Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, given that we do not know much about the contents of the hazardous material generally referred to as diluent, I have been doing some research into this. The hon. minister is telling us in her speech that we can ship oil safely by supertanker, but none of the current proposals for shipping Canadian fossil fuels to other countries actually deal with shipping oil. They all deal with shipping something called bitumen, which is not flowable and has to be mixed with something called diluent.
For example, the proposal by Enbridge called the northern gateway would bring supertankers up the B.C. coastline loaded with this diluent that it buys from the Middle East. It is off-loaded at Kitimat and then sent through a twinned pipeline to northern Alberta where it would be mixed with bitumen instead of upgrading it and refining it in Alberta. It is mixed with this diluent material, which is essentially a petroleum distillate called naphtha, which is mixed with benzene and which I have also discovered is mixed with butane. We do not actually know the chemical composition of diluent because it is more of a trade name. It is a commonplace term. It does not have a scientific meaning. It is definitely toxic. It goes two ways. If we were to allow this monstrous scheme to proceed, we would first ship it in, mix the bitumen in, and ship it out through a pipeline. We have no idea what is in those pipelines or in those railcars as the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic with this Bakken crude showed us.
I would ask my friend for any comments with respect to what he has been thinking in terms of whether we really know what is in those pipelines.
David McGuinty: Mr. Speaker, there is clearly a debate about what is or is not and what the effects would be of this diluted bitumen with respect to pipelines. The debate is raging when it comes to existing pipelines, for example, when it comes to the question of Line 9.
I have a lot of constituents in my riding of Ottawa South who live just on the fringe of the existing location for the reversal of the flow of Line 9 from Sarnia to Montreal. They have some really serious questions about whether or not a 35- or 36-year-old pipeline can withstand some of the toxicity the member alludes to with respect to this new product that is going to be flowing through it. The pipeline company assures us that the science is complete in this regard. I am not a scientist but there is one thing I know about science and that is that science is never complete.
There is a real opportunity here for us to hear more from experts at committee to find out whether or not we have a good handle on the type of diluent that is being used, the potential noxious effects, what happens if there is a spill, and what the effect would be with respect to the acidity and corrosiveness of pipelines. There are a lot of important questions that we should be asking as responsible legislators. The government has a majority at committee. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the government to make sure it calls the right experts so that we can actually hear the evidence.