer in gasoline. For instance, ethanol is a renewable fuel that I and many of my rural caucus colleagues have supported for its obvious environmental and economic benefits. The ethanol plant in Chatham will have an enormous economic benefit for southwestern Ontario. The plant will be producing over 150 million litres of this cleaner burning fuel which will ensure that a better alternative to MMT as an oxygen enhancer is readily available for the Canadian consumer.

The earth is a global spaceship. The delicate envelope of atmosphere which surrounds us is all the environment we have. As human beings we share with all other species of animals and plants this layer of air, soil and moisture. All citizens of Canada need to keep in mind that wonderful picture of planet earth taken by astronauts which shows it swathed in blue green swirls of atmosphere floating in the black void of space.

Until all of us are aware of the finite, fragile and unique nature of our world, and treat it accordingly, we must pass laws which will protect this planet for future generations. Bill C-29 is such a law and I am proud to support it.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill on manganese based additives, but at the same time I find it sad that the government continues to obstinately insist on passing a bill to ban MMT, when there has been no proof of any real danger to the environment.

In this matter, the official opposition has had the very constructive attitude that, yes, it would be worthwhile to look at this, that there would have to be impact studies, that we would have to look at the potential advantages, impact and risks associated with this additive. But the government has found no proof and has no justification. It seems that the sole reason for the government's continuing pressures is the lobbying by Ontario MPs, who see this bill as a way of improving the cost-effectiveness of a not very successful industrial sector in Ontario.

The government's insistence on pushing the bill through, no matter what, has had several effects. As was said this morning, Ottawa wants to push through a bill that will be harmful to Montreal. It is, moreover, harmful to all of Canada, for there is the possibility of a nearly $200 million lawsuit by an American company, Ethyl, under NAFTA. The Canadian government, in irresponsibly pushing this bill ahead, will once again be costing Canadians a great deal of money.

Why does the government absolutely insist on adopting this bill, when it could simply be sent to a committee for study, as long as necessary to prove the environmental effects of MMT? Are there harmful effects, yes or no? Could the validity of the Ethyl claim be verified? When it comes down to it, will we be stuck with a major legal battle, with millions of dollars spent on defending Canada in a case about which we are not even certain? What is more, the governments of Alberta and Quebec have already announced that they intend to take Ottawa to court, and they are not alone. A total of six provinces have spoken out against the federal government's bill on MMT, this gasoline additive which has not been proven harmful to health.

There are, therefore, some important elements to be considered: the cost to Canadians, and the tarnishing of Canada's image by defending a case about which there is no certainty under the free trade agreement. What is still more dramatic for Quebecers, however, was summarized very aptly by the president of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, Alain Perez, when he said "At this time, there are several factors threatening a Montreal refinery, one of which is this bill".

Is this one more case of the federal government putting Ontario before Quebec, or changing the rules of the game? The competitors are already in the marketplace, the rules of the game are already in place, and if the refineries in the Montreal region are able to survive, those in Ontario must be able to as well. If there are problems with ethanol production, efforts must be made to make it more profitable, to improve production processes and other procedures, but not via political interference. Political interference changes the rules of the game.

We are seeing an increasing number of instances under the current Liberal government. The same is being done with Canadian International. By playing this kind of game, the government is promoting unfair competition. On the one hand, the government upholds a certain principle and the principle of free competition is supposed to rule the market, because it will make us competitive and people will get a better deal. But on the other hand, whenever there is a very strong political lobby-in the case of Canadian, it is western Canada, and in this particular case it is Ontario-environmental considerations which are not justified are used as an excuse to go ahead and rush a bill like this one through the House.

I think that in this case, the federal government has clearly shown that it is more or less being led by its strong delegation from Ontario, by the lobby of ministers from that region. When a decision is to be made here in Parliament, all aspects of a bill must

be considered. Whether we are talking about economic costs, the legal problems that can be expected with the provinces, the potential damage to our international reputation and the impact on employment in a region like Montreal, if the federal government adopts this bill, if the Liberal majority manages to ram it down our throats, they will prove once again that Canadian federalism is good if it is good for Ontario.

When there is a choice to be made between economic benefits for Ontario or for Quebec, like the Supreme Court in this country or the Tower of Pisa, it always leans in the same direction. The federal government always leans toward Ontario, which is more less what is happening in this case.

In the coming year there will be an election campaign, when Quebecers will be asked to consider the relevance of all this. It will be up to them to decide, in this case as in so many others, who conducted the best defence of Quebec's interests. Was it the federal government, which is ramming down our throats a bill that will benefit Ontario, without giving any scientific proof of the environmental impact, or was it the Bloc Quebecois, which defended Quebecers and the entire Canadian market, saying that political lobbying was the only reason and that the lobbies fully supported the federal government's position?

It looks as though the federal government has taken advantage of the silence of the Conservative Party. Defending the interests of Quebec does not seem to be its main concern. When one has a federal vision of Canada, there are many things one does not talk about. We in the Bloc Quebecois have no such constraints. We have no wish to form the government, and so we are in a position to defend consumers, Canadians and Quebecers, to ensure that the choices made by the Canadian government produce long term benefits for the Canadian economy and the Quebec economy.

When the Liberals vote on this bill later today, especially the Liberal members from Quebec, I hope they remember this position that was reported in the papers today. I am referring to what was said by Alain Perez, president of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute: "At this moment, the existence of a Montreal refinery is threatened by a number of factors, including this bill, the bill on MMT, on manganese-based additives".

When the Liberals vote on this bill, every time a Liberal member, especially those from Quebec, rises in the House to vote in favour of the bill, he will be hurting Quebec's economy, and Quebecers are sure to rembember this in the next election.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, the environment as a topic currently is not the headline grabber that it once was. However, the worrisome fundamental trends for our planet remain.

The real problem is to determine what are wise actions for governments to take to protect the environment in view of science, economics and politics. Often it is the apparently obvious quick fix that is tried and then eventually realized as no real solution. In addition there is always the politics of balancing and reconciling the vectors that pull in different directions. It seems in this case that the vectors or forces of politics win over the policy vectors indicated by science.

With this bill we have a political headstrong approach that is characteristic of governments that think they are high in the polls, believe their own press releases and have an arrogance that only they have the divine right to govern. My how the tone has changed from when these Liberal members were in opposition. Back then they howled like coyotes when the other old arrogant members, the Conservatives, used closure. The Liberals were outraged when closure was used. Now that they are in power they do the same thing.

Voters have to remember this and resolve that such breaking of faith with the community should not be rewarded in the next election with support and a vote for any Liberal. What is being done today reveals the inner heart of what drives Liberals in government. It is a prime example of why federal politicians are rated no higher than insincere used car salesmen. It is understandable that Canadians turn off on politics.

Before us we have a bill which is anti free trade and which is supposed to help the environment but it is not supported by credible scientific evidence. This bill should have died on the Order Paper but now we have it back again under the closure rules.

I despair that we will ever see a Liberal Minister of the Environment who will be content with the best that science has to offer for environmental policy. The quest for short term political payoff is evidenced in this bill to ban the importation and trade of MMT in gasoline.

We were not even close to having a realistic minister when the member from Hamilton had the job. She had a manner of finding her own departmental officials two steps behind her on nearly every erratic policy course change in her quest for the heroin fix of the political hit. Unfortunately now with the new minister, Canadians are getting little improvement on the MMT score.

In the environment portfolio there has not been an abundance of legislation. Since the Liberals took power in 1993 there have been only six bills brought forward by the Minister of the Environment. It is a stark comparison to the active Department of Justice which has introduced 30 bills. With extra time to consult and consider,

one would think that environment would only produce wise and quality law. How wrong to surmise.

In May 1995 the former minister introduced a bill that would ban the interprovincial trade and importation of the gasoline additive MMT. Bill C-94 which is now Bill C-29 has easily become one of the most starkly divided issues during this Parliament. No legislation during the 35th Parliament has lasted this long in the House. The reason is that the so-called science is in conflict. Ways and means do not match up in this bill. When a basic idea is flawed, the resultant legislation is bad. It does not deserve to be passed.

However the former minister and her political friends at the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association had a half baked idea that went too far. The MVMA wanted MMT to be removed from unleaded gasoline in Canada because it claimed that the additive which is used to boost octane and reduce pollution was creating havoc with the new onboard diagnostic pollution sensors in late model automobiles.

There were only two ways to get MMT out of Canadian gasoline. One would have been for the MVMA to conclude negotiations with the stakeholders including Ethyl Corporation which manufactures MMT as well as the petroleum companies and conduct independent third party tests that would conclusively demonstrate if MMT was harmful. The other was the strong arm approach to directly legislate with the government trying to scare Canadians, claiming that if MMT was not out of fuel, automobile manufacturing plants could close and the price of cars would dramatically increase. Those latter arguments put forward by the government proved to be false.

The weighing of the policy options must have taken at least two minutes for the minister to decide as the choice was so poor. The choices were politics or science, and the minister chose politics.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, CEPA, was designed to create environmental protection and among other things to ban substances that are harmful to the public health and the environment. The former minister wanted to put MMT on CEPA's toxic list but Health Canada did not find it harmful to our health. Unfortunately for Canada's most unenvironmental environment minister, Health Canada had already proved that MMT in its present manner of use presented no harm to health and it later stood by their conclusion on the record.

With the new minister, Environment Canada has been no better off with this bill. He had his chance to put Bill C-94 on a permanent shelf to collect dust. One wonders who is really in charge of legislative initiatives with his department as it was brought forward again in full view of the bill's discredit. The mistake of this bill will certainly remain as a legacy to Liberal environmental legislation.

Reformers have opposed this bill without pressure from lobby groups because the inherent nature of the original idea was bad. Thorough and rigorous independent testing is the only way to resolve the regulatory question of whether we should have MMT in gasoline.

At present MMT helps cars run cleaner with better distance to fuel consumption ratios so that less gas is burned which helps the global warming agenda. I am told that MMT in gasoline is significantly better for gas mileage than reformulated gasoline. Further, we should carefully test some of the proposed alternatives to reformulated gasoline as they may not be inherently as environmentally friendly as first thought. Choices turn out that way when politicians seek the short term rewards of political success over what science may show as the long term public interest.

We also have to look at the taxpayer subsidies the Liberals are pouring into ethanol production which may be an uneconomical choice that in total in the big picture may not be very environmentally friendly. The issue of MMT and why the government does not like it I suspect has a lot to do with money and who pays rather than doing the right thing for the environment.

Above all, the use of closure as a principle in Parliament on this type of bill is disrespectful to members of the House. It is an example of how old line system defenders, the Liberals in this case, continue in their traditional ways and reinforce public cynicism about representative government versus responsible and accountable government to the people.

The bill is bad. Its methods are perverse. Now we have the final insult of it being driven by closure. I hope Canadians will remember this in the next election.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

Question.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, there has already been a certain amount of co-operation among all the parties involved in this debate, and I must also acknowledge that the Chair has asked if we wished to resume debate. In a spirit of co-operation, we would ask the Chair to please return to the matter under debate so we may complete this nevertheless important bill.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I acknowledge the remarks of the hon. government whip but I would remind this House that, on two occasions I called for a resumption of debate,

and no one seemed interested in doing so. I will call for it a third time. Resuming debate.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, on a point of order. There is a practice in this Parliament that has gone on for three years at least whereby the parties agree to provide you with a list of those who will be speaking. The opposition has always co-operated and is prepared to continue doing so.

However, a procedure, even if you did say it twice, must not be used to speed things up and take people by surprise. We are prepared to co-operate. I thank the chief whip of the Liberal Party for recognizing the need to facilitate debate, but I do not want things hurried up and the debate adjourned earlier than planned, before everyone on the list has had a chance to speak.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I would nevertheless like to say that, in presiding over our debates at this time, the Chair has certainly followed our Standing Orders in asking members if they wished to resume debate. No one rose on either side of the House. I do recognize that the Chair was right in following the procedure and putting the question.

That said, and still in the spirit of co-operation among the parties in this matter, I hope we can continue the debate.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Point of order.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The hon. whip of the Reform Party has to be in his seat in order to be recognized.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

He is.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to reinforce the position taken by the government whip. The Chair has acted entirely appropriately in this case. She asked repeatedly for speakers, for anybody to stand. There was no attempt to rush things through at all that I could see. I do not agree, of course, with the time limitations and some of the other things that are going on, but the Chair has acted appropriately.

By all means, if somebody wants to debate, then we will not stand in the way of doing it. However, the Chair is absolutely right.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Thank you very much. However, you will appreciate that if members wish to speak and have put forth their name on the speaking list, they should be in the House when it is their time for debate.

Accordingly, we are resuming debate with the hon. member for Mercier.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, again in the spirit of co-operation, I think a member on the Liberal side rose to speak, but you perhaps did not see him. As we usually alternate our speeches, we are prepared to have you recognize the Liberal member who rose.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I have just recognized the hon. member for Mercier in this debate. Does she wish to continue the debate?

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Yes, Madam Speaker, after almost losing my turn because I hoped that the hon. member across the way would rise in his place. I would like to speak to Bill C-29 this morning, with the government having just imposed an unacceptable gag.

The official opposition, under the enlightened direction of our critic, the member for Laurentides, conducted a study and then mounted a campaign on this issue, which has been presented as an environmental issue, when in reality it is an economic one that pits certain parts of the country against others, in this case Ontario and Quebec.

After serious examination of the matter in committee, the official opposition could only conclude, in the absence of conclusive evidence backed up by independent studies, that by banning MMT, the government is actually looking for a way to satisfy the automobile industry, which is concentrated, as everyone knows, in Ontario.

This ban will have terrible repercussions on oil companies in my riding in eastern Montreal. Over the years, the riding of Mercier has lost four oil companies. Their loss had a devastating effect, not only on employment, but also on the rest of the petrochemical industry and its future.

We would obviously have sought different solutions if there were proof of serious environmental consequences. In the absence of these independent and conclusive studies, we can only conclude that the government is caving in to pressure from the automobile industry, which claims that MMT in gasoline adversely affects the performance of catalytic converters. This conclusion reached by the automobile industry has not been proven in an objective and independent manner.

The official opposition therefore finds it disturbing that, with no regard for the economic impact on the development of Quebec and not just on employment in Montreal, the government is imposing a gag order, when we have already suggested that passage of this bill be delayed so that an independent study can be done. And if the government truly wished to protect the environment, it would have seen to it that these conclusions were accurate beyond all possible doubt, or at least beyond all reasonable doubt. But, instead, they go ahead with a gag order.

The eastern sector of Montreal has not forgotten the federal decision to impose the Borden line, which meant that Quebec, once an exporter of refined oil to the rest of Canada, became an importer. This was devastating for employment. And then the Prime Minister came to Montreal and sadly asked "What can we do for Montreal?", but in the weeks since then we see that the government, through a gag order, is now trying to rush through a decision that jeopardizes at least one of the two remaining refineries.

I repeat, this issue has been handled by our environment critic, who conducted consultations, who tried to have the bill postponed, who tried to pin down the government in committee. And the upshot was this gag order, this hasty decision in response to pressure from the automobile industry.

On the eve of the next election, Quebecers will also remember that the automobile pact was supposed to distribute auto assembly plants more equitably, given that Quebec is one of the largest consumers of automobiles in Canada, but that there is only one assembly plant. Quebecers will also remember that to now seriously threaten what is left of the petroleum industry in Montreal does not make the government look good. So let Prime Minister Chrétien come back and sorrowfully ask what he can do for Montreal and pledge his full co-operation.

This morning's issue of Le Journal de Montreal carried an article on the federal government's decision yesterday to gag the opposition parties in order to pass a bill that could threaten the survival of one of the last two refineries in Montreal. The article also pointed out that the government had interfered in provincial jurisdiction in drawing up this bill.

It did so by using the fact that this additive, MMT, is produced in the United States. It therefore decided to ban its interprovincial trade and importation. It did not ban production, just importation.

This is an issue that Montrealers and Quebecers will remember because the environment was used as a smokescreen for the ambition of Ontario's automobile industry. If things had at least been out in the open. But no, they were obscured by suggestions that this was a dangerous product, when, in reality, its absence in gasoline will require more refining and add to pollution.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that the House is giving final consideration to Bill C-29.

Canadians will remember that we have an opportunity here to ensure that we pass legislation on the basis of both merit and good common sense. Canadians will remember that this is not muzzling Parliament, not gagging the House. We have had 10.5 hours of debate and discussion. Canadians will remember that this MMT legislation before us is an important stepping stone in the prevention of air pollution.

This package of government initiatives will result in billions of dollars in health benefits saved for Canadians and for our health care system. This will help prevent the pain and suffering of choking and gasping attacks by the young and the elderly when bad air days shroud our cities with a dirty blanket of pollution which happens too often in many of our cities, particularly during the summer.

Today almost every Canadian motorist uses MMT simply because Canadian refiners use MMT. The exact amount of this additive may vary from one batch of gasoline to another. In general, premium grade gasoline contains a higher volume of MMT than regular grade gasoline.

Let me focus on the technological advances that have steadily cut the harmful emissions coming out of our tailpipes. In fact, since the early 1970s and the advent of national standards, over 90 per cent of the most noxious tailpipe pollutions have been removed. The automobile industry strongly warns that gasoline containing MMT clogs and jams up the operation of sophisticated onboard diagnostic systems.

However, I want to focus on the opportunity we have here to promote the health of people. We cannot take chances with the air we breath. We need this legislation for the health of Canadians and a healthy environment. I can go on to talk about the 21 auto manufacturers that are convinced that MMT clogs their pollution monitoring equipment and that are supporting and petitioning the government and members of Parliament, bringing forward their concerns. It seems to me that it is quite clear that we need to heed their message.

There are some 14 million cars on Canada's roads, each pumping out over 4 tonnes of pollutants every single year. Therefore we are on the road to disaster unless we do something now.

We are pushing for national emission standards so that our auto makers can ensure that they protect the air for Canadians.

We have had debates in the House about health, the health of Canadians. We cannot be indifferent to air quality because we know that air quality has a profound effect on Canadians and that it translates into $1 billion a year on our health care system.

We know that hospital admissions of infants for respiratory conditions are linked to ozone and sulphate pollution. We are living in an age when dangerous atmospheric pollutants rather than hormones are poisoning babies.

It is also important to note that scientists, including people at the University of Waterloo and other Canadian universities, who have done research work in this area, support this legislation.

We also know a whole list of groups and organizations support getting rid of MMT. They have been mentioned in previous speeches: the Allergy Asthma Association, the Canadian Institute of Child Health, the city of Etobicoke public health, the city of Toronto public health, the Council of Canadians, the Environmental Defence Fund, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, the Ontario Public Health Association, Pollution Probe and Sierra Club. All of those organizations, who spend hours working on research and looking at issues, cannot all be wrong.

Of the 196 living Nobel laureate scientists, 99 joined with over 2,000 of the world's scientists to again sound a warning to us that we need to do something about the air we breathe.

Canada is one of the few countries that uses MMT and therefore it is important that we pass this legislation for all Canadians. It is also important that we protect Canadians from increases in automobile prices and I think the discussion we heard made mention of that.

It is important that we support this legislation, that we think about the health of Canadians and that a ban on MMT, supported by health departments, is really the way we must go. A healthy environment, the need to promote cleaner and alternative fuels, the trend to North American harmonization, consumer protection and all the economic pluses are the reasons why we need this legislation.

This bill will do a number of things for us. Canadians will certainly remember this day when we ensure that the air they breathe is clean. I call on all members to support this important piece of legislation.

Manganese-Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

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.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Dear colleagues, before proceeding with Statements by Members, I would like to return to the question raised yesterday by the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie following the statement made by the hon. member for Saint-Denis pursuant to Standing Order 31.

The member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie alleged that the facts as presented by the member for Saint-Denis were incorrect. He asked the member for Saint-Denis to withdraw what she had said and related his version of the facts.

Although members enjoy considerable latitude in the choice of the subjects they wish to raise under Standing Order 31, it is for the Chair to determine whether those statements are in order. The Chair may, for example, interrupt a member improperly applying Standing Order 31 or using language that might offend.

I would furthermore remind members that statements constituting personal attacks are not permitted. Speaker Sauvé pointed out on January 17, 1983, at page 21874 of Debates , that:

The time set aside for Members' Statements should not be used to make personal attacks.

Members' statements are an effective and essential mechanism enabling members to express their opinions on a range of subjects. The Chair does not want to block this means of expression in any way.

I have reviewed the blues, as I promised I would yesterday, and I have very carefully considered the words of the member for Saint-Denis. It is not for the Chair to make a pronouncement on the truth of members' statements. I am concerned, however, by the member's choice of words, since we were very close to a personal attack.

On many many occasions in the past, the Chair has reminded members of the need to honour the conventions and traditions of this House, especially that of conducting themselves with the courtesy appropriate to elected representatives.

An important element of this courtesy is refraining from levelling a personal attack at someone else. The words expressed are broadcast instantaneously to all regions of the country. Once they have been uttered, it is very difficult to retract them, and the impression they leave is not always easily erased.

Statements by Members must not be used to make personal attacks. This is fundamental to maintaining order in Parliament.

My colleagues, the Chair cannot always predict the course of debates. Members will understand that the Chair is often caught between respect for freedom of speech and the rapid delivery of 60 second statements. For this reason, I must count on the goodwill of every member. I intend to be very vigilant to ensure no one is the victim of personal attacks in this House.

I encourage all members to treat their colleagues with the respect they are due. I thank you for your attention in this matter.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

The Speaker

I would prefer to hear points of order following Statements by Members, but is this a related matter?

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will explain it to you if I may, and you will judge whether it should be dealt with after or before Statements by Members.

You asked the Bloc Quebecois member to withdraw his remarks. He did so on the understanding that you were going to make a ruling today or later on the matter. However, the member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie agreed to withdraw his remarks provided the member making the accusations did so as well. According to these allegations, he had used public money to promote his wife's candidacy in school board elections, an allegation that was entirely false. We therefore asked to have the member in question withdraw her remarks. There is no mention of this in your ruling, I note.

We maintain our request that these offensive and totally false remarks be withdrawn. We would ask the member of the Liberal Party who made them in her statement under Standing Order 31 to withdraw them.