Bill C-57 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Herb Dhaliwal Liberal
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Business of the House
June 20th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer the question of the hon. member about the business of the House for the foreseeable future. Like most people I would not want the attendance of the opposition to dwindle any further next week than it has this week, so I do not think we should venture on that ground too much.
First, I express my thanks and that of my predecessor to members on all sides of the House for their co-operation in making progress on the government's legislative program since January. I say so on behalf of myself, perhaps myself once reincarnated, and of course my immediate predecessor as well.
This afternoon we will consider government Motion No. 30 concerning the Special Joint Committee on a Code of Conduct, and we will do it tomorrow if necessary if the item has not been disposed of by then. We will then return to Bill C-58, the Canada pension plan legislation. If there is any time left, and subject to further negotiation with hon. members and officers of all parties in the House, we will then return to Bill C-55, the public safety bill which some but not all members have expressed enthusiasm in passing. Should there be time we will then return to Bill C-57, the nuclear safety bill.
It is my intention to inform colleagues about our agenda upon our return in early September. I have done that in previous years, contacting members a few days ahead of time so party critics could be available when debate resumed. I intend to do the same when the House resumes in September.
Meanwhile, Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to wish you, our staff and all hon. members my very best wishes for an interesting, fruitful and, to a point I hope, restful summer.
Business of the House
Oral Question Period
June 13th, 2002 / 3:05 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I understand that many members would have suggestions about the government business over the next few days. However, in the absence of hearing all that, I will inform the House of the following.
We will continue this afternoon tomorrow with the following: Bill C-53, the pesticide legislation, to be followed by Bill C-58, the Canada pension plan investment board bill and any time remaining on Bill C-55, the public safety bill.
On Monday we will begin with a motion by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to refer to committee before second reading the bill on first nations governance that he will introducing tomorrow, notice of which is already on the order paper. We would then turn to report stage and third reading of Bill C-54, respecting sports. We would then turn to the specific claims bill introduced earlier today and any business left from this week, that is the bills I named a moment ago.
We would also like to debate report stage and third reading hopefully of Bill C-48, the copyright legislation and, subject to some progress, I would also like to resume consideration at second reading of Bill C-57, the nuclear safety bill.
In addition, it would be the wish of the government to dispose of the motion to establish a special joint committee to review proposals made concerning the code of conduct for parliamentarians.
This is the list of legislation that I would like to see completed over the next several days.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
June 4th, 2002 / 5:40 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
I inform the hon. member for Laurentides that she will have 12 minutes left for her speech and that she will have a 10 minute period for questions and comments, when we resume debate on Bill C-57.
It being 5.44 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
June 4th, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-57. At first glance, it looks really short. In fact, it amends only one section of the act, but the fact that it is short does not mean that it is not important. It is extremely important, since it deals with nuclear energy. It frees banking or financial institutions from any liability with regard to site decontamination as a result of the use of nuclear energy.
This bill is especially important for Ontario. There is a concentration of nuclear power stations in that province. It is important because people are increasingly afraid of nuclear energy, not only here, but around the world.
Mr. Speaker, you certainly know that 32 countries produce nuclear energy in the world; several of them have greater concentrations. Such is the case in Ontario.
In Quebec, there was a plant in Gentilly. It is still in operation, but in the years following its construction, environmentalists were very worried. There even was an expansion project, Gentilly 2. I must say that people are still concerned.
Nuclear energy creates nuclear waste. I am very open to hear the explanations of those who could reassure me and reassure the public with regard to the effective disposal of nuclear waste from these plants. Few people can do that. I challenge those who know or those who can read scientific studies to tell us beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no problem with that. The Government of Quebec had strong enough concerns to decide not to further develop this industry. It decided to focus on hydroelectricity instead. It is true that we did have the potential for that.
I think we made a very good decision. Of course, Quebec was able to go in that direction because of its rivers, which opened up this possibility.
The member for Matapédia—Matane talked about a sector of interest to him, that of alternative energies such as wind energy that is being produced as an experimental project in his area, more precisely in Cap-Chat. This form of energy is beginning to have some success, which is promising, and it is worth investing in this industry.
The member for Sherbrooke has brought this issue to our attention in caucus. He is calm but forceful, as members have no doubt noticed. He has a lively humour, but he is still calm but forceful. He seldom gets all worked up, but he usually has very strong arguments when he needs to convince the Bloc Quebecois members that they have to pay attention to something, that they should not get excited and that they should remain calm. We should never get people excited. We should not dramatize and scare people.
At the same time, it is good and I think that it is also our mandate, to represent the people, who are concerned about the importance of this issue and about potential risks, even if they do not exist at present. Before further developing this type of energy, we should try to obtain more scientific information on the best way to eliminate nuclear waste. There is not much scientific information on this. Therefore, this is still a concern.
At one time, in the 1970s, and we still do this but with much less enthusiasm as we can see, Canada was selling Candu reactors to some countries that are now making headlines internationally. I mention this because as member of a subcommittee of the standing committee on foreign affairs, I deal particularly with the Asian issues, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois.
Let us talk about what is happening now between India and Pakistan. Let us ask ourselves the following question: how is it that these two countries seem to have a nuclear capacity? And they seem to have more than a capacity, because they are even carrying out nuclear tests. Where did they get this nuclear energy? Plutonium is required. We know that it is possible—this has been demonstrated—with inputs or outputs from nuclear plants, to use these materials to make something else, potentially bombs. What we are seeing now between Pakistan and India, with Kashmir at stake, is barely veiled threats from both sides. The people in the region and everyone else are extremely concerned.
What about the problems, the leaks that have occurred in nuclear plants, particularly in the former U.S.S.R., affected the neighbouring countries? In Canada, I am convinced that the people can feel safer. It must feel safe. I do not think there is a concern. There is a good framework.
I agree with the member for Sherbrooke: we should not scare people either. However, as far as the world nuclear industry is concerned—I read some articles just recently on the subject—there are no guarantees with regard to climate change.
In my are and in Quebec, we all remember the ice storm. We wonder why we had an ice storm that lasted so long and that caused so much damage. I read many international newspapers, perhaps because of my involvement in foreign affairs since the last election. We see more and more disasters that are related to the weather.
No need to go far from home. Members can just think about the water level in the St. Lawrence, which is abnormally low. What happens when this occurs?
You will, of course, be thinking “Here we go again, the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière is going to talk to us about his ships and shipbuilding, and all that stuff”.
Yes, but at the rate things are going with the water level on the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec City, we are soon going to have to develop another kind of ship, one that draws less water, because there has to be more dredging done to do away with the sandbars and debris at the bottom of the river.
Why? Because the water level is dropping. Why is the water level dropping? Because of climate change in the world, the continent or the country. There is global warming. One just needs to listen to the science programs; the glaciers are melting.
Kilometres of the glaciers are melting away. There is the ozone layer and then there are the greenhouse gases. These are of such concern that in Rio, in 1984 I think it was, thought was given to an international protocol to deal with greenhouse gases. This led to the Kyoto protocol, in which Canada committed to doing something about greenhouse gases.
However—and I am bringing this up as a lighter note, which is sometimes a good idea—the Prime Minister once told us a few years ago that “Canada is the best country in the world”, but this best of countries is the one that pollutes the most per capita, as far as greenhouse gases are concerned.
Someone will counter with the comment that China produces more than the United States, and yes it does overall. However, given its land mass and its population, taking the two together Canada is the biggest polluter per capita and per square kilometre as far as greenhouse gases are concerned.
That being the case, of course we encourage the government of Canada, the federal government, to respect its commitment to the Kyoto protocol.
However, we saw what happened: there was September 11; there was a change of government in the United States. What do we see now? We see that the Government of Canada is trying, if not to please, at least not to irritate the Americans, who have decided not to bother with the Kyoto protocol. That is very serious.
The Government of Quebec is trying to be heard because we, in Quebec, have chosen hydroelectricity, because we have experimented with wind energy in the Gaspe Peninsula and in the Lower St. Lawrence area, because research shows that it is worth investing in renewable energies that are not dangerous, or at least in energies that we can control.
In this regard, I certainly encourage the member for Matapédia—Matane, because he is absolutely right. I visited Cap-Chat, even though wind turbines are used elsewhere also. I am trying to see the kind of pollution that can be created by any wind-powered structure.
When it rains, it does not create any problems. I did not see any emissions, any gases. There is absolutely no negative aspect, apart from the initial argument as to whether it is effective or not. Is it worth the investment? More and more, the answer is that it is very promising.
The Bloc Quebecois believes that it would be worth investing $700 million a year in wind energy as a renewable source of energy.
Some might say that I am talking about a different issue. Who could make this? Of course, it takes large companies. For example, the Davie shipyards have a great deal of experience in building oil platforms and very large structures. They build these structures all year round and they can weld them together. They have all the electronic processes and they would be able to do it. There is also Bombardier. There are other businesses that could do this.
It is windy in the Gaspé Peninsula. At times, it is terrible. If we travel from Matane to Forillon park along the coast and we are camping, we need good stakes for the tent, because there is a lot of wind down there.
The wind is terrible when the weather is not nice and it is cold. At the same time, just think of the energy available, of the incredible potential in the Gaspé Peninsula and the Lower St. Lawrence. Why not develop wind energy? It is not dangerous; there is a lot of space. In Quebec and in Canada, there are businesses that can produce what is needed. We have the technological capacity. We have the expertise and the brains to devise plans and do research.
Why not? We spent $3 billion on the Hibernia project. I have been watching the situation in Lévis for years. We were hoping that the Davie shipyard could make a contribution. It could have done so for some components. But no, it was Newfoundland. Sure, Granted, Newfoundland also has the right to get government contracts and to benefit from government investments. We are not jealous of Newfoundland. However, when it is Quebec's turn, in the hydroelectricity industry, we cannot get a penny from the federal government. When we had a problem with hydroelectricity, as was the case during the ice storm, the federal government did not contribute one penny, because it was a crown corporation that was asking for help.
The government says “Quebecers are always upset”. But the facts speak for themselves. There was not one penny for Hydro-Quebec. Yet, this was a major crisis.
We are not asking to take anything away from Newfoundland, to punish Newfoundland and not to give anything to Newfoundland any more. We are asking for something on the same basis for Quebec, namely $700 million per year for an energy that has extraordinary potential.
I do not want to speak louder, because you will accuse me of being a windbag. I do not need to, because there is plenty of wind in the Gaspé. There is a lot of wind all year long. The member for Matapédia—Matane has never been once in the Gaspé without it being windy. It is a strong wind that comes from afar.
In the Magdalen Islands, there is the tourist industry. However, since the minister—she did not to so personally, she is inheriting problems from her predecessors—made cuts into employment insurance, seasonal workers in the tourist industry have been affected. The Magdalen Islands, what a beautiful place. There are wind generators there already and there could be more. It is even more windy than the Gaspé. This is awful, but it is also an extraordinary potential for the wind energy sector. Why do we not think about these safe things? They are renewable. From what I have heard, wind is renewable. Every month, there are wind actions from nature.
With regard to hydroelectricity, we know that it affects the fauna and flora. Sometimes aboriginal populations are disrupted, as any population, when they have to be displaced. Ecosystems are displaced. This can have a non measured and perhaps a hardly measurable effect, but there is one. A water body releases vapor and so on. But wind energy only displaces wind.
I am passionately defending the Lévis shipyard. However, when I hear the hon. member for Matapédia—Matane talk about the potential of wind energy, I have no choice but to agree. With his exemplary calmness, the hon. member for Sherbrooke is saying that we should be careful not to scare everyone. Personally, I say let us use safe energy for the future.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
June 4th, 2002 / 4:40 p.m.
Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-57. In my view, the amendment in this bill is designed to exempt backers from liability vis-à-vis nuclear energy.
Paragraph 46(3) of the act says:
--any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
This will be replaced by:
—any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
What this amendment would do is exempt backers from liability in the nuclear sector. This assumes that companies which make loans to those who manage nuclear facilities will no longer be liable. They will be able to make loans without subsequently assuming liability for any contamination. When these sites are abandoned, they will have to be decontaminated in any event. We know that this will have to be done at most sites.
We are saying that backers will not be held liable. A company could declare bankruptcy tomorrow morning, disappear, and responsibility would revert to the government. The government would have to assume responsibility for decontaminating the sites in question. There have already been many problems in the past, including with sites which had gas facilities. The companies disappeared, and today the government has to take over responsibility.
In my riding, we had a recent, very obvious example. It involved copper dust contamination. A company in Murdochville, in my riding, has just closed down. This company had used the Mont-Louis and Gaspé ports. Right now, these two ports are owned by Transport Canada; they were extensively contaminated by copper dust. Today, people are calling on the government to decontaminate these facilities.
This amendment is proposing that we tell backers “Go ahead. Make a loan to the company. No matter its responsibility, no matter what it will do. In the end, if it goes out of business, the government will take on the responsibility”. I cannot agree with this proposal; I find it very dangerous and very risky.
Quebec, however, has been asking companies for years now to assume their responsibilities vis-à-vis the environment. The Bloc Quebecois hopes that the Kyoto protocol will be ratified; we even think that this protocol does not go far enough. We must get it into our heads that the environment is very important; the future of the planet depends on it. It is as simple as that.
I will tell you what has been said by the present natural resources minister, who has also been the fisheries minister. Concerning this bill, he said the exact same thing I just said, except that he is the one introducing and supporting this amendment. It explains very clearly what the bill is all about, and it shows that the liabilities of investors in the nuclear industry will be removed. The minister said, and I will quote his press release:
These companies must have access to commercial credit to finance their needs, like any other enterprise, said Minister Dhaliwal. This amendment will allow the nuclear industry to attract market capital and equity. At the same time, we can continue to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
The minister said “At the same time, we can continue to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner“. For a minister to say such things, it means he is wondering. Is this the way it will happen in the future?
Really, we can say this today, but what will really happen five, ten, or twenty years from now? In 20 or 30 years, when nuclear plants are decommissioned, who will be held responsible? The investors? The amendment says they will not. Will it be corporations that will probably have disappeared in the meantime?
Ontario Hydro and the New Brunswick utility are government corporations, but, if they are privatized, as could happen in Ontario, they will become private corporations.
We are very well aware that a private business can disappear from one day to the next and can therefore deny its responsibilities, totally abandon its responsibilities, particularly if it is a foreign company, that is one whose financing is mainly from out of the country. These people can just take off and forget all the problems they may have created and left behind them.
We are experiencing a similar situation in the riding of Matapédia—Matane, and just next to it, in Gaspé, with the events in Murdochville.
I personally am a member of the fisheries committee. What I would like to say concerning this amendment is that we should apply the same principle to it that we apply to fisheries. In fact, where nuclear energy is concerned, we should apply what is termed the precautionary principle, that is the principle applied to endangered species in the fisheries field.
If the government really wanted to apply what is called the precautionary principle, the amendment we have before us would never have been introduced. Hon. members will of course have understood that I am totally opposed to the amendment we have before us.
I would go beyond that, however, because this is an amendment that opens a very significant door to the creation of companies producing new types of energy. As for the investments that have been made in recent years into nuclear energy, I would point out that this is not a type of energy that can be considered clean. It produces such a lot of waste, and that waste cannot be processed at the present time. It must be stored and stockpiled.
At this time, there is even a proposal to import and try to process waste from other countries. We know that development of a real technology for handing nuclear waste will take years. We know that attempts have been made in the past. The Americans dumped drums of heavy water into the Pacific, and into the Atlantic as well. This constitutes a very considerable environmental risk.
I come from a region that is a little bit different. It was in the forefront when hydroelectric power was being produced 50 years ago. It is a region that is in the forefront today as far as new types of energy are concerned, because we have wind generators in two locations. We produce wind energy at Saint-Ulric and Cap-Chat, where the facilities have been operating very well for some years.
The first wind generator was set up in the Magdalen Islands 25 years ago. People may not remember this. Hydro-Québec had done some experiments. Another one was set up in Cap-Chat. One cannot say that they were a success, because the technology was not developed at the time.
However, since then, the technology has developed. It has evolved to the point where there are two wind energy production plants today in my riding, and there will soon be another one in the neighbouring riding.
We, in the region, were aware at the time—and we still are—since, as far as possible and with the means available to us, we developed clean energy.
Even today, with the Université du Québec à Rimouski, we are quite far ahead in the development of new energies, such as wind energy, among others.
The federal government recently announced a totally minor investment in the wind energy sector, compared to what it is investing and has invested in fossil energies, as well as in nuclear energy.
This is a minor investment, because it will obviously not promote the development of new technology. It will allow for one thing: to get technology somewhere else and implement it here.
However, this does not really create jobs. It does not really create a synergy to support the development of new energies.
I would simply like to remind the House some numbers. My colleague from Verchères—Les-Patriotes gave them earlier, but it is very important to take note.
Since 1970, direct federal grants to the oil industry—which is one of the most polluting industries and which produces the most greenhouse gas, given the automobiles and the oil that is used—totalled $66.272 billion.
Let us imagine that the federal government had invested $66 billion in the production of new energies and the development of technologies allowing us to have new energies. Where would we be at? We would probably be the most advanced country in the world in terms of new energies.
Today, it might be easier to adopt the Kyoto protocol if, in the past, we had invested as much in new energies as we did in oil. This is very obvious. It is very difficult for people to understand. I do not know anyone in this House who has ever had a billion dollars in his pockets. I do not think anyone has, except perhaps a few people, but they are keeping quiet about it.
I find it very hard to imagine an amount of $66.272 billion. It is a lot of money. This means that huge amounts of money were invested in oil, for the benefit of two provinces: in western Canada, Alberta with the tar sands, and in the east, Newfoundland, with the Hibernia project. It is simple. It is essentially these two provinces that benefited from these $66.272 billion.
Let us also not forget the infamous energy policy proposed by the Trudeau government for oil. Remember its impact in Quebec. We must not forget the Borden Line, which almost killed all businesses in the Montreal region when the issue of oil and the development of the Arthabaska tar sands came up.
I also want to point out that, as regards nuclear energy, we are talking about $6 billion. Again, it is very difficult to imagine such an amount. What does $6 billion mean in concrete terms to people? It is very hard to imagine, but it is a lot of money. These are the amounts that have been invested since 1970.
If we had invested only $6 billion in new energies since 1970, instead of the $66 billion to which I was referring earlier and which were invested in the oil industry, we would be much further ahead in the production of new energies.
I am always going back to the amendment before us. This provision removes the responsibility of businesses, of major banks in the area of nuclear energy. Today, we would not have this problem. Perhaps it would not be necessary to have the amendment now before us if we had invested enough in the production of new energies.
As regards this issue, the Bloc Quebecois proposed a plan. I just toured the region I come from with the Bloc Quebecois leader. We made a very concrete proposal. This concerns only what I just said about new energies, the public's responsibility and the responsibilities of lending institutions and businesses when it comes to using any source of energy, including metals, mines and the environment.
I remind members that we have a similar problem with the closing of the Murdochville mine, where one company has developed copper for 50 years and polluted the area and the environment for the same amount of time. I can assure the House that it will be extremely difficult today to force this company to decontaminate the environment and the river that it contributed significantly to pollute as well as the Bay of Gaspe.
I therefore cannot support such an amendment, which tsays that we are taking the responsibilities away from the lending companies. I certainly hope that those companies lending money in the nuclear energy area will have a certain responsibility. They should be held accountable if there were disaster or a leak in a nuclear plant.
I would like to come back to what I was saying earlier. If the federal government, which as we know is investing almost $12 billion in Hibernia, were now to invest $700 million for the development of new energy sources, like wind energy for example, what immediate consequences would that have? It would create 15,000 jobs in an area like mine. We already have an expertise in this field. Moreover, this is an area where the unemployment rate is close to 27 or 28%, and that has been the case for years because our area has been abandoned by the government, as we know, as all the so-called remote areas have been in the country.
With a small investment of $700 million, we could create 15,000 jobs in the new energy sector. We are talking about wind energy. It is not enough to go get the technology somewhere else. It is not enough to install two or three wind turbines on a hill. This is not what we are suggesting.
We are proposing developing our own technology, which will continue to evolve and grow. We could create 15,000 jobs as early as tomorrow simply by investing $700 million. Imagine, we have invested $60 billion for oil and gas in this country. We are only asking for a $700 million investment, which would allow us to improve our environmental record. This would improve our record when it comes to greenhouse gases.
What are we being told? “We will invest a small amount over a much longer period, over five or ten years”. However, this is almost nothing. What does $25 or 30 million over five years represent in this field? It is a pittance compared to the $60 billion that I referred to earlier. It is a very small amount compared to the $6 billion invested in nuclear energy since 1970.
Who benefited from nuclear energy? A few provinces. My colleague talked about this earlier, there are three provinces that really benefited from nuclear energy.
In Quebec, we developed hydroelectricity. This is a clean, renewable source of energy. We developed hydroelectricity solely with funds from Quebec and from Quebecers. There were no federal subsidies to develop hydroelectricity, yet in Ontario and elsewhere in the country, the government spent a fortune. Six billion dollars to develop nuclear energy. Six billion dollars, which benefited the other provinces. Why were Ontarians not asked to pay for the development of their nuclear energy, the way we did in Quebec, instead of subsidizing them? In my opinion, it is because the federal government has always been biased.
The federal government has always made sure that Quebec makes do without any help. We continue to pay for the other provinces. When it comes to the Kyoto protocol, it is the same thing.
What is being proposed today, is that after having contributed $60 billion to develop the oil and gas energy, and $6 billion to develop nuclear energy, there are problems with signing the Kyoto protocol. The government is realizing that it will not be able to meet the objectives. Why will we not be able to meet the objectives? Because we have spent a fortune developing oil instead of investing sufficient money to develop new energy sources.
Let us take a practical example like developing an electric vehicle. How much money has the government put into developing a new battery for a vehicle that would run on electricity?
Right now, Quebec is losing its only vehicle assembly plant, the GM plant in Boisbriand. Were the federal government a little more conscious of its responsibilities, it could invest in the technology for building an electric vehicle. It would be important, since it is a promising technology. We know that all manufacturers are working on that. We—and I am referring to the federal government here—are doing nothing in that area.
We are having problems with ratifying Kyoto because we did not make any investments in the past. Let us look to the future, take our responsibilities and make massive investments in new energies. Let us at least try to correct the mistakes made in the past. We must ensure a better future for our children. The government created this situation; it should fix it.
Knowing that the government has invested $6 billion of public funds in nuclear energy, I think that it has largely contributed in creating the problem. The same goes for petroleum energy.
When one invests $60 billion in an energy that one knows is not clean and not renewable, one has to take responsibility, and this responsibility belongs to the government.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
June 4th, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the previous speaker. He has a good grasp of a broad topic, probably much better than my own.
The bill before the House is a very brief amendment. I am not sure we are here today to discuss the entire nuclear energy program or what might be a nuclear energy program across the country. However I am concerned that the bill before the House is being introduced at a late time in terms of our summer recess.
Bill C-57 should be studied by committee of the House, especially the environment committee. I am greatly concerned that the liability for an industry with sites in only three provinces across the country would be taken away, whether in Quebec with Hydro Quebec, in Ontario with Ontario Hydro, or in my own province of New Brunswick with the New Brunswick Power Corporation. New Brunswick also has Point Lepreau which is considering renovations, improvements and a revisiting of the strength of the facility.
I urge members of the House not to pass the bill through the House too quickly. It should be well studied. We have had problems before in terms of who is liable. The entire situation concerning the tar ponds in my neighbouring province of Nova Scotia seems to fall on the provincial government which argues that the major liability rests with our federal institutions.
I commend the hon. member for his knowledge of the industry. In considering the importance of the decision to the people of Canada and the future liabilities of the federal government, it is my strong recommendation that Bill C-57 go to the environment committee for study and come back to the House at a later time.
Business of the House
The Royal Assent
June 4th, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to)
The House resume consideration of the motion that Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, be now read a second time and referred to a committee.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
June 4th, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.
Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the amendment proposed in Bill C-57. I already had the opportunity to deal with this issue a number of weeks ago.
First, I want to discuss the very substance of the amendment before getting back to the more general context of the bill that includes this proposed change. The amendment seeks to change a provision on the responsibility relating to the decontamination of sites and the storage of waste. It seeks to amend a part of section 46(3) of the act, which reads as follows:
—any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
This provision would be replaced by the following:
—any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
This amendment essentially provides that a group, primarily the financiers, who used to be included in the provision on the decontamination of storage sites, would suddenly be excluded. Under this amendment, financiers are no longer covered.
It appears that the investment related risks would be much too high for financiers to be interested in such a venture. If the risks of investing in traditional nuclear energy are much too great for financiers, should we not ask ourselves whether these risks are also too high for a society such as ours?
I am now getting to the core of this issue. The very essence of this bill raises a number of philosophical questions. I mentioned this during my previous remarks on this legislation: in the past, the federal government made a choice regarding the energy sector. It is now up to the government to change that choice, but it seems reluctant to do so.
So, the government made a choice that it wants to maintain against all odds, and I will get back to this in a moment. But the government did make a choice to invest massively in traditional nuclear energy, in nuclear fission. This choice is definitely not a safe choice. It is definitely not an environmentally friendly choice, since it results in the production of a large quantity of hazardous waste. It is difficult to isolate this waste properly.
We must now pick up the pieces. We must adopt effective legislation that will allow us to deal with the waste that is the result of the choices made in the past.
I know some people on the other side, and maybe even on this side of the House, will call us paranoid, but we have to acknowledge that, in the past, the government has generously financed some energy groups that favoured other provinces and some regions in the country, especially western Canada in the case of oil. The federal government has invested more than $66 billion since the 1970s. In 1998-1999, the federal government gave $78 billion in direct subsidies.
When I hear our friends from western Canada criticize the federal government's energy policy, I recognize that there might be some legitimate dissatisfaction in their arguments. However, when we look at the more than $66 billion in investments by the federal government in the oil industry since the 1970s, I do not think that western Canada can complain about the federal contribution to its economic development, particularly in Alberta.
As for the traditional nuclear process, that is nuclear fission, the federal government has invested some $6 billion in that area since the 1970s.
It is therefore $6 billion for the nuclear industry, which, for 1998-1999, represents an investment of some $126 million, or more than $100 million a year invested by the federal government to promote the development of the traditional nuclear industry, that is nuclear fission, which is located mainly in Ontario.
When we look at these figures and compare them to the money invested by the federal government in the so-called green energies, that is renewable energies, it is $329 million since the 1970s. So, $329 million compared to $66 billion for the oil industry, which produces very high levels of greenhouse gases. For the nuclear industry, which produces great quantities of dangerous radioactive waste, it is $6 billion since the 1970s. For the so-called green energies, it is a meagre $329 million.
One could say that since the 1970s, the federal government has lacked a vision in terms of energy development. If this were the only problem, we could be saddened but tell ourselves that it is never too late to do the right thing. However, this government will not budge. Not only has it not learned from the past but it continues to invest massively in fossil energies like oil and in nuclear energy, while investments in so-called green energies remain almost nonexistent. I think we should also be concerned about that.
Most recently, investments in the oil industry development in Newfoundland have reached $3.8 billion. These investments were not made in the early 1970s but fairly recently. The development of energy sources in western Canada, in Alberta, Ontario and Newfoundland in particular, were generously financed. While investments in renewable energies remain almost nonexistent, this government acts as the champion of the environment. It should put action to its words.
For instance, what energy choice did Quebec make? It decided to invest in a renewable, green, and environmentally-friendly energy: hydroelectricity. How much did the federal government invest to support Quebec's efforts in the development of hydroelectric energy? Almost nothing, if anything at all. Quebec supported alone the development of its hydroelectricity.
Now, if the Kyoto protocol is ever ratified, they will want all Canadians and Quebecers to bear the cost of a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, when for years Quebec has been making tremendous efforts on its own to develop an environment friendly energy supply and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, while other provinces like Alberta show a net increase in the production of greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade. The government would like the cost of the 6% reduction to be shared by Canadians across the board, regardless of the efforts made in the past without any support from Ottawa.
However, if this was only a record of what had been done in the past, once again, we could be saddened, but we could say that there is hope. On the contrary, the situation is only getting worse. Of the meagre $329 million invested in the renewable energies sector since the 1970s, the federal government had invested a few tens of millions of dollars in nuclear fusion, which is the energy of the future. I will come back to this in a few moments.
Governments of industrialized countries are investing massive amounts in nuclear fusion. Canada once invested about 1% of the amount spent on nuclear fusion research worldwide. However, through its partnership with the other countries taking part in this research, it benefited fully from the technological spinoffs of nuclear fusion.
In the early 1990s, after this government came into office, in 1994-95, using the fight against the deficit as an excuse, if I can put it that way, it decided to cut its annual contribution of about $7.2 million to the nuclear fusion program. We are talking about a federal government investment of more than $100 million in the traditional, highly dangerous and not environmentally sustainable nuclear fission industry, and a meagre $7.2 million in the Tokamak activities, in Varennes, in my riding, which was the only nuclear fusion reactor in Canada.
As I said, under the pretext of budgetary restraint, the decision was made to cut the $7.2 million allocated annually to the operations of Tokamak at Varennes.
The result is that the Varennes Tokamak operation very shortly closed down, since the government of Quebec could not support it on its own. To all intents and purposes, the Canadian government has definitively abandoned nuclear fusion as an approach and has in a way just stood back and watched the rest of the world get ahead of us.
The day nuclear fusion becomes feasible as a source of energy, Canada will, to all intents and purposes, become a net importer of a technology which it has helped develop at the cost of several dozens of millions of dollars.
Such an unwise use of public funds, given that it is generally acknowledged that the federal government would recover in tax revenue far in excess of its annual investment in nuclear fusion, given the technological spinoffs of the development of nuclear fusion.
What shortsightedness, saving $7.2 million that would have been spent on a form of energy for the future, simply because, or so it appears, they want to favour energy from nuclear fission in Ontario, and Ontario is a better place to invest.
It is politically more advantageous for the Liberal Party. Moreover, the results are visible: 99 MPs out of 103 is not to be sniffed at. In other words, in Ontario it is very cost-effective to invest in Ontario in this type of energy that is extremely harmful to the environment and highly dangerous: nuclear fission.
When the government made the decision to pull out of nuclear fusion, we asked it why it was so intent on reducing, eliminating, rejecting the nuclear fusion approach?
The answer was that there were some hard budgetary choices to be made”. Obviously,we did not expect there would be some $10 billion in annual surplus accumulating just a few years later. So this was really a shortsighted decision.
Anyway, what we were told was “We had some hard budgetary decisions to make as a government, so we decided to cut nuclear fusion. Hey, that's life”.
The minister of natural resources of the day, now Minister of health, told us loud and clear that fusion was not a government priority as an energy project. How can one reconcile that statement with the statements made by the government as it signs the praises of renewable energy and of the Kyoto protocol and so on?
What is really a source of concern though is that after having been told repeatedly—indeed, we were told by her successor at the Department of Natural Resources, the current Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and by the current Minister of Natural Resources—that nuclear fusion was not a government priority, there seems to have been an attitudinal shift. I was stunned to find out, after the Tokamak project folded up, that the experts that we had developed with our taxes—I am referring to the brains that we had developed in our universities with the taxpayers' money—had to leave the country to use their knowledge.
There was no room left in Canada for these people to use their knowledge. So, we forced them to leave the country. The Varennes Tokamak project was completely dismantled. Once that was done and the Quebec government had barely managed to maintain a very small program to continue minimal research on nuclear fusion, with the available means, so as to preserve the technological expertise that had been developed in the area of plasma and microwaves, I was stunned to learn that the federal government was injecting $1 billion annually in a project that is not supposed to be part of its priorities, this to promote the ITER project in Ontario.
What is the ITER project? It is a project to build a nuclear fusion megareactor, and it is sponsored by an international consortium. All of a sudden, the federal government is interested in seeing this nuclear fusion megareactor on its territory. I would remind members that, according to the former minister of natural resources and her successors, nuclear fusion is not a priority of the government.
The federal government shows an interest in nuclear fusion and is prepared to welcome the $12 billion ITER project on its territory. It is a major project. Where will the site be? In Ontario. It is becoming more and more interesting. The government is starting to see it as a priority. It is willing to invest some money.
As if that were not enough, it was reported in the National Post on May 23 that the defence research and development agency is trying to reproduce an American experiment that would allow for the efficient production of clean low cost energy through nuclear fusion.
Those who are watching will agree with me that the government is starting to show its true colours. This was not a priority of the government at the time when the centre of excellence in nuclear fusion was located in Quebec, but now, after having caused the closure of the centre for magnetic fusion in Quebec, the government shows a sudden interest in the ITER project in Ontario. All of a sudden, national defence is starting to want to reproduce American experiments for the production of energy through nuclear fusion.
I would like to ask this question to our friends in the government. Is fusion a priority of this government, yes or no? Has the government changed its policy with regard to nuclear fusion because Quebec no longer has a centre of expertise in that area? Has fusion suddenly become an interesting form of energy again because it can now be developed in Ontario?
This is simply despicable. This is simply outrageous. Is it any wonder that some people in Quebec say that the best way to ensure our development and our future is to take our destiny into our own hands and achieve sovereignty for Quebec?
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
June 4th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.
Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS
Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party to tell the government in no uncertain terms that we oppose Bill C-57.
I will tell the House exactly what the bill means. It amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to limit the current liability provisions related to the cost of a cleanup stemming from an incident impacting the environment. I just want to point out that a nuclear mishap is not an incident. It is a major catastrophe. To put the word incident in there is simply very misleading to the Canadian people. One only has to be reminded of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island to understand that when we screw around and make a mistake with anything nuclear we are affecting not only the lives of potentially millions of people but we are affecting the environment as well.
As currently defined in subsection 46(3), any person with an interest in the affected land or facility is potentially liable for the cost of cleaning up any contamination resulting from an incident, and there is that word again. This includes not only the owner and operators but also a mortgage lender or a holder of a security interest in the land. The proposed amendment would narrow the scope of the potential liability to include only “the owner or occupant...or any other person who has the management and control”.
This means that if the province privatized it and sold it off to someone, the new owners potentially may be responsible for everything surrounding those particular power plants and the province more or less would get off the hook. It is inconceivable that the government would attempt to do anything in this regard. I want to give credit where credit is due to Howard Hampton and the provincial Ontario NDP for the strong work they are doing throughout the entire province to tell the people of Ontario exactly what privatization of the hydro would do.
Let alone the concerns already expressed by the previous speaker about the environmental issues, let us see what happened when we privatized hydro facilities. In Nova Scotia we were told that when Nova Scotia Power was privatized we were going to have lower rates and cleaner efficiency rates. We were going to have everything better. The sun would shine even brighter. What happened? More and more people are falling by the wayside because they can no longer afford to pay their electrical bills.
What does Nova Scotia Power want to do now that it is privatized? It wants to introduce a 9% increase to power rates to appease the shareholders. It has completely abandoned its responsibility to businesses and citizens within the province of Nova Scotia.
I can assure the House that the mistruth, the stretching of the argument, more or less, because I cannot say that three letter word in the House and I will not, will be that if the nuclear plants of Ontario Hydro are privatized things will be much better for the Ontario consumer. Life will be better and the sun will shine brighter. We have heard this over and over again. It is simply not true. What will happen is that rates will increase, businesses will suffer, and individuals, especially those on fixed incomes who cannot defer those higher costs in electrical rates, will go elsewhere. We will not see anything from that government to help retrofit homes or make buildings more efficient. No, it will say that the government is not in the game any more, that it is up to the private sector market to solve all those problems. It is simply unacceptable that the government of Ontario and, for that matter, the federal Liberal government can treat the people of Ontario in that manner.
On the environmental side, I want to speak on a personal note, not on behalf of the party. I have opposed the use of nuclear power ever since I was a wee kid because of the potential changes and the risk that it poses. I cannot help but think about what we heard after September 11. What did we hear that was one of the things we would have to protect with CF-18s? Nuclear power plants. There was even talk of putting these planes right next to these power plants to ensure that no terrorist would attack them or blow them up.
Everybody knows exactly what would happen if Point Lepreau in New Brunswick or the Pickering plant had meltdowns. That would be absolute catastrophe for the country and for the world. It would be unbelievable. Chernobyl was bad, but we can imagine how much worse it could get.
I would like to say to the workers and families of the power unions and the people who work in those plants that the NDP is not saying we would cut them off tomorrow and throw them out on the streets. It is a long term vision to reduce our use of nuclear power throughout the country. We should start looking seriously at what countries like Denmark have done and what Germany is doing. We should start looking at alternative forms of energy. Denmark now gets 16% of its energy from wind. There is no reason that we could not do the same in this country.
What we are saying to the workers and their families in those communities is that it would be a gradual phase-out and that we would look after them when the changes come. The changes have to come because there is not one person in the House, in the country or on the planet who can tell anybody what to do with nuclear waste. We are talking about burying it in the Canadian shield. What solution is that? We have absolutely no way to handle or contain nuclear waste in a safe way, and forever too.
We have no idea what to do with it, but I can say what we do with something called depleted uranium. We coat weapons with it and fire it into the oceans and onto the land. There is a woman named Susan Riordon, from Yarmouth, whose husband, it is suspected, died from depleted uranium. All the medical authorities in North America are saying that depleted uranium is not a hazard but medical authorities in Europe are saying it is. We have conflicting evidence about depleted uranium and what I have talked about is just a small amount of it.
I cannot leave the House without saying how duplicitous it is about the tragedy that may befall India and Pakistan. The fact is, it is no coincidence that we rushed the sales of Candu reactors to those countries many years ago. It is no coincidence that they used the expertise around those Candu reactors to help build up their nuclear arsenal.
What was done a few years ago when Sergio Marchi was the environment minister? He changed the law literally overnight in order to give China an over $1 billion loan to purchase two more Candu reactors. What do we think China is going do with those Candu reactors? It as well will build up its own nuclear arsenal down the road.
Canada cannot wash its hands clean on this one. We have to stop selling Candu reactors around the world, stop this reliance and stop the subsidization of Canadian tax dollars in promotion of this industry. What we should be doing is promoting much more environmentally sound industries, industries that we can all look to for a very bright future, especially for our children. All we are doing right now is making it easier for the private marketplace to take control, but in the end these corporations will have no responsibility.
If something happened to one of those plants under private control, I can guarantee that the owners of the plant would walk away. Who would be left cleaning it up? It would be the taxpayers again, the Canadian people. It would be just like Enron all over again. The shareholders would disappear and say that it is up to the government. Where would the people turn? They would not turn to the private corporation, which is generally foreign controlled and owned. They would go back to their elected representatives.
Therefore I would like to tell those elected representatives to throw away Bill C-57 and start looking at alternative forms of energy so that we can look forward to a future for our children.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
June 4th, 2002 / 3:25 p.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. We have many concerns about the bill. Some of them have been enunciated by our environment critic, the member for Windsor--St. Clair. I would like to elaborate on those comments and indicate to members present our grave concerns about the bill.
First, let us be clear about what this bill would do. Although it may be short in length, the bill very clearly would limit the current liability provisions related to the cost of a cleanup stemming from an incident impacting the environment. It is very much a serious issue in terms of the environment, nuclear energy and the whole area of privatization.
I forgot to mention, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore.
As currently defined in subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, any person with an interest in the affected land or facility is potentially liable for the cost of cleaning up any contamination resulting from an incident. This point is relevant to the debate at hand because the provision includes not only the owners and operators but also a mortgage lender or holder of a security interest in the land. That is the way the act now reads.
The amendment before us today, through Bill C-57, would actually narrow the scope of potential liability to include only the owners and operators. It seems to me that we are dealing with a fairly significant issue, something that is worthy of considerable debate in the House. Yet the Liberal government would actually have us believe that this is simply a housekeeping bill to correct a flaw in existing legislation and would like it fast tracked with little debate and no study by committee.
It seems to me that this is becoming the preferred modus operandi of the Liberal government of the day: fast track legislation, keep the public out of the process, limit debate and keep study of important issues to a bare minimum. It is certainly a pattern we have seen repeated over and over again in the House and one which we hope will come to an end. Perhaps with this bill the government may see the wisdom of allowing for some debate and thorough consideration.
I will focus on part of the concerns we have with this bill. As I mentioned, my colleague from Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore will pursue our further concerns.
Is it not interesting that just days before we know the parliamentary session will end, the government brings forward a bill, last Friday to be exact, asking the House to give support for its swift passage because suddenly time is of the essence. We do not believe this matter can be treated lightly.
We have some serious concerns and it will be very difficult for us to accommodate the government agenda and to accommodate a request caused of its own doing by waiting until the last minute to bring this forward and ask for our consent. It is not possible for us to facilitate this unilateral, arbitrary attempt by the government to bypass the committee process and to silence debate.
We are dealing with a rather significant issue. We are talking about the loosening of regulations in the nuclear industry and lending our support to a bill that facilitates the privatization process. These issues are far too important to be dealt with in such a cavalier fashion and we will certainly try to send a clear message to the government in this debate.
I would like to focus on the privatization issue because it is clear that the bill is intended to facilitate that process. We are talking about privatization in Canada's nuclear industry. That fact is absolutely clear. The matter is plain and simple.
Let me go through some of the points that embellish this fact.
In the short term the bill is targeted to assist Bruce A and B nuclear generating plants in Ontario. We all know that Bruce Power is Ontario's largest independent generator of electricity. It is in effect foreign owned, with the predominant manager being British Energy, the United Kingdom's largest electricity generator. As was pointed out earlier, as a private operator, Bruce Power must raise capital by borrowing from the banks. However because of the current wording in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, banks are unwilling to lend to Bruce Power because of potential liability.
We also know that Bruce Power has been investing in its operations. It has opened up four of the nuclear reactors and wants to open up the remaining four. It is projecting its investment to reach close to $2 billion over the next four years. Through the government, it is seeking a way to facilitate its accomplishment of the project. It is seeking, through Bill C-57, to allow Bruce Power to maintain its investment and provide capital for expansion.
It is very unlikely that banks would lend money even with the proposed changes, as the property would not likely be seen as viable collateral in any event. We must also consider that this sector is unlikely to ever turn a profit in any case. However we have to be very vigilant on this issue and very concerned about the ramifications of an amendment that would actually narrow the scope of liability for those involved in the nuclear power industry.
As it now stands, liability is already limited to only $75 million under the Nuclear Liability Act. Many would certainly argue that the industry is already unduly protected by legislation and needs tougher liability laws not weaker ones.
The federal government clearly seems intent on supporting the privatization of the nuclear industry. In fact the Minister of Environment has already stated publicly that he is not concerned about the privatization of Ontario Hydro. Clearly Bill C-57 would facilitate the expansion or greater participation of private utilities, particularly with regard to nuclear power generators.
In conclusion, and before I turn it over to my colleague, on behalf of members of our caucus we are very concerned about the bill. We will be monitoring the process very carefully because we absolutely oppose any attempt to deregulate and privatize our public power utilities and any measures that contribute to that.