Debates of Dec. 5th, 2001
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.
- Canada Loves New York
- Marine Conservation Areas
- Dairy Industry
- George Harrison
- International Criminal Court
- Patrick Carpentier
- Parliamentary Internship Program
- Andy Shott
- Highway Infrastructure
- Auditor General's Report
- Jean-Philippe Bourgeois
- Economic Development
- Auditor General's Report
- Employment Insurance
- Auditor General's Report
- Heating Fuel Rebate
- Employment Insurance
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Heating Fuel Rebate
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- Auditor General's Report
- Employment Insurance
- Softwood Lumber
- National Defence
- Business Development Bank of Canada
- Tax Conventions
- Airline Industry
- Official Languages
- The Environment
- Auditor General's Report
- Business of the House
- Ways and Means
- Government Response to Petitions
- Criminal Code
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Committees of the House
- Business of the House
- Canada Elections Act
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Motions for Papers
- Canadian Commercial Corporation Act
- Carriage by Air Act
- Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
- Income Tax Act
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Dave Chatters Athabasca, AB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this final opportunity to speak on Bill C-27. I have been involved in the process of the bill, which has been in the works for months and years.
Generally speaking, it is my position, and the position of my party, that the bill does achieve some important things and certainly is worthy of support.
Before I get into the analysis of the bill, I want to express some of my frustration with the process that brought us to this point today.
The speech of the member on the government side of the House is part of that frustration. During the hearing of witnesses who expressed their concerns and on whose concerns we based that amendments, I never saw that member present. I very much suspect the speech he just presented was drafted within the bureaucracy of the department and presented here just as the bill was.
Part of my frustration is the way the process works and the mockery it makes of democracy. There are so many better ways to deal with the development of legislation, which would result in better legislation that would better reflect the concerns of a broader section of the Canadian public.
The bill came to parliament, then went to committee. At committee, we went through the process of calling in countless expert witnesses on the issues. They presented their concerns, their analyses and how the bill could be made better. Then we went into the clause by clause process. Some 70 amendments were proposed based on what a lot of us heard from those witnesses.
When we presented those suggested amendments and concerns in committee, the entire government side of the committee sat like a bunch of posts and refused to debate or engage in any discussion about the bill and the rationale for the amendments. Instead, the bureaucrats from the department, who wrote the bill and understood what was in it, sat at the end of the table and answered those questions. That was a very frustrating process.
This could be done in other ways that would include all parties of the House in a committee setting, with experts from the various departments, such as justice, technical, et cetera. Together we could sit down, draft a bill and enter into some discussion as to why it should be done this way or that way and how the bill could be made as good as it possibly could. That just does not happen.
It seemed as though the members of the government side of the committee table were so arrogant that felt they did not need to enter into any discussion because, in the interests of time and expediency, they would simply use their majority in committee and in the House to pass the bill whether we liked it or not. Perhaps they did not understand the bill and the implications of the sections for which we suggested some amendments and therefore passed off the responsibility to respond to those things to the departmental experts at the end of the table.
Whatever the case, it truly was a frustrating process. I find the same frustration over and over again whenever we get into a bill that falls within my area as critic of natural resources. It seems to be a practice that repeats itself over and over again.
I have been here for over eight years. There certainly has not been any demonstrated desire to give elected members of parliament any degree of authority or any real input in the development of legislation which we will all have to live by for many years to come.
Having vented my frustrations with all of those things, I will proceed to discuss the bill.
There is a lot of merit in the bill. It deals with an area that we in Canada have needed to address for a long time. As the member opposite suggested, this is a process that has been going on for 25 years in Canada without any resolution. Bill C-27 takes us a little way toward some resolution of the problem of nuclear waste disposal.
For the most part the bill is a reflection of the recommendations of the Seaborn panel which did an excellent job in its study and its recommendations on how we should handle this matter. It did not comply in a number of ways that would have had merit and would have made the bill better. The Seaborn panel suggested strongly to have some kind of outside independent oversight over the waste management organization. The government for whatever reason chose not to do it that way.
Bill C-27 reflects some of the recommendations made by the disposal concept environmental assessment panel and presented to the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of the Environment in February 1998.
Some might imagine that an issue as important as the management and disposal of nuclear fuel waste would have fast tracked its way through the House of Commons. However, we saw those recommendations back in 1998 and here we are in 2001, almost 2002, and only now are we at third reading stage of this important bill. Despite the time lag, the bill has a lot of merit.
Canada's nuclear industry has stood alone for many years because of the fact that the industry does not have a producer pay approach to the cleanup of waste products. Other industries, particularly other industries within natural resources, have had to concern themselves with the cleanup of potentially dangerous or damaging materials and have similar funds built into a condition of their licensing. It is common within the industry.
Those costs are so well ingrained within most industries that the fact that the nuclear industry has never had that requirement probably has raised concerns in many parts of Canada for many years. The legislation will finally put the nuclear industry on a par with other resource industries in its requirement to be financially and morally responsible for the disposal of hazardous waste.
I believe that by using this piece of legislation the government intends to create an accountable management system for the long term management and disposal of nuclear fuel waste. I would quantify that to restrict it to high level nuclear fuel waste. I can only hope that the road the government chooses to take is not just paved with good intentions. I hope that the bill will quickly lead us to some concrete action.
I am pleased to see that the major players in the industry, namely, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, or AECL as it is known, Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Power Corporation are all involved in the process. The bill will ensure that this collective group will be required to establish a waste management organization that will implement the long term management of nuclear fuel waste.
One of the other concerns, which we heard a lot of talk of in committee and from the previous speaker, is the need for transparency. There is at least the transparency of the requirement to table the studies and the annual reports of the waste management organization, and I was glad to see that. However any time it is suggested in the bill that there is a responsibility either to report to, or for the governor in council to make a decision on, it makes me a little nervous. I think it makes a lot of Canadians nervous.
It seems that only by allowing members of cabinet to make final decisions with no role for parliament in those decisions, especially on something as important as nuclear fuel waste, it opens a decision to Liberal insider trading. Certainly we saw a lot of that yesterday in the auditor general's report. It is a reasonably common phenomenon. Who knows what friends the governor in council might have in the business of nuclear fuel waste disposal. It could of course present some very lucrative contracts to individuals who are running the right business at the right time and of course have made the right levels of contributions to the Liberal Party of Canada. That is a legitimate concern, a concern backed up as I said by some of the comments of the auditor general yesterday.
Furthermore, the major owners and producers of nuclear fuel waste have to establish a trust fund and make set annual payments into that trust fund to finance the long term management of the waste.
Finally, the new waste management organization has the responsibility to determine fiscally responsible, realistic options for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste.
Once these options are determined, they will then be presented to the governor in council through the minister, who will then make a choice as to the best approach. That decision having been made, the waste management organization may, and I emphasize the word may, then move forward to waste disposal.
One of the most outstanding weaknesses of the bill is that once the report is done, the trust fund is set up, the study is done and the recommendations are made to the minister, there is really no assurance that will require the waste management organization to proceed with implementation of any of the chosen options. We could sit on this issue for another 10 years before anything concrete was done.
While the waste management organization may identify a technically feasible process for disposing of nuclear fuel waste, it may find, as the Seaborn panel did and as the department has for a number of years, that while technically the idea is acceptable, it simply cannot find a location, a community or a province that will allow such a facility in its backyard. It is a well known fact that it is hard enough in this day and age to find something as simple as a nuisance ground, a non-toxic waste disposal site if you will, for the huge amounts of urban garbage that we produce. It is very difficult to find a site that is acceptable for those kinds of facilities. It is no small feat to find a community anywhere that will jump at the opportunity to accept the kind of facility that we are proposing for the disposal of nuclear fuel waste.
One of the key recommendations of the Seaborn report that appeared in the legislation is the need for an independent advisory board. I referred to that suggestion earlier. In the Seaborn report the advisory council would be given the responsibility of ensuring openness and transparency of nuclear fuel waste management, particularly in areas related to public and aboriginal participation, environmental assessment, monitoring, mediation and dispute settlements. Furthermore, the Seaborn panel recommended that the agency should be heavily involved in all stages of the agency's work and options for long term management.
I am pleased to see that the government has incorporated the general idea of an advisory council in the legislation. However it concerns me and others on the committee and others in the public that the original spirit of the council seems to have been lost in the translation into this legislation.
As far as I can see there is little in the bill that structures the advisory council to be the watchdog of the agency. In fact it seems to me that the council is to be given a much smaller role than what the Seaborn panel recommended.
The government's record on openness and transparency when it comes to governor in council appointments is not good. There simply is not another word for it. The Seaborn panel made solid recommendations to enable the agency to be an open, honest, transparent and accountable organization, yet the government seems unwilling to open up its process to that kind of scrutiny or that kind of input. I must confess that it makes me wonder exactly how the government intends to set this whole process up if it is unwilling to ensure transparency and accountability from the very beginning.
Obviously a key area of the bill is the process by which a method of disposal of nuclear fuel waste will be chosen. As described by the bill, within three years of the coming into force of the act, the waste management organization shall submit to the minister a study setting out its proposed approaches for the management of nuclear fuel waste along with the comments of the advisory council on those approaches, as well as the organization's recommendations as to which of its proposed approaches should be adopted.
Realistically, and this is reflected in the legislation, there are only three real choices for the disposal of nuclear fuel waste. The idea that the waste management organization has a broad range of options to study, examine and recommend really is not realistic. There are three choices, those being deep geological disposal in the Canadian Shield, storage in a nuclear reactor site, or centralized storage either above or below ground. The only feasible one is the first one, the deep geological disposal in the Canadian Shield, with some variations as to how that is done and whether it is absolutely permanent or is a type of storage system that will allow reclaiming of that buried fuel waste if technology should come along in the future that would allow for a better method of disposal.
Certainly we already have above ground storage at the nuclear reactor sites. We have had in the past to some degree some centralized storage at some of those sites as well. The very fact is that the industry and Canadians and a number of the panels that made recommendations do not deem what is presently taking place as being acceptable in the long term. At least in my opinion that narrows the choices down to the one that was looked at and the one which the Seaborn panel suggested was technically feasible. The problem was there was no public support to allow that proposal to go ahead.
According to the Seaborn panel, whichever method the waste management agency chose, the choice had to meet several key safety and acceptability criteria. To be considered, the concept must have broad public support and, as I suggested, that is not the case.
It has to be safe from both a technical and a social perspective. That criteria seems to be at least within reach. It has to have been developed within a sound ethical and social assessment framework. There has been a lot of good work done but I am not sure that particular criteria has been met at this point.
It has to have the support of aboriginal people. We heard at committee that this support is certainly not there at this time. Some very stringent conditions were placed on that support being forthcoming.
It has to be selected after comparison with the risks, costs and benefits of the other options. As I said, the other options are very limited.
It has to be advanced by a stable and trustworthy proponent and overseen by a trustworthy regulator. I suggest it has yet to be determined if the waste management organization could be deemed to be a trustworthy proponent. I certainly hope it would.
There are those on this side of the House, at least, and I think a fair number of people across the country who would question whether the government is in fact a trustworthy regulator of this system.
It seems to me that in some ways it is the first of those conditions that will be the most difficult to meet. Having broad public support on an issue such as this where there is such a strong sense of “not in my backyard” will be a truly tough obstacle for this agency to overcome. Of course there are also a number of other conditions which, as I said, will be some challenge to meet.
The choice, according to the Seaborn panel, must: demonstrate robustness in meeting appropriate regulatory requirements; be based on thorough and participatory scenario analyses; use realistic data, modelling and natural analogues; incorporate sound science and good practices; and demonstrate flexibility.
Of course we will not know until the report comes to the minister and then becomes public whether in fact the chosen one will meet those criteria.
I certainly hope that any organization working with nuclear fuel would already have the stringent safety regulations and good practices, but even that is in some question considering the conditions under which Ontario Hydro had to shut down a number of its nuclear reactors. That process was forced upon it not by Canada's own industry regulators but by a U.S. industry inspector.
There certainly are a number of concerns about the stringent safety regulations and the compliance with those regulations and good practices and they will remain.
One of the key issues this agency will have to contend with is the question of how safe is safe enough, taking into consideration different technical and social perspectives. Nuclear scientists are likely to have views on the issue that are very different from those on the environmentalist side of the equation, yet somehow, if the plan is to go forward, both groups must be made to feel comfortable with and accepting of this plan.
As far as I can tell the only really viable course of action for the long term disposal and management of nuclear fuel waste is that which has been proposed by AECL, that is, the deep geological disposal in the Canadian Shield. However, as I mentioned, in its study the Seaborn panel concluded that it seems to meet the requirement from a technical perspective and states that:
—safety of the AECL concept has been on balance adequately demonstrated from a conceptual stage of development, but from a social perspective, it has not.
Furthermore, the study concluded that:
—the AECL concept for deep geological disposal has not been demonstrated to have broad public support. The concept in its current form does not have the required level of acceptability to be adopted as Canada's approach for managing nuclear fuel waste.
I know only too well how the government likes to operate when there are contentious matters that do not have public support. A perfect example is the MOX fuel that was flown into Chalk River without any sort of public support after numerous towns, cities, native communities and the Ontario provincial government raised their opposition to the MOX plutonium test plan. Without any public notice, and showing complete disregard for public concerns, the government went ahead and flew in the MOX for the test.
I would like to urge the government to take a more responsible, measured and, frankly, more reasonable approach to nuclear fuel waste management. There is simply too much at stake to just put a stranglehold on opponents of the proposal.
As I said at the beginning of my comments, I am pleased that the legislation has finally come to the House and that the government seems to have taken to heart most of the recommendations of the Seaborn report.
The committee discussions on the bill were certainly interesting and could have been even more interesting if we had had a little more participation from the government side. Not surprisingly, the government did not allow any opposition amendments to the bill, which could have been to the benefit of the waste management agency as well as all Canadians.
While I do have hopes that the good intentions of the bill will actually turn into solid, responsible legislation I am not convinced that the government intends to follow through with total accountability and openness. The bill certainly has merit, and while I am pleased to see that the government has finally taken action on this issue, I believe more should have been done with the bill. Consequently, with some reservations, we will be supporting the passage of Bill C-27.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
December 5th, 2001 / 4:15 p.m.
Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC
Madam Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise today to address Bill C-27, an act respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste.
A few days ago, I spoke on Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada. My Bloc Quebecois colleagues also addressed Bill C-36, the anti-terrorism act, and Bill C-42, the public safety act.
I would like to explain from the outset what issues I will discuss over the next 40 minutes. First, I must point out that this government constantly displayed a confrontational attitude, despite the fact that Bloc Quebecois members were committed to co-operating regarding this bill, whether at second reading, during the review in committee, or at report stage.
The Bloc Quebecois, which acted in good faith at all stages of the parliamentary process, was always told by Liberal members opposite no, no, no.
This afternoon, I will again directly address my constituents and all Quebecers and Canadians. We feel that Bill C-27 is incomplete. It lacks transparency and it does not take into account public opinion.
Under the circumstances, we could have said no right from the beginning and made things complicated for the government, but no, we felt that we had to give our support at second reading in order to improve the bill in committee.
However, during the review in committee, when we heard witnesses and when the time came to amend the bill, Liberal members sitting on the committee said no, no, no, without really knowing what the issue was all about.
We are talking about the management of the country's nuclear fuel waste. I was stunned to the hear the Liberal member for Frontenac—Mégantic say, as he was leaving a meeting, that plutonium and uranium were no more dangerous than asbestos. The chair of the standing committee on natural resources and member for Nickel Belt also made a similar comment.
This is a serious matter. We heard many witnesses at the standing committee on natural resources. My colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke and Bloc Quebecois critic in this area, has done an excellent job, with some contribution from myself, in his desire to improve this bill.
It is clear, however, that the Liberal members of the committee did not have any idea what we or the witnesses were talking about. At that time, and still today, we were addressing nuclear waste, precisely, 24,000 tonnes of uranium and plutonium which will remain radioactive for some 25,000 years. This has nothing in common with asbestos.
When I hear comments like that, I feel there is no point in talking to the Liberal MPs. They heard all the same things we did, but understood nothing. I think they were there with their ears and eyes firmly closed. The only thing they could say was no, no. That was all we got out of them.
I will therefore continue to talk to our audience instead. Despite what the Liberal committee members have said, the taxpayers of Canada and Quebec are very much attuned to what is going on as far as waste in general is concerned, and nuclear waste in particular. I feel their judgment is far superior to that of the Liberals.
What is Bill C-27 all about? The whole thing dates back to 1989, when the Minister of the Environment of the day mandated the nuclear fuel waste and disposal environmental assessment commission, known as the Seaborn panel, from the name of its chair, to come up with a concept for the permanent storage of this country's nuclear waste.
I would like to digress for a moment. It would be mistaken to mix things and say that the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to Bill C-27. The Bloc supports strict management of nuclear waste. This is a matter of huge importance, and the government has not bothered in recent years to resolve it. The situation has continued, and today we realize that problem must be solved, but not at any cost.
The main recommendations of the Seaborn panel were that an agency be established that would hold public hearings and propose a type of management for this country's nuclear waste. It recommended as well that the cost of this country's waste management be assumed by the nuclear energy industry.
What is there in Bill C-27? Does it follow the letter of the recommendations of the Seaborn report? We must remember that the Minister of Natural Resources was drawing on the recommendations of the Seaborn report when he said he was going to draft the bill. This, however, is not what the chair of the standing committee on natural resources said to me. He said that the Seaborn report is outdated. I think the Seaborn report is very important. The Seaborn panel was independent. It lasted 10 years, cost a small fortune, but it has given us guidelines for the successful management of nuclear waste.
The management is to be independent of the nuclear energy industry. As the committee studied the matter, the Bloc Quebecois proposed a number of amendments to bring Bill C-27 closer to the conclusions of the Seaborn panel. Contrary to what the Minister of Natural Resources said in his speech at second reading, his bill bears no relation to the main recommendations of the panel.
Indeed, the Seaborn panel recommended that energy companies be excluded from the management committee that would propose a form of nuclear waste management.
Let us look just at recommendation 6.1.2, which advocates the creation of a nuclear fuel waste management agency. It reads as follows:
For various reasons, there is in many quarters an apprehension about nuclear power that bedevils the activities and proposals of the nuclear industry. If there is to be any confidence in a system for the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste and—
I am still quoting the Seaborn panel:
—a fresh start must be made in the form of a new agency. The agency must be at arm's length from the producers and current owners of the waste. Its overall commitment must be to safety.
Bill C-27 specifies that energy companies will have to establish a management committee to propose to the minister a long term nuclear fuel waste management concept.
Such a situation is tantamount to opening the henhouse door wide open to let the fox in. As far as the Bloc Quebecois is concerned, recommendation 6.1.2 should be fully implemented. Unfortunately, the Liberal government rejected it out of hand. Incidentally, a number of witnesses who appeared before the standing committee on natural resources also asked that Bill C-27 be amended to reflect that recommendation.
I will quote a few. Irene Kock, a research consultant with the Sierra Club of Canada, testified before the committee on November 8, 2001. She said, and I quote:
The Seaborn panel recommended that an independent agency be formed at arm's length from AECL and the nuclear utilities in order to manage the programs related to long-term nuclear fuel waste management, including detailed comparison of waste management options. The waste management organization must be at arm's length from the nuclear industry. This is a very key part of the recommendations from the Seaborn panel.
It is not just the Bloc Quebecois who says it. All the witnesses said the same thing to the committee. Irene Kock added “It was a very well thought out conclusion and must be incorporated in this legislation”.
I will quote from another testimony, namely that of Brennain Lloyd, a co-ordinator for Northwatch, who also testified on November 8, 2001:
The context is that there have been a number of experiences on the part of the public with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, and with the nuclear industries more generally, specific to this issue of nuclear waste management and related siting processes. They've been very negative experiences for the greatest part, and that needs to be kept in mind.
She was warning the government about certain past experiences. Ms. Lloyd went on to say that:
The resulting mistrust and apprehension on the part of the public must be kept in constant consideration...Third, the waste management organization lacks independence. Given the track record of a number of the agencies that are proposed to be involved, that's particularly problematic. The panel was clear that the waste management organization must be independent and it must be perceived to be independent.
It said an independent agency, not an industry agency. This would be an industry agency. This in fact is what Bill C-27 proposes: a management committee composed of members of industry. This can only be problematic in terms of delivery, the ability to look more broadly at the issues, and the ability to engender public trust and engagement.
The Bloc Quebecois therefore proposed that paragraph 6(2) be amended as follows:
No nuclear energy corporation may be a member or shareholder of the waste management organization.
But what did the Liberal members say? No, no, no.
We have not lost our sense of humour or our desire to see the government make this bill into something that would be what the Seaborn panel and the general public wanted. We proposed other amendments.
I could talk all day about the amendments which the Bloc Quebecois proposed in committee. There were, and the member for Sherbrooke is nodding, between 40 and 45. The New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative Coalition also moved amendments.
But each time, the committee, which was chaired by a Liberal member and contained a Liberal majority, said no, no, no. At every stage of the process, they said they were right.
Earlier, the Canadian Alliance member spoke about the fact that the public had to be consulted, but it is plainly written in the bill that the governor in council “may”. In other words, it is not required. When you are told “you may do something” you always have a choice. The majority prevails. If one says “I have everything I need” or “I do not have what I need”, I am going to go ahead. In this case, what it says is that the public may be consulted.
This reminds me of the very moving times we went through in the summer of 2000, when this government wanted to import MOX fuel from Russia and the U.S. I stood up to this, all five feet, five inches of me.
The people of Saguenay--Lac-Saint-Jean, hon. members will recall, were on side with me on this. A total of 99.9% of my constituents said they were opposed to the importing of MOX. Some 120 municipalities throughout Quebec and a number of regional county municipalities did the same. The Quebec government and the aboriginal peoples voiced their opposition.
Atomic Energy of Canada officials came to the region, telling us that this was just a little rod that went into a big cylinder. They made it out to be such a wonderful and attractive thing that I would have been happy to have it as a decoration in my living room.
Away we went to consult people. This is not an expensive proposition, and it provides us with an opportunity to speak to people concerned by a problem. We talked to the experts. We asked their opinions. We also consulted the Quebec department of health. We even went to a university, along with our regional environmental committee, and held an information session. We invited three experts, who told us that the concept of importing MOX and the method planned for its transportation were not safe.
According to U.S. studies, this concept was not acceptable because it was not 100% sure. Afterward, people were entitled to make comments via the Atomic Energy of Canada website, and this took some 28 days.
So 99.9% of those in our region were opposed. Nevertheless, they went ahead and did it. One fine evening, I am not sure exactly when, the MOX shipment set out. Everyone was on the alert. We have the Bagotville military base in our area. They said they were going to bring the shipment in via CFB Bagotville or an Ontario military base. Let us remember that the MOX was headed for the Chalk River nuclear facility in Ontario.
One night—and I know because I took a stroll near the military base in Bagotville—there was quite a flurry of activity. We did not know when the big day would be, but people from national defence, from public safety and from the health sector were there. There was this flurry of activity. And yet, officials from Atomic Energy of Canada told us, when they came to see us, that there was no danger.
What was all the commotion about if there was no danger and if it was not serious, as they said at the time? Everyone was on edge.
They went ahead and they took it to Chalk River. This proves the government's attitude, that they went ahead despite what everyone thought. In my riding, it was a very strong majority. I held my own consultations. Representatives of Atomic Energy of Canada were in one room and I was in another, that the hotel where the consultation was taking place graciously let me use.
Before going into the room with the Atomic Energy of Canada representatives, people came to see me and sign a petition. They would then come back from the consultation and say to me, “Ms. Bujold, if I could, I would sign the petition twice. I am not sure about what they are saying”.
So we can see just how important the issue of nuclear waste is. We must consult with people. But this is not reflected in this bill.
We must manage our nuclear waste, because it our waste. We have to store it in a way such that it remains inactive for many years to come. Most of the waste that is currently being stored is at nuclear reactors located in Ontario. There are 24,000 tonnes of nuclear waste being stored there. That is a lot of nuclear waste.
We cannot count on the goodwill of a management committee that says it is the representative of these companies that are going to manage the storage.
We, elected members who represent people, must be kept informed of what is happening. We need to challenge them and say “Show us what you are going to say and do. We will accept it or reject it on behalf of our constituents, because we have been democratically elected.”
In committee we proposed a clause to the government which stated that members would have to be consulted in the House of Commons.
Madam Speaker, you are a member like me. When we run for election we say to our constituents “I am going to represent you on all issues. I am able to represent you. If I cannot represent you, I will consult with you and you will give me your opinion”.
People know that whether we are talking about domestic, nuclear or other kinds of waste, we must not become the world's dump. Nobody wants to have any kind of wastes in their backyard. We always say “Not in my backyard”.
So to reassure the public, we had asked the government that the plan be submitted here, in the House of Commons. What did the Liberals say? They said no, no and no. They refuse to be accountable to the people who elected them on a most important issue.
I do not think this is being very transparent. Since we have been sitting in this House, we have noticed that when introducing bills the government always says that it will listen to us, that it will refer the bill to committee for further study, that it will hear witnesses and be open to amendments.
That did not happen for Bill C-27. Nor did it happen for Bill C-36, Bill C-44 or Bill C-42. Who does this government take people for, particularly those people who represent all those who did not vote for the Liberals and that the Liberals no longer represent? I am talking about opposition parties.
I am thinking of people who take the trouble to appear before the committee. I recall that on the last day, before the committee began to examine the bill clause by clause, the mayors of Ontario municipalities came before it. They were involved with this issue because there are nuclear plants in their municipalities. They came to say to the committee “We have to be informed and be part of the development of management. We are involved on the front line because we have to protect our people”.
A member from the Progressive Conservative Democratic Representative Coalition proposed an amendment in this regard, and the members of the Liberal Party once again said no, no, no.
It was also pointed out that consideration should be given to having people representing the native communities on the committee. Some witnesses said that it was important that these communities be consulted. There are not just the experts, there are ordinary citizens as well, who have some expertise in this regard. The answer was no, no, no.
I think we should call them the no, no, no gang. This is what comes out as soon as opposition members introduce something intelligent. Initially they suggest that a bill be drafted. Officials then draft it. Then the minister or members representing the Liberal majority in committee must defend it. Most of the time, I think they do not even know what the subject is and this is unfortunate because it is extremely important.
It was not only yesterday that I started being concerned about nuclear waste and all sorts of waste that we import from the United States and elsewhere. The Bloc Quebecois even asked, through an amendment it put forward, to have the bill provide that we manage our own waste and contain a clause banning the importing of waste from elsewhere. This amendment too was rejected. The Liberal members said no, no, no and yet we know how important this is.
The Seaborn panel was set up by people who wanted to do something about an issue that had been dragging on for years. It took time to write the report. The panel made excellent recommendations. The Minister of Natural Resources, whom I really like, seemed to show goodwill. He had said from the beginning, and I believed him,“I rely on the reports of the Seaborn panel”. But over time he made an about-face.
Now I cannot make sense of the bill. There are many Quebecers and Canadians who will also be lost. Why? Because when it is passed, they will no longer be consulted. It will be the governor in council who will consult, because he “may” do so.
The first recommendation of the Seaborn panel was that the public should be consulted on any nuclear waste management principle. This is what should have been done. That was the panel's first recommendation. This is the one recommendation that should have served as a basis for all the other ones. The government ignored the one recommendation that should have been taken into account with this bill.
Had it not been disregarded, I would have told myself “At least the government is taking this issue seriously. It is not doing this to please people who are close to the powers that be. No, it is really presenting a bill that will reassure Canadians and Quebecers”. I would have welcomed this initiative.
I sat on the Standing Committee on the Environment for two years. When good things were happening, I would always say to the minister and the Liberal members “Yes, we will co-operate, because when it comes to the environment we have to co-operate to advance government initiatives”. That was always my attitude during these two years, and things worked well. When I did not agree with something, I said so.
This bill is now at third reading. Yesterday we voted on the last amendments at report stage. The Bloc Quebecois presented four amendments. They were not even examined. They were rejected out of hand. It was time to do something about this issue, but the government should act in the respect of people, of the public.
That is not what the government is doing. This bill will be studied by the other place, and I hope that they will be able to do what the Liberal government has not done.
Such a bill, such an issue, must not be dealt with casually, as we have seen. I was not present for all of the hearings, but my colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, was. He told me “It makes no sense. There are so many things going on; the witnesses that are appearing are only talking about the Seaborn report. They thought that the government wanted to implement the recommendations”.
Do we bring in witnesses in as a formality, or are we there to listen to them? Most of them are experts. Sometimes, regular citizens can become experts. They came in good faith to warn this government about the problems with this bill. They came and said “We are warning you; listen to us, introduce amendments. It needs to be done properly”.
But the Liberals did what they did to the opposition: they turned a deaf ear. They turned deaf and blind. As far as they were concerned, it was no, no, no. Their answers were dictated by the minister's instructions and the overall bill.
I am very disappointed for the people of the riding of Jonquière, which I represent, and I am also very disappointed for future generations. I have grandchildren, two boys. My daughter has given me two beautiful grandsons aged 5 and 3. Tomorrow, I do not want to tell my grandsons “You know, grandma could have done something. She tried, but nobody on the other side listened to her”.
I am very disappointed because they are the ones who will have to live with the results of our lack of action on December 5, 2001. We will have failed to convince the government to change Bill C-27 into the bill that we wanted at the outset.
This is a sad situation. The holiday season is upon us, and in 20 days it will be Christmas. This is a time of celebration, a time for enjoyment, for spending good times together, but I will be using that opportunity to tell my constituents “We did everything we could to get the government to listen to us, but to no avail. It is doing as it pleases, and it is not even interested in consulting you”.
I think that this government sees itself as the one possessing the truth. Of all those listening to us today, there is not one who possesses the whole truth. When one has an idea in mind, one must take into consideration the opinion of those who want to caution us, who tell us “Take care, there, don't go in that direction. I have proof of my stand, just listen to me and I will tell you why”. We need to listen to others if we are members of parliament. Otherwise, we would be better off elsewhere.
I believe that all members of this House, be they Liberals or opposition members, should have that ability to listen to others, yet in the standing committee on natural resources, I could see that the government MPs lacked that ability.
This has been a great disappointment to me, because today we are forced to acknowledge that we could have done something worthwhile, something to advance a cause that involves everyone. Last week, my colleague from Sherbrooke told me that there were people in one region discussing bringing in waste from the United States to bury in their area. One might also bring up a matter that we settled last year.
Do you remember this, Madam Speaker? At the time, you were not the acting Speaker. They wanted to bury waste from the Toronto area in northern Ontario, near the Témiscamingue area in Quebec.
With the help of the member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, we set up emergency hearings. The Minister of the Environment arranged for an environmental assessment to be done. People came to tell us that there were many irritants and they were right, so the government said that this would not be done and it was not.
All the witnesses who appeared before the committee at various times told us the same thing. The city of Toronto was forced to back down.
The government could have done the same thing with Bill C-27. It could have said “Yes, there are irritants”. We never said that this bill was all bad. We said that there were things that were not what we were looking for and that the bill needed to be improved.
We are calling for consultation, management and a report to be tabled in the House. The other day, we suggested the services of the Auditor General of Canada. Yesterday she told us about what was going on with employment insurance and about the $75 that the government handed out before last year's election to individuals below a certain income. She told us about that. The auditor general is credible.
The government members refused. They said that they want an independent auditor appointed by the governor in council.
Our request for clarity demanded an answer, ut we can see beyond any doubt, and it is a shame to have to say this, and I am sad to do so, that there is no clarity. Clarity is not a predominant characteristic of the Liberal government in this issue. I am sorry to see this because I am certain that there are members across the way who would have liked more clarity too, when they realize how little there is, and that they too hear from their constituents on the whole topic of waste. They are going to start looking at the bill and I hope that they will ask themselves what questions their constituents will have for them when they see this.
We must not disappoint the people who elect us. We must ensure that issues as important as nuclear waste management are not relegated to the back burner, as a third, fourth, or fifth priority.
This is a top priority. We have done much harm to our planet in the past. Today it suffers from what we humans have inflicted upon it. With this bill, we had an opportunity to lessen the burden that we have placed on the planet.
However, we did not. The government turned a deaf ear and did not innovate. We hear the word innovate a lot. Today we need to innovate more and more. Since the events of September 11, the world has changed, I believe.
Every weekend I meet a great number of constituents who always tell me, “You know, Jocelyne, we have changed since September 11. Our values are different. We see things more clearly now and we to want to change the little day to day things that we overlooked”.
This bill was an opportunity to change the little day to day things and allow us to finally keep an open mind and consider the winds of change on this very complex and difficult issue.
Today the Bloc Quebecois can say that it is against this bill and that it will continue to oppose it. I hope that my speech will spark something in the members opposite. That is my wish.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)
Order, please. It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's West, Infrastructure; the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Human Resources Development; the hon. member for Lanark—Carleton, Terrorism.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Madam Speaker, I would like to say that I enjoy rising to speak to the bill but that would be dishonest. All the opposition parties were quite offended by the process we were put through at committee stage with regard to the conduct around processing the bill. Although I am new to the House, I found this very difficult.
After talking to other members of other parties who sat on the committee, the so-called democratic process was a real sham for all of them.
As we have already heard from both the Alliance and the Bloc members, over 75 amendments were brought forward, on a bill that is not very large, and not one, in whole or in part, was accepted.
Speaking on behalf of all opposition parties, there were some very appropriate amendments that would have significantly strengthened the bill and made it more palatable not only to the opposition parties but, more important, to citizens of the country. However, not only was every amendment and any part of the amendment rejected, it was rare to get any response from government members as to why the amendment was not appropriate.
We need to put the conduct of the government in the context of what has happened with nuclear waste. It is not like it is a new field. It is not like we have not been studying this for quite some time as a society. It is not like we are going to come up with a solution tomorrow or anytime in the near future to properly deal with this waste. There is no sense of urgency, real or perceived, that is applicable in these circumstances.
This is one of those bills and one of those issues that needed full consideration through the democratic process but it did not even come close to that.
I will try to set some of that background. As we all know, we began having a problem with how to deal with nuclear waste from the very inception of the development of nuclear weapons. However, there was a real hiatus during that period of time until we began developing nuclear sites for power purposes.
By the early 1970s, in this country and around the world, we knew we had a major problem with this power source in the form of not only radiation but of radioactive fuel waste. Every other country that has nuclear power is in the same situation. No one has been able to come up with, in any fashion, an adequate means of dealing with nuclear waste. What it has led to, in a number of cases, is that countries have begun phasing out or stopping their use of nuclear power. However, they still have no solution for disposing the waste or, for that matter, what to do with the plants as they are decommissioned.
Some interesting research is going on now. The scientific theory is that we may be able to run the fuel back through the process again and significantly reduce its volume or to perhaps eliminate it completely. However, we are literally years if not decades away from perfecting that if in fact we ever do.
The bottom line is that no one on this planet knows how to deal with nuclear waste. We only know how to store it.
The Atomic Energy Commission came up with a proposal called deep geological disposal, or, what I call it, dumping in the Canadian Shield. When the proposal surfaced it received such a negative reaction that a further commission was appointed by the federal government. It was called the Seaborn commission and it did its work over about a two to two and a half year period. If nothing else came out of that, it was that the proposal for deep geological disposal of waste was something that no one in Canada wanted: no community, no matter how small or large, would accept it.
The Seaborn commission came to the conclusion that there was no trust in the country for AECL with regard to a methodology for disposal. The commission was very clear in its recommendations: that whatever steps we took as a country we had to build consultation into the methodology so we would build that trust in whatever community or communities would eventually end up with the waste.
Then came the bill and the process we went through. The bill and the conduct of the committee were supposed to build trust. Let me assure members it did not do that and it will not do that. The bill has some major conflicts of interest built right into it. The industries that create the waste will be the ones investigating and making recommendations to the governor in council on to how dispose of the waste. The Seaborn commission specifically recommended against that type of structural institutional setup. It recommended an independent body and we got just the opposite.
The Seaborn commission recommended extensive consultation processes be built in. We did not get that in the bill either. It recommended that whatever was necessary from a time standpoint be allowed both for the recommendations and the process. We have some very tight time limits that were built in here.
The bill also has some very limited parameters for the waste management organization that would be set up, the one that would be entirely controlled by the industry, as to the methods it would address. The way the bill is worded it basically limits the methods to three types: the one we have already heard about, the deep geological disposal methodology; leaving it the way it is now, which is stored at the sites owned by the plants; or bringing it all together in what is being called a temporary or interim storage site.
Basically the bill does not leave open the possibility of a breakthrough in technology in terms of dealing with this. The bill is all about burying the problem, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. The government just wants to get rid of it by shoving it through. It is quite clear that the committee's reaction to the witnesses we heard confirmed the statement I just made.
I would like to talk a bit more about some of the other witnesses but I will concentrate on what we heard from the mayors of three communities in Ontario. They appeared at the last minute because all the witnesses were sort of being rushed through so the committee could get to the clause by clause debate. They all showed up but they were given relatively short periods of time to address the bill. They thoroughly impressed members from all parties. Their position was relatively straightforward and simple, but it was also very eloquent and very telling.
What did they tell us? They told us that they had lived with the problem for decades, that they understood what it meant for them but that it did not make their lives simple as municipal councillors. They said that they strongly believed they had the right to be involved in the decision making process as to how the wastes would be disposed of.
They were given short shrift by the committee. Although several amendments were brought forward that specifically dealt with their concerns and what they would like to see done with the bill, the amendments were simply rejected by members of the government with no discussion and no comment about why we should not give them some representation or why we should not augment the consultation process so they would have some input. There was total silence. A vote was taken and the proposed amendments were rejected.
Those three mayors had every right to be angry for the cavalier fashion in which they were treated and in the total rejection of the proposals they had put forward in such a simple but eloquent manner.
The consultation process is meaningless. There is no funding for it. In fact, if we look very closely at the bill, the bill proposes to cut out all the NGOs across the country. These are people who have followed this issue for over a decade now and who participated in the Seaborn commission study and research. The only people with whom the government will allow any consultation, and that is fairly meaningless, will be the people in the communities it picked as proposed sites. A number of the NGOs across the country who have real expertise in this area will not even get any notice and certainly will be extremely limited in their ability to be involved in the process.
The other issue we raised, because of the September 11 incidents in New York City and in Washington, D.C., involved security. The amendments put forward would have heightened the level of security and the analysis of security brought forth by the waste management organization, but they were also defeated. If there were some urgency, that was definitely one area but it was rejected.
Some of the amendments put forward would have prohibited the importing of waste so that Canada would not become a dumping ground for the rest of the world, and it is at some risk, but those proposed amendments were rejected without discussion. The vote was taken and the proposed amendments were rejected. That was the process.
I will finish by saying that at second reading our party indicated its willingness to vote in principle to pass this over on the basis that there would be serious consideration given to the recommendations that were in the Seaborn report and to try to implement the amendments that came from the opposition parties. We did not get any of them, nor did any of the other opposition parties.
As a result of that, perhaps the last chance we had as a government to convince the Canadian populace that we needed to deal with this issue was lost, and it will be lost assuming the majority on the Liberal side pushes this through.
What will be the effect? Let me do a little prophesying, because I have heard this already from some of the groups and I think it is going to just flow out automatically. We will have communities across the country, many of them in the Shield, passing resolutions, whether they are first nations or local municipal councils in Ontario and Quebec in particular. They will start passing resolutions to prohibit any consideration of this waste being moved into their communities. We will have ongoing work done by those groups interested in this issue which will give no credibility to the government at all and will simply reject it out of hand. That will be the result.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate the member for Windsor—St. Clair for his speech, of course, but also and especially for his active participation in committees, particularly in the standing committee on natural resources. His participation is highly appreciated.
He talked about the many relevant and intelligent amendments brought forward by the New Democratic Party, by the Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative Caucus Coalition and, needless to say, by the Bloc Quebecois. We often supported and helped each other in that regard, but of course the party opposite would not listen.
I would like the member to share with us his first impression of the government's perception regarding the Seaborn panel report. After all, it is the basis of this bill. The government says that it used that report as a basis to introduce this bill. However, we say that it goes against the main recommendations of the Seaborn panel report.
I would like to give the member for Windsor—St. Clair the opportunity to enlighten us, to enlighten the House and particularly to enlighten the members opposite on this issue.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois for his question. I also want to say that the Bloc Quebecois proposed a lot of amendments of which I was very proud.
There were a number of those amendments I would have liked to have made myself, in particular those around democratic principles, around review that could be done by a parliamentary committee, again all of which were rejected.
To address specifically the question about the Seaborn commission, this is part of the sham that is being created by the bill. As I was preparing for my speech I was reading over some of the material we received from the department and the government about how the bill was carrying out the Seaborn commission recommendations. That simply is not true.
The list of recommendations from the Seaborn commission was quite lengthy and they were very specific in a number of ways. I do not think I found one carried out either literally or at least in its spirit in the bill. There is not one. The commission did a lot of work. There was a lot of excellent work in reaching out to the community and building that trust I talked about. There was a real feeling that if in fact the Seaborn commission recommendations were put into law this issue would be properly addressed and would be accepted by communities across the country. We did not get that at all.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS
Mr. Speaker, it had been my intent to split my time with the member for Saint John. Unfortunately it appears there will not be enough time today to split it, so I will continue with the remainder of the time allowed for debate.
There are several issues involved in speaking to third reading of Bill C-27. The first comment I would like to make is addressed to the member for Windsor--St. Clair, the member for Sherbrooke and the member for Athabasca who sat on the committee. We all worked diligently in attempting to improve this piece of legislation by putting amendments forward but unfortunately we were not successful. We did manage to get in two amendments. The member for Athabasca and I were able to get in amendments to improve this piece of legislation. They certainly improved it, but unfortunately they did not go far enough to allow the bill to be a workable bill that our party, the PC/DR coalition, could support.
It is very unfortunate when a piece of legislation that is needed and requested reaches third reading stage and cannot be supported because it is simply poor legislation. This bill is not unlike my Christmas tie with a grinch on it, the difference being that the grinch story is about evil turning good. The grinch becomes a good member of society and enjoys the fruits and pleasures of the holiday season.
This piece of legislation is just bad legislation, which we attempted to improve so everyone in this nation could enjoy it and benefit from it, but unfortunately we were not able to do that. Even members in the lobby are wearing their festive stockings and holiday gear at this time when we should be working together in the House to improve legislation and pass legislation that is seriously needed so the country as a whole can benefit.
Members who spoke earlier raised very cognizant and real points that needed to be raised. However, there are a number of other points that need to be raised. One of them is the discussion of the significant dollars being put into this waste management organization by industry, and we are not talking about a couple of million dollars. The initial down payment comes into effect 10 days after the bill is passed. Ontario Hydro will put up $500 million. That is not small change. New Brunswick Power will put up $20 million. Hydro-Québec will put up $20 million. Atomic Energy Canada Ltd., which claims to have no responsibility for any nuclear fuel waste, and in fact a lot of responsibility for nuclear fuel waste, I think, and which is the very perpetrator and supporter of the industry, put up $10 million.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
An hon. member
That is the Canadian taxpayer.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS
Exactly. The point was raised and is worth repeating. It is not Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. but Canadian taxpayers who are reaching into their jeans pockets to come up with those dollars.
On an annual basis, Ontario Hydro will fork over $100 million to keep this waste management organization active. Hydro-Québec will fork over $4 million. New Brunswick Power will give $4 million. Atomic Energy Canada Ltd., with somehow no responsibility for nuclear waste, will still fork over another $2 million per annum.
We are talking about significant dollars going into a waste management organization. I cannot help but think that we have it backward. Perhaps Atomic Energy Canada Limited should be putting in the primary dollars. The subsidiary dollars should be put in by the industry itself because it certainly is responsible for nuclear waste.
I found a number of issues in this piece of legislation to be problematic. The bill pretends to deal with the issue of nuclear waste but it does not satisfy the problem. Nor does it completely deal with the issue. We end up with a piece of legislation which would allow for on surface or on site management of nuclear fuel waste for perpetuity.
There is absolutely nothing in the legislation which would force the nuclear energy sector in Canada and Atomic Energy Canada Limited to come up with an option. We must consider one option which is on site storage if we are to deal with the problem.
My colleagues mentioned earlier that we could recycle the fuel, run it through reactors so that it would become inert and the radioactivity would be taken out of it. Perhaps science will find a way of dealing with this through transmutation. Those are not options that are realistic at this time but they are still options. They are worthy of debate and that debate was curtailed in committee.
It should be noted that prior to our last debate at report stage on Bill C-27 there was a piece of legislation that was important to the security of Canada. Bill C-36 was as important to our security as this piece of legislation. Yet the government forced closure on Bill C-36 because it did not have time. It was an emergency. We did not have time to debate it. The next day there were not enough government members to continue debate at report stage of Bill C-27. Debate failed on Bill C-27.
What is important and what is not important? Canadian voters will make that decision a few years down the road.
It is true that the issue has been around for 50 years. We need to deal with it in a timely manner. This does not necessarily allow us to deal with nuclear waste in a timely manner because it does not preclude on surface and on site storage forever.
There is the issue of accountability to the public. It is also important for the bill to establish a waste management organization and an advisory council that would be reflective of Canadian society.
The member for Windsor--St. Clair talked about the amendments that were put forth by Ontario municipalities which have nuclear reactors in their midst. The PC/DR coalition put forth amendments on behalf of those municipalities as did other members. There was unanimous support for the amendments on the opposition side. That speaks to some unity that we found as we all worked together on this piece of legislation.
The government claims to represent Ontario because it has a lot of members from Ontario. However it does not represent Ontario when push comes to shove and we are trying to get amendments passed that were proposed on behalf of the people from Ontario. They wanted their concerns reflected in legislation that will affect them more than any other group in Canada.
The bill does not mention property values in municipalities that have nuclear reactors or on site storage facilities. People tend not to like to be near radioactivity. They tend to have doubts, concerns and worries about radioactivity. They tend not to buy houses and properties or to build businesses there.
It is a cheap source of power. We would not see that reflection in the property values if we assured Canadians that it was safe and if we dealt with the issue in a timely fashion. A municipality that has a nuclear reactor in its midst would benefit from it because it would be an immediate source of electricity and corporations would come to the area for that reason.
I want to talk about the issue of foreign waste being deposited at some type of a waste management facility in Canada. That issue is neither dealt with nor precluded in this piece of legislation. Most Canadians do not understand that.
The legal authority from the department stated in committee that the intent of the bill did not cover the question of the import of nuclear fuel waste. Another piece of legal advice was that the scope of the bill did not touch upon the importation of nuclear fuel waste from outside the boundaries of Canada. It did not speak to that point.
That is important to me and is one of the reasons, if not the main reason, that the PC/DR coalition will not support the bill. It does not preclude Hydro-Québec, Ontario Power Generation, New Brunswick Power Corporation or any corporation from setting up a plant in the U.S. It does not preclude them from producing nuclear fuel waste at a foreign owned plant and bringing that waste back to a depository somewhere in Canada. It is unfortunate that the legislation was drafted so poorly that we will not be able to support it.
Nuclear Fuel Waste Act
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC
moved that Bill C-397, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (support payments), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be allowed to speak to this bill. I want to take a few moments to thank my colleague from Sherbrooke who agreed to support this bill.
Unfortunately, it is with a lot of bitterness that I rise to speak to Bill C-397, an act to amend the Income Tax Act. In fact, my bill is aimed at amending only one section, section 118 of the Income Tax Act dealing with child deductions.
I am disappointed because I believe that this bill should have been votable. I believe so, since the required tests for making a bill votable are, first, that the bill be written clearly and effectively. My bill and I am convinced that you have read it entirely, is very clear and effective.
The second test is that the bill must be under federal jurisdiction. This is just common sense. If it were not under federal jurisdiction, I would not be here today discussing it.
The third test is that the bill should deal with a matter that is clearly in the public interest. That will be my main point in my remarks and, naturally I will emphasize the merits of my bill.
There should be a clear interest. In this case, it is more than clear because, after I introduced my bill, the justice minister sent to all members and senators a summary of the report of the federal, provincial, territorial family law committee. This report mentioned child custody, access and support for Canadian children. I will refer to this report several times in my remarks.
I am sorry that this bill is not votable. I have hundreds of cases of Canadian and Quebec citizens, mothers and fathers, who asked me to correct certain injustices in the present legislation. I am all the more sorry because my bill, as I indicated, does exactly what is being requested in the report: parents who share parental responsibility—we no longer say shared custody—should have a tax deduction that is proportional to the number of days they have custody of the child.
For a parent to be considered to have parental responsibility, he or she must have custody during at least 100 days in a year before he or she can claim a certain percentage of child care expenses for the days he or she has custody, and benefit from tax deductions in his or her income tax return.
Let us take, for example, my own situation. I have joint custody of my children during weekends. On the basis of 52 weekends, I have custody of my children during 104 days. Therefore, I could deduct 104/365ths of the costs incurred for the custody of my children.
Unfortunately, divorce and separation occur much too frequently these days. We are living in the year 2001. It is a fact that divorce and separation are commonplace occurrences. Frequently when parents divorce or separate they try to avoid litigation, to not traumatize their children and make them suffer.
Unfortunately, money matters are always the most contentious issues between parents and are often the cause of disputes. This is why I think the Income Tax Act as it now stands is unfair. Why could we not allow a parent who has joint custody of a child or who shares parental responsibility to deduct a portion of the costs incurred for the custody of the children?
Unfortunately, since this bill has not been declared votable, my remarks are only idle chatter. I most sincerely hope that the finance minister, and I intend to pressure him on this, will in the name of equity and parental responsibility take my bill under his wing and amend section 118 of the present legislation.
I will stop here. I know that my 15 minute period is not over, but I nevertheless will stop here because I am very disappointed, of course, that this bill has not been declared votable. Most of all, I am very sad for all the parents who thought that I could succeed in pushing forward this issue and convince the government to forward to the present as in the year 2001 unfortunately divorce and separation occur too frequently.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for having listened so carefully to my speech. I want to take this opportunity to wish you and your family as well as the people of my riding a happy holiday season, much happiness and, most of all, peace.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
I thank the hon. member for his good wishes.
Since no one else seems to want to rise on the bill, the period set aside for private members' business has now expired. Since the motion has not been declared votable, the item is dropped from the order paper.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With the unexpected termination of the debate, I wonder if the House might suspend for a few minutes to allow the members who are involved in the late show to arrive in the Chamber.
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
Is it agreed that we suspend until 5.50 p.m. to give those members who want to be here for the adjournment debate a chance to be present in the House?
Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business
Some hon. members
(The sitting of the House was suspended at 5.40 p.m.)
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.