Hon. Judi Longfield (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Housing, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to join in this debate today. By way of setting the stage, I would like to remind members that I represent the riding of Whitby--Oshawa in the region of Durham. The region of Durham is home to General Motors and to the head office of BMW Canada.
My constituents are concerned not only about the health of the auto industry in Canada but also the health of the environment. The government has made a commitment to Kyoto and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of working with all sectors, it is extremely important that we get a general buy-in from the public.
My problem with the motion on the floor today is the notion that the only way to achieve any reduction in greenhouse gases and the only way to get the auto industry to comply is through a mandatory regulatory regime.
I spent a number of years in the education profession working with people. It has always been my view and understanding that if parties can sit down and negotiate a settlement, they feel they are part of the solution.
I talk to members of the automotive industry on a regular basis. They have never suggested that they do not want to be a part of the solution. The fact that we are currently in negotiations says something about the state of the relationship between the auto industry and Canadians and government. I am not just talking about General Motors or Ford. These negotiations involve all groups. The member across has told us that Toyota is in his riding. It is one of the parties at the table, together with Ford and General Motors and many others.
The automotive industry is a very competitive industry, but it has managed to get by that for the common good. It understands that good economic policy is not exclusive to good environmental policy. The industry wants to be a part of the solution.
A voluntary company average fuel consumption program has been in place for many years. I would like to give the House a couple of facts which the opposition does not want to acknowledge. Since 1986, passenger cars have averaged 8% better than the voluntary CAF targets; 2003-04 passenger cars averaged 8% better than the voluntary targets; and light trucks were 3% better.
There has been an improvement, but perhaps not as great as we would wish. That is why we are now currently at the negotiating table. We are talking about approximately five megatonnes. Nobody in the industry would say that is not an appropriate amount to be asked to reduce. Industry is asking us to find ways to do it, and it may not necessarily be through a regimented mandatory system. There should be an opportunity to put various things on the table.
The suggestion that somehow industry is bad and never wants to do its part belies the fact that currently there are about 14 memorandums of agreement in place with respect to the automotive industry. Industry is not reneging on those. There has been compliance. To suggest that if we do not have mandatory requirements, there will not be compliance shortchanges the industry.
A suggestion was made that we on the Liberal side are only supportive of big business and big corporations to the exclusion of the environment. I would remind members that big business needs the very people that they say they represent, workers and families. They are my constituents. I want them to have good jobs. I want them to have a clean and healthy environment. I am a mother with a child who has asthma and allergies. I want to see a better and cleaner environment. All sectors need to work together to see that happen.
We should also put on the table that while no one is suggesting that the emissions from autos are not causing some problems to the environment, I would also indicate that one cord of wood burned in a fireplace this winter will create more smog-causing emissions than the entire lifetime emissions produced by 10 Tier 2 SUVs. In fact one would have to drive 37 new Tier 2 SUVs around the earth's circumference to equal the emissions from one cord of wood that is burned. There are a number of things that we are doing in every day life that are adding to smog or emissions. Any approach we take has to take all these things into consideration.
One could paint a room, use one gallon of oil-based paint, and that would generate more smog than a Tier 2 vehicle moving from Toronto to Vancouver and back. Are we going to suddenly say that there are mandatory limits on how much paint an individual can use? No, but it is important and appropriate that we get the message out in terms of some of things we are doing with the one tonne challenge, to indicate to individuals what they can do.
It does not matter what kind of a vehicle an auto industry produces. The fact is someone has to buy it. I do not think we want to limit people's choices. What we should be doing is putting forth the options that if a person buys this, these are the benefits to the environment. At the same time, I am encouraging my government to look at ways we can encourage people to do the right thing, to look at making comparisons about the advantages of buying vehicles that are much more fuel efficient.
To suggest that we do not have an auto strategy is ludicrous. Talk to Ford. It knows we have an auto strategy. General Motors will soon know that we have an auto strategy. We are working very closely with those people, and part of it is for research and development so they can continue to put a better, more efficient vehicle on the market for all of us.
I am a little concerned that somehow we are painted as being anti-environment and against reduced emission strategies. I want to see this happen. I want to see it happen in many areas, but I do not think we should be picking on this one and saying it has to be mandatory. We need to work together. I would encourage us all to continue to work together to try to get what is best for our children and future children. That is part of the reason why Canada signed on to the Kyoto accord. It understands and appreciates that if we sit back and do nothing, what will we leave to future generations?
One party across the way says that this is job-killing, that this is inappropriate and that we should not be doing it. The other says that we have to regulate and make it mandatory, that we should not have a buy-in, that we should not get people to understand that everybody needs to do their part. I would challenge members on one side to say, “Have you met the one tonne challenge? What are you doing to promote it? What are you doing in your own daily lives to assist?”
I am not here as an apologist for the auto industry. I am not saying that we should let it off the hook in terms of coming to the table, of doing its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and of meeting the challenge that we have put before it in terms a five megatonne reduction. We absolutely need to do that. Do we need to be tough at the negotiation tables? Absolutely, but we do not need to be so entrenched that there is only one way to do this. I think through voluntary negotiation we could achieve the very targets the member wants to see happen.
Topic: Government Orders