House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-27.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-41, an act to amend the Canadian Commercial Corporation Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Canadian Commercial Corporation Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister for International Trade

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Canadian Commercial Corporation Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister for International Trade

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-33, an act to amend the Carriage by Air Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Carriage by Air Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Carriage by Air Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister of Transport

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

December 5th, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson for the Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved that Bill C-27, an act respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste, be read the third time and passed.

Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources for its thoughtful review of Bill C-27, an act respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste. I also take the opportunity to thank all witnesses who took the time to present their views to the committee on this important issue for all Canadians.

It is absolutely clear that along with the benefits of including the nuclear energy option in Canada's energy supply mix comes the responsibility of properly managing the resulting waste.

The waste in question is solid fuel bundles discharged from reactors built with our own Candu technology. Existing waste is currently stored safely at reactor sites while it awaits a long term management strategy. The nature of the waste requires a management approach covering the long term. Development and control of nuclear energy is a federal responsibility. It falls within federal jurisdiction. The Government of Canada has a duty to assume its responsibilities in this area which include the critical matter of an oversight function.

Bill C-27 is a major step forward for Canada with respect to the management of nuclear fuel waste over the long term. The bill is the culmination of more than 25 years of research, environmental assessment and extensive consultations with stakeholders including waste owners, the province, the public and aboriginal organizations.

The majority of Canadians who voiced their views want a solution to the issue. They are looking to the Government of Canada to establish a clear, fair and comprehensive strategy to make effective progress.

Bill C-27 is entirely consistent with the Government of Canada's radioactive waste policy framework of 1996. That policy framework makes clear that the government's objective is to ensure radioactive waste is disposed of in a safe, environmentally sound, comprehensive, cost effective and integrated manner.

I will be perfectly clear. Government oversight of the health, safety, environment and security aspects of long term management of nuclear fuel waste has long been provided through the 1945 Atomic Energy Control Act. This act was strengthened and replaced by the Nuclear Safety and Control Act which entered into force on May 31, 2000.

The proposed nuclear fuel waste act is needed to implement the Government of Canada's radioactive waste policy framework and ensure waste management operations are carried out in a comprehensive, cost effective and integrated manner which includes financial, social, ethical, socioeconomic and other broader considerations.

Should parliament assent to Bill C-27 it would be complementary to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. Together both acts would ensure waste management activities are carried out in a safe, environmentally sound, comprehensive and integrated manner.

From the general principles established in the policy framework arose the specific requirements that are the backbone of the legislation before us. At the outset we wanted to ensure we heard the views and interests of stakeholders and strove to achieve an appropriate balance among competing priorities.

This was a challenging task and not one reached rapidly or in haste, however, an acceptable balance was achieved. I am confident this legislative framework would assist in making effective progress toward the implementation of a solution in the best interest of Canadians.

Bill C-27 would build on the good work of the nuclear fuel waste and disposal concept environmental assessment panel, or the Seaborn panel, and the government's response to it. The Seaborn panel carried out a comprehensive decade long review and Canada-wide public consultations. The panel made recommendations to the government, most of which were adopted as outlined in the government's response to the Seaborn report.

I reiterate our appreciation for the work carried out by panel members and the chair. We are thankful for their dedication in listening to all the views Canadians wished to convey. The government took seriously the work of the panel whose recommendations impacted significantly on the formation of government policy.

How has the public reacted to Bill C-27? There has been overwhelming support for legislation to deal with the long term management of nuclear fuel waste. Nonetheless concerns have been raised with respect to some of the details of Bill C-27. Members of the public have expressed concern that the government did not adopt the Seaborn recommendation to create a crown corporation to carry out the long term management of nuclear fuel waste.

The Seaborn panel stated that various plausible organizational scenarios existed, each with advantages and disadvantages. It concluded that:

Whatever structure is chosen, however, the agency’s purposes, responsibilities and accountability must be spelled out as clearly and explicitly as possible, whether by legislation or in a charter of incorporation.

Consistent with past and current Canadian practices Bill C-27 would place primary onus for operations on the industry. This would be accompanied by appropriate government oversight. The government would exercise general oversight over the waste management organization established by the nuclear industry.

This approach has been chosen to allow us to move forward effectively. It would provide for a clear separation between those who carry out operations and those who regulate them, thus avoiding conflicts of interest. Similarly the waste management organization would be responsible for establishing and financing a credible and effective advisory council. Oversight would be exercised through the bill's transparency requirements.

In developing the oversight provisions of Bill C-27, care was taken to harmonize them with the federal oversight powers of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act which would be exercised over the long term in managing nuclear fuel waste. Not only did we ensure there would be multiple government oversight mechanisms at play as recommended by the Seaborn pane, we assured ourselves that no undue overlap or duplication would occur among the mechanisms.

We have heard the public's call for transparency. Members of the public want to participate in important decisions that affect their lives and those of their children. Bill C-27 would provide for mandatory transparency. This was recommended by the Seaborn panel and agreed to by the Government of Canada as an essential condition for increasing public confidence.

For example, all waste management organization reports submitted to the minister, including the initial study of options, would be made public. The waste management organization would need to carry out public consultations at every stage of the process. All the advisory council's comments regarding the waste management organization's reports would need to be made public. The government would have additional consultation requirements under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

How have the affected utilities and provinces received Bill C-27? The main owners of nuclear fuel waste have conveyed to the government and the House committee that they welcome the increased regulatory certainty the legislation would provide. Bill C-27 would provide them with a clear framework to fulfill their responsibilities. The bill would not create an unmanageable financial burden. Small waste owners noted that the waste management organization would be required to provide them with services at a reasonable cost.

In developing the legislation the government consulted Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, which are the affected provinces. We addressed many of their concerns. We showed as much flexibility as possible without compromising the Government of Canada's policy objectives for federal oversight. The provinces recognized that development and control of nuclear energy falls under federal jurisdiction. They were all supportive of the bill's principles.

How have aboriginal peoples engaged in the process? Aboriginal peoples have shown considerable interest in this federal initiative. The Minister of Natural Resources has sought their active participation in future steps regarding the long term management of nuclear fuel waste. They participated extensively in the Seaborn public hearings. The Minister of Natural Resources has met with a number of aboriginal leaders to discuss how they wish to be consulted on the next steps. The active involvement of aboriginal peoples would be recognized and ensured by Bill C-27.

In addition to requiring the input of traditional knowledge from affected aboriginal communities during future siting phases, the bill would require the government to continue to carry out parallel consultations pursuant to its fiduciary responsibility. The Government of Canada recognizes the valuable perspectives and insights of aboriginal peoples.

Matthew Coon Come appeared before the House committee to speak for the Assembly of First Nations. Amendments were proposed and the committee recommended Bill C-27 be amended to include traditional aboriginal knowledge and expertise on the advisory council before the governor in council selects an approach for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste.

What would be the immediate impact after entry into force of the nuclear fuel waste act? The trust fund would be kick-started and the waste management organization would begin preparing its study. This report must be submitted to the government within three years. The study would include a comparison of risks and benefits of each option. The waste management organization must examine those options explicitly outlined in Bill C-27 but would not be limited to those options and may propose others.

Several stakeholders and some members of the House committee doubted whether three years would be enough time for the waste management organization to carry out the required work for the study. In this regard it should be noted that the Seaborn panel suggested that two years would be sufficient. Like Seaborn, the Government of Canada requires the study to contain sufficient information to compare options and decide on the most acceptable long term management approach for Canada.

After consultations, it was concluded that a three year period was appropriate in view of all the work that has already been done in Canada and elsewhere. It is now time to move forward. Utilities have been made aware of potential legislation for several years and have already started work.

What about the administration of the act? The bill indicates that the Minister of Natural Resources would be responsible for the administration of the nuclear fuel waste act. The department would be the focal point for interdepartmental consideration of technical, financial, social and ethical reviews and for any independent reviews that might be necessary. The department would provide the government's direct and indirect liaison with the waste management organization, the public, the provinces, aboriginal groups and other interested parties. The department would ensure compliance with the nuclear fuel waste act. It would manage all auditing, verification, inspection and enforcement measures.

A key aspect of Bill C-27 is its focus on a transparent process. Modern regulation seeks to involve the active participation of the public and to make clear the decision making role of the elected government. The activities of the nuclear utilities, the waste management organization and the minister are to be made transparent. The information should be made easily and promptly available to the public. Operations would be audited effectively.

In this regard the oversight approach taken in the bill is based on strong transparency requirements while leaving the organizing and implementation of the operations with the nuclear industry, combined with effective government oversight.

Does Bill C-27 address the broader nuclear energy policy issues? The nuclear energy option attracts interest on broad matters, for example, the appropriate mix and supply of available energy resources, sustainable development of energy projects, the social impact of high technology and globalization, the export or import of waste, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and, more recently, acts of terrorism. These are serious issues but all fall outside of the scope of this bill.

Of the issues I just mentioned, I will highlight one that commanded a lot of attention during the House standing committee review, namely the export and import of nuclear fuel waste.

There has been some talk about Canada becoming the dumping ground of the world for nuclear fuel waste. Let me assure the House that the government's first concern is to deal with nuclear fuel waste generated in Canada. There are no plans either to import or to export nuclear fuel waste. Bill C-27 was not designed to address these practices. Should they ever be considered in the future, there are existing federal mechanisms which would allow full public consultation and would guarantee that any application would not pose any unreasonable risk to health, safety, security and the environment of Canada. The two main mechanisms are the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Addressing broader public policy matters must not serve as an excuse for delaying our current responsibilities for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste. Ensuring appropriate waste management is a laudable objective in its own right. We already have nuclear fuel waste currently in storage at nuclear reactor sites. Storage activities are safe but are not designed to be permanent solutions. No longer are there any good excuses for delaying what our generation, which benefits from nuclear power, must do to deal with the waste.

What can we conclude at this time on Bill C-27? This legislation is the culmination of years of work and was not established in a contextual vacuum. Policy development was guided by extensive consultations with all stakeholders by modern regulatory practices, social justice concepts and by experience gained in other countries. Policy development was influenced by the invaluable work of the Seaborn panel, including contributions of all those Canadians who actively and conscientiously participated in the public hearings.

The result is a phased, step-wise, decision making process allowing for all planned and executed waste management operations to be reviewed on an ongoing basis and for the public to participate effectively at every step along the way.

Implementing a solution will take many years and will possibly affect future generations. The focus of legislation is on the responsibility of today's generation while at the same time allowing sufficient flexibility to allow decision making by future generations. Much progress has been made internationally on implementing a solution for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste.

The challenge for the government in developing legislation was to be fair to all stakeholders and to strike an effective balance in the public interest. I firmly believe that the proposed legislation fully meets the challenge.

With this legislative framework, Canada will be able to move ahead effectively in a reasoned fashion toward the implementation of an appropriate solution for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste and take into account not only the technical matters but incorporate in a central and integral way the social and ethical values of Canadians.

I look forward very much to parliament's approval of this very important bill.