Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will support this NDP amendment, which I feel is very important. Moreover, I invite my colleagues to support this amendment so that the committee can examine this whole issue in greater detail.
Since the debate began, we have heard numerous opinions that have been more or less well documented, more or less scientific, more or less emotional. I myself have a number of opinions. I believe that for the sake of the people we represent, it is important that each and every one of us in this House consider the advisability of using a natural resource, a raw material as precious as our most beautiful farmland.
I am thinking of Quebec, among other places. I am familiar with the Montérégie area, for example, where corn grows perfectly and in huge quantities. Even in my region, the Lower St. Lawrence, we have corn. We can think about wheat in the west.
We are using our beautiful land to produce something that we call a biofuel or agrofuel to ease our consciences. It will give us a clear conscience, because with 5% or 2% in our tank, we will feel as though we are helping to save the environment. In my opinion, we should not kid ourselves.
First, as I just said, we are using a precious resource, precious materials, namely our land. I will digress for a moment. Yesterday, I listened as a Conservative member who had gotten upset said he hoped we would never get to the stage in this House where we would tell farmers what they can and cannot do. I believe that in 2008, we should be telling them what they can and cannot do, because the land belongs to all of us. More importantly, it belongs to future generations, and we have to be responsible stewards. When we look at agriculture regulations—I will talk about Quebec, because I know the regulations in Quebec—we see that more and more, they are being imposed with good reason on our farmers so that they will keep environmental sustainability in mind as they farm. In my opinion, we are giving them a responsibility.
They have been landowners for decades, perhaps centuries, but they are responsible for this wonderful piece of land. They have been given something very valuable on behalf of a community. Just because they are landowners does not mean that they can do whatever they want, just as a city dweller, an owner of the smallest piece of land with the smallest home, cannot do whatever he or she wants on land in the middle of a city. We have a responsibility in both rural and urban areas. To get back to the point, this greatly concerns me, along with a number of my constituents, because it is important to also consider the process used.
This is evident in the case of the oil sands. All of the contaminated water must be stored somewhere, while it waits to be decontaminated. We hope that it will not contaminate our streams, our lakes, our rivers, and that there will not be any human errors that could lead to spills in some areas, which would be a concern. That would be an environmental nightmare. We should remember that this has happened in the oceans, on the shores and the coasts. These things can happen.
The water needed for this process is another very precious natural resource which is ultimately being used so that we can have a clear conscience and produce biofuels, so-called because they come from a biological source. Most people think that because of this name, the product must be good, since it is bio. I think we need to go beyond that.
There is some irony in using some of our most precious natural resources literally to run our cars and to ease our consciences.
All of us, as citizens, elected members of this House and representatives of the public, have the responsibility to dig deeper and ask questions. What does a government, of any political stripe, have to do to ensure that the environment is truly taken into account? What does a government have to do to help us reduce our dependence on oil sooner rather than later? There is no miraculous solution, but if we all do our part, what methods could we use to run our vehicles on sources of energy that produce less and less pollution? We will definitely continue to drive, but we have to become far less dependent on petroleum, whether it has ethanol additives or not. This is very important.
Earlier, when I asked the hon. member for Victoria a question, I raised a point that is important to me; that is, how farmers use their resources and the painful choice our producers are faced with. On one hand, they are being told they will be encouraged and even subsidized, so that they can contribute to this economy. The epitome of a market economy has to be asking farmers to produce additives for our gasoline instead of food for human consumption. In fact, why would environmentally conscious farmers simply continue to produce food for human consumption, and punish themselves financially by choosing not to produce biofuels?
That is the difficult choice they are faced with. On one hand, they are told what they can do to produce “natural” additives for gasoline, in order to allow us to drive more and to ease our conscience, as I was saying earlier. On the other hand, a number of producers are currently taking this a step further and are taking action to achieve food sovereignty. It is increasingly clear that this is the best route for the environment and for food security.
Of course I always talk about what I know best: Quebec. As everyone knows, we have extraordinary measures in effect for food crops. We have a traceability system for our animals as well as codes for our produce, for example. Similar systems likely exist elsewhere, as well. When people buy their food from local producers, they know that for the most part they are getting quality products at a reasonable price.
We are faced, however, with a difficult decision. Would producers rather produce biofuels, because they are more lucrative, or provide good food for people? If they do the latter, will the population return the favour? As we say where I come from, in the Lower St. Lawrence, we are real happy to be able to buy potatoes, carrots and other summer produce. We can stock up on them when buying in our own region, just a few kilometres from home. Many people do it. The same is true for berries. People preserve them, make jam out of them and so on. It is very ecological and, by doing so, we allow our producers to live well and meet their needs. Like everyone else, they have every right to live well and provide for their families.
On the other hand, producers must make a difficult decision. Should they not bother because their motto, like everyone else's today, would be to make money when we can? Should they convert a portion of their land to biofuel production?
This issue is of great interest to us all, and for good reason. We have to keep talking about it. We cannot simply dismiss this person as being completely unrealistic. People say that that is what things have come to with the global economy, and that is what has to be done. But I do not think that we need to get carried away with wild imaginings and accusations against everyone. We have to be responsible. We have to look at the consequences of this.
When it comes to biofuels, there is no doubt that in addition to speculation, it has become profitable for many people around the world to use their agricultural land for purposes other than growing food, for the least environmentally friendly purposes possible to meet a need and, as I was saying earlier, to make things, such as our cars, go.
Somebody was talking about China yesterday. People who visit China can see that, unfortunately, the Chinese are making all the same mistakes we made decades ago. Instead of using new technologies, they are doing exactly as we have done. Why not use fossil fuels as long as they are available? Why not pollute for as long as possible?
They are planning to shield the city for the Olympic Games so that the athletes can perform. After that, pollution will resume once again. Unfortunately, they are making the same mistakes we did as though they had inherited our ways. That is a real shame.
In Quebec, we have other ways of doing things that do not involve doing what big Canadian and multi-national corporations want us to do. I think the government has a responsibility. I will always think that. It is responsible for the common good and for redistributing wealth. In this case, as in others, it must play its part. The population expects nothing less from a government of any political stripe that calls itself accountable.