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House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was food.

Topics

Private Members' BusinessPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There is no consent.

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.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand today and to speak to this bill. I move:

That this question be now put.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to this bill once more in what is probably the last speech today.

As we know, the amendments to the bill that I put forward in committee were rejected. The checks and balances that we tried to introduced here in the House were rejected. Obviously I have no alternative but to vote against this bill, nor does my party.

I would like to review the process and give members a bit of a resumé of what has happened in regard to this bill. Our amendments, which could have put some checks and balances in this bill, were rejected in committee before this bill came back to the House.

One amendment would have prohibited the use of genetically modified grains, oilseeds or trees for biofuel production, except for those genetically modified grains, oilseeds or trees that were used for biofuel production in Canada before 2008.

A second amendment would have prohibited the use of lands protected by federal legislation and other sensitive biodiverse lands for biofuel production.

A third amendment would have preserved the biodiversity of lands used in biofuel production.

Other amendments would have: prohibited the importation of grains or oils for use in biofuel production; established criteria in relation to the environmental sustainability of biofuel production to ensure compliance with internationally recognized best practices that promote the biodiversity and sustainability of land, air and water; and, established restrictions on the use of arable land in Canada for biofuel production to ensure that biofuel production does not have a detrimental impact on the food supply in Canada and foreign countries.

As I mentioned earlier in debate on this bill, these amendments could have given us some checks and balances as we move forward with a sustainable biofuel policy. They were voted down in committee.

Here in the House, in the last motion that was defeated, we tried to ensure that this bill would go back to the committee so that the economic and environmental effects of introducing these regulations would not cause a negative impact on the environment or unduly influence commodity markets.

Yesterday when I spoke on this bill, I talked about the rising demand for ethanol from corn and the fact that this has been the main reason for the decline in world grain stocks during the first half of 2006. I noted, and I note again today, the need for a well thought-out biofuels strategy.

I would just like to say that it is important for someone in this Parliament to go on the record as stating that at least someone stood up to talk about the folly of blindly going forward into the whole area of biofuels, so that in two, five or ten years from now when people look at the record, they can say that at least there was someone in the House of Commons who wanted to look at this from a sustainable point of view and who was not part of how others were blindly moving forward in this direction.

We have before us what I would call a bizarre state of affairs. When government or the minister of agriculture should be moving quickly, government often drags its heels. For example, in 2006, when I was first elected, it took a long time for government to react with some kind of disaster relief in the Porcupine Plain area of Saskatchewan. As well, we saw almost a reluctance in a final reaction in regard to the pork crisis. Also, we still have not had a resolution in the crisis facing tobacco farmers.

However, when more planning and impact studies are needed, it appears that the government wants to move forward at a faster pace, as if it had blinders on. In other words, when the idea is to move forward with an idea regardless of the impact on the future or on the environment, communities or farmers, there is no concern for going a bit more slowly and looking at all of the ramifications.

For example, over the last couple of years we have had the government's rush to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board, a move based on ideology. No socio-economic studies have been done to look at the effects of this move, not only for today but in the long run. As we have seen, this has been an undemocratic process. There has been a gag order on the Wheat Board, which is still there. There have been discussions, but only with those who support government policy. There has been tampering with board of director elections. There have been a vague plebiscite and a vow to throw barley on the open market this year.

In regard to the Canadian Grain Commission, in spite of recommendations from stakeholders in the field that we should wait until 2010 before removing kernel visual distinguishability, KVD, the government and the minister decided to move ahead as of August 1 even though there is no adequate system to replace this.

Recently there was an announcement by the Prime Minister in regard to product of Canada labelling, which is a good announcement going in the right direction. However, in the announcement, he chose to ignore the work that the agriculture committee has been doing on this for the last month and a half or so and also to ignore all of the witnesses who took time to appear before the committee. It is almost as if committee work is irrelevant and the government will move ahead regardless of what happens or what recommendations we make.

Now we have a new biofuel policy unfolding before us in Canada. I again would like to repeat that I and my party are not against the concept of biofuels. However, we are against giving the government a green light with no checks and balances.

I would submit that we have to be very careful before trusting the current government to move in the direction of biofuels without looking at possible negative effects, for example on farmers, and there is also the fact that if this bill goes through there are no restrictions on importing feedstocks to fuel the biofuel companies or factories.

There are no criteria in the bill that say we have to put Canadian farmers first when looking at extra feedstocks. There is nothing that says we are going to stop further development of genetically modified organisms, specifically wheat, which, as we know, can contaminate and endanger the wheat industry in Canada.

It is understood, as we have seen already, that the biofuel industry does not offer top prices to farmers for grain. In fact, the industry would not be able to survive if it had to pay the high prices that farmers are receiving for grain on the world market. In the future, if there were no Wheat Board to protect farmers and stand up on their behalf in regard to multinational companies, we could have the possible scenario of prices controlled by the multinationals not only for food grain but also for those involved in biofuels.

What is the state of biofuel production in the world? We have to look at this in regard to the broader picture. I submit that what often happens, as I have noticed with the present government, is that we do not look at what is happening in the world on various policies.

We have seen that this has had a devastating effect on farmers in the southern hemisphere. Farmers have been forced off their land as large monocultures take over. Those farmers have been forced to migrate to cities where there is no work and they have to put up with high food prices. We also have seen their production curtailed and the importing of subsidized rice and grain from wealthy countries such as the United States.

We have seen the cycle of an increase in corn production in the United States to fuel the biofuel and ethanol industries, which displaces soybean production. That then means an increase in acreage for soybeans in Brazil and forces ranchers off their grazing lands. The ranchers then become involved in deforestation and taking down trees in the rainforests. That effect has been occurring.

I remember when the agriculture committee visited Washington last year and we were told by those involved in the biofuel industry that the United States does not want to import more oil. However, it wishes that the increase in consumption would be taken over by the biofuels that it is going to produce.

In the United States, there does not seem to be a policy of trying to decrease consumption. The policy is that as consumption increases, biofuels will fill that void, and I think this is madness. It is a direction that we in this country should not be taking.

Today I would like to have us look at some of the articles on this issue. Last month or so, I believe, Time Magazine entitled an article “The Clean Energy Scam”. I would like to quote from this article. For example, it states, “Brazil now ranks fourth in the world in carbon emissions, and most of its emissions come from deforestation”.

I would like to add the fact that one of the reasons this deforestation is taking place is the expanding of lands for biofuel production. The article states, “This land rush is being accelerated by an unlikely source: biofuels”.

I will move on to many interesting aspects of this article. It states:

But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous.

What this article is saying is that now, after the years during which biofuel production has been taking place in the United States, scientists and people are questioning the direction in which they are going. Yesterday I quoted from a couple of studies in Science magazine that bring home that point.

I will continue to quote from the article:

Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year.

I understand that the rise in food prices is not only because of biofuels. It is but one area that has been responsible for the rise in food prices. Nevertheless, it is a factor. The article states:

Backed by billions in investment capital, this alarming phenomenon is replicating itself around the world. Indonesia has bulldozed and burned so much wilderness to grow palm oil trees for biodiesel that its ranking among the world's top carbon emitters has surged from 21st to third, according to a report by Wetlands International. Malaysia is converting forests into palm oil farms so rapidly that it's running out of uncultivated land. But most of the damage created by biofuels will be less direct and less obvious. In Brazil, for instance, only a tiny portion of the Amazon is being torn down to grow the sugarcane that fuels most Brazilian cars.

The article goes on:

The environmental cost of this cropland creep is now becoming apparent. One groundbreaking new study in Science concluded that when this deforestation effect is taken into account, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel produce about twice the emissions of gasoline. Sugarcane ethanol is much cleaner, and biofuels created from waste products that do not gobble up land have real potential, but even cellulosic ethanol increases overall emissions when its plant source is grown on good cropland.

I would just like to share with the House a study that appeared in Science magazine on December 8, 2006. The caption summarizes the study and is talking about low-input, high-diversity grassland biomass:

Biofuels derived from low-input high-diversity (LIHD) mixtures of native grassland perennials can provide more usable energy, greater greenhouse gas reductions, and less agrichemical pollution per hectare than can corn grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel. High-diversity grasslands had increasingly higher bioenergy yields that were 238% greater than monoculture yields after a decade. LIHD biofuels are carbon negative because net ecosystem carbon dioxide sequestration...of carbon dioxide in soil and roots exceeds fossil carbon dioxide release during biofuel production.

We are seeing that there are alternatives. I understand that we talk about a second generation of biofuel production and that somehow if we bring this policy into place, we will shift into second generation. However, it is important for us to note that we should be looking at these alternatives now and not 10 years from now.

Yesterday I spoke a bit in regard to genetically modified trees.

I talked about genetic engineering. For example, in Canada, there have been field trials. There have been only one or two field trials since 1997. Since 2000, outdoor field trials have been conducted by government researchers with the Canadian Forest Service, not by private companies.

What happens is that the traits of trees are modified. For example, lignin is reduced so that the trees can be converted to ethanol and paper more economically. Given the explosion of the biofuel market and the desire to move on to a second generation of biofuels, the companies are calling for the use of genetically engineered trees as a potential source of cellulose from which to manufacture ethanol.

We have the possibility of introducing genetic modification not only in grains but in trees. What happens, of course, is that if this were to take place, there could be contamination, as I mentioned yesterday, as far as 1,200 kilometres from the source of use.

As a matter of fact, as we speak a conference is going on in Bonn, Germany, where countries are requesting that Canada support a moratorium on genetically modified trees, and so far the results have not been encouraging as Canada seems to have taken the position of looking at case by case. However, we will get the results I am sure very shortly.

I would like to conclude by quoting from a brief by REAP Canada presented at committee entitled “Analyzing Biofuel Options: Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Efficiency and Costs”. The brief stated:

This bill should be withdrawn for 3 reasons:

1. It won’t appreciably reduce GHG emissions.

2. It is not a “Made in Canada” solution. The legislation primarily will support markets for U.S. corn growers.

3. The legislation does not demonstrate fiscal responsibility.

The report gave some recommendations. I found in committee that this report was treated lightly. People did not take the time to really look at what is involved here. It went on to say:

To create effective GHG mitigation from biofuels that will support rural Canada the federal government should:

1. Implement results based management throughout its’ research and incentive programs to ensure the desired outcomes of GHG mitigation and rural development are achieved.

2. Embrace perennial energy crops and abandon the use of annual crops as biofuels.

3. Create parity in the bioenergy marketplace.

I and my party are not against the concept of biofuels. We still have an opportunity to put some checks and balances in place, so if we do this we do not make the same mistakes that have been made in other parts of the world, and we can support our farmers and have a sustainable and environmentally friendly industry.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:40 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 quite closely to my colleague's speech as I did yesterday. I was confused when he finished yesterday and I am even more confused today.

If I did not know better, I would think that he is making a case for big oil. I was under the impression that his party did not necessarily endorse big oil, but he is making quite a case for promoting the profits of big oil companies and supporting big oil companies. I question if that is where the NDP wants to go.

The reason I am confused is that at one stage of the game the NDP was for biofuels. Now, and as a matter of fact to quote the member, he said, “biofuels are madness”.

What has changed in the last month or so? What has changed since the NDP governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan began promoting the use of biofuels? I really do not understand the NDP and this particular member.

I would like to ask the member why the NDP governments in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan were in support of biofuels and at one time as a matter of fact the federal NDP was in support of biofuels and now he is calling it madness? I would like the member to explain that. There is a dichotomy there that I do not understand.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it hurts to see that my hon. colleague is confused. That is not a nice way to be. It is always better not to be confused. I will try to enlighten him.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

An hon. member

That might be hard to do.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

It might be difficult, but I will give it a try.

With regard to biofuels, the statements I made were quotations from articles that do say that it is madness. I said personally that I and my party support the concept of biofuels. There is a way of doing it correctly. I think Manitoba is on the right track. It is limiting 10% of its arable land for biofuel production.

There is nothing in this bill that puts any checks and balances on biofuel production. That is the problem. It gives a green light to the import of corn from the United States which does not support our farmers. It gives a green light to big oil, Husky Oil, to import this corn, and it certainly gives a green light to destroy the environment. I think we need to put some checks so we can move on with a policy that is good for all Canadians.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his interventions and for his stance on biofuels, and also his explanation. I hope my hon. colleague from the government party now understands our position. My colleague has explained very well that we do support the concept of biofuels, but we do not support the government's bill that is flawed.

My colleague said that there is a way of doing it and getting it right. I think we have an opportunity in this House to explore all the possibilities and get it right. It does not have to be a one off situation where we use grains for ethanol. We need to look at a whole host of things. We also need to make sure that we are not putting in jeopardy world food supplies and affecting the food markets in such a way that we are impacting people half way around the world. That is something that we definitely do not want to do.

I would like my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior to perhaps speak some more about our vision of what can be done to make sure that this bill is done right and what we could support.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the main thing is that we have to ensure that any biofuel program or policy in Canada looks at the environment in a sustainable manner, that we do not have a program that displaces oil and yet increases greenhouse gas emissions.

Let us not forget that this bill, Bill C-33, is part of the environment bill. It is a bill that is supposed to mitigate the negative effects on the environment. That is the first thing we have to do. So if in fact ethanol and biodiesel are increasing greenhouse gas emissions, then we should be looking at perhaps other areas, such as pellets, as my colleague from Western Arctic mentioned. According to the REAP study, solid biofuels have a much better efficiency and almost no negative effect on the environment. So, that is one area.

I know of a company in British Columbia that collects used oil from restaurants and converts it into biofuel. What better way is there of disposing waste? There are other enterprises. I think there is one in Alberta and also one British Columbia that is using waste and biomass to create biodiesel.

I think from the point of view of the environment and new energy sources, if we look at some more efficient areas of production, then this will have a much better effect on the environment as we try to battle climate change.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-33 this afternoon as we are nearing the end of debate at third reading and final passage.

The bill has received fairly normal treatment through its early stages, through committee and then reported back to the House, but then something interesting happened. The spotlight of the world was turned on food commodity prices. It looked like we had a very significant spike in the pricing of many world food commodities.

Some of the people looking at those spikes in prices speculated that it was possible that the new market for biofuels, which requires the production of some agricultural commodities, was part of the reason that the prices of the commodities were being bid up.

It is certainly possible that is and was the case and it may be the case in the future, but, in my view, there is a very tenuous line between that circumstance and the need for passage of this legislation.

I will say right off the bat that while the bill deals with the regulation of biofuels in the sense that it defines them and purports to give over to the government, from Parliament, regulatory authority to manage and regulate biofuels as a new commodity in the marketplace, which needs some regulation, there are very few standards in the industry. I will note that ethanol has already found its way into our fuel supply. I can think of at least one gasoline refinery and retailer who have up to 10% of their fuel as ethanol. At the present time these standards are being managed by the fuel companies.

The bill indicates a need to have the regulatory tools and instruments to define and regulate the industry, where needed, in the public interest.

The real issue being raised by the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior is the whole issue of a biofuels policy, not the regulation of whatever component of the industry may need regulation. At root is his suggestion, although he did not put it this way, and perhaps his party's position on the bill, that we have a clash in public policy terms between food for humanity or killing the planet with greenhouse gases, or something in between.

I suggest to the House that we are not there yet. I suggest that we can grow lots of food for humanity, while, at the same time, deal with our greenhouse gas challenges. We also may be able to use some biofuels to offset the need for fossil fuels in some sectors in some countries, as is already happening.

The real issue for the House and in the bill is the ability of the government to regulate biofuels policy, not necessarily to push biofuels nor to do it in a way that bids up the price of food commodities on world markets or even Canadian markets, but simply to regulate it as a consumer and industrial commodity in the public interest.

If we were to have half a dozen different types of ethanol and half a dozen different types of fuel, the consumers with a car or the truckers with a truck may not know what fuel that would be putting in the fuel tank. In order to get maximum efficiency, we need to match the fuel with the engine that is being used.

In the absence of regulatory tools, the government will not be able to refine what those things are. It may not be able to say that it is 5%, 7% or 10% or that it is called such and such and only goes into a certain type of engine.

I read last week that some truckers in some places were running around buying cooking grease from restaurants for their trucks. Maybe it works but I would not use it in my car. I can just imagine what it does to the truck engines or the environment when it is being burned. I am sure everyone will accept that there is a need for the government to have the tools it reasonably requires to regulate this particular market price.

I must say a few words about food commodity prices because it is that circumstance that has caused many environmentalists, observers around the world and people in this Parliament to pause, have a look at this bill and perhaps even reconsider positions. I do not know whether the party of the hon. member who spoke earlier is changing its position or not but it is clear that this globe that has six to seven billion people on it needs a lot of food every day.

The recent interest in food commodity pricing was not displaced. There were huge increases and still are increased pricing for rice, corn, wheat, barley, oats, vegetables, fruit, fish and pork. Somebody approached me last week looking for pork in Canada for a region of China that has a shortage of pork. The individual was interested in developing a supply chain for that purpose.

What is happening is that countries that we used to think of as lesser developed countries are now developing very rapidly in Asia. They are consumer nations. They are out there bidding on all commodities and they have every right to do that because they have billions of people to feed and they need to get food at the best prices. However, if there are too many bidders for a limited food supply, the price will go up. This is a concern around the world for people of limited means, poor people or people who might go hungry because they cannot afford food. We need to keep our eye on that.

It is probably a fact that there is absolutely nothing in this bill that would bid up the price of food or cause the price of food to be bid up. The bill does not mandate that there be any biofuels produced. It will, in a sense, follow the marketplace if biofuels are produced and if the market needs biofuels. If the government wishes to encourage biofuels, it will have the tools to regulate it but the bill itself does not encourage, promote or trigger biofuel production in any direct or visible way.

I will give the example of corn, which the hon. member mentioned earlier. It is a good one. Corn is a major crop in the western hemisphere. Our American neighbours produce a whole lot of corn. I think at some point the American government is or was paying its producers to not produce corn because there was so much of it. It is likely that a corn producer will not grow a crop if he or she cannot sell it. However, that may vary in the United States. If there is a subsidy to produce and it is produced because there is a subsidy, the country may end up with a whole supply of surplus corn. In Canada, however, I do not think a farmer will produce corn if he or she is not able to sell it. Right now, for the most part, it is sold for food in various ways or for components in food. However, there is a biofuel industry here now and some of our corn does go into that.

I could perhaps say it best this way. If we had a growing biofuel industry and a particular farmer wished to produce a corn crop for that, why would we want to do anything to prevent that? Surely nobody in here is saying that there is anything wrong with growing corn. If there were to be an additional corn supply grown here and put into the marketplace, at whatever price, including higher prices, induced by higher prices even, that would not be a bad thing.

What might be bad are two things. First, if the promotion of biofuels were to cause the diversion of human food into a biofuel production and take food off the marketplace that would otherwise have gone into somebody's mouth, that would not be a good thing.

The second thing that would be bad is if the biofuel manufacturing caused the food pricing for the food supply to increase and put it out of people's reach. We have seen the news reports of a number of countries that have had to take special measures to ensure a supply to its population. I suppose we must keep our eye on this.

Canada is a rich and well-fed country. I think we are even a bit overweight these days. However, we are a well-fed country and we have a moral obligation to ensure we do not do anything to impair food supplies for other countries. We must do what we can to assist in feeding them and to assist them in growing food on their own. Those are things I know all Canadians would want us to do.

I want to come back to the bill and point out a couple of things.

First, the government in this case has not taken any steps to deal with ethanol as a fuel component. At this point, I believe the government sets the fuel standard for ethanol at 5% or encourages it go to 5%, but some countries have gone beyond and gone to 10%. There may arguably be a need for government to become a leader in this, in consultation with industry and with automobile manufacturers, in pegging certain standards that involve the use of ethanol. This particular bill might open the door to that but it would not, as I say, actually make that happen.

The second thing I want to comment on relates to ethanol. For reasons that have not really been adequately explained in the House, the government decided that it would remove the excise tax exemption from ethanol that had previously existed to stimulate the production of ethanol. It removed that exemption in the last or the second last budget and it did it without really explaining why. I suppose it could say that it wanted to create a level playing field, but if we are in the business of stimulating alternate fuel sources or fuel supplies to offset the greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon reduction targets we have, then it seems illogical that the government would remove the exemption. However, that has been done. It seems rather contrarian but, as I say, I have not heard an adequate explanation.

However, now that the exemption is not there, it leaves room for the government to do something else to stimulate biofuel production. I have said many times that the government hates the policies of previous governments, particularly mine, which is why so many times it has terminated an existing program and then brought it back rebranded with a new name and perhaps with less money.

This rebranding has been going on since the Conservatives took power a couple of years ago. Maybe that is what will happen here, that the government has gotten rid of the exemption and in the next budget it will come forward and tell us that it has a brand new tax exemption, rebranded with their name on it, to stimulate ethanol production. I would not be shocked to see that at all.

Last, the government, with its apparent lack of interest in ethanol, has failed to note that cellulosic ethanol can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, currently measured, by up to 64%. That is a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions if they can be attained by the use of the average automobile engine. I do not understand why the government is not pursuing that a bit more aggressively.

All of that having been said, Bill C-33 provides appropriate administrative tools to the government to regulate the biofuels field as it evolves in the marketplace. For that reason, and because we are very certain that what is in the bill does not cause the price of food commodities to go up around the world, at least not at this time it does not, my party is prepared to support the bill.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4 p.m.

Independent

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

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to my colleague and I must say, I do not share his optimism.

Today we are at the end of the debate on Bill C-33. I find this target—if it is not an obligation then to me it is a target—of 5% biofuels in the composition of gasoline to be rather disconcerting. To many people this will become a type of panacea. We are quickly getting caught up in this.

Earlier, when we were voting on the amendment by the New Democratic Party, I was talking to a colleague about canola oil, the use of our fine land, and our food products. To my great surprise, the colleague in question—who shall remain nameless—thought canola was not edible.

When we are on the verge of adopting a bill, the least we can do, despite our many and diverse activities, is to be well informed. Most of the time that is what we all try to do.

If this bill is passed, it will allow the government to regulate the composition of gasoline to achieve certain objectives. In energy and agriculture, in light of our recent experiences, we should recognize that the time has come to prepare for the future and that the future is now. The planet needs us to take care of it, not abuse it.

The government's target to include 5% ethanol in gasoline is not the best approach. Instead, the government could concern itself with funding research into new technologies that would allow us to use substances other than foodstuffs for this purpose.

Currently, as we know, grain based ethanol constitutes a major part of this production. Why? Because that is the simplest way to produce this ethanol and the other technologies are underdeveloped. These biofuels are raising vital questions that absolutely must be answered before we dive head first into mass production, blinded as we often are by this market economy instead of being driven by values that promote an economy of solidarity and respect for our environment.

In my humble opinion, this is not a viable option considering the world crisis. I have heard many colleagues in this House say that funding and encouraging the production of ethanol has nothing to do with rising food prices. I disagree. In fact, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the use of biofuels and the subsidies granted to producers account for 70% of the increase in corn prices. So I find it rather odd to hear members claim that there is no connection.

I see some other potential problems and I am not alone. For example, this morning when we were debating the amendment, I spoke about the massive use of water, a very important natural resource that is becoming scarcer. The massive use of water will considerably detract from the supposed environmental advantages of grain-based ethanol. As a resource, water is often referred to as blue gold. Wasting blue gold to produce black gold is a paradox created only by our commercial appetite and our very short-term environmental vision.

On the weekend, like many others who have read his writings, I suppose, I listened to Hubert Reeves speak. As members know, he is an authority on the matter, and he said that if we continue to use our planet this way, we will not need one planet Earth; we will need four or five.

We are talking about the not-too-distant future. This is not science fiction. This is not about something that will happen in 3,000 years. This is reality. Every time we encounter situations like the one we are talking about today, we should all take an interest.

The wholesale use of grains and other products—such as canola, which I mentioned earlier—in ethanol production will create other problems. Our producers will not work as hard to keep our grain crops safe because they will be destined not for human consumption but for processing and ultimately, for gas tanks. Crop safety will not be a priority because the crops will not be for human consumption.

Could this have an impact on the use of insecticides, pesticides and GMOs? People will want to produce as much as possible and achieve ever-increasing yields. Given the extraordinary yields that producers want to achieve to process corn into ethanol, I was trying to imagine what an ear of corn might look like a few years from now. Quite honestly, I would rather not contemplate it, but I did so anyway.

Soon, technical and technological efforts will no longer be directed at meeting human needs and producing better-quality foods with more nutrients that cause the least possible environmental damage. The Monsantos of the world will develop new genetically modified crop varieties not to do a better job of feeding people, but to produce more energy with each kernel of corn, for example.

Producers who want to be part of the system will benefit from this new application. Certainly, it will take less effort to earn more money. Who could blame producers for wanting to make money? These people go through crises regularly, and they have a hard time making a decent living because of the problems associated with their work. Who could blame them for looking to energy production?

What is shocking is that all this goes against a philosophy that is developing more and more, little by little, in Quebec. I am repeating myself, since I talked about it this morning, but I would like to mention it again. I am talking about food sovereignty.

The goal of food sovereignty is to feed our population using foods produced as close to home as possible by our own producers. This is done in an environmentally-friendly manner. It means less transportation, since we are buying our food at local markets. All the market garden production comes to mind, for example. Everyone knows how great it feels to find fresh fruits and vegetables available close to home.

We are working to develop this new social contract, especially in Quebec. The Pronovost commission comes to mind. Many people have already accepted paying a little more for food that has been grown and harvested close to home, the quality of which they do not have to question. We know that the production safety standards respect the environment and that this food comes from where we live.

Farmers are encouraged to produce for humans, on a human scale. In Quebec, all UPA members gladly advocate for this production on a human dimension. The men and women involved in this initiative have good reason to be proud.

When I think about this mass production for our cars, I think we are moving in the wrong direction. This bill really needs to be carefully defined and must incorporate certain elements. My NDP colleague alluded to this earlier when he talked about checks and balances. I think this is very important.

In conclusion, we do not need to reject biofuels. I think that innovation is the road to take when it comes to energy. We have to commit ourselves and use the smallest possible amount of arable land and environmental resources to meet our energy needs, which we know are sometimes excessive.

When we can convert waste and residues—be they food, vegetable or artificial—into energy without using food products that would feed humans or animals, when we have that guarantee, then things will change.

The government is currently encouraging pilot projects. That is excellent, but it is not enough. I think about my area, given that we are obviously affected by this forestry crisis, particularly in the Lower St. Lawrence region. We could be thinking about these future techniques that would use forestry residues. Obviously it is a promising idea.

As I just said, we know the state of our forestry industry, and it would be good to encourage the development and study of this type of energy. I would go so far as to say that it is urgent because it could help some of our businesses and forestry workers, including those in private woodlots whom we know have been completely ignored in the Conservative government's trust fund.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that this is not a good time to be aiming for that 5% target. Residual material technology is not ready yet, the world markets are fragile and, as we know, the world's population is starving. I think we need to be responsible and act accordingly.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for her speech and for her concern about the environment. I could tell from her remarks that it is something she cares very deeply about.

I know there are many companies in Canada and around the world that are getting very innovative, creating new products out of fibres, out of grain, out of forest product waste. They are doing so because they are concerned about the environment. Unfortunately some of the things that we are using, such as food products for fibre, remove something from the food production market and thereby increase the value of that food. People who need to buy that food cannot afford it or have a hard time affording it and are put at risk because it brings up the price of food.

I am glad the member mentioned some of those things. I note she also understands that biofuels as a concept is a good idea, but the government's bill, in the way it has been put forward, is not supportable because of what it entails and what it will do to food prices. It does not stop anyone from introducing genetically modified grains and it does not limit the amount of arable land that can be used to produce food for ethanol and for fuel.

Did the member see anything in the bill that would lead to conservation or limit our use of fuel? What I see in the bill is that it allows us to continue a lifestyle based on the high use of fuel for our vehicles, our homes and so on. It does not teach us at all how to conserve and to change our lifestyle so that we use less. I wonder if the member could speak to that.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Independent

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I am going to speak my mind. I am exceedingly worried that this bill is truly flawed. That is one of the reasons that led me to vote, earlier today, in favour of the amendment proposed by my colleague's party. That would have allowed us—there was nothing to fear because we could still support it—to return to committee and further study the issue.

It is quite normal to be worried when we are dealing with our environment, our food source, our nourishing earth. People often accuse us of not thinking about future generations.

That is exactly why we have parliamentary committees on such occasions. It is to improve things, to change them and to work together. Thus, I supported it.

I said that the bill is flawed. I am concerned about not imposing a limit on the percentage of our beautiful agricultural land that can be used solely for this purpose. Because at some point, someone will say that they want to be like their neighbour, that they want to make money and that is how they will do it. And why would we penalize that farmer?

Thus, we have to set limits. There must be a standard. We must be even more respectful of our environment because we know the price we will pay if we are not. We have to prepare for the future. We could wait for better methods rather than simply saying that we have discovered the grain corn that will be used to produce ethanol, or another product that serves as food,

In my opinion, crops that are as close as possible to the people and will nourish them should be set aside as a food source. We should also develop other means of satisfying our outrageous energy cravings. We should become less dependent on these things and help each other to become more responsible.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion that this question be now put. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The vote will take place tomorrow at 3 o'clock, after question period.

Order, please. Pursuant to Standing Order 38, it is my duty to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Mont-Royal, Justice; the hon. member for Welland, Government Policies.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak today on the Canada-European Free Trade Association free trade agreement implementation act.

First, I want to inform the House that I support this bill, because in my mind it improves access for Canadian businesses and strengthens our future in the European market. Right now, as I think everyone is aware, the vast majority of our exports go to the United States. It is not a major issue, but it serves as a platform in that the total bilateral trade between our country and the four countries represented by the European Free Trade Association, I believe, is approximately $12 billion. Larger than that, in my view at least, it represents a platform to provide us possible access into the European Union with future dialogue and discussions in the months and years to come. I certainly will be supporting this bill when it comes to a vote.

The agreement places Canada on an equal footing with competitors that already have free trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association. These countries include Mexico, Chile, South Korea and of course the European Union. These countries, the names of which are very familiar to us, are trade competitors of ours. Going forward it puts the country of Canada on an equal footing with these other countries, among others, in trading with this bloc of four northern European countries.

Although I support the bill and will be voting in favour of it, it is my position that the bill should be referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade so that the committee can review the agreement again to ensure that the bill complies with the committee's report, which was tabled earlier this year in the House. The free trade agreement went to committee first. In my view, it is the right agreement and one which, in the long run, is a must for the Canadian economy.

There are concerns. I have listened to some of the debate regarding this particular legislation. The concerns raised have to do with shipbuilding and supply management. If we look at the provisions of the legislation, these are not totally taken into consideration but they are certainly considered. That is why it is so important for the legislation to go to the standing committee, so that these concerns can be taken into consideration before the bill comes back to the House for final adjudication.

This is a long-standing matter. It did not start last month. I believe it was 10 years ago that the negotiations got under way with this bloc of four countries, with the hope that a free trade agreement would be reached. For different reasons, I suppose, things did not go as quickly or as smoothly as first thought and the negotiations have been ongoing. However, I am glad to see that 10 years after negotiations started, we have in the House legislation which approves the free trade agreement.

I would suggest the majority of members in the House appreciate and understand the value of trade partners such as these four countries. It is my understanding that this bloc of four countries, if not the highest, has one of the highest GDP per capita in the entire world. It is a bloc of countries that this country should be trading with and trading with more often. It is a natural fit and I look forward to its implementation.

When we enter into these free trade agreements, I can appreciate the work, effort, time and energy that goes into them on behalf of all the players involved because a lot of different sectors have to be taken into consideration. In cases such as this, not everyone gets the same advantages and we have to look at all the sectors. The sector of biggest concern and the one which has been raised with all members of Parliament is the shipbuilding sector. The second sector that warrants special consideration is the agricultural sector.

On the shipbuilding sector, I have read over the agreement. It certainly provides what I consider to be fairly equitable terms. It provides a 15 year phase-in of the quotas for the sensitive sectors and 10 years in other sectors, which I think is equitable. I believe it is fair.

On the agricultural sector, from my reading and my understanding of the agreement, Canada's agricultural sector, insofar as this bloc of countries is concerned, will certainly be a winner. This agreement does protect the supply management regime in Canada. I have not read anything in the materials which would lead me to believe that the dairy farmers of Canada have any concerns with this free trade agreement.

The agreement would eliminate duties on non-agricultural goods and selected agricultural products, giving Canadian exporters better access to Canada's fifth largest export destination. As I said, right now bilateral trade is approximately $12 billion. I believe the four northern European countries involved in this association have a surplus. Canada imports approximately $7 billion from that particular bloc of countries and we export to them approximately $5 billion.

On the other hand, the direct foreign investment from the European Free Trade Association is quite substantially more. Those countries have invested substantially more in this country than we have in them. I believe that in the long run the agreement should increase trade in all five countries and it also should enhance direct foreign investment going both ways.

At the end of the day I see this as a win-win situation, although we certainly have to be very careful in negotiating these agreements and certainly as parliamentarians we have to be careful in approving them. I do see it being beneficial to our primary and our manufacturing industries.

The agreement would eliminate all European Free Trade Association tariffs on Canadian industrial exports. Some of the key ones that are included, and these are areas that are so important, are forest products, pulp and paper products, manufactured housing, aluminum, cosmetics, and motor vehicles. Forest products is one that I see has tremendous potential.

There is a substantial amount of trade right now in these sectors. I hope with the signing of this agreement that these sectors will increase the amount of trade going from Canada to these four countries involved, especially our forest industry.

As a result of the problems that are being experienced in the United States, these sectors are experiencing considerable difficulty right across Canada from coast to coast. For us to allow our products to go to Europe rather than to the United States provides more flexibility and more opportunities for our Canadian forestry industry. In that regard, it is a good situation.

The agreement would also provide improved access for specific Canadian agricultural products, including frozen foods, selected beverages, durum wheat, canola oil, honey, and various fruits and vegetables.

This whole agricultural free trade issue is an issue that is debated in the House every week and almost every day. We see the subsidies that other countries are involved with and sometimes we just have to shake our heads.

Last week, the U.S. farm bill was passed both in Congress and in the Senate. I know it was vetoed by President Bush, but I understand the votes are there for an override of that veto, if it has not been done already. I believe the total budget for that bill is $317 billion and a lot of that goes into subsidies for U.S. agricultural sectors.

Again, we have to wonder where free trade in agricultural products is going. When we hear what is going on in France and other European countries not covered by this agreement, we have to wonder whether free trade in agricultural products will ever be reached in our lifetime. We do not seem to be making any progress. In fact, I would suggest that we are taking steps backwards in this regard. However, this agreement is a step forward and I think it will certainly help our agricultural industry.

That leads to another issue on why it is important for Canada to perhaps be more aggressive in some of these bilateral trade agreements. We went through a period after the North American Free Trade Agreement when perhaps the country was not as aggressive as it should have been in pursuing these opportunities. At the same time, we had the negotiations going on with the Doha round of the World Trade Organization. That went on for four to six years.

We were all at somewhat different stages of the negotiations. We were optimistic that something would come out of those negotiations, but I think that at this stage of the game we are all just shaking our heads. We may not like to say it, but it looks as if the Doha round is dead. I do not see anything positive.

I have not heard anything positive coming out of those negotiations over the last 18 months which would assure me that there would be an agreement in the immediate future. I may be wrong on that statement, but certainly I have not heard, read or seen anything that would lead me to have any sort of a confidence that things are proceedings in a direction that would be beneficial to Canada in those negotiations.

For that reason, it is so important for this country to pursue other bilateral free trade agreements with other countries, especially this bloc of four northern European countries. There are some negotiations at the advanced stages.

I know that an agreement has been or is almost concluded with Colombia and also one with the country of Panama. Some of these issues are a little more controversial. In the Colombian agreement, an issue has been raised concerning human rights in that particular country. Our committee has been to Colombia on that particular issue. That has not come to the House yet.

However, this agreement is free from any of that discussion at all. As I say, there are no distortions with these European countries and it should be a clean agreement going forward. The biggest issue, of course, is the one I raised previously and that is the shipbuilding industry vis-à-vis the country of Norway.

That sets out some of the reasons why I am supporting the legislation. Again, it is important for another reason, which I mentioned briefly earlier in my comments. I believe it is so important to start the platform, the dialogue and the discussions with the European Union. That is going to be much more complicated. We are into some pretty heavy sectors there, especially in the agricultural sector where there are subsidies. That certainly will not be a one-month negotiation. It will be a long term negotiation, but it is a negotiation and a discussion that I think should start sooner rather than later.

It is important for our economy to build relationships with other countries if a deal can be done. If a deal can be done, a deal should be worked out and concluded. Again, sometimes we are not as big as we think we are. We are a big country but we have a small population and we have to pursue other markets. We have a very strong relationship with the United States of America and the vast majority of our trade heads south, but we always have to be pursuing other opportunities on the world stage, especially for our agricultural producers.

This agreement recognizes Canada's unique position as an agricultural leader, as it provides specific rules dealing with processed agricultural products. For items in that grouping, such as cocoa and confectionery sugar, the tariff rate will be reduced from 6% to 0% immediately upon the entering into force of the agreement.

This is good for the economy. As everyone in the House is aware, Canada has a strong agricultural industry and these new markets will present a reinvigoration of opportunities and partnerships for many of these particular sectors.

As I said previously, protected under this agreement are the supply management regime that we enjoy in Canada and the buy Canada government procurement programs as well.

To conclude, it is my submission that this is excellent for Canada's interests in Europe and a further step in our partnership with the four countries. However, as I said, it should be re-examined by the Standing Committee on International Trade to ensure that the bill and the previous agreement are in sync and that Canada's best interests are included in this agreement.