House of Commons Hansard #132 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nuclear.

Topics

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

An independent panel.

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Yes, of course, an independent panel in which taxpayers invested millions of dollars to consult the public on the processes that should be established. The panel's mandate was twofold.

First, it had to evaluate the technical processes to manage waste. The method most often proposed was to bury this waste more than 30,000 metres deep in the geological layers of the Canadian Shield.

However when we were advocating this solution, we found out that the public wanted to be consulted. However, the bill clearly shows that the government refused to include the recommendations of the Seaborn panel in it. This is even more obvious when we consider that the Bloc Quebecois and other parties in the House proposed amendments reflecting the recommendations of the Seaborn panel only to see the government reject them.

The hon. member knows better than anyone else what the government is doing in the area of waste management. I am of course referring to nuclear waste, but also to other waste, including residual and military waste. This brings me to the issue of shells. The way the federal government dealt with military shells shows how bad a manager it can be.

Could the hon. member tell us what is happening with Lake Saint-Pierre, which is directly connected to the St. Lawrence River and where thousands of shells litter the bottom, sometimes unexploded? Some shells are even found on the beaches by children. We are not making this up: this is the truth.

Could the hon. member tell us how this government manages waste, particularly military waste in Lake Saint-Pierre?

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to mention this earlier but the time allotted me had run out. I am very pleased to come back to it. I was saying earlier that I had no confidence in the government, which thinks it is in sole possession of the truth, because too many mistakes have been made.

My colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie has just mentioned the shells in Lake Saint-Pierre and the way highly dangerous products are managed. Some 350,000 shells are lying at the bottom of the lake with some 8,000 to 10,000 still armed.

Every spring, because of the ice and depending on how cold it gets—this winter there has not been much of a problem because of the warm temperatures, but the ice will come back—the shells stick to the ice.

In the spring, when the river rises as the snow melts, the ice carries the shells here and there. The proof is that the army follows the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River by helicopter right up to Quebec City and even further in an effort to find the shells. Those the army does not find are sometimes found by children. I think I hear someone opposite saying that this is not so important.

It is very important because it has killed people up to now. It has broken up a Lake Saint-Pierre family that was preparing a sailboat for a trip around the world. They held a celebration around the boat after getting it ready and a shell burst in a bonfire. If this is not really important I do not know what is. Last spring children were discovered playing with shells that could have exploded.

As my time is running out, I would like to raise another point as well. We are the only ones who do not take the environment seriously. I just returned from a trip to Germany. Everyone should see what is being done there to protect the environment. Nuclear energy, among others, is being eliminated. They are turning to research on cleaner, safer energies.

Why in Canada and Quebec, does the government not clean up and take precautions for the future of our children?

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-27, an act respecting the long term management of nuclearfuel waste.

One needs not be an expert to know that nuclear waste cannot be disposed of in just any regular dump. Today we have a better knowledge of nuclear waste than we did in the 1970s. It was already a concern and the subject of discussions at the time and it still is today.

A few weeks ago the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie reminded us of the Marrakesh summit. One key recommendation of this summit was that we should consider prohibiting the use of nuclear energy in the future. Since the 1970s, and even before that, a number of countries, including Canada, have been using nuclear power to generate electricity.

Today we can say with some pride that the Quebec government undertook a number of projects, of which Gentilly was one and LaPrade another, but it soon abandoned this approach because of deep concerns and because scientists and experts had many objections. Quebec decided to generate electricity from water power instead of nuclear power.

We can consider ourselves lucky since Quebec produces only 3% of Canadian nuclear waste. When we, as members of the Bloc, say that we want to defend Quebec's interests, I think that, in this particular case, we are pleased that it is just 3%. We have a better understanding of the attitude shown by the Liberal government, that has a great number of representatives from Ontario in the House, when we know that that province produces 90% of nuclear waste.

The member for Brome—Missisquoi cannot say it but I know he totally supports the position of the Bloc Quebecois. As a Quebecer, he is just as proud as we are that the Government of Quebec—be it under the Parti Quebecois or under the Quebec Liberal Party of which his brother is a member—made the choice not to proceed any further with nuclear energy in that province.

Now we have before us a bill on this issue. We supported the principle of the bill at second reading because we were sufficiently in favour of the bill to vote for it at that stage. Nuclear waste is a critical issue as it is hazardous in all respects, including health and safety. The Seaborn panel worked for 10 years on the subject and our critics on this issue raised some objections.

I know the member for Jonquière worked on this for a long time, even until the end, with the member for Sherbrooke. I know that the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie would have liked to have his say also as environment critic. Unfortunately, the government decided that this issue fell under the purview of the Department of Natural Resources exclusively and not under the purview of the Department of the Environment.

Therefore, the Standing Committee on the Environment could not be consulted on this. I would say that this is one of the main shortcomings of the bill. It would be the sole responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources, which would work with the waste management organizations from the various provinces, and those who have a stake in the industry would be asked to assess and criticize what is being done in this regard. Yesterday, the member for Sherbrooke said that it was like letting the fox watch the hen house, and I agree with him.

This makes no sense whatsoever. Generally, when we deal with a bill or a legislative measure, we should ensure that an audit or an evaluation is done by a third party, independent people or another department. We should ensure that people or officials do not evaluate themselves. This makes no sense.

When we talk about the nuclear issue we should avoid slipping into demagogy and frightening everyone. However, a number of incidents have occurred throughout the world. Some countries have even recognized that they are incapable of properly managing their nuclear waste. Russia, for example, and the countries of the former Soviet Union are desperately trying to get rid of their nuclear waste: first, because its disposal is very expensive; second, because it is technically difficult to manage; and third, because Russia has abundantly used this source of energy.

I remember the objection of the member for Jonquière. We know all the energy she is capable of showing when she disagrees or agrees with something. To avoid this situation, she launched an initiative in her riding regarding new nuclear waste dumps in the world. She was right.

If the same thing had occurred in my riding of Lévis, members can be sure that I would have done the same thing. I believe that any member having to deal with this kind of situation in his or her own riding would have protested and I believe that everyone would have understood. However, the member for Jonquière reacted with fierceness and no later than yesterday she talked about this issue. I congratulate her for having done so. I also congratulate the member for Sherbrooke who, as usual, dealt with the issue in a very serious manner.

I have heard the member for Rosemont-Petite-Patrie say on occasion that he wanted to talk about this. He could only talk about it in the House since the issue was not dealt with by the Standing Committee on Environment. In his speech, which I listened to yesterday, as well as in the one he made earlier today, he pointed to this issue, which, I believe, reflects another important point. It is the place, in fact, the “lack of place” provided to the public on this issue.

We should not consider this issue simply in a technical or a scientific perspective especially since it seems that the more we move forward on this issue the more we give in to uncertainty. When a scientist trying to reassure us about this issue give us the impression that he is stressed, as though he had in his hands an issue—

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

A hot potato.

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

—a hot potato, as the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles just said, it means that the issue ought to be given serious consideration.

This is an issue that must be dealt with in a way that will reassure the public so that they have confidence. To get their confidence there should be an ongoing and real public consultation with the various stakeholders in the field, not only the scientists, not only the experts, but also the people in the field.

I realize that we must not always say “not in my backyard”, but the fact remains that this must be done somewhere and in appropriate areas. Why should an area accept nuclear waste coming from another area and another country?

I know there are not enough hon. members here this morning and they are not quite awake. Perhaps they are too tired to criticize me and tell me “Come on, why are you saying that? The bill does not say that we will agree to nuclear waste imports”.

Yes, but an issue such as this one is somewhat like the bills on public security that were passed or tabled here in the House, where the government was saying “Yes, but rest assured, this is not written in the bill”. The fact is we are not reassured. We would prefer it were written that there will be no such imports. Why not do so?

I did not take part in the committee's proceedings but I reviewed the amendments put forward by Bloc Quebecois members who wanted to make sure, among other things, that we had better definitions, and rightly so.

The suggestions to correct one of the flaws were aimed at making sure that the authority was not given to one minister or to the cabinet because, on such an important public issue, specific projects or the subject matter should to be reviewed by the House of Commons on a regular basis, and be audited, not just by anyone, but by someone under the Auditor General of Canada.

As the member for Jonquière mentioned earlier, every proposed amendment was turned down one after the other in committee and here at report stage. Members who used to be on the other side, but who have to tow the party line when a bill is put forward by a minister, voted down these amendments because the government bill was supposedly perfect.

I am making an aside here to remind the House that we have been here for eight years now. This is probably the last speech I will make before the end of the 2001. I said it on several occasions, but I believe it bears reminding.

We saw the way the government dealt with anti-terrorism and public security bills after September 11. We realize that the authority is concentrated in the hands of a single minister, or cabinet at times which is made up of members of parliament appointed by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister appoints the Governor General, the senators when the time comes to send members to the other House. He is responsible for appointing people to high offices. Some say that proportionally, Canada is not the United States, and the powers of the Prime Minister of Canada are actually greater than those of the President of the United States.

In the United States, through a veto, both Houses can prevent the president from exercising certain powers such as sending troops abroad or using supplementary funds. He needs to introduce a specific bill or program in both houses of congress. This is not the case here.

In Canada, when we want to buy time, we refer bills to the other place. However, seeing as Liberal Party members also sit in its caucus, they receive instructions from the Prime Minister—naturally, they also share with him what is going on in the other place—saying, “Take your time on that bill”, or the opposite, “Hurry up and adopt that bill”.

An example of this was the bill on organized crime, which has yet to be passed officially by the other place. But they rush through bills on public security, or Bill C-7 on young offenders. Now with Christmas around the corner, during the last sitting of the session before the holidays, we are studying Bill C-27. No doubt an important issue, but the bill is seriously flawed

The Prime Minister or the caucus will have the ability to appoint all of the members of the board for this new waste management organization that will oversee nuclear waste. Who will he appoint? People in whom he has complete trust, or to whom he feels indebted. I know that the word patronage is not necessarily parliamentary, but if the shoe fits, then I do not see how I could avoid the term. So I will use it. This opens the door to patronage.

Under these circumstances, with an issue as important as nuclear waste, how can we expect the public to believe that things will not be decided by the powers that be, the cabinet, the Prime Minister, or the minister responsible?

But it so happens that the minister could be appointed elsewhere, according to the rumour that a cabinet shuffle may take place before Christmas. Therefore, he must please the Prime Minister to make sure that he gets promoted.

The Minister of Finance used to have a degree of independence, but this year, contrary to what he did in the past, he came up with a budget to please the Prime Minister. So much so—it was funny, but it really was not—that a Canadian Alliance member said “Let the real author of that budget rise”, and both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance got up at the same time.

This shows beyond any doubt that, this time, this is not a Minister of Finance's budget, but mostly a Prime Minister's budget. After eight years in office, one would have thought that the Prime Minister would become reasonable, would be less power-hungry, but no. Now, he wants to assume powers which, under our parliamentary system, are normally held by the Minister of Finance.

Mr. Speaker, I realize that I am digressing a bit, but I have always recognized your spirit of tolerance and your flexibility. Knowing that this is my last speech in 2001, you are giving me a small Christmas present by allowing me to say what I think, even though this sometimes goes beyond the scope of the bill.

I know that the hon. member for Abitibi--Baie-James--Nunavik is very jealous of me. Indeed, because of the way the current Canadian parliamentary system works, he will not be able to say what he really thinks, since he has a small hope of being appointed parliamentary secretary, or perhaps minister some day. He hopes that the Prime Minister will forget that he once sat as a Conservative.

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am very happy to see that the Bloc Quebecois member has finally recognized my presence in the House just before Christmas.

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry, but this is not a point of order; however, we are probably all very happy.

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that the member is there more than ever, probably because he has also heard about a possible cabinet shuffle. He wants to show that he is present and working hard.

Just kidding. Even if we do not always agree with the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, even if we sometimes criticize his sense of humour or his attacks on members of the Bloc Quebecois, I will give him this little gift because the Liberal Party might not do so and I want him to know that, according to what I have heard, he works very hard for his constituents. That is what I am told.

Finally, I let my enthusiasm get the better of me but I would have liked a little Christmas gift for the Davie workers. The measures announced by the Minister of Industry come very late. Can you imagine a minister that establishes a program but forgets to announce it? There are two possible explanations: either the program is bad or the minister hopes that people will not take advantage of it. If the program goes unannounced, then there will be few applicants.

Unfortunately, given the long delay, I want to offer this last thought to the employees at Davie Industries who will spend the holidays under the threat of a possible shutdown, since the company is now under the protection of the Bankruptcy Act.

I know that demagogues in my region have said that this was to be expected. St. John's, which had the largest shipyard in Canada, and was a competitor of Davie, is also closed. Marystown Shipyard Limited, which is in the Minister of Industry's riding, is still closed. Workers in the other shipyard in his riding, in St. John's barely have enough work.

I will conclude by telling my constituents that I will continue to work very hard on the Davie project. Therefore, all topics are important for me. This one is particularly so because it involves the future of our young people and of many generations to come.

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been following with great interest the debate on Bill C-27, the nuclear fuel waste act. It is important legislation for the whole country, but I regret it has been drawn out to the point that we will not reach Bill C-15B, the cruelty to animals legislation, before Christmas.

The hon. member and his colleagues are obviously interested in and well informed on this issue. They have been talking about nuclear power and nuclear fission. One of the solutions to the waste problem, and in the long run to the problems that face our nuclear power industry, is nuclear fusion, not fission.

Where do the hon. member and his colleagues and perhaps Quebec Hydro stand on the ITER project? It is a proposal that has been discussed for three years. It would bring scientists from Japan, the European Union, the United States and elsewhere to Canada to participate in a sophisticated international study of nuclear fusion for many years. What do the member and his colleagues think of that as a solution to the nuclear waste problem?

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think it unfortunate that so little time remains, because I think that he is mixing up fission and fusion.

With respect to the issue he is talking about, a more indepth study needs to be done here in Canada. But I admit to being concerned, despite the fact that only 3% of nuclear waste is in Quebec and 90% is in Ontario. This is one more reason to take the time and look carefully into all the consequences.

I thank the member for his question and wish him and everyone else a merry Christmas.

Women's Rights
Statements By Members

December 14th, 2001 / 10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, today we are celebrating the achievements of MATCH International Centre, a Canadian women's organization that has been working in the field of women's rights for 25 years.

I wish to honour co-founders, Dr. Norma Walmsley, a former Manitoban and political science professor at the University of Brandon, and Suzanne Johnson-Harvor. At the international level MATCH continues to push for women's rights in various developing countries.

I am proud to share in the 25th anniversary of MATCH. One of the women who led this organization held elected office in British Columbia during the 1970s was Ms. Rosemary Brown, a fellow partner in politics. Given her early stellar career as a human rights activist and provincial politician, Ms. Brown brought a strong presence to MATCH as its executive director in the 1980s. During her tenure MATCH grew to incorporate elements of worker rights and the rights of the disenfranchised.

In the year 2001, MATCH continues to expand on those ideas that were first introduced by Dr. Walmsley, Suzanne Johnson-Harvor and Ms. Brown. Today it is more important than ever that we celebrate the efforts of MATCH and its achievements to lend its voice to millions of poor and disenfranchised women--

Women's Rights
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Elk Island.

Bank of Montreal
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, 'tis the season of gifts and goodwill. I would like to use this occasion to do something which is quite unusual. I would like to thank and congratulate one of Canada's major banks for an initiative, which belies the oft given criticism of their lack of concern for the well-being of the people they serve.

The small business banking division of the Bank of Montreal has announced a program of breaks for small business. Offering small business loans and lines of credit at the prime rate is a real interest break. In addition, it is giving a voluntary retroactive interest credit of one-quarter per cent to its small business customers. They do not even have to apply for it; it is automatic.

I congratulate the Bank of Montreal for this timely gesture. It demonstrates the bank's compassion for the thousands of small business operators in Canada, many of whom are facing genuine financial challenges. It also shows the bank's commitment to its customers and to our country.

Volunteers
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to congratulate the recipients of the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award. This award was established to recognize the unsung heroes, those people whose day to day efforts to improve other people's lives often go unnoticed but have a profound impact on Canadian communities.

This is a medal not for one time acts of bravery and courage but for the ongoing compassion and caring that are representative of the Canadian character. Suitably these awards are presented not in one grand ceremony but throughout the year to extraordinary Canadians nominated by their fellow citizens.

I ask the House to join me in congratulating these and all other Canadians whose contributions to their communities make such a difference in all our lives.