Mr. Speaker, this is our last chance to speak to Bill C-29. Unfortunately, we have been gagged, but I still have a few comments to make on Bill C-29, hoping that the bill will be reviewed in the Senate, and that it might amend or defeat this bill, which would have a huge impact on Quebec oil companies.
The Liberal government is finally showing its true colours. Since the beginning, the government has lacked the will to be transparent and get to the bottom of this issue regarding the addition of MMT to gasoline.
The present environment minister and the former one, the deputy prime minister, have always refused to shed light on this issue. Instead of ordering scientific studies as we have asked, they simply caved in to the auto makers lobby and the Ontario Corn Producers lobby. By a strange coincidence, both lobbies are from the same province as the two ministers.
To put a damper on the controversy surrounding their bill and the strong opposition it is encountering, the Liberals have brought in time allocation at third reading. In other words, they are gagging us. The Liberal government is telling members: "Enough. Keep your mouths shut. We will decide and you have nothing to say about it".
Debating, the reason we sit in this House, is defined by the Webster dictionary as: ``To consider reasons for and against''. As parliamentarians, we are here to discuss bills at length. The right to speak is the Parliament's raison d'être. This is what democracy is all about.
The gag strategy that the Liberal government is imposing on us today with Bill C-29 goes directly against the very raison d'être of Parliament. Closure violates freedom of speech, it is unparliamentary and undemocratic.
We, in the opposition, still had some things to say about this bill. We wanted the Liberal government to listen to us so it would recognize that its bill is unfounded and without any sound scientific basis. Bill C-29 simply responds to the automotive industry. This proves once again that the Liberals are responding more to lobby groups than to the real issues. That is a disgrace. It shows all the weakness and lack of vigour of the environment minister in this matter.
The auto industry lobby systematically refused to reveal its studies and thus scientifically support its allegations that the additive was effectively clogging anti-pollution devices, particularly the OBD-2.
As for the Ontario corn industry, it congratulated the environment minister on his bill, seeing that the MMT ban would throw the door wide open to another additive, ethanol, which is produced from corn. Since Ontario produces 80 per cent of Canada's corn, this bill means an exceptional market opportunity for corn producers in that province. This would be a gold mine for Ontario corn producers.
Ethanol production is extremely expensive, both in terms of the environment and in terms of production costs. Fertilizers and pesticides play a major role in corn production. Moreover, the production of one litre of ethanol increases the cost of energy from oil products.
I must also remind members that production costs are so high that the excise tax is removed from this product at the federal level and that the provinces are doing the same, particularly Ontario, with a tax exemption of 22 cents a litre. This weakens the myth of ethanol as "green gasoline".
It is in Ontario that the biggest ethanol plant will soon be built. It is also the federal government that launched in 1994 an ethanol development support program. Are these all coincidences? Not very likely. The government should be looking at other alternative fuels instead, because ethanol from corn has shown obvious weaknesses.
The only scientific data based on the results of tests conducted on various automobiles were provided by Ethyl Corporation and oil companies. These data are the opposite of the allegations made by the auto industry, which has not provided any supporting data. The MMT lobby says it is ready to withdraw its product if independent tests, approved by all parties, prove that MMT gums up the onboard diagnostic systems. These tests could be conducted within a very short time frame and would clarify this issue once and for all. But the government says no, preferring to hide behind the anti-MMT lobby.
The majority of provinces strongly opposed Bill C-29. There was strong opposition to this bill even within cabinet, particularly from the Minister of International Trade, who sees this bill as an obstacle to free trade. As a matter of fact, Ethyl Corporation has given notice of its intention to launch a US$201 million lawsuit against the government, claiming that Bill C-29 is an obstacle to free trade and to the free trade agreement. Is the minister sure to win his case in court? Let us hope so, otherwise it will be very costly.
Bill C-29 is the reincarnation of Bill C-94, which died on the Order Paper during the last session. We would have thought that the new minister would do his homework more carefully, but no. That is not the way it is. The minister came up with the same bill without being able to justify it. We have every reason to be concerned. If the minister does not take his work more seriously and does not show more thoroughness in his decisions, the Prime Minister should replace him without delay, because he is a liability for the environment.
Having accomplished nothing and unable to fulfil their promises with regard to the environment, the Liberals had to do something. So they came up with Bill C-29. What a performance. As if there were nothing else to do for the environment.
Of course, there is Bill C-65 on endangered species, which the government recently scrambled to introduced recently to show that it is doing something for the environment. Let us not forget that the Liberals have been in office for more than three years. Before Bill C-65, the minister was seen last summer on a boat in the Gulf of St. Lawrence when the Irving Whale was raised. What an impressive record.