The SVAO: Dedicated to the protection and preservation of Specialty Vehicles
Notes for remarks
I want to thank Ray Spencer (Chairman, SVAO) and the organizers for inviting me to speak today with the members of the Specialty Vehicle Association of Ontario.
This is one of my first speaking engagements as Minister of the Environment, so I want to take this opportunity to tell you about myself and how I view Drive Clean and other environmental protection programs and issues.
Perhaps the best way to start is to put my new role into the context of my work as parliamentary assistant - first, to the Minister Responsible for Native Affairs, and then to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. I should also mention Crimebusters, which I established as a way to use the Internet to fight crime in the city of Scarborough, which includes my riding of Scarborough Southwest.
The common thread running through these roles is my strong belief in the importance of safe communities. This means not only safe streets, but also safe air to breathe and water to drink. I want to people to have confidence in the ability of their government to work with its partners to address these safety issues effectively. Drive Clean is an integral part of our strategy to fight smog and other forms of air pollution.
Before telling you more about what is covered under Drive Clean, I will tell you what you know already - that the program does not apply to cars that are 20 or more model years old. I know this is a special concern for your group, so and I want to reassure you of this exemption right at the outset.
Quite frankly, we have had some complaints - by phone, by letter and by email - from people who see older cars as "stinkers" that are a big part of the vehicular pollution problem. There are several reasons why we don't share this view.
Older vehicles represent about three per cent of Ontario's car fleet. Of these, to be sure, there are so-called stinkers on our roads. But some of these cars are in such poor mechanical condition that they will not be in use for long.
Also, the worst polluters on the road - the visible emitters - are targeted by our smog patrol program. These vehicles can be ticketed or even taken off the road.
Many older cars are in the hands of people like you - vintage car collectors. I know that you take great pride in your ability to keep these automobiles in the best possible shape. Is it okay for me to say it's an obsession? Your vehicles are extremely well-maintained and are, in general, driven only occasionally and for short distances.
We also recognize the particular circumstances you face as owners of older cars. Some weren't originally equipped with pollution control equipment. Parts can be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.
Considering the small percentage that older cars represent, as well as some of the considerations I've just outlined, we believe it would be inefficient to concentrate on them. And cars newer than four model years are much less likely to fail the test.
I should qualify this by saying that any car, up to 19 model years, must be get tested when it is sold. This protects the consumer because it can be far more costly to fix pollution problems in newer cars if they are the result of, say, a failure of the on-board computer.
Another concern for you is specialty vehicles, including kit cars, rebuilt cars and hot rods. Under the program, they will receive limited pre-tests, consisting only of a visual inspection for the presence of a gas cap. For the actual emissions test, specialty vehicles will be tested using emissions standards for 1980 model year vehicles of similar size.
Since some of these specialty vehicles have engines that are much older than 1980, my ministry plans to adjust the emission standards accordingly, in the near future. I am also having staff examine whether there isn't an even better way to deal with the 400 or so kit cars registered in Ontario.
As with older vehicles, specialty vehicles are not a focus of Drive Clean because of their relatively small contribution to smog. We believe we can get more environmental improvements out of Drive Clean by focusing on cars in the four to 19-year-old range.
I'd now like to turn to those improvements...the results we're seeing through Drive Clean.
The latest figures I have, which cover up to a few days ago, show that more than 1.3 million light-duty vehicles have been tested at 1,037 accredited Drive Clean test facilities in the program areas - the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton-Wentworth. Roughly 85 per cent of the vehicles tested passed the test.
You may also be aware that, beginning September 30 of last year, we are requiring annual emissions tests for heavy-duty diesel vehicles province-wide. Dirty smoke from these vehicles is one of the most aggravating aspects of smog. We have about 560 accredited facilities to test heavy-duty diesel vehicles. We also have about 118 facilities to test heavy-duty non-diesel vehicles in the GTA and Hamilton-Wentworth.
Interestingly, we're finding that, when it comes to heavy-duty vehicles, diesels are passing at a rate of about 94 per cent, while non-diesels pass at a rate of just over 71 per cent.
While we don't have adequate data yet to assess the results of the heavy-duty inspections and repairs, we know that - during its first year - Drive Clean reduced smog-causing pollutants from light-duty vehicles in the program areas by about 6.7 per cent.
Bear in mind that these numbers have been achieved while testing less than one quarter of the vehicles that will eventually be covered under Drive Clean. So we're well on the way to achieving the program target of reducing smog-related emissions in program areas by 22 per cent when Drive Clean is fully implemented in southern Ontario in 2004.
Drive Clean is only part of a larger strategy to protect Ontario's air. We believe everyone has a role to play and we are working with Ontarians from all walks of life - not just drivers - to improve our air quality.
As you may be aware, my predecessor, Tony Clement, announced a series of measures on January 24 that will help us all breathe easier. The key measures include mandatory tracking and reporting of all harmful air emissions by industrial and commercial emitters, as well as tough new emissions limits for smog and acid rain causing pollutants.
We recognize that automobiles, trucks and buses are an important source of contaminants that contribute to the smog that affects our urban centres, but we don't see the point in targeting older cars and specialty vehicles. They simply are not a big part of the smog equation.
In fact, I see common values between your hobby and environmental protection. As car collectors, you are engaged in conserving tradition. You pay close attention to detail and are conscientious in your work. These are also the traits of people engaged in environmental protection. This is why I believe your group is an important partner for my ministry in the protection of Ontario's air, water and land.
I look forward to finding new ways to work with you on behalf of our common goals: a well-protected environment and clean, healthy and prosperous communities.