Hon. Geoff Regan (Halifax West, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill S-3, a bill that would amend the Energy Efficiency Act.
The basic premise of this bill is to broaden the scope of the government's ability to regulate energy-using consumer products. We can all think of a whole range of consumer products that people have in their homes, whether it be washing machines, dryers, fridges or so many others. The government already does regulate many of these under the existing act, through standards, through labelling, and through the promotion of energy-efficient products.
Indeed, this is something that needs to be broadened, because there are so many new appliances and new electronic gadgets these days.
So many of us in this House, of course, use the BlackBerry, which is a great Canadian-made product from my wife's home area of Kitchener—Waterloo. I must say, of course, that I am proud that Research in Motion also has a building in my riding of Halifax West. That is an interesting connection that my wife and I have with our hometowns.
There are so many items we have in our homes that use power, and there are programs when one is shopping for these things. One can look for the EnerGuide label or the Energy Star label to find out how, for example, one fridge compares to other fridges in its energy consumption, or whether a computer monitor falls within the group that is low enough in terms of energy use to have received the Energy Star. Those are good programs that have been around for a while.
The issue of standby power is an important one. That is one of the things this bill purports to regulate. That is to say, we all know of things in our homes that use power all the time. It may be only a little power, but they are still using power. Anything that has a light on all the time is using power. Often our televisions, even though they are turned off, are still using some power unless they are unplugged.
I can think of things like the new digital video recorders that use quite a bit of power, I gather, particularly if they are recording. Even if they are not recording, there is still a light on. The VCR has a light on, the stereo system has a little light on, and all these things use power.
Even an intercom system is often on all the time. These things are using power.
What this bill will allow the government to do by regulation is limit the amount of standby power that these products can use. Many of these products today use in the range of six to eight watts. At the same time, some of the new products are able to use as little as one watt of power per product. That would be a much better standard to apply to all of them. In fact, that is part of the plan, from what I hear of the government, and that is a good thing.
There are so many things: computers, battery chargers, adapters, stereos, TVs, and microwaves. If a charger for a cellphone is left plugged into the wall, it will become warm. The adapter will become warm. It becomes warm for a reason. That is because it is using power.
One thing that is worthwhile to mention during the debate on this bill is that it is a good opportunity to remind people to unplug these things. It is costing money and it is using power unnecessarily. We all know there are many good reasons not to do that, notably to save money and to help the environment.
In fact, Natural Resources Canada has an office of energy efficiency that has looked into this. They say that as much as 10% of household electrical consumption in Canada comes from this standby power issue. In other words, we could each theoretically reduce as much as 10% of our electrical bills by unplugging these things.
They say that if we did this and dealt with this issue, it could be the equivalent of turning off the power in 300,000 homes. In other words, 300,000 homes worth of electricity per year could be saved across the country. When we are looking at issues like blackouts in Ontario and problems when there are peak energy uses in the summer in particular, we can all see the importance of having that kind of room in the electrical grid.
However, as many have pointed out before, it is not simply what is in this bill that is of concern here and that we ought to be looking at. In fact, what is not in the bill is of major concern.
The measures in this bill were originally in Bill C-30 in the previous Parliament, the government's so-called clean air act which purported to deal with climate change. A special committee of the House was set aside to deal with the bill. Once it actually got hold of it and made a variety of amendments, it did become what could realistically be called a clean air act, but it certainly was not that when it was proposed by the government. It was the opposition amendments that put it in a form that would have actually achieved something.
What did we see? Did that bill go forward? No, it did not go forward. In fact, the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament and called an election. We have not seen the bill come back from the government. We have had lots of comments from the government about dealing with climate change which that bill purported to do, but no action.
In June 2005 the previous government actually listed in the Canada Gazette the six major greenhouse gases. That is the beginning of the 18 month process of regulating those greenhouse gases.
There is no reason why the following Conservative government that took over in February 2006 could not have regulated to limit the production, the emission, of those various greenhouse gases within that 18 month period.
Now it is more than three and a half years since those were listed, and we still see no regulations from the government in relation to the limiting of greenhouse gases. We have heard the government talk about cap and trade, we heard that it has a so called “Turning the Corner” plan, but we do not see any corner being turned. We do not see any actual regulations, any real action to deal with greenhouse gases or climate change. That is a concern.
The total lack of trust Canadians have in the government is also a concern. The kind of thing I have talked about is one of the reasons they have so little trust in the government. When it actually comes to bringing forth regulations to ensure the impact of amendments outlined in this bill are actually felt, we do not know what the government will do. This bill does allow the government to regulate in a whole variety of areas.
One of the questions we have heard during debate, both in the Senate and here, is this question of whether or not this bill could be used, this law could be used, to regulate automobile emissions. Well, the wording is very broad. I had a look at the law that exists now and it says in section 200, the definition section, “'energy-using product' means a prescribed product”.
Actually, that means that the government can set out in regulation what products are included as energy using products that fall within the scope of this bill. In other words, it could certainly regulate automobiles, as they do use an energy product: gasoline obviously, ethanol, even hydrogen these days or electricity. All these things are using energy. In theory, then, the government could certainly regulate automobiles through this bill, although we would expect it to use other legislation that is on the books to do that. It is interesting that that is one of the options.
The point I am making is that we do not know what the government will do with these regulations. We do not know if it will take any action at all. Its record so far in regulating on the environment is so weak that it is hard for Canadians to have any confidence that this bill will actually be used to do anything worthwhile.
The idea of the bill is a fine idea, but it is how it is used. The bill is all about giving that power to regulate to the government. That is an important point.
There are also concerns about the Conservative government's complete failure to understand that energy efficiency is a fundamental issue not just for the environment but for the economy. Dealing with these things is important in terms of where we go in the economy. What was lacking, for example, in the budget was an understanding of the importance of that.
In the U.S. we have seen the Obama administration's package for economic stimulus. We have seen six times as much spending per capita on the energy efficiency side of things and renewable energies as here in the Conservative government package. That was disappointing. I think the government ought to consider that, reconsider its position, and recognize that it is important for the economy that we become efficient. It can save us in many ways. It can help us with the strains in terms of our electrical grids and in many other areas.
I suspect that the fact that many government members are still climate change deniers is a factor here. I have witnessed that in this House. I witnessed it on Monday during debate on this same bill. My colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca was speaking. He was talking about Antarctica and how we have seen ice shelves, such as the Larsen ice shelf, collapse there and what a concern that is for situations like that around the globe. He gave examples of global warming, examples that are alarming scientists around the globe, and some of the reasons why scientists tell us the evidence is overwhelming that climate change is happening and that it is caused by human activity.
However, the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt was in the chamber and he said that Antarctica is growing. I do not know what planet he is talking about. Maybe there is another Antarctica on another planet somewhere that is growing, but I think it is pretty clear that the opposite is happening here.
In fact we understand, and I think most people do, that the ice in Antarctica does not just freeze every winter. With the ice in Antarctica, or on the Greenland glacier or Arctic ice cap, we are talking primarily about ice that has been formed with snow falling and then more the following year and so much over centuries that it pushes down, compacts and turns into very hard and very old ice.
When we see something that is thousands of years old collapse and fall into the ocean, and a colleague thinks that Antarctica is actually growing, I think he ought to give his head a shake.
It is a bit like those who suggest that there is no link between HIV and AIDS. All the science is in the other direction. It is overwhelmingly clear that there is a link between HIV and AIDS. Or it is like the techniques that were used for years by those people who said there was no link between tobacco and cancer. We hear the same kinds of things from the other side.
It seems to me the Conservatives have not gotten the message. It seems to me that they forget the poll that came out in January 2007 which said that the number one concern of Canadians was the environment. This was about six or eight months after Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth came into the theatres and people started to become much more concerned about these issues. The media started to talk about this. People got more and more concerned, but it was only after that, that the government suddenly and totally changed direction and started to admit that there was a concern about climate change, or at least it wanted us to believe that it was reformed, that it actually had bought into the idea that this was a real problem.
Yet, it seems that many members on that side did not get the memo, that they have not gotten the message that in fact they are supposed to believe now in climate change, because we hear them say things like the notion that Antarctica is still growing. We hear them say things that are utterly ridiculous and that fly in the face of the overwhelming science that tells us that climate change is real and is the result of human activity.
Maybe they should work on their messaging over there and get the message out. Maybe they need another memo for more of the members on that side to get this clear. Most of them do not say very much normally without the office of the Prime Minister giving the approval, so one would think that maybe they need clearer direction from the PMO on that. Perhaps it is the fact that they are climate change deniers that accounts for their dismal failure to grasp what really are the larger implications that are at play with this bill and the issues of climate change, to which Bill C-30 in the last Parliament was tied.
When this bill was debated in the other place, that red chamber down the hall on the east side of this building, my colleague from Alberta, Senator Grant Mitchell, raised many important questions about this bill. In fact, while this bill was introduced in the Senate by the government leader there, it was Senator Mitchell who has been the driving force behind this idea for some time, pushing for energy efficiency improvements and pushing for changes, so that the government can regulate classes of products, not just certain products. That is a good thing, there is no question.
He was right, in the Senate, when he noted that perhaps one of the biggest questions was the lack of trust Canadians have that the Conservative government will do anything it promises. I have heard from many Canadians that they do not trust the government. They simply do not trust the government to actually implement this or any significant environmental policy because its record is so dismal.
While the Liberal Party supports a broadening of the government's ability to regulate products that use energy, this does not disguise the fact that these changes are in isolation to create the false impression the Conservatives are actually doing something on this file.
Well, they are not, really. We know that. That is why Canadians do not trust the Prime Minister or the government on the environment any more than they trust them to properly manage our country's finances or our economy.
This is the same government that told us last fall that there were no problems. The Prime Minister said that if it was going to get bad, it would already have been bad. We heard that during the election: if the economy is going to be in recession, we would have already had it here.
Well, things got a lot worse. In September he said it was good time to buy stocks. Not only was that insensitive but it was incredibly bad advice, when we consider what has happened since. For a guy who claims to be an economist, that is a pretty scary bit of prognostication. I think most people would have to recognize that.
Why the lack of trust? That is the result when the Conservatives deny climate change in the face of the kind of overwhelming scientific evidence that exists, or when they deny there is a recession in the midst of a global economic meltdown as we have been seeing over the past number of months, or when they say they will balance the books when they have been in deficit for months, as we heard last fall in the fiscal update, which was clearly absolute nonsense and from which the government retreated.
That is the question. Will the Conservatives actually implement these amendments in this bill and act on the regulatory power that this gives them?
We all saw what the Conservatives did with the Kyoto protocol. We saw an announcement related to cap and trade two years ago, and nothing has happened. We saw what they did with Bill C-30 in a previous Parliament, which is where this initiative first saw the light of day.
And did we not have a bill related to fixed term elections? That seems to be something I can recall; something that evaporated in the mind of the Prime Minister around about last September.
Did we not have a promise not to tax income trusts? Did we not have a signed offshore accord with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador that the Prime Minister said would not be abandoned? I think we did.
On the environment, in general, the trust factor is non-existent for the Conservative government. It announced a $1 billion clean energy fund, which sounded great. But how much of that is going toward things like solar power, wind power, tidal power or geothermal power? When the deputy minister appeared before the natural resources committee, she was asked about this fund and she told the committee that $850 million was targeted toward carbon capture and sequestration. Now, that is an important technology and it is of great concern to the oil sands, certainly. However, it is not the only issue. What is concerning is that the Conservatives want to give the impression they have this wonderful clean energy fund for a whole range of clean energies. We really see it is almost all going to one particular area.
Aside from this fundamental issue of trust, there are also concerns of what is not in the bill that raises other questions. For instance, what kind of consultation took place in relation to the second section which talks about interprovincial trade? Did the government consult the provinces? We do not know.
There are a variety of other concerns. The questions and comments that I hope will follow will give me an opportunity to talk about them more.
Ms. Paule Brunelle (Trois-Rivières, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to discuss Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Energy Efficiency Act, which is intended to expand the regulatory parameters of the present act.
The essence of this bill is laudable. The present act dates from 1992. With all the technological innovations, it is thus extremely urgent that we take another look at this act. I can see how often we are late to take action. My 15-year-old son is constantly reminding me that we have to pay attention to the environment, use recycling bins and save energy. So I will be pleased to be able to tell him on the weekend that we are working to make things better.
The amendments proposed in this energy efficiency bill are going in the right direction, for they target non-regulated products and raise the standards for other products. However, we have to determine whether this bill is not simply an update of the standards of the Office of Energy Efficiency. In this regard we must display a real will to improve the energy efficiency of certain energy-using products with the aim of improving our energy efficiency and not with the aim of permitting the federal government to say that it is looking after the environment. We must admit that this initiative offers very little in the face of the problems of climate change, our spiraling consumption of fossil fuels and this government’s lack of will to act to protect the environment. All the same, this bill is a start, and however little this government is doing for the environment, we must nonetheless consider the improvements being made to the present legislation.
The amendments made by this bill are thus intended to consider the advancement of knowledge about energy efficiency, to broaden the minister’s regulatory authority, to introduce the concept of classes instead of considering each product individually, to strengthen the minister’s powers over the labelling of energy-using products, to standardize procedures, and to increase responsibilities for reporting to the House of Commons. These objectives, I repeat, are entirely laudable. The extent to which they will be applied remains to be seen.
For example, the amendments proposed in this bill would permit the establishment of strict vehicle emission standards and improve the energy efficiency of vehicles, since they have an impact on energy consumption. The bill would also permit, as proposed many times by the Bloc Québécois, the standardization of energy efficiency regulations in classes of products, thereby introducing mandatory vehicle eco-labelling, a measure that has existed in Switzerland since 2002.
In this way we could send a clear message to consumers who wish to use energy more responsibly, by directing them to a class of vehicles classified as “green”, instead of certain very specific vehicles.
There are a number of worthwhile amendments in this bill, including the following. Classifying energy-using products as proposed will mean that they can be grouped based on a single, common energy-consuming characteristic and the intended use of the products. The second amendment is the power of the governor in council, which will cover a class of products and not just one product. Extending the regulatory power will mean that the act provides better coverage of a whole range of products in terms of energy efficiency. This bill also provides for new or additional standards to be established for industrial and consumer products and goods, such as commercial washing machines, dishwashers, fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs, battery chargers, and many others.
This bill means that standby mode can be taken into account, and that is a good proposal, because of the proliferation in recent years of energy-using products that consume energy even when they are turned off. The new types of televisions, DVD players, household appliances and a host of other products consume energy constantly even when they are not in use. These items are equipped with an internal memory that can be affected by simply unplugging them.
In this regard, the Office of Energy Efficiency estimates that if all of these products used minimum energy in standby mode, a typical household would save $35 a year in electricity. That does not seem like much, but an energy saving like that all across Canada amounts to the energy used by about 300,000 households in a year, and so it is a considerable amount. What this bill does in this regard is really very important. The number and variety of appliances that use standby mode will undoubtedly continue to grow in the years to come. That is why it is important to think about regulating energy use in sleep mode for these kinds of items.
Requiring that the minister table reports in the House of Commons is an important amendment, and one that I think is desirable. Once every three years, the Minister of Natural Resources will have to compare the standards here with those in the United States and Mexico, to determine whether they are in step. Because many household appliances come from those countries under free trade, standardization is important. This approach, by standardizing labelling and energy efficiency criteria, may eventually facilitate the creation of a carbon market in the future.
Obviously, that must be done willingly and competently. On these two points, allow me to question the Conservative government's intent to really protect the environment. The Conservative record does not lead us to believe that the environment is a priority for this government. I will explain. This bill has a number of qualities, including that of considering the standby mode, essential to the operation of a number of devices today, in setting energy efficiency standards.
However, the government is bragging that, with these amendments proposed for the Energy Efficiency Act, it is implementing its nebulous green plan. This green plan is turning brown. I realize that strengthening laws on the energy efficiency of televisions, DVD players, household appliances and other energy-using consumer products is a good thing. However, strong and integrated measures are needed to achieve real results. We have waited too long.
The government's regulatory framework to fight greenhouse gases is biased at its source. It is based on reductions in emission intensity for individual product units instead of on an absolute greenhouse gas emission target. There is, however, a consensus in Quebec and elsewhere in the world advocating the absolute reduction approach, which will lead to the establishment of a carbon market and a carbon exchange in Montreal.
This government's approach is unfair to Quebec, which has made a huge effort since 1990 to genuinely and absolutely reduce its GHG emissions. However, businesses in Quebec cannot benefit from nearly 20 years' efforts. It is our duty to prevent these efforts from being swept under the carpet because of the neoconservative ideology that goes to any length to put the environment and the economy at odds.
For example, a Quebec aluminum company that has already reduced its GHG emissions by 15% in 1990 terms will have to agree to the same reduction in emission intensity as a company operating in the oil sands in Alberta, whose GHG emissions have doubled since 1990. Our manufacturing industry will be penalized once again because it will not benefit financially from its efforts as it could have under an absolute target reduction plan.
In Quebec, we reject this outdated view. The economy and the environment work in tandem, and our businesses are often among the most productive in the world in environmental terms. Quebec's economy is separate from Canada's. By applying this standard approach to all businesses, the government is leaving no room for a real territorial approach that would allow Quebec to act according to its own interests and peculiarities.
This is why we are saying that the government's green plan, which gave rise to this bill, is ineffective.
Climate change represents one of the biggest challenges we have to deal with.
As scientific evidence piles up and we see just how staggering the extent of the consequences is, it becomes imperative to act without delay, and in an efficient and fair manner.
This bill represents a step in the right direction, but there is still a very long way to go, and this government totally lacks the desire to go the rest of the way with Quebec. The Bloc Québécois is calling for a Kyoto implementation plan, namely an average greenhouse gas reduction of 6% below the 1990 level for the period 2008-12.
The inaction of the Liberals and the ideological pig-headedness of the Conservatives are doing nothing to help us deal with the problem.
The plan proposed by the Bloc Québécois is based on establishing reduction targets in the short and medium term, that is between 2012 and 2020, with 1990 as the reference year; the use of a territorial approach; establishing a carbon exchange in Montreal; and federal measures that the government can implement in its own areas of jurisdiction.
In closing, Bill S-3 is, as I have said, a step in the right direction but there is still a very long way to go. We are in favour of the essence of this bill, but with this government we have doubts about is sincerity as far as environmental protection and energy conservation are concerned.
The Conservative government ought to stop handing over millions of dollars to the oil industry and stop encouraging tar sands development. Instead it ought to be decreasing our oil dependency, and allowing the development of renewable energies, encouraging environmental research and the growth of the green economy, which is the economy of the future, rather than making this bill, which is limited though laudable, the foundation of its rather murky green plan.
Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Energy Efficiency Act. Earlier, my colleague from Halifax West spoke extensively on the bill and made a number of valid points on energy efficiency. I would refer people to those comments. He talked especially about wasted energy. When politicians are out on a political campaign, we walk into houses and see little lights flashing here and there, on VCRs, computers and telephones that are not in use. All those units are using energy unnecessarily. It is a lot of wasted energy.
The bill makes a series of changes to the Energy Efficiency Act to broaden the scope of the government's ability to regulate consumer products that use energy. We can certainly go the regulatory way with encouragement in that area, but as citizens of the country, we also need to do a lot of individual things to save energy in terms of shutting down computers and so on when we may be gone for more than a day. There are all kinds of things we could do.
The bill is rooted in old Bill C-30 from a former Parliament, which was a plan to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Bill S-3 goes back to some of those points that were made in Bill C-30. After the House committee made wholesale amendments to the climate change provisions in Bill C-30, the government chose not to bring the bill back to the House for further debate. When the first session of the 39th Parliament prorogued, Bill C-30 died. Instead of bringing back the bill in its entirety, the government decided instead to carve off the Energy Efficiency Act provisions and introduce them as a separate bill in the Senate. The bill did not receive second reading in the Senate before the election was called in August, 2008.
The provisions of the bill are not controversial. In fact, it is widely expected that most MPs and most parties will support the bill in the House of Commons because the spirit and the intent of former Bill C-30, what opposition parties mainly drove for, is encompassed in this bill.
An effective regulation of energy-using products is one of a suite of tools the government will have to fight global warming. As my colleague said earlier, there are a lot of global warming deniers on the government side of the House. A lot of points have been raised by previous speakers as to that being the fact. Through this bill we hope the Conservatives will take, not a big challenge, but a small challenge to do a number of small things that can make a difference in terms of energy use itself.
On this point, Canadians know what we should be doing each and every day to improve energy efficiency in many small ways, but sometimes it takes a little encouragement. Although none of us really likes regulations, sometimes it takes a little push with regulations to encourage us to do the right thing on the environment.
Another important area for us to do the right things on the environment and to increase our energy efficiency is a stronger education process. Sometimes we do not realize how the small points on energy efficiency can add up in the global context to big savings on energy.
Let us look at what little things can do. We can go back to Christmastime, when many people light up their houses with Christmas light bulbs and so on. In my province, Christmas was the peak energy period of the year because of the lights on Christmas trees, houses, floodlights and so on. When the LED lights came in, they created such energy efficiencies that the energy use at that time went down substantially.
Therefore, it shows what can be done by both an education campaign and any regulatory campaign. It is one example of many.
It is unbelievable the gains in energy efficiency that have been made in the agricultural industry over the last 15 to 20 years, and there is a lot more we can do. There is a lot more the government can do to assist us in getting there.
It would be really helpful if the government, in its programming, used some of its available resources. We know it has clearly failed the agricultural industry to date, especially the primary producers, but it is not that difficult for it to develop the programs. Whether it is through tax incentives, grants, regional development agencies, Industry Canada or Environment Canada could come up with funding programs that would assist primary producers in purchasing equipment and technology that would reduce the amount of energy used on primary production units on our farms.
Although the government fails to admit it, we know that the agriculture, fisheries, mining and forestry sectors in rural Canada are the generators of economic wealth in the country. Anything that can be done to assist those hard pressed industries in this time of recession would be valuable in moving our country forward.
There is an opportunity, at a time when a so-called economic stimulus is being made available, if the Government of Canada would develop the programming to assist all those industries in reducing their energy use and improving their bottom line. The government seems to have failed to seize that opportunity.
I want to provide some examples in the farming sector. On the equipment side, the tractors we use today are much more energy efficient. Cultivators do a better job with less use of energy on a per acre basis. One of the big areas is the use of GPS equipment, whether it is on equipment used for cultivating potatoes and row crops or whether it is on sprayers where one can do a better job of going over the ground just once. Instead of going over a field or a crop two or three times, one can go over it with a single pass, saving a tremendous amount of energy and greater efficiency. Therefore, less greenhouse gases are put into air for each production unit that is produced on farms.
Many Canadians, especially people who live in urban centres who do not understand the farm community that well, have a strange picture or perception of farmers. Primary producers, farmers, have always been at the cutting edge of technological change. Whether it is energy efficiency, more production per acre, whatever it may be, they have always been at that edge of technological change. This is a great opportunity where we could assist the farm community in making its operations more efficient.
Another example that I could give would be dairy operations. I was a dairy producer, and I have been on many of these operations. More people should see this efficient use of energy. It is an area where expenditures could be made to get more producers on those kinds of efficient uses of energy systems.
To draw a picture, when milk is produced, it is a warm product that has to be cooled by what almost looks like the old type of radiators. The milk is produced by the cows, comes out of the milking system and goes through that radiator unit. The heat is taken out and used to heat water for sanitizing and cleaning up the system and, in some cases, for heating barns. There is great efficiency.
Instead of losing the heat and putting it into a cooler that expends energy to cool the milk so it keeps and can be trucked to the processing plant in a high quality state, the new systems are used to take the heat out of the milk and use it for other purposes, whether it is heating water for sanitizing or whatever. The temperature of that milk is reduced and then when it gets into the cooler, it is already partially cooled. Therefore, it takes less energy to cool the milk product to the proper temperature so it stores safely until it can be shipped to a processing plant for bottling, or for cheese or for whatever its use may be.
From my own experience in the past, I know that originally there were grants from provincial governments at that time to encourage people to move into the earlier concept of bulk milk coolers. This is an area that the government could be assisting the production sector, with stimulus packages and creating energy efficiency as well. I know that goes beyond the concept of this bill, but it is an example of where government action, beyond the regulatory regime, could be a huge help to the farming community.
The same applies in the design of farms. Rather than using the fans, which are used in so many places, there are new concepts where we use natural movement of air.
As another example, this morning I had a great meeting with the greenhouse industry. The Canadian greenhouse industry is one of the most innovative industries in our country. In Ontario alone there are about 1,800 acres under glass. In B.C. there are about 700 acres. I believe it is something like 60 acres or 80 acres in Quebec.
I was in one operation that had 52 acres of tomato and cucumber plants under glass, growing year round. One of the highest costs is the use of hydro. Therefore, farmers have been moving to new concepts. Again, it is an area where the government could assist. In fact, I believe it costs close to $6 million to put the new system in for one of these operations.
Beyond the solar efforts of the sun, using natural gas to heat that generates a byproduct containing CO2, which plants need to produce the cucumbers and tomatoes. A recycling effect is created and it will pay off over the long term tremendously. Again, it is another case of using greater energy efficiency to have greater economic and energy efficiencies in the operation and less greenhouse gases as a result at the end of the day.
There are so many opportunities available to us in terms of energy efficiency. This bill will move us a little farther along that line. It significantly broadens the government's ability to regulate products that affect the use of energy and we support that. It does not have to be an obtrusive regulation. As I mentioned in the very beginning, to a great extent, it can be more of an education campaign to have people understand what is available out there. The regulations can encourage better use of products, whether it is shutting down equipment or buying more efficient equipment or machinery on the industrial operations, on farms, on fishing boats, in the forestry industry or whatever.
We support these amendments, since they are substantially identical to the proposed amendments to the clean air act, Bill C-30, which the Liberal Party supported. For some reason the Government of Canada wanted to make that disappear. Maybe it was too forward-looking a bill for the current government to grasp, take hold of and put Canada in the lead in terms of environmental change.
If we had moved forward with that act, instead of being a follower, we would have been a leader. In this recession, we see more followers than leaders from the government side. Maybe that makes the point as to why the government abandoned the clean air act. Now we have to at least try to encourage it to move a little step forward with the Energy Efficiency Act.
We look forward to seeing regulations, but it will be necessary to ensure that the impact of these amendments are fully felt in Canadian society.
I want to make one quick point about my own province. One initiative of Premier Robert Ghiz and the Liberal government in P.E.I. is on energy. We are increasingly using wind energy to meet our energy needs. The province has laid out a master plan of how we can use the production of energy and hydro from windmills to meet a greater and greater share of the electricity needs of Prince Edward Island. The Canadian wind test site is on Prince Edward Island. I think it shows that a little province is leading the way in this country in terms of using wind energy to meet Canadians' needs and reduce greenhouse gases.
Mr. Mario Laframboise (Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, BQ):
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on Bill S-3 and take part in this debate.
It is always instructive to see the Liberal member for Malpeque grilling the Conservatives for having plunged Canada into a deficit when the Liberal Party of Canada supported them no less than 62 times in this descent into hell with the creation of a Canadian deficit. I find it hard to understand, although that is not the only incongruity in this Parliament. This kind of thing is why politicians are always second last on the list of people Canadians trust. I will not say who is last. Members take positions in the House that are totally contrary to what they say in their speeches. That is the Liberal reality and it is why they have almost no credibility in Quebec.
Bill S-3 was introduced yesterday and is an act to amend the Energy Efficiency Act. I want to say right away that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill. Environmental groups and people who take some interest in the environment are not easily fooled, but when the Conservative government introduces a bill on energy efficiency, it is at least a step. We should study it therefore in committee, improve it, and see how open-minded the Conservatives are about analyzing it. This bill is not a panacea for all our energy problems, far from it, but my colleague from Trois-Rivières did a good job of presenting the Bloc’s position. When the government takes a little step, we should all go along, while remaining very realistic about the likely results.
There are eight clauses in Bill S-3. I will summarize them for the benefit of the men and women watching.
Clause 1 creates section 2.1 in the definitions in the Energy Efficiency Act. Its purpose is to specify the meaning of the word “class”. A class of energy-using products can be defined according to common energy-consuming characteristics of the products, their intended use, or the conditions under which the products are normally used.
Clause 2 is about interprovincial trade and importation. In the current act, paragraph 4.1(b) forbids dealers from shipping an energy-using product that does not comply with certain requirements from the province in which it was manufactured to another province for the purpose of sale or lease. Clause 2 changes this provision by replacing the last part with the following: “from one province to another province” for the purpose of sale or lease. In addition, paragraph 4.1(b) in the current English version requiring that a label be attached to the product or package is changed to require a label “in accordance with the regulations”. This is a welcome clarification because they are talking about appliances in this bill and all energy-using household equipment is included.
As we know, many of our citizens still have appliances that consume a lot of energy. In Quebec, Hydro-Québec is paying $60 to anyone who gets a new fridge. Hydro-Québec will even come and take away the old one. That is one way of getting rid of appliances that consume too much energy. If we want to use a bill to prohibit interprovincial transportation of equipment, we are talking about importers, retailers and suppliers. The equipment is not always new. There is business in second hand equipment. We do not want such equipment to be transported between the provinces, or even sold in any province.
Clause 3 adds a clarification to the information that a dealer must communicate to the minister.
From now on, prescribed information must include information about the shipping or importation of the material in question.
Clause 3 amends section 5 of the Energy Efficiency Act, which requires that dealers who ship or import energy-using products shall file a report with the prescribed information. Under the current subsection 5(1), the “dealer...shall file with the Minister...a report setting out prescribed information respecting the energy efficiency of those products.” The bill changes the wording to require the dealer to “provide the Minister...with” the prescribed information, so it is not a matter of merely filing a report, but rather being obliged to provide the information concerning those products, including their energy efficiency, their shipment or their importation.
This is important because, at the end of the day, this bill attacks the very foundation of the distribution chain. This affects dealers and importers. This is unfortunate because we have heard members, both Liberals and Conservatives, pointing out whose record was worst or best. But one thing is certain: we must target importers, because there is almost no more manufacturing of such products here, simply because these sectors have been abandoned and left to emerging countries.
So now that we have virtually stopped manufacturing these products, we must ensure that the products we are sold respect the environment, and that is where the problem often lies.
During the holiday season, there is the issue of all the toys that contain lead and all the problems Canada has because it has not passed strict enough regulations and has allowed countries to produce goods that we would never dare produce here. We let them produce such goods, then we buy them. We also let these people distribute equipment produced in other countries that is no longer in keeping with how we see the environment and how we consume goods and services.
|| Similar technical changes—still with reference to clause 3—are proposed for subsections 5(2)(a) and 5(2)(b) and subsection 5(1). In addition, this clause allows in certain circumstances for an exemption from the requirement to provide information related to the energy efficiency of energy-using products, while leaving in place the requirement for shipment and importation information.
It is a bit complicated, and I would say that that is unintentional, at least I hope so. In any case, I have confidence in my colleague from Trois-Rivières, who, in committee, will be able to ask the witnesses the necessary questions to ensure that these requirements are really intended to facilitate information sharing.
So once we know that all or nearly all consumer products and equipment come from other countries and we realize that some products and equipment do not comply with our energy efficiency standards, we need to make sure with this bill that there are no loopholes. The Conservatives like to try to introduce a bill and allow, say, the oil industry to get off scot-free. It is a bit like when they talk about their carbon exchange and use 2010 as the reference year.
Members will recall that the Kyoto protocol sets 1992 as the reference year. This means that all the industries in Quebec—the aluminum smelters and paper plants—that reduced their greenhouse gas emissions in relation to 1992 levels and succeeded in meeting the Kyoto targets will have to do so all over again in relation to the Conservative government's proposed new reference year of 2010 or 2012, even though they had achieved what no company in Canada had managed to do.
That is why, day in and day out, week after week, we in the Bloc Québécois rise in this House to make it loud and clear to all the other parties that they must not forget that the effort has already been made in Quebec. In Quebec, the large manufacturing companies have made efforts and are prepared to comply with Kyoto, but it is a different story in the other Canadian provinces, especially with oil companies and tar sands. In a way, it is sad to always have to stand up for the people of Quebec.
We too would like all the members of this House to understand what manufacturing industries and other industries in Quebec—the logging, aluminum and paper manufacturing companies that have made efforts to achieve the Kyoto objectives—are going through. If an international carbon exchange was established, they would be ready to sell their credits because they have exceeded the objectives of the Kyoto protocol. They could be making money as we speak. The environment is no longer only costing money; it has become a source of income, an area of economic interest. Now, the environment is a money maker, provided one puts in the necessary effort.
After all the efforts that have been made in Quebec, the Conservatives are suggesting that the clock be reset, proposing a new reference date of 2010 or 2012. We will start over, and the industries with emissions lower than at the reference date will be allowed to issue emission credits. We can imagine what this means for the logging, aluminum and manufacturing companies which have already made the necessary efforts. They are being asked to make an additional effort. That is why we are saying that the government has to provide compensation to those who have done better than everyone else and are being penalized.
As I mentioned earlier, when the Conservatives introduce a bill, they once again cater to polluters. They are going to warn oil companies that the year 2010 or 2012 will be the starting point, and that they will have to reduce their emissions. If the companies do that, they will be eligible for those credits. They will not even have to buy them, because they will be in a position to sell them. For those who are following this issue, it just does not make any sense.
However, this is not funny for aluminum plants, for paper mills and for all the companies that anticipated this move. The companies that wanted to sell a product abroad told themselves that they would make an effort and be conscientious. They had decided to comply with the world target set in the Kyoto protocol, with 1992 as the reference date. However, because of a decision made by the Conservative government, these people will forever pay a price, this in an already difficult economic context. Once again, the Bloc Québécois has no choice but to rise day in and day out in this House to condemn the Conservatives' way of doing things.
So, this bill seeks to amend the Energy Efficiency Act, and it is meant to be an environmental act. The Conservative Party even claims that it is part of its green plan. The nice Tory green plan that will save the environment. Still, it is a first step and it means that the government is doing something. Indeed, there are problems with electric household appliances. We import a lot of those appliances. We buy them from countries that do not have the same environmental standards, and it is only normal to impose labelling provisions. Things must be clear when these appliances arrive in Canada. We must know about their energy consumption. If they do not comply with the standards, they should simply be sent back, or they should not be bought. This is more or less what this bill seeks to do. If it does not do so in its present form, we can trust the hon. member for Trois-Rivières that it will once the committee will have dealt with it. That is the objective. This legislation will help us make progress regarding the environment. Hon. members can trust the Bloc Québécois to achieve the objective set in this bill. We are going to make sure that the process is free of “Conservative” diversion or secrecy.
Clause 4 makes several technical wording changes dealing with the records and documents that dealers must keep. In the current section 7, the documents and records must enable the minister to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information. Under this bill, they must be sufficient for the Minister to do the verification.
I agree with my colleagues who spoke before me about this bill or asked questions. This bill ought to have been amended and there should be adjustments to the legislation every five years. Industrial changes happen very quickly. The government therefore needs to be sure it can monitor the situation in order to have the legislation tailored to technological developments in the industry.
This should be done automatically. The minister wants to change the definition through clause 4 by adding the term “sufficient” relating to the documents and records the industry needs to provide. He has noticed that he was not getting what he needed to support an informed decision. So, as I said earlier, clause 4 targets the dealers, all the importing dealers who purchase products or have them manufactured offshore, very often in developing countries not required to respect the environmental standards we have set for ourselves. So if we do not have all the details we need about the manufacturing process, content or energy efficiency, it becomes rather difficult to know if the product complies with our standards and conditions.
It is therefore normal to want to cast some light on this clause. It is a matter of semantics, but does add a bit more rigour to this legislation, which probably ought to have been amended very promptly five years ago and so is likely to be totally out of date. Once again, I rely on my colleague from Trois-Rivières and my fellow members of the Bloc Québécois who will sit on the committee to ensure that this bill develops along the right lines and is adjusted as developments in the industry take place.
Clause 5 broadens regulatory powers, one of the main amendments that Bill S-3 would make to the Energy Efficiency Act. This clause amends the Governor in Council's regulatory power. The Governor in Council will now be able to implement regulations that target categories of products, not just individual products; products that control energy consumption; and products that affect energy consumption. It also amends the English version of the Act.
With respect to labelling, Part III will give the Governor in Council broader, stronger regulatory powers over all of the information included with energy-using products. Previously, the Governor in Council could regulate only information about energy efficiency. Once again, the definition has to be broadened to make it stronger. Labels will now include all of the details.
These measures were deemed necessary because it is clear that the industry, importers and dealers have done everything in their power to not reveal true energy consumption numbers so that they can sell products that cost less to produce. They did everything they could to claim that their products complied with the law even though they did not. That is one of the advantages of this bill.
However, the Conservative government must not try to use distractions to pull a fast one on us. Once again, I am counting on my colleague from Trois-Rivières and other Bloc Québécois members who will ensure that the right questions get asked in committee. Clause 5 will also make some changes.
Clause 6 is about the report to Parliament. The second major amendment relates to the minister's responsibility to report to the House of Commons. Usually, the minister has to report on the implementation and enforcement of the bill once a year. Clause 6 adds a provision requiring the minister to compare Canada's energy efficiency standards to those of the United States and Mexico every three years. The purpose of the comparison is to demonstrate the extent to which the stringency of Canadian standards matches that of the other jurisdictions. I think that is a good idea. As I said earlier, things are changing quickly in the industry.
Since I see that I have only a minute left, I will close by saying that people can count on the Bloc Québécois members, who will work hard in committee to promote the idea of a potential obligation to review the legislation every five years. This situation is very important, and it is being submitted to our colleagues so that we can guarantee our citizens that what happened in the past will never happen again. People are trying once again to conceal information and use labels that do not meet standards, in order to achieve their own goals. I can assure you, Madam Speaker, of our full support for Bill S-3, but with the improvements that the Bloc Québécois will propose in committee.