Bill C-57 (Historical)
Westbank First Nation Self-Government Act
An Act to give effect to the Westbank First Nation Self-Government Agreement
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.
Bob Nault Liberal
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
December 3rd, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.
Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4, the reincarnation of Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The bill is necessary to correct a clause that prevents a debt financing by the private sector for the nuclear industry.
Lenders such as banks and other financial institutions are refusing to consider approval for loans to the nuclear industry because the section in the current act makes the lenders liable in the instance of a nuclear spill.
The passage of Bill C-4 is critical to addressing concerns over greenhouse gas emissions, that is if the concern on the part of the NDP and Bloc are genuine.
Opposition to the nuclear energy system stems largely from the lack of understanding of how it works. I shall do my best to demystify the technology.
In 1905 the great physicist, Albert Einstein, showed theoretically that mass and energy were equivalent. It was more than 30 years however before scientists discovered the immense energy that could be released by transforming matter into the fission process. A Hungarian physicist, Leo Szilard, took out a patent on a device that would develop enormous energy from the nucleus from a chain reaction based on a neutron capture process involving the release of more than two neutrons. Although he had no idea of whether this would work in practice, the concept was exactly how a nuclear reactor works.
Next came the discovery of the fission process itself. In 1938 two Germans, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman, reported the puzzling result that when they bombarded uranium with neutrons, barium and crypton were always produced.
Shortly after, Lise Meitner and her nephew Otto Firsch noted that barium has 56 protons and crypton has 36, yielding a total of 92 protons, the same as uranium. This clue led them to deduce that the uranium atom had been split or had undergone a process known today as fission.
However there was something even more astonishing. In splitting the uranium atom, there was an enormous release of energy.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
October 22nd, 2002 / 3:30 p.m.
Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC
Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity on two occasions to speak to the bill formerly known as Bill C-57, which is now Bill C-4. This means that I was able to speak to this bill for more than 80 minutes. Now we must discuss the amendment put forward by my colleague from Jonquière to hoist this bill.
The last time I spoke to Bill C-4, I could not even finish because there were too many arguments in favour of its withdrawal and particularly in favour of a broad debate on the nuclear industry.
Today we have only ten minutes to speak to the amendment, and I must tell the House that this whole debate about the privatization of the nuclear industry could be postponed to a certain extent. We know that the purpose of this amendment proposed by the government is essentially to eliminate barriers to the privatization of the nuclear industry.
We have never had real debates on whether we should continue to invest in the nuclear industry and continue to try to fix, at an extravagant cost, nuclear generating stations that are in bad shape.
Privatization makes it easier to re-open nuclear plants that were quite rightly shut down. It also opens the door to the costly development of nuclear energy in Canada. I will digress for a minute. Atomic Energy Canada is for all intents and purposes a government entity. We can already see the emerging conflict of interest.
Obviously, we must look at reducing nuclear waste. Last year, we debated Bill C-27, regarding the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste. We have compelling evidence that this waste may last for years, even thousands of years, and we do not know how to dispose of it properly. We do not know how to lessen the potential impact on the environment and human health.
Continued reliance on nuclear energy increases even further the risks of environmental accidents, not only those linked to nuclear waste, but also all sorts of other accidents that might occur. Cases in point are Three Miles Island, Chernobyl and others. We also have national and international security concerns due to potential terrorist acts as well as the use of nuclear reactors to make nuclear bombs.
Since 1997, when the Nuclear Safety and Control Act was drafted, section 46.3 of the act in some ways limited the possibility for businesses or financiers to invest in nuclear energy. People say it was a drafting mistake. However, neither during the debate nor in committee was that ever mentioned. It can be easily said—not claimed, but said—that at the time the government was trying to prevent the private sector from investing in a major way, to promote nuclear energy. At that time, there was no debate either on whether or not we should continue to invest in nuclear energy, much less about private investment.
In the world we live in in 2002, we realize that an increasing number of countries are getting out of nuclear energy. The majority of countries in western Europe that use nuclear energy, except for France, have decided to stop doing so mainly because of the lack of solutions for disposing of spent fuel containing 1% of plutonium; this is true too of states relying heavily on nuclear energy such as Belgium where the percentage is 50% and Germany where it is 30%.
Promoters of nuclear energy often say that this form of energy is the solution to the greenhouse gas issue. We know that 30 per cent of Germany's energy used to come from the nuclear industry. Today, by terminating its nuclear program and its investments in the nuclear sector, Germany will have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. This is a high figure, considering that Germany will have been able to do this even without 30 per cent of the energy it used to get from the nuclear sector.
It is totally false to say that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is closely linked to the use of nuclear energy. As I have already said, nuclear energy brings its own long-term and very long-term problems. I will give a few examples.
Carbon 14 is a radioelement which can remain radioactive for as long as 5,500 years. Mr. Speaker, you will no longer be there to verify that carbon 14 is no longer radioactive. I can even tell you that you will no longer be there to see those thorium 232 elements which can remain radioactive for 14 billion years.
In 1997, no attention was given to whether or not to continue with nuclear energy. Now there is, but obviously they had refused to allow the private sector to invest in nuclear energy. Today, people are increasingly withdrawing from this sector. There were some pressures at that time, mainly from members of the public who refused to allow the transportation of plutonium, of MOX, through their communities. In addition, in Canada, the Seaborn report also pointed out the vigorous opposition of the general population to the burial of radioactive waste. If the population is opposed to the burial of nuclear waste, we should not support the passage of legislation promoting the financing and development of nuclear plants in Canada. These plants would produce even more nuclear waste, which could be expected to generate even more opposition among the public.
In light of what is happening today in all European countries, Canada should finally take a stand, once and for all, on the development of nuclear energy. We have learned recently that even the Swiss, much of whose electricity needs are met by nuclear plants, are going to make a decision on their nuclear program. Right now, Switzerland is the third most nuclear energy dependent country in the world, after Lithuania and France, with 40% of its electricity coming from nuclear plants. The Swiss will soon have a referendum to decide whether to maintain the existing moratorium or phase out nuclear energy by gradually closing down their five nuclear plants by 2014.
Today, we have before us a motion that this bill be postponed indefinitely, and that emphasis be placed on priority action. We should hold a comprehensive debate and consult the general public and organizations promoting renewable energies.
We realize more and more that renewable energies are here to stay. This industry creates thousands of jobs. For the same amount of energy production, it creates many more jobs than the nuclear industry. Wind energy can create many more jobs.
Renewable energies tap resources that are almost indefinitely renewable, like the sun, wind, water and the biomass, as well as energy sources from the depths of the earth.
To conclude, I urge the government to withdraw this bill and to hold a comprehensive debate on the future of nuclear energy in Canada and on the investment we must make in renewable energies.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
October 10th, 2002 / 6:20 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Mr. Speaker, in speaking to the motion to hoist the bill, I always accuse the government of being naive, but perhaps I was a little naive on this one.
In the last session we had the opportunity to see this bill in its prior incarnation as Bill C-57. As I was reviewing some of my notes for today, I looked at some of the comments of the member for Davenport. He asked his own government to take another look at this. My naiveté is that I thought the government might take another look at the bill over the summer and not bring it back, or if it did bring it back, it would be in a significantly different form that would not have allowed for the removal of the liability that extends presently under the act to people who are financing the development or rebuilding of nuclear plants in the country.
Perhaps this is asking too much of them, but I thought they might take a look at an overall comprehensive energy plan. That would have required them to look at the Kyoto protocol and map out in quite significant detail an implementation plan. In addition, it would have required them to do what England has done, which is to develop a long term energy policy.
There are two parts to that. It would require them to do an inventory of our energy sources in the country now, what we would continue to have from whatever sources, and then decide with very detailed recommendations any plan of how they would phase out heavy polluters such as coal and other fossil fuels, how they would phase out the nuclear industry over an extended period of time, and how they would phase in the available alternative sources of energy that require some technological development but in most cases simply need a plan of implementation.
On looking at experiences in Europe and other countries we can safely say that they are moving along those lines and are a decade to a decade and a half ahead of us. That puts us in a very bad position in terms of developing our technology as opposed to having to buy it from Europe or other countries over the next decade or two.
As I said, I expected that we would see some very extensive proposals and plans from the government. Obviously we did not get them.
The attack we have seen against Kyoto centres on the incompetency we are seeing from that side of the House. They are unwilling to face the reality that we need that type of long term planning and are refusing to carry it through. We hear the Prime Minister, for instance, saying that it is no big deal, that we have until 2012 to have the implementation plan in place. I do not know if he really understood how erroneous that was in terms of the requirements we have to meet under Kyoto. It is just dead wrong in a number of ways. We have to do a lot of preparatory work well in advance of 2012.
His comment a couple of weeks ago also reflects the attitude that this is something they will do, probably because of the political pressure in the country. However it reflects that the Prime Minister and the government do not care a lot about the quality of life we will live if we do not deal as quickly as possible with climate change and global warming. It reflects a real unwillingness either to face that reality or to have the sensibility to understand the need to get started right away.
There is lot of criticism of the government. The start of this should have been four or five years ago when we first signalled that we would ratify Kyoto. We were the first country in the world to sign on and we are one of the last countries in the developed world, with the exception of the United States, to begin to deal seriously with the issues surrounding Kyoto.
One of the reasons this hoist motion should go ahead is that the matter would be put off. It would give them another six months to begin to deal with it. I would have expected as part of that plan that they would have dealt with issues around the subsidies to both the nuclear industry and the fossil fuel industry. They continue to be granted to the fossil fuel industry and the bill is a reflection of those subsidies.
I expected that we would have seen by this time a detailed plan of how in fact we are going to subsidize, provide incentives and give the creative juices in this country the ability to move to those alternative fuels that we so badly need. Again, we see nothing like that. It is a strong reason for putting off the bill. That would send a clear message to the government that it has to do this type of planning. It is not in any way simply a method of stalling out the bill. It really would be a serious message to the government to say that this is not the way to go.
Let me in the minute or two that I have left address one final point: the issue of privatization that the bill would permit and in fact encourage, specifically in the nuclear industry. We have seen just so many negative consequences of privatization in the energy field. We have seen some of it in our country. We now are experiencing it in this province. We saw it in Alberta and we will see more of it in the next few months and years. We saw it very extensively in the United States, particularly in California but also in a number of other states that had the same problems as they tried to privatize as well as deregulate the industry.
The bill should be pulled off the order paper, sent back for more work to be done on it and brought back in an entirely different format so that the issue of privatization would be addressed full on. This would make it very clear in our country that we are not in favour of privatization but that in fact energy sources and the energy needs of the country will be met by public bodies, not by the private sector.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
October 10th, 2002 / 12:40 p.m.
Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
The bill is necessary to correct a clause that prevents debt financing by the private sector for the nuclear industry. Lenders such as banks and other financial institutions are refusing to consider approval for loans to the nuclear industry because the clause in the current act makes the lenders liable in the case of a nuclear spill.
This week Ontario residents are opening up their electricity bills to find that the rates charged are double what they were on their last bills. This is due in part to power providers having to purchase electricity from the U.S. to meet the unexpectedly high demands during the summer just past.
Canada has the highest rate of taxes in the G-8 and that, combined with the government's seeming reluctance to pay down the national debt as fast as reasonably possible, have contributed to our dollar having just half the value of the American dollar. Therefore, Ontario electricity providers must fork over twice as much when purchasing power from the United States.
Units in two of Ontario's nuclear power generating plants have been out of service. It takes money to upgrade reactors and due to the flaw in the original legislation, capital could not be accessed to do the necessary servicing to get the plants working at their maximum capacities.
Ontario electricity consumers can also directly attribute their astronomically high bills to the federal Liberals' democratic deficit. Legislation is rammed through without proper scrutiny because of the concentration of power in the Prime Minister's Office. Committees have become mere tokens in the parliamentary system because Liberal MPs are herded in for votes without even knowing what the motion is about that they are voting on, understanding only that they must obey their whips or suffer retribution. Indeed, Parliament as a whole has become dysfunctional, not just tainted by the Liberal corruption but because Liberal MPs are not permitted to think for themselves.
If the government had drafted the Nuclear Safety and Control Act correctly the first time, fixed income recipients in Ontario, those on disability and CPP retirement pensions, may not have been put in the predicament they now find themselves in. To add insult to injury, the Liberals are making a killing on their negligence because GST is charged not only on the cost of the energy distributed but on the debt repayment portion of the Ontario hydro bill. That $5, $10 or $50 extra in GST might not be a lot of money to the members across the way who dispense cash to their friends and family in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but to the people in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, it symbolizes the disdain the Liberals have for everyday Canadians.
To exacerbate the situation, power companies are demanding payment two weeks sooner. This means that instead of a bill coming due on the eighth of next month, it is due on the 24th of this month. People in Ontario had no way of predicting this price hike. For those who do not receive an income cheque until the end of the month, the bills are due at the beginning of November and interest and late penalty charges will be levied on top.
Money borrowed for nuclear power producers also goes into science research and development. Significant research is being conducted into means of disposing of spent fuel and waste.
For example, just a few months ago at Chalk River Laboratories, we celebrated the official opening of the modular above ground storage facility. For AECL senior vice-president Dave Torgerson, and the project manager, Ken Philipose, it was a moment to mark achievement. The facility's supervisor, Murray Wright, demonstrated how the supercompactor works. Under the direction of Dr. Colin Allan, decommissioning and waste management methods are continuously evolving.
The question of long term disposal of spent fuel and waste is a hurdle in promoting nuclear power as a clean, affordable energy source. Power generated by our nation's Candu technology is the cleanest, safest, most efficient in the world. Whereas the burning of fossil fuel results in tonnes of noxious gases being released into the atmosphere, spent fuel from nuclear reactors remains safely contained in vessels. Currently, spent fuel can be safely stored for decades, but a long term disposal method is being pursued.
Nature is giving scientists clues into disposal methods, because at least 17 nuclear reactors exist in nature herself. For example, there is the Oklo uranium deposit in the West African country of Gabon. Due to the natural decay of radioactive elements, its concentrations were much higher in the past. Groundwater flowing through the deposit acted as a neutron moderator so that uranium fission reactions started spontaneously and continued for hundreds of thousands of years. The site at Oklo forms a valuable laboratory for studying how nature disposes of radioactive wastes from nuclear reactors. The fission products have long ago decayed to stable elements. Close study has shown that the stable daughter products have not migrated from the site and have remained remarkably immobile.
The Prime Minister has decreed that Canada will ratify the Kyoto protocol, a treaty designed to transfer wealth from Canada to emerging economies in Africa and other third world countries. He has stated point blank that consumers will bear the cost of Kyoto. Canadians will bear the cost in higher gasoline, natural gas and electricity prices.
In Ontario, where electricity bills have doubled already, people will not accept further energy increases, whether they be hidden taxes or openly categorized as some sort of green tax. GST revenues will snowball from the implementation of Kyoto. Factor Kyoto into gas prices, the possible conflict in Iraq, the already surging oil prices and the government is in for a GST windfall.
In addition to electricity to run our homes and businesses, the Canadian nuclear industry provides our citizens and people throughout the world with the gift of light. It is especially fitting that in October, Cancer Awareness Month, that we explain the vital role the nuclear industry has played in medicine. The science leading to cobalt therapy machines for cancer treatment was advanced through research activity surrounding the development of the Candu reactor. It gives people of the Ottawa Valley great satisfaction in knowing that MDS Nordion Maple reactors at Chalk River laboratories will continue to provide the world with over 70% of medical isotopes.
The technology behind MRIs emerged from the research done by scientists with the Chalk River reactor. Canada's own Bertram Neville Brockhouse won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1994 for designing the triple-axis neutron spectroscope and his use of it to investigate condensed matter.
Neutron scattering continues to generate knowledge about materials, which is key to the growth and improvement of many aspects of Canadian life, such as health. Neutron scattering reveals the structures of biological objects such as cell membranes, viruses, proteins, drugs, food, et cetera. Today, under the guidance of John Root of the National Research Council, the study of neutron scattering is thriving.
The fundamental questions of health, disease and life processes revolve around the way these molecular structures interact with each other. Neutrons provide a uniquely powerful method to get at this fundamental knowledge by looking at the materials in the realistic environments of excess water temperature and pH. This neutron scattering knowledge is completely non-destructive to the delicate biological materials and is a powerful complement to other methods where one has to dry out the material or make it into a crystalline form or alter the material by adding marker atoms.
Canadians have already developed a neutron scattering method to determine structures of simple viruses and to learn how viruses penetrate cell walls, the onset of disease and where a drug lodges in the membrane wall.
Construction of the Canadian neutron facility has yet to commence, which is another Liberal broken promise. The science generated through this project will help metallographers like Al Lockley, who analyzes microstructure of material to understand why things break, and will assist Ron Resmer in studying surface properties such as corrosion.
Making good on the 2000 election CNF promise is a necessary step in preventing future energy shortages. Bill C-4 will enable the private sector at home and abroad to partner with Canadians in the quest for neutron science.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
October 10th, 2002 / 10:35 a.m.
Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC
Mr. Speaker, before the interruption I was talking about the financing of the nuclear industry in Canada.
Large scale projects which sustain Canada's nuclear power industry cannot proceed without appropriate private sector debt financing, effectively discouraging domestic and foreign investment and the viability of future projects.
This amendment would limit liability to owners, occupants and persons with management or control of contaminated land, making the section consistent with Canadian environmental law.
The Canadian Alliance supports the removal of government funding of the nuclear sector. Without this amendment, the only investor qualified to invest would be the government, thereby possibly leaving Canadians liable for anything that happens in the industry.
A constraint on private sector financing in the nuclear industry remains a serious concern of the Canadian Nuclear Association. Subsection 46.3 of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act is considered a barrier to raising capital. The industry also recommends amending the Nuclear Liability Act, which the government has not looked into yet. The Canadian Nuclear Association contends that the government should do something about the Nuclear Liability Act as well, but it has ignored dealing with that.
Also, the association contends that issue of the third party cross-border liability has to be addressed. That has not been addressed yet.
We need to ensure private funding is available for the nuclear energy sector to remove involvement of government, thereby removing liability from ordinary Canadians.
This legislation could put the nuclear industry, which deals with this most serious and dangerous stuff, on par with other industries in providing overall safety for Canadians, which has not been a priority for the government for so many years.
Demand for products of the nuclear industry continues to grow worldwide. Products include electricity and nuclear medicines and therapies, for example, radioisotopes, et cetera. Fifteen to twenty million medical imaging and therapeutic procedures are performed each year in Canada.
We have perhaps 22 nuclear power plants active in Canada. We have sold Candu reactors to other nations around the world. Some of them have built nuclear bombs based on our reactor's technology.
Candus have the lowest marginal operating costs of western reactor design, that is, three cents per kilowatt hour. Approximately 13% of all electricity in Canada is generated by nuclear sources and is soon expected to be 20% after the restarting of six more reactors. It is estimated that the market value of that is more than $3 billion.
We are talking about an industry which has a brighter future and which has a huge dollar value attached to it. Many jobs may be created in this industry in the future. We have the potential to earn more and probably enhance trade with other nations. This is an important industry we are talking about.
Nuclear power reduces greenhouse gas and smog emissions, unlike coal. It may be debated; some people may say yes and others may say no, but the argument stands on both sides. Generally it is considered that nuclear power plants can be environmentally friendly. Nuclear power plants are considered among the most secure and robust industrial facilities and contribute to energy security.
Energy will be a main issue in this century. We need to prepare for that and encourage the industry to do proper research and development, ensure safety and enhance its output.
Although public acceptance remains a challenge to new nuclear power plants, for example, the new version of the Candu ACR, progress needs to be continually made on matters relating to nuclear fuel waste management.
The issue of terrorism may also be on the public's mind. Another issue is how to treat nuclear, radioactive and other hazardous wastes.
It would not be fair to treat the nuclear waste issue as only a domestic one. When I was a member of the foreign affairs committee a few years ago we studied nuclear proliferation. I heard many harrowing tales of how nuclear material was stolen in many of the former Soviet republics and exported by criminal elements around the world.
There were 73 different incidents of the smuggling of nuclear materials that were caught between 1993 and 1996. That is just in those three years. I will give some examples.
The Romanian police had in their possession 82 kilograms of radioactive material, which is enriched uranium. In another incident, Lithuanian officials seized 100 kilograms of uranium 238. In another incident, the Belarus committee for state security seized five kilograms of cesium 133, a highly radioactive material. The German parliament discussed how three smugglers offered it 11 kilograms of Russian weapons grade plutonium. Similarly, Greenpeace was offered 800 kilograms of scarred warheads for public display in Berlin. The list goes on.
We also know that nuclear material and technology is transferred from certain rogue states to countries around the globe that have nuclear ambitions. Both Iran and North Korea are examples of countries that are believed to have transferred nuclear technology and materials to the highest bidder. We all have heard about Iraq and its ambitions of securing nuclear warheads.
If Canada is not to become the weak link in nuclear proliferation, Canada's waste management organizations will need to examine security procedures, storage and disposal, et cetera, particularly when we are fighting a war against terrorism. Obviously the issue of security and the storage of nuclear material or waste is not just a Canadian issue. It is an international issue.
I want to give an example from my constituency of Surrey Central regarding the storage of radioactive material. We must ensure that the waste management organizations act responsibly in the storage and disposal of nuclear waste, including the federal Liberal government.
For over two and one-half decades my constituents have been exposed to radioactive and toxic materials in the heart of the community of Newton in Surrey which at one time was the fastest growing city in Canada. In June 1972 a firm in Surrey was licensed by the federal government to import niobium, which is an ore that contains radioactive thorium.
The imported ore was used in smelting operations. Tonnes of hazardous waste were ignored and left unattended in the open for four years, until 1976. It was 1984 before the federal government accepted responsibility for it. The federal government issued the licence. The material was imported and processed. The waste was left unattended in the open air.
No one was ready to accept any responsibility. The provincial government said that it was not the province's responsibility because the federal government had issued the licence. The material was on the property of the municipal government, but it could not do anything about it. Finally, after eight years the responsibility was assumed by the federal government in 1984.
What happened next? People in that area said that small children played on the radioactive material. People confirmed reports that some cows from a nearby dairy farm died because they were grazing in that area. The feds forgot about it and did not take any action until October 1989. For three years after assuming responsibility the federal government did not do anything.
In October 1989 a special task force was appointed on a voluntary basis. Imagine. The government knew about such a serious issue for a long time and it dealt with it by appointing a task force on a voluntary basis to deal with the storage, handling and disposal of that hazardous material, unprotected piles of smelter slag and contaminated soil lying in a corner at 7800 Anvil Way in Newton.
There are barrels of concentrated radioactive material rusting in CN Rail's Thornton yard and at other locations in North Surrey. I went there and took pictures. I saw the iron barrels in which the concentrated radioactive material was stored. It had been stored for so many years that the barrels were rusting and the material was leaking. The slag which was left in the open remained there for a number of years. The material was also used as a filling when a building was constructed on that site.
The federal government appointed on a voluntary basis an organization comprised of only two people to look after this radioactive material. The Surrey Siting Task Force consulted with the local, provincial and federal governments. The material was stored in a concrete bunker for 25 years, a quarter of a century. This was called temporary storage. My constituents were appalled when they listened to this story; radioactive material left in the open, then neglected and ignored and then handed over to a volunteer organization which stored it for 25 years in a concrete bunker in that area.
The federal voluntary task force could not find a permanent solution to the problem. Communities it contacted, including remote and abandoned uranium mines, refused to accept the material. Even the abandoned uranium mines refused to accept the material because the communities around them would not accept it. It is a crime to have kept that hazardous material in the heart of the country's fastest growing city, Surrey.
As a member of the foreign affairs committee then dealing with nuclear proliferation, I found out about this neglected storage site. After some research and consultation, I lobbied for three years and personally followed up with the Minister of Natural Resources and became involved in this issue until that 4,000 tonnes of dangerous material was finally removed from Surrey. After my efforts the material was finally removed from Surrey. Some of it went to Chalk River, Ontario while more was dumped in Arlington, Washington in the United States of America.
As I mentioned, a building had been built on the slag and the land slag was excavated under the building. The whole operation was very expensive to the taxpayers. I am talking about the monetary aspect, but no one is talking about the health issue. The federal government has kept this a secret. I am happy that my pressure finally had results. The former Minister of Natural Resources was helpful in dealing with the issue, and I thank him for that. Finally action was taken.
The longer the delay, the higher the cost, and the more potential for harm and danger to the community. I knocked on doors in that area to find out what people thought, but many did not even know about it. People did not know about it until the issue was raised in Parliament as well as in the community. The federal government made no effort to educate the community or to protect the communities around that material. This is a shameful story, highlighting carelessness and neglect by the federal government in dealing with hazardous and radioactive waste in Surrey.
On behalf of the people of Surrey Central, I pay very close attention to see that the travesty that occurred in my riding does not happen anywhere else in Canada.
Another example in British Columbia is the 8,600 tonnes of dioxin laced hazardous toxic material which was scheduled to be moved into British Columbia from Oregon in the United States. Those examples show that the government does not care how radioactive hazardous material is stored or that it is moving into Canada.
I asked the Minister of Natural Resources a question about this situation of during question period. The minister happens to be the political minister for British Columbia and is supposed to care about British Columbia's concerns, not ignore them. How can he afford to accept radioactive hazardous materials into the province from somewhere else? The environment minister was the former political minister for the province. How can the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of the Environment, both from British Columbia, let hazardous materials be stored in their province?
I asked the minister why hazardous material, which is too toxic for the people of Oregon, would be safe in British Columbia. It is important that nuclear waste, which is a lot of radioactive material or hazardous waste, is taken care of properly and stored in a way that is efficient, cost effective and safe to people in the communities.
In exciting news a constituent of mine, Mr. Bill Carnegie of Cloverdale, has informed me of a breakthrough technology that a firm he is associated with in Surrey has invented. All over the world scientists have been working for many years to find a process or means to destroy radioactivity or to treat the radioactive material so that its radioactivity is nullified. No one could find it. Even Einstein's theory indicates that it cannot be done, but this firm has done it. Last night in Stockholm, Sweden, they conducted tests. In those tests they established that they could reduce 10,000 units of radium to 80 units of radioactivity in that material.
It is very interesting that technological breakthroughs will take place when these firms are assisted both financially and otherwise to do their research and development. However this firm did it without the government's help. Dr. Roberto Monti of Monti America Corporation has invented this method of processing materials to render them non-radioactive. This Monti process, as he calls it, has been tested recently with very good results in other places as well.
I was so delighted to hear that this scientist and this group was invited to the White House a couple of months ago because of this breakthrough invention, but in Canada people do not even know about it. I have not read about it in any newspaper. I have not heard anyone from the government congratulating this firm for this breakthrough invention or discovery. On behalf of my constituents and the members on this side of the House, I congratulate this organization for the research it has done to make the world a safer place, to destroy the radioactivity and hazardous outcome from the radioactive material.
The debate seems to be more about the philosophy of private sector versus public sector ownership of industry and how that affects people. To suggest that it is no different than the bank that holds a mortgage on my house and that I would be responsible should I contaminate that house or property is simply is not true, particularly if I do not go bankrupt.
Subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act prevents owners and operators of Canadian nuclear facilities from obtaining debt financing. It represents a significant barrier to any form of domestic and foreign investment in the nuclear industry in Canada. It puts the Canadian nuclear industry at a substantial disadvantage internationally. I wonder what the government has been doing and where it has been. Why has it let this thing happen for so long?
Subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act goes far beyond the common law principle of liability and the provisions of provincial and federal legislation. The subsection means that there is unlimited liability for the cleanup of environmental contamination for anyone with a legal right to or interest in the contaminated land or facilities. This includes mortgage lenders and other security holders.
The provision is unique to the nuclear industry. It does not appear in any other federal or provincial environmental legislation. Subsection 46(3) goes so far as to make passive investors or shareholders and lenders liable for the cost of cleanup in case an accident or anything else happens. As a result the nuclear industry has difficulties in arranging financing since the bringing into force of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act just two years ago. In all other such environmental legislation, lenders and other security holders are not exposed to such levels of liability unless they exercise their security and assume management and control of secured assets.
The individuals who drafted the original legislation could not foresee this complication in the form of the current act. It is appalling. The problems inherent in the legislation are obvious. The justification argument may be to protect abandoned sites. That is when companies operating facilities, usually mining, have gone bankrupt and walked away from remediation, thus leaving the federal and provincial governments with the cleanup responsibilities.
It is hard to understand why the government would hamstring the nuclear industry with this provision. Sometimes the most obvious problems escape the notice of the Liberal government until the problem becomes so significant it is finally forced into action. This is the situation here.
We know Bill C-57 was introduced in the last session. The bill attempted to make these changes which I am debating today. However it died on the order paper, so we have to start the whole process again.
The Canadian Alliance supports private sector involvement in the financing of the nuclear industry to keep government involvement and public funding of such projects to a minimum. I have long had a problem with the conflict situation in which the Canadian government is both the sales agency for Canada's nuclear technology, such as the Candu reactor, and is the sole regulator of the nuclear industry and nuclear research in the country. This industry has the government's involvement in both. The government is proactive in selling Candu reactors and is proactive in regulating the industry at the same time. I see some conflict of interest there.
The situation makes us vulnerable to compromise in the safety and regulatory body in favour of the commercial side of the industry. We all know that when Candu reactors were sold to China, that was financed by the Export Development Corporation and the environmental requirements were waived. Why? Because the government was regulating at the same time that it was selling the technology so the environmental implications of the requirement were just waived in favour of government. That was wrong.
The Canadian Alliance also supports reducing barriers that impede private sector competitiveness at a time when all forms of cleaner fuel must be considered. If the nuclear industry is to be part of the energy mix of the country for a longer period of time to come, it is imperative that it is kept on the same playing field as other energy industries in Canada. We cannot be discriminatory from one industry to the other. If industries are competing in the open market, they must be treated fairly and on an equitable basis. Conditions must be competitive when industries are competing.
Like many other energy industries, the nuclear industry requires a huge amount of funding to remain viable, but so far this restriction does not give the opportunity to the industry to have access to the same funding as their competitors. The role of nuclear industry may be debated, but the nuclear industry should be allowed to attract investors to further allow the future development of the industry on both the domestic and international fronts. It must be able to make accurate long term plans to remain stable and attract private sector investment. Continuing uncertainty regarding the availability of financing could jeopardize not only the substantial economic benefits of such investment for Canadian nuclear manufacturers, but also the jobs of thousands of Canadian workers who work in the industry.
Therefore, the amendment is critical to the revitalization of the Ontario electrical industry as well as in New Brunswick and other places.
In conclusion, Canadians are very sensitive when it comes to the nuclear industry. The safety, health and benefit of Canadians are of utmost importance. The government must be embarrassed, and Canadians will notice yet another Liberal attempt to cover up misguided incompetence in drafting the act. Canadians deserve better.
I talked about the regulations. Let me stress that 80% of the component of law in Canada is by way of regulations, while about 20% of the law by way of legislation. All members in both Houses passionately debate legislation but the regulatory component is not a part of that debate in the House. We have been lobbying for democratic reforms for so long, reforms such as free votes, work in the committees, the way private members' business in treated and so on. Parliamentary reform becomes very important. In parliamentary reform, regulatory reform is an integral component.
The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, of which I happen to be co-chair, has been demanding that it be able to scrutinize regulations and then table a report in the House that could disallow those regulations. However, surprisingly the disallowance procedures for regulations are not on a statutory footing. If the minister chooses not to accept the report and not to disallow those regulations, the committee has no other powers to deal with it.
I introduced a private member's bill in the last session of the House, which I reintroduced in this session, to at least put the disallowance procedure on a statutory footing in the House so that the scrutiny by the security of regulations committee becomes somewhat meaningful. At least a committee of the House would have full authority to scrutinize regulations of statutory instruments that are not a part of the debate in this House.
I wish the government would always table the draft regulations along with the legislation so that debate can take place in the House. Then those draft regulations could be referred to the committee for public input and some debate. Then regulatory reform becomes an integral part of parliamentary and democratic reform. I am sorry that I have to point out that the federal Liberal government is light years behind other jurisdictions, including provinces such as Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia which have had regulatory reform. They have moved from red tape to smart tape and from smart tape to smart government.
Regulations are not a bad thing but they cost businesses and Canadians. It has been estimated that $103 billion per year is the comprised cost of regulations in Canada. When we talk about federal regulations, provincial regulations and municipal regulations, there is a dire need to harmonize regulations among those different jurisdictions.
There is lots of overlapping. I know of one example. Different departments of government have different regulations. Sometimes they contradict each other. There are four different regulations which monitor one particular industry. Business people have to choose which regulation they should comply with because the four contradict one another. They are overlapping.
I was surprised at what they do. They pick that regulation where the penalties are the highest so they can comply with it and minimize their costs and they ignore the other three regulations, even if the fines are small. What can they do?
As we talk about regulations, I urge the government to move ahead with regulatory reform for smart regulations that can regulate the industry but not be a barrier for business, innovation, research and development or investment. All these things are in a vicious cycle. They affect our productivity and our standard of living. I was amazed to find that the compliance costs for regulations come to something like $13,700 per household, which is a cost second only to that of shelter. But this is a hidden tax. The hidden taxes are not talked about much because they are hidden.
As we are talking about regulatory reform, I think this is a time that the government needs to accept the proposal by the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance. We have always shown them their dark corners with a flashlight. The government has sometimes stolen our policies, but this policy of democratic reform is one that I want it to steal so Canadians can enjoy democracy.
With regard to our topic, the funding or financing of the nuclear industry, in an effort to rectify the deficiencies in the existing regulatory regime we went through a process two or three years ago of restructuring the Canadian nuclear safety and control bureaucracy. Bill C-57 was an amendment to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act that would have fixed the problem with subsection 46(3) of the current act, a problem that should have been recognized by the drafters of the bill at that time. With these comments, I will conclude. Different industries should be put on an equal footing when they are competing in the market. This section should have been, at least now, corrected so that the industry has access to financing by bankers and lenders.
Nuclear Safety and Control Act
October 10th, 2002 / 10:20 a.m.
Herb Dhaliwal Minister of Natural Resources
moved that Bill C-4, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House at second reading of Bill C-4, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. It gives me great pleasure to stand before the House today in support of this bill. It is a one clause bill with the same provision as that contained in Bill C-57 introduced in the House in May 2002.
The amendment clarifies the wording in subsection 46(3) of the act which has had the consequence of extending the obligation for site remediation beyond the owners and managers to private sector lending institutions. This is an anomaly that must be corrected.
Under the current wording of subsection 46(3), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has the authority to order the owner or occupant or any other person with a right to or an interest in to take prescribed measures to reduce the level of radioactive contamination. This proposed amendment clarifies the subsection by deleting the words “person with a right or interest in” and replacing them with the words “person who has the management and control”.
This subsection has discouraged the private sector from lending to the nuclear industry. The industry is a vital component of the Canadian economy. It includes electric power plants, uranium mines and refineries. Nuclear energy supplies 13% of Canada's electricity. It thus contributes to the diversity which helps to ensure the security of our energy supply.
The nuclear industry is more than electricity, however. Nuclear technology has daily applications in industry, material science and in sterilizing medical items. Medical isotopes produced in reactors are used to diagnose and treat disease. In fact, Canada is a world leader in producing medical isotopes which are used around the globe.
The amendment serves to clarify the risk for institutions lending to companies in the nuclear industry. A lender who goes into management and control of a nuclear facility would be within the reach of this subsection.
No other industrial sector or power generation sector is encumbered by a federal provision of this nature that discourages their access to bank lending. For example, the chemical and natural gas industries do not have the problem we are trying to fix.
The nuclear industry must have access to commercial credit to finance its needs, just like any other sector. This amendment will allow the nuclear industry to attract market capital and equity. It is not, and should not be misconstrued as, a measure to provide favourable treatment to the nuclear industry. All the stringent mechanisms embodied in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and regulations, which are designed to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner, are still in place and unaffected by this provision.
For example, in the class 1 nuclear facilities regulations, which deal with the large power reactors, the commission requires industry to provide detailed information about their environmental protection policies and procedures, effluent and environmental monitoring programs and environmental baseline studies. The commission continues to have the authority to act to suspend the licence for any activity when it concludes that the activity carried on poses an unreasonable risk to the environment, health and safety or security. These examples show that the commission's mandate to prevent unreasonable risk to the environment will continue to be fulfilled.
Nuclear power is a proven technology for generating electricity. It has been in commercial operation in Canada for more than 30 years. There are currently 438 nuclear power plants around the world, producing 16% of the world's electricity. The only non-greenhouse gas emitting source which produces a larger share of the world's electricity is hydro power, which produces 19%.
Governments are encouraging more private sector participation in the ownership and management of facilities in all energy sectors. Companies with nuclear operations need access to the same financial instruments available to other companies. This means that companies need the participation of banks and other financial organizations to attract market capital and equity to finance ongoing and future operations.
We must be fair and consistent. We must ensure that all companies have an equal opportunity to conduct their business and to better position themselves in the marketplace. At the same time we must ensure that these companies are fully responsible for environmental stewardship. This approach maintains the authority of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to take the necessary measures for site remediation against those who have management and control.
The bill will put us in a win-win situation. It will not in any way weaken Canada's stringent licensing and regulatory regime, which is designed to protect human health, safety and security and the environment. At the same time it will put the nuclear industry on an equal footing with other industrial and power generation sectors and clarify that owners or those who manage and control have liability for site remediation.
I reiterate that the bill is not a measure to provide favourable treatment to the nuclear industry. It does not contain any hidden agenda. It demonstrates the government's commitment to implement its policy strategy to achieve smart regulation, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne. The bill will help “achieve the public good” and at the same time enhance “the climate for investment and trust in markets”. I would ask the hon. members to join me in voting to send this bill to committee.