This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was prices.

Topics

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague mentioned the solid fuel aspect of biofuel. Quite clearly, in my territory, the Northwest Territories, right now, because of the enormous cost of fuel oil, we are moving toward using solid fuel, biological fuel, in many applications.

If this policy were broad enough and had the correct kinds of conditions attached, there would be some incentives for this type of proposal as well.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the time is right to explore other areas of biofuels, and solid biofuels is one of them. Research has shown that it is efficient and that it can be the state of the art for the future.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in the debate today. I am not a member of the agricultural committee but some day I may have that opportunity. Coming from an urban region, I am sure it would be quite a learning experience.

When I first came here eight years ago there was a lot of talk about ethanol and about our farmers. Farmers were demonstrating because they could not get a proper dollar for a day's work. That was my first introduction to the struggles of our farmers and the difficulties they were facing. They needed an alternative for what they were growing that would provide them with a reasonable day's wages and ethanol was exactly what they needed.

We have now found out that there are a whole lot of other issues that need to be addressed if we are going to really help our farmers and ensure they get adequate reimbursement for a hard day's work. Until those of us in urban regions spend a whole day on a farm, we cannot appreciate just how hard and difficult a farmer's job really is. We need to appreciate the fact that people still want to farm in Canada so we need to find ways of ensuring they get a decent day's pay for their work. These are the people who provide the food on our tables but we do not pay enough attention to that fact.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-33 today which seeks to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act with respect to the provisions for the regulation of fuels. It would establish minimum levels of biofuel content in gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil and would be implemented within the next three to five years.

I support the bill in principle, as does my party. I look forward to discussing the parameters of any new regulations that will come from committee. We look forward to ensuring the regulations reflect the desires of most Canadians.

Although I support the bill, it does raise significant questions about the government's policy on renewable fuels and climate change, questions that we have been hearing from our colleagues across the way. Those are areas on which we must all come together in a much stronger way so we can be ready for the future years that will be very challenging.

The government claims that the bill is part of its overall strategy to increase the use of ethanol and yet it refuses to set the minimum standard for ethanol use in fuel above 5%. Clearly there is a difference. The committee will look at all of these things and ensure the bill respects and achieves its intended goals. Meanwhile, all cars sold in Canada already use up to 10% ethanol. The Ontario government is setting that as the minimum standard in the province.

Despite the fact that cellulose ethanol can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 64%, the government has not been aggressively doing everything it can to mandate the expansion of that ethanol specifically so that it would clean up our environment and make our air better to breathe.

The government's perversion to this issue is also manifested on the taxation front where it removed the excise tax exemption on biodiesel and ethanol fuels and thereby heavily taxing the cleanest versions of ethanol. One really needs to question that policy if that is the government's direction. It just does not make sense. I would hope that when these regulations are scrutinized, we get a better understanding of the reason that it should be increased to 10%, if that is what we are doing, especially in the province of Ontario.

Bill C-33 is really just a technical amendment to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. It would provide the government with useful additional authority so that it can look at various regulations and start making changes to those regulations in a faster and clearer way.

The Liberal opposition is in favour of ethanol as part of our energy mix now and in the future. Many people are looking at ethanol as being one of the tools needed in the toolbox to help us when we are dealing with climate change, particularly second generation ethanol which uses agricultural waste and non-food crops. We have clearly gone a long way from the growing of corn to looking at where we go in the future by using agricultural waste and non-food crops so that it would not hinder the production of food and the providing of food for the world that we all need. It would have the twofold effect of being a winner on both sides of that issue.

The Liberal opposition supported an amendment at committee that would compel the government to perform a detailed analysis of the economic, social, environmental and additional implications of Canada's ethanol industry exactly one year after it comes into force. That is a very important motion passed at committee that would ensure an analysis would be done of all the impacts of Bill C-33.

The government has committed $2 billion to ethanol but it has been deliberately vague on the details. That is not the first time and not the first issue. Vagueness is one of the tributes that the government seems to have when it comes to announcing all kinds of things but not giving a whole lot of information on the details. However, our job is to ensure those details are clear and those regulations will be what Canadians want.

The government must tell Canadians what form of ethanol will be primarily promoted and it must explain how ethanol fits into its environmental, agricultural, international development and fiscal policies. We cannot have a policy on ethanol that does not take into account all the different impacts that these little things, as somebody might want to call them, these different tools will have on climate change and on the environment.

The way I understood it, the government's former highly criticized ethanol plan was supposed to support investments by farmers in ethanol production facilities. I was out west some years back and had a tour of what was to be the next great ethanol facility. Everybody was excited because it would provide an opportunity for farmers as well as focus on climate change. It was to be the future. Now people are having second thoughts and are second guessing some of those decisions.

However, funding would be directly tied to investments by farmers, which means that before any government funding flows toward developing Canadian ethanol production, Canadian farmers would need to first shell out their own money. Any of the Canadian farmers who I have spoken with are not rich people. They are all looking for assistance in order to look after their families and produce the various products in which they have an interest. Coming upfront with that money, I think, would be an extremely big challenge for a farming industry that is under threat pretty much all of the time. If no upfront government money is provided, it would be very difficult for many of those farmers who are looking to the government for leadership.

I would remind members how many rallies have been held in front of the House of Commons by farmers who have driven on tractors thousands of miles to come here to protest and to ask us to be fair. It did not matter whether it was the Liberals in government or the Conservatives in government, the issue was that farming is an important industry for Canada and our farmers need assistance.

By comparison, the Liberal governments made direct investments of over $117 million of upfront support for the construction of production facilities across Canada. As a result of those investments by the Liberal government, the production of ethanol was expanding at a higher rate than anyone had expected.

By not making direct investments, I am very concerned that ethanol expansion will not grow nearly quickly enough. Therefore, for it to be a tool in the toolbox, in addition to the many other things that are needed to deal with climate change, we are actually shooting ourselves in the foot rather than moving forward and clearly helping the farmers and helping Canadians overall.

The Liberals will continue to drive the need to promote biofuels that have been proven to yield high environmental net benefits such as cellulosic ethanol.

For the benefit of those who are watching at home and who may not know quite what that is, it is a particular type of biofuel produced from a structural material that comprises much of the mass of plants. We can see there is a lot for all of us to learn as we move forward to try to find alternatives to the fuel issues and the challenges that our farmers face. Corn stover, switchgrass and wood chips are some of the more popular materials being used for ethanol production.

Cellulosic ethanol is chemically identical to ethanol from other sources such as cornstarch or sugar, but has the advantage that the raw materials are highly abundant and diverse. We hear that from different spots around the world. There are many alternatives. This type of ethanol has lower greenhouse gas emissions than other forms and may help us to use crop lands more efficiently than is currently being done.

However, the NDP are deliberately misleading Canadians about the complexity of the worldwide food shortage, something that all of us in the House are concerned about and it is something that we all will have to work to overcome the problems and to contribute to providing food throughout the world. However, the NDP ignores a dozen or more identified factors at play.

For example, the desertification in Africa has severely diminished the agricultural output on that continent. What are those people going to do for food? We know of the struggles. We know all the other issues that thousands of people living in Africa are facing. These are going to add to those problems.

Rising energy costs has to be on the minds of everybody in the House, as it is with Canadians. Every time we turn around, the bills keep going up higher and higher. Rising energy costs have made farming much more expensive.

Trade rules and subsidies in the developed world have created market distortions. Many parts of the world suffer from the collapse of food distribution networks, widespread corruption and the refusal of governments to impose the rule of law.

Going back to the details of the bill currently before us, the new measures are administrative in nature and appear to give the government more control on regulations. For example, the government would enhance its ability to regulate fuel produced in Canada to be exported. Regulations may be made regarding the blending of fuels. The bill would also expand the bases upon which the government might distinguish among different kinds of fuels.

We will support Bill C-33 as we are in favour of the increased use of biofuels, such as ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuel sources. We will move forward on a variety of bills that will help to deal with climate change and other opportunities for us to ensure that all of us do our jobs as we move forward.

This is fundamentally a housekeeping bill. There is nothing in the bill that will immediately affect any commercial interests or immediately require any fuel producer or vendor to do anything. It is a preliminary step that will allow the government to regulate all kinds of fuel within the same regulatory regime. From that perspective, the bill is an improvement over the current wording of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

It has been a great opportunity to speak to the issue. As a member who comes from the city of Toronto, I do not have a lot of opportunity to visit the farming industry, but I clearly recognize how we have to work together to ensure we protect the environment. We also need to move forward to ensure we do not add to the problems of the world shortage, which we clearly are addressing worldwide.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member of the Liberal caucus from Toronto is to be commended for her support for this legislation.

I want to provide a couple of comments.

First, I want to correct a misconception out there in the public that somehow Canadian farmers are making record profits. Today Statistics Canada reported that last year Canadian agriculture made a net income of $1.7 billion.

Before we all think this is a tremendous amount of money, I would point out that this is about the profit of one company in one quarter among the big five banks. In other words, last year Canadian chartered banks in each of the last quarters made about that much money in one quarter.

I do not say that to begrudge the banks for being successful. The financial services industry is incredibly important to Toronto, Montreal and a number of large Canadian centres. I used to work in that industry and it is incredibly important we have a vibrant financial services industry, but I quote those numbers to put this in perspective.

There are 220,000 Canadian farms. If we divide a net profit of $1.7 billion among those 220,000 farmers, we end up with a net profit, per farm, of about $7,700 per year. I do not know very many Canadians who would invest hundreds of thousands of their own dollars, hundreds of hours of labour and stress to produce $7,700 a year in income.

We need to ensure there is no misconception out there that somehow Canadian agriculture is making a windfall profit from the new structure of pricing in the agricultural sector.

The second point I would make is if we are to point the finger at the reason why the third world is struggling to feed itself, one of the areas we need to look at is the European Union's common agricultural policy, which dumps 40 billion to 50 billion euros a year into subsidizing European farmers.

Subsidizing European farmers itself is not the problem. The problem is when they overproduce certain commodities, which they then dump on to the third world market, undercutting local producers in the developing world and putting them out of business. In my view that is the heart of the problem with respect to the developing world feeding itself.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly we all acknowledge that Canadian farmers are having to live on an average of $7,700 a year or whatever.

Eight years ago, when I first came to Parliament, farmers were marching to Ottawa, looking for help and assistance. Clearly, they were struggling, but they were not getting paid enough for the crops they were producing. We say that we all love them, but that will not put food on the table.

I certainly agree with my colleague on the whole issue of how we can help the farming industry stay viable in Canada. Ethanol is one of those options. We cannot ask people to live in a country as rich as Canada and to stay in the business when they only earn $10,000 or $20,000 a year. They cannot cope with that. They cannot even pay their taxes.

The cost of fuel is going up every day and that has a big impact on urban regions like Toronto and Montreal, but it has a bigger impact on the farming industry. Farmers need to fuel their tractors and the rest of their equipment and they travel a farther distance to get from point A to point B.

We need to be supportive of all the opportunities for different ways of doing things. At the same time, as I said earlier, the second generation will have more opportunities, by the sound of it, when we get into the ethanol. However, we have to continually find that balance to help all those in the farming industry. We are grateful they are still committed to growing a variety of things, whether they do it for the ethanol or to at least continue to provide the food and the produce that all Canadians need.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the member for York West that l also support farmers. Our agriculture industry must become more profitable than it has been. We all agree on this.

My question is the following. In order to support agriculture, is it absolutely necessary to grow animal-grade corn for the production of ethanol? Could other types of crops not be used to support agriculture, such as the fruits and vegetables we need to eat? That is my question for the member for York West. Is the current government not just promoting ethanol to avoid developing agriculture legislation to help farmers? Is this not a way to avoid helping farmers have a better life, without getting directly involved?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has always been a struggle. From all the reports I have read, farmers have been struggling for a long time. If they happen to be in a particular crop that is highly desirable, they will get a bigger dollar for it. Other than that they get far more competition today from other countries when it comes to what they get for the dollar. It is not just other materials. It is also in the produce.

I have an annual chestnut roast in my riding. We are used to paying a fair amount for those sacks of chestnuts. When went to order them for the next event, they were half the money. I said to them that there must be something wrong with them and asked them where they would come from. They were not coming from where we usually got them. They were coming from China. They would be brought into Canada and delivered to me at half the price.

No way can things move forward if we look at those kinds of differences between what some countries are able to produce and expect our farmers to be able to compete in any way, shape or form.

Ethanol is another way of helping them, but we need to look at other ways we can help them by producing other opportunities.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member in her speech referred to the NDP as opposing the biofuel bill, but we are speaking to an amendment that would send the bill back to the agriculture committee for more work on these very complex issues surrounding the production of ethanol, the type of feedstock and the type of direction.

Does my hon. colleague have no sense of the need for debate about the direction we take with this policy, when right across the world the United Nations and some of the European Union leaders are saying they need to change policy? Why do you think this policy—

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Unfortunately, I must tell the hon. member for Western Arctic that I never have any opinion on anything. I am sure he was not addressing his question to me, but if he was addressing the question to the hon. member for York West, he should have done it in the third person. The member has a short period of time to respond.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think all of us are concerned with these issues and looking for answers that will help us deal with the food shortage. However, I do not believe Bill C-33 would in any way, shape or form hamper that opportunity for us to move forward.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is before us today is a proposed amendment. It states that:

Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for the purpose of reconsidering Clause 2 with a view to making sure that both economic and environmental effects of introducing these regulations do not cause a negative impact on the environment or unduly influence commodity markets.

This bill has had relatively limited debate in committee. It probably has had more debate in the House around the various amendments that have been moved and now this amendment to send it back to committee.

What I believe this debate in the House reflects is a real concern by us in the New Democratic Party, by members of the Bloc to some significant degree, I believe, and even by some members of the Liberal Party, that this bill is being rushed through at a speed that does not take into account some very new realities that have taken place globally around the issue of the use of biofuels. It does not take into account “both economic and environmental effects” of the bill and its consequences if implemented.

I want to be very clear on behalf of my party that we have supported and will continue to support the use of biofuels. That is not really what this debate is or should be about. If properly managed, a biofuels program in Canada can have a positive effect on climate change while also helping farmers.

Members were in their ridings last week. I had the opportunity on a couple of occasions to spend time with producers in the rural part of my riding. The debate is raging there.

The National Farmers Union has come out as very strongly opposed to this legislation. We see that the Federation of Agriculture is generally supporting it, but I can say that within both of those groups, and there are members of both of those associations in my riding, the debate is very real.

The farming community producers very much see the opportunity to increase their production and increase their incomes. Oftentimes it is the same producers who tell me the problem they have is that they are seeing this drive up other costs, such as the cost of feed for a number of fairly substantial poultry operations in the riding. The dairy and pork producers are saying the same thing. They are seeing their costs being driven up just for feed.

Of course, all of them are very concerned about the impact this will have on the cost of fuel, whether it is gasoline produced from biofuels or other parts of the market, particularly carbon based fuels.

That debate is going on. What I think has happened is that the reality, not only in Canada but across the globe, has not been taken into account anywhere near fully enough in the debate that took place in committee. We are very concerned as a party that the government is running roughshod over members and using some bullying tactics to try to force this legislation through, both in committee and now in the House. The full debate that should have taken place has not.

We hear from Conservative members of the House who say that we in the NDP do not really care about the producers or the farming community, and that is absolutely false. Again, when I talk to the members of my farming community in my riding, they are expressing similar reservations. How far do we take the biofuels issue? How much production do we put into it? Do we have absolute quotas that are being suggested and will be phased in under this legislation relatively quickly? Do we have the numbers right? Do we have the amount that we should be putting into other gasolines and other diesel fuels? Do we have the percentages right?

They are not convinced that we have the right answers. They are not necessarily saying that the numbers that are in this bill or that we believe will flow from this government are wrong, but they are certainly not convinced that we know for sure. That is the reason for the motion to send it back to committee and hear more from the producers, hear from the industry generally, and also look at what is happening in experiments going on elsewhere in the world.

In that regard, we have heard from various parts of the globe. There are sincere concerns about biofuels being part of the mechanism that is driving up the price of food dramatically. We are seeing that now. The price of rice in parts of Asia has gone up 73% in less than a few months, in some cases even doubling in a very short period of time. We have seen markets in Asia, again for rice specifically, being closed off.

Countries that had been net exporters are no longer able to do it and are shutting the borders, thus tightening up the markets internationally in countries that do not produce sufficient rice to feed their own populations and that now are not finding access to the markets for rice that is affordable for those communities and countries. We are seeing that.

We have seen the United Nations pass a resolution expressing very real caution about the use of biofuels and how extensively we use them.

If I could digress for a moment, the other part of this legislation that is really troublesome is that other alternatives in terms of creating energy for use generally in the market and also on farms right across this country, perhaps even internationally, have been pushed to the side and backed up. We can point to solar or wind, where the government has done little or nothing to allow those markets to develop and perhaps provide an alternative to the greater use of biofuels.

I know that some of this discussion took place, but I do not believe that it was anywhere near adequate in committee. We can go to the very basics. How much food, if any, do we convert to fuel? That question is still hanging out there.

Again going back to those farmers I spoke to in my community, this very much weighs on their minds. They got into farming to produce food. Their parents and grandparents were in farming to produce food, not to produce fuel. This is a very real new development for them. They are approaching it with an open mind, but they are also approaching it realistically. I cannot say that the government has done the same.

Farmers are very concerned about how much food, if any, we move into the fuel side of the equation. They do not believe that this legislation has had sufficient debate, sufficient analysis and sufficient research to answer those questions at this time. They are not prepared to say that holus-bolus we should just plunge ahead.

We hear from the government that it is time to move ahead, to move forward. That is a simplistic analysis. It is a simplistic approach to what is a very, very complex problem.

I want to be very clear that we understand the other issues that are going on, the other causes that are driving up the cost of fuel. Let me mention those quickly. We know there is some significant speculation going on. It is immoral what is going on in that regard. That is one part of it.

We know that the whole issue of global warming and climate change is contributing to the shortage of foods in certain parts of the world. That is driving up the price.

We know that in areas where before we could continue to expect growth in productivity, we are not seeing any, because we have maxed out the effect of using fertilizers and pesticides, although they are still being used. We are not seeing any further growth. There are those problems.

However, we know as well that the use of biofuels in certain countries in particular has had a negative impact. That impact has resulted in a diversion of crops. We see it in the United States. I am going to use the states as an example because I know, from the area that I come from and how close we are to states like Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, that the amount of production moved from producing food to producing the same crop but producing fuel has been quite phenomenal.

There are areas in those states where as much as 35% of the corn crop now is being used for biofuels. In fact, I can speak very specifically about that, because a good deal of that production is coming into my area. There is an ethanol plant just the next county over. A good deal of the corn that is the source for that biofuel comes out of the United States. We are producing some in our area, both in Essex County and in Kent County, but a good deal of it is coming from the United States. It is part of that huge increase in production.

Up to this point in the United States, the Americans have been able to justify that, but again it begs the question. How much more they can allow it to go to or should they in fact be ramping it back down somewhat and producing more food and less fuel?

We are on the edge of making this decision, but we are not there yet. It does require further debate. It requires us to take a close look at what we are doing.

As well, I want to draw to the House's attention some of the other individuals and organizations that have expressed concern about this legislation and generally about the use of biofuels.

A little less than a year ago, David Suzuki made these comments:

Biofuels have many advantages, but we have to look at all our options and make sure we make the best choices to ensure a more sustainable future.

--attempting to save the planet by wholesale switching to biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel may unintentionally have the opposite effect.

This is the kind of risk that we are faced with. In that regard, I want to draw the House's attention to what we have seen happen in the last two years in Brazil.

After the second world war, Brazil made a very conscious decision to convert a significant proportion of its sugar cane crop to biofuels. Brazil started to do this way back in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In some cases, as much as 50% of the fuel for its vehicles, mostly automobiles and trucks, comes from biofuel sources.

That has worked reasonably well for the Brazilians because of the vast quantity of sugar cane they were able to produce but, starting two years ago in that country, the amount they wanted to produce or allocate to sugar production, if I can put it that way, had to be reduced because of the demand. Their economy had grown so large, so many of their people were driving vehicles and the demand for fuel had gone up so dramatically that they decided they would begin to shift a greater proportion for it.

That has had a very negative impact on their food costs related to the production of sugar. It is a big part of their market and a big part of their food staples. In the last two years, this has had a significant impact on the cost of sugar in their country and therefore on the cost of a number of foods that contain sugar as a staple.

Again, it was an experience that worked quite well. I have looked to the Brazilians in the past and have said that Brazil is a country that thought it through and planned it out. For the better part of four or five decades, it worked very well for the Brazilians. Now it does not.

They are very concerned about what they are going to do. They are looking for alternatives to much of their sugar cane production going into biofuels so that they can shift that balance back more in favour of producing food products rather than fuel. That is just one example.

We can look elsewhere in the world where attempts have been made, and this is one of the other problems that we have with the legislation, in that when we look at what we are trying to do, can we say that we have gotten ahead of ourselves from a technological standpoint? In that regard we know that there are alternatives in food growth to actually using the food product. I am going to use corn again as an example. We know that we are close but we are not quite there in being able to use the cornstalk and perhaps the corncob as opposed to the corn kernel in biofuel production. We know there are other products where we can use chaff, straw and those kinds of items, but we are just not quite there.

I saw a program on one of the national TV networks last week when I was home in my riding. A company, which I believe is based in Quebec, is just beginning to put into production two or three plants and in fact is not using any food product at all. It is using chaff, leftover wood products, a number of products. We could be using those without having to be concerned about using any food products at all, but again, we are not there.

What this bill does is it leaves it wide open for the government to follow what was done in the United States and move huge percentages of production. There are no limits here. Under government regulations, it can simply authorize and in some respects when we look at Bill C-33 closely, can compel the use of biofuels. At the very least it is obvious that by way of financial incentives, it can encourage producers to use food products, when in fact there may be this much better alternative if we do not have to use any food product at all. We would use the corncob and the cornstalk right down to the roots.

We must be careful. I know, having grown up on a farm, that farmers put back the chaff, the roots, the leftover once the crop has been harvested as a way of rejuvenating the soil. Can we safely take 50% of the stalk, grind the rest up and let it go back into the soil and biodegrade and rejuvenate the soil, or can we only put 25% into fuel production and put 75% back into the soil? We do not know the answers to those questions.

This is the reason we brought the motion before the House to send this bill back to the committee to allow us to further pursue these questions. There are all sorts of experiments going on around the globe. This House needs more time and this country needs more time to properly assess it so that we do not make a major mistake.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There has been some consultation between all parties with regard to the emergency debate tonight. I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, during the debate tonight pursuant to Standing Order 52 and private members' business, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the minister have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry Ontario

Conservative

Guy Lauzon ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's speech. He made a lot of valid points. To be quite frank, his speech was not confusing, but his party's position is terribly confusing. I have two questions for the member.

I want to make the point that the NDP government in Saskatchewan was the first government in Canada to initiate a biofuel mandate. Its mandate of 7.5% required 131 million litres of ethanol to be used in the year 2006. This is in sharp contrast to its federal cousin which has turned its back now on rural Canada and apparently no longer supports biofuels. I would like to ask the hon. member who he thinks got it wrong, was it the NDP government in Saskatchewan, or was it his current New Democratic Party?

My other question for him is with regard to the NDP government in Manitoba. It now requires that 8.5% of all gasoline sold in the province must contain ethanol. This is in sharp contrast to its federal cousin which has turned its back on rural Canada and apparently no longer supports biofuels.

I would like to ask the hon. member a very similar question. Who does he think got it wrong? Was it the NDP government in Manitoba, or was it his New Democratic Party that is wrong?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I think it is the same question, Mr. Speaker, just two different provinces.

The NDP provincial critic has suggested that the figure in Saskatchewan may be too high for producers in that province to take on. The official opposition is also calling for a review as to whether the province should have gone as far as it did, which is exactly our position.

The same is true with Manitoba. Manitoba Premier Doer has made it very clear that he and his government are concerned about how far we go with biofuels. The government in Manitoba is monitoring it very closely at this point. The reality is that it may back down somewhat from it. On the other hand, as new technologies come on stream, the province may back down in terms of the use of food and move to stalk, chaff and other goods that at this point are part of the product of growth.

There really is no inconsistency between ourselves and both of those provinces. We at the federal level are learning from the experience they have had and, as I pointed out, other countries have had. We cannot go holus-bolus into this without thinking it through. Should we be giving much greater incentives to producers who are using the byproducts, if I can put it that way, of their farm fields as opposed to using food? Should we be building that into the legislation at this time? Those are the kinds of programs and policies that we need to be looking at. The federal NDP position is not at all inconsistent with that of our provincial counterparts.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask my hon. colleague first what he thinks of the vocabulary used. Personally, I am somewhat flabbergasted that, from the beginning, we have been using the term “biofuel”—and its French equivalent—since it would seem to suggest that there is something good about using food, that we have the capacity to feed the population, to produce fuel, although we also know that biofuel itself is often highly polluting.

Of course, our colleague talked about the whole issue of research and production using residues left to us by nature. And that would appear much more responsible. However, at present, when we talk about making ethanol using corn ethanol, for example, we also know how much water is needed for that process. This really makes me think about oil sands production and processing, which I find truly irresponsible.

I would like to hear my colleague's comments. Rather than encouraging innovation and energy efficiency, it seems that this government has decided to focus on an irresponsible course of action, to encourage those forms of energy production that pollute the most and are most harmful, for example—as I mentioned—“thanks to” the oil sands and the production of grains that will ultimately be used as fuel, which I think is absurd.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question.

The member is absolutely right about the fear we all have, including most of the farmers I speak with, about using food to produce fuel. In that regard, she used the example of an experiment where too much water would be used or a substantial amount of water would be used in one of these processes. That is a concern.

In terms of a byproduct on the side, the use of manure, there is an engineer just down the road from my office in the city of Windsor who has developed and has patented this process, but he could not deploy it in Canada. We look at that and ask why there were not government resources there. It is phenomenal what this process can do.

We have a large number of greenhouses in Essex County, perhaps the largest coverage on a per capita basis of any place in the world. Most of them are no longer glass houses. They are plastic covered. He developed this process, which he has patented. As the plastic wore out and was no longer functional, the plastic would be thrown into the mix along with the leftover greenery from the greenhouse growth. That would be combined with some enzymes. It would produce heat which would actually heat the greenhouse and produce compost as the end result. Absolutely nothing would be wasted from that greenhouse, including the plastic that was covering it. It would produce that energy and as well, produce compost which could be used to rejuvenate the soil in the greenhouse.

He could not get any coverage for that process in Canada in terms of incentives and ended up having to go to the state of Massachusetts. A very similar process is being used for a huge dairy farm operation there. Several million dollars have been put into the same process, using manure to generate the heat, and again chaff and other leftover product from the fields. It is generating both energy and substantial compost that can be put back into the farm. He is creating that closed circuit. I always say that the key part of any environmental test, sustainability, is that there is a closed circuit. Nothing escapes, everything is used, and it is sustainable on an ongoing permanent basis.

The member is very correct in being concerned about using food at all. This bill does not take into account well enough, we believe, at this point in time, what the realities are in the marketplace. The bill should be sent back to committee.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, a short question.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member made the comment a little earlier about the concern about the soil when we take the whole plant. Those in agriculture know what the organic matter content of the soil is. They test it; they know. I would hope that we would never get to the stage in this House where we would start to tell farmers what they can and cannot take off their farms.

I think the direction in which the member is going is to say to the agriculture industry and community that we want to limit, and in fact we are going to limit, the potential of agriculture to diversify the market. If he is saying that we cannot use food for fuel, that is not just ethanol, it is biofuels, and there is an incredible amount of research done. Does he support the fact that we would start to limit agriculture in its diversification for markets because of the food for fuel?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member has run out the clock, but I will give equal time for the answer.