House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Deshaies Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, are we debating Bill C-23, dealing with the nuclear safety commission?

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think you would find that the parliamentary secretary responsible for the very important portfolio of natural resources is in her place and ready to continue the debate.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I am asking if there are members wishing to speak. If members who wish to speak would rise, I would recognize them.

The parliamentary secretary had the floor. I did not see her rising before. If she is rising, I will recognize her so that she can conclude her remarks.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me say-

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, when you asked if someone wished to speak, when we asked for a quorum count, the hon. parliamentary secretary was already in the process of making her speech.

When debate resumed, you said "Resuming debate" and the hon. parliamentary secretary said she did not wish to use the time she had left. That is what I concluded, since she said she was done, so we could proceed to other matters. Following this, our colleague rose and said: "I wish to speak to Bill C-23".

Earlier, we experienced the same situation with Bill C-60 and you did not recognize our colleague, who had not reached his seat. In this case, I do not think you should let the hon. parliamentary secretary carry on, because she clearly stated her desire to end her speech.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I appreciate the comments made by the hon. member for Joliette. I did not hear the hon. parliamentary secretary when she said, as the member pointed out, that she did not wish to continue to speak in this debate.

What I did say was: Resuming debate. No one rose. I said: Do other members wish to speak? At that point two members rose, including the hon. member for Abitibi. I concluded from that, since the parliamentary had already risen, she wished to resume her remarks.

If she said otherwise earlier I did not hear it. She did not rise earlier, I agree, and that is why I asked again: Is there anyone who wishes to speak, because I assumed that the hon. member for Abitibi was going to speak.

I think it is reasonable in the circumstances that the parliamentary secretary conclude her remarks, since the two indicated at the same time that they wished to speak.

Accordingly, I call on the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Dauphin—Swan River
Manitoba

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, let me say a few words about how the AECB operates.

The AECB is an independent regulatory agency reporting to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources. It is directed by a five member board, one of whom is the president of the board.

The president of the board supervises approximately 400 officers and staff. Most of these employees are based at AECB headquarters in Ottawa, with resident inspectors stationed at all nuclear generating stations, at four regional offices and at a uranium mining division in Saskatoon.

Hon. members may be interested to know that the large part of AECB's operating costs are recovered from operators through licensing fees. During 1994-95 licensing fees generated $28 million in revenues, reducing the net cost to the federal government of delivering AECB services to $15 million. This annual expenditure will be further reduced as the board's cost recovery program matures over the next five years.

Canada's approach to nuclear regulation is based on the internationally accepted principle that the operator of nuclear technology is responsible for safety and must justify the proposed use.

The role of the AECB is to set safety standards and to ensure, through a variety of compliance mechanisms, that these standards are met. Like other national nuclear regulatory bodies, the AECB licenses facilities that use nuclear energy or nuclear material.

One way to illustrate the scope of the AECB's regulatory activities is to note that about 4,000 licences or other permits are currently in effect across Canada. These include licences for nuclear reactors, particle accelerators used in industrial and medical applications, uranium mines and refiners, reactor fuel fabrication plants, heavy water plants, radio active waste management facilities and radioisotopes. Radioisotopes are used for everything from medical and research applications to oil and gas well investigations and in consumer products like household smoke detectors. In fact, radioisotopes account for about 90 per cent of AECB licences.

AECB licencees are found throughout Canada. They range from corporate giants like Ontario Hydro to small companies providing inspection services to the industry, to private individuals operating out of-

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to interrupt the member again, but it is once again about quorum. The Liberals are absent from the House. It is not only up to the members of the Bloc to listen-

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Ontario, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed in the position taken by the Bloc members in calling a third time for a quorum count.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

There must be a quorum in the House. As I do not see one, I ask the following: Call in the members. And the bells having rung :

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I see a quorum. Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Thank you again, Mr. Speaker.

In administering its licensing system, the AECB works closely with other federal and provincial departments with responsibilities in such areas as health, the environment, transport and labour. This ensures that the concerns and legislative obligations of these departments are considered during the licensing process.

The Atomic Energy Control Board is also responsible for regulating the import and export of nuclear materials, equipment and technology. The board is very active in the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency and ensures Canadian compliance with the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In the latter task the AECB is concerned with both domestic and international security of nuclear materials and technology. In all its regulatory and licensing activities the AECB maintains a transparent approach. I believe that the board's responsiveness to public concerns has much to do with its reputation as an effective, responsible, independent regulatory body. However, more than ever before the public is concerned about health and safety issues and demands input into the AECB's decision making process.

The Atomic Energy Control Act gives the AECB significant responsibilities and broad scope for regulating nuclear activities. Through periodic amendments to regulations and licensing conditions, the AECB has regulated the development of the nuclear industry in Canada effectively while ensuring the health and safety of workers, the public and the environment.

Nevertheless there is an obvious and compelling need to modernize the legislation. Many people believe that the 50 year old statute as it now stands limits the AECB's effectiveness. The act's deficiencies have been noted by the courts, the media, special interest groups, parliamentary committees and the auditor general.

Let me mention some of the more troubling weaknesses. AECB inspectors do not have the formal powers they need to carry out their responsibilities. The AECB cannot hold polluters financially accountable for their actions, nor can it order remedial action. The ceiling on fines is $10,000 and is far too low.

The small number of board members hinders the decision making process and does not allow the agency the flexibility it needs to deal effectively with certain issues. The act does not provide explicitly for public hearings.

Bill C-23 corrects each of these weaknesses. It formalizes inspectors' powers so that they can ensure the safe use of nuclear materials whether in a home based business or a nuclear power plant. The bill provides an appeal mechanism as well. Bill C-23 also increases the maximum fine for violations to $1 million.

The proposed legislation will enable the AECB under its new name, the Canadian nuclear safety commission, to act quickly to clean up radioactive contamination when concerns over liability or the polluter's inaction could cause delays that could threaten public health, safety or the environment. The legislation also sets up reporting requirements that ensure that any contamination by radioactive substances or possible exposures to radiation are reported to the commission for remedial action.

Bill C-23 increases the number of commission members to ensure better professional and technical representation and to improve decision making. It allows the president to appoint members to sit on panels which will be more efficient in many cases than requiring decision making by the full commission. This legislation also requires the commission to conduct its proceedings in public wherever reasonable. This simply formalizes current practice by the AECB.

Make no mistake, the AECB has been and continues to be an active, effective regulatory agency essential to the high technology industry. Hon. members must recognize that new legislation is required to ensure that Canada's nuclear regulatory agency has the appropriate mandate and the authority to carry out its responsibilities today and in the future.

This proposed legislation acts on commitments made in the recent speech from the throne, commitments to sustaining our environment and to ensuring a modern regulatory regime suitable for the 21st century.

I urge my hon. colleagues to act in the interest of all Canadians by voting in favour of this bill.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata be now heard.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The hon. member has moved a motion to recognize the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata. I was on my feet to recognize the member. I am happy to recognize the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata.

The Chair had not made a choice and so I submit that the motion the hon. member has proposed is premature. Normally a motion that someone be heard is proposed after the Chair has recognized someone else. Since the Chair had not recognize anyone, I am happy to recognize the hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, before being heard, given the mood in the House today, I would like to be certain that there are truly no members opposed, and I call for a recorded division.