House of Commons Hansard #88 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was port.

Topics

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Marine Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

There has been a request that the vote on this motion be deferred until the end of government orders tomorrow.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-5, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's Ruling
Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

Before proceeding to report stage debate on Bill C-5, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, the Chair would like to make the following ruling as is often the case when we get to report stage.

There are 21 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-5.

Motions Nos. 10, 13 to 15, 19 and 20 will not be selected by the Chair as they could have been presented in committee.

All remaining motions have been examined and the Chair is satisfied that they meet the guidelines expressed in the notes to Standing Order 76(1)(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at the report stage.

Motions Nos. 1 to 9, 11, 12, 16 to 18 and 21 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1 to 9, 11, 12, 16 to 18 and 21 to the House.

I might also add that, given that there was a point of order made earlier by the hon. parliamentary secretary, the Chair will be coming back with a more detailed ruling as soon as is possible. However, what we will do at the moment is begin the debate and then, as soon as possible, we will come back with a ruling responding to the point of order made earlier this day.

Motions in Amendment
Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-5 be amended by deleting Clause 21.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-5 be amended by deleting Clause 22.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-5, in Clause 23, be amended by replacing lines 23 and 24 on page 7 with the following:

“contains nuclear material, financial security to”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-5, in Clause 24, be amended by deleting lines 39 to 42 on page 7 and lines 1 to 18 on page 8.

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-5 be amended by deleting Clause 26.

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-5 be amended by deleting Clause 30.

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-5 be amended by deleting Clause 32.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-5, in Clause 34, be amended by deleting lines 15 to 23 on page 11.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-5 be amended by deleting Clause 47.

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-5, in Clause 61, be amended by replacing lines 23 to 31 on page 16 with the following:

“Majesty in right of Canada the total of all amounts paid by the Minister under this Act.”

Motion No. 12

That Bill C-5, in Clause 62, be amended by deleting lines 19 to 26 on page 17.

Motion No. 16

That Bill C-5, in Clause 66, be amended by deleting lines 3 and 4 on page 19.

Motion No. 17

That Bill C-5, in Clause 66, be amended by deleting lines 7 to 9 on page 19.

Motion No. 18

That Bill C-5, in Clause 66, be amended by deleting lines 10 to 12 on page 19.

Motion No. 21

That Bill C-5, in Clause 68, be amended by deleting lines 1 to 3 on page 20.

Mr. Speaker, after many months, the government is again bringing forward Bill C-5, the nuclear liability and compensation act. In the intervening times, different types of issues on the nuclear liability front have arisen and a full interest in this issue has been heightened over the period of time involved.

No one in any party wants to stand in the way of good legislation or to stand in the way of the things that need to be done for Canadians. While we supported the bill at second reading to get it to committee and to look at the types of issues that needed to be dealt with within the nuclear liability context, the results were less than what we felt were essential for Canadians.

As a member of Parliament from the Northwest Territories, the people I represent have had much experience with nuclear contamination over the years. Even though our numbers are very small, we have had that experience and we understand the results of that.

We have a community in the Northwest Territories called Deline. It used to be called Fort Franklin. It also was called the village of widows because it was on the shores of Great Bear Lake where the first mining for uranium took place in Canada on a large scale. The Port Radium mine brought lots of yellowcake out there. It was handled by the people in the community to a great extent. Even today we have not seen the end of this incident. We are in Port Radium cleaning up the mine. The people of Deline have gone through countless years of anguish over the results of what happened in that nuclear industry.

When we talk about nuclear liability and the need to protect individuals from the results of nuclear accidents and contamination spills, we in the Northwest Territories have a track record that we go back to. We know what the track record has been with other Canadian governments. The fact that we are still at a $650 million liability limit for nuclear installations in this country, in this day and age, strikes me as being the clearest indicator that work has not been done in this field.

As well, when it comes to more recent examples of contamination that have occurred in the Northwest Territories, I refer back to Cosmos 954 where we had a very small nuclear reactor in a Russian satellite that burned up over the Northwest Territories. The contamination from that unit was spread over 14,000 square kilometres. In fact, it required intensive searches by trained professionals throughout all our communities to locate very small amounts of nuclear contamination and eliminate them. It was a very expensive process.

What it showed us was how difficult it is to deal with nuclear contamination, how long the issues last and how long this goes on for in our society once there is a nuclear accident.

We felt that more work needed to be done on this bill. We put forward a number of amendments at committee but they were rejected by the Conservatives, the Liberals and, to a great extent, by the Bloc, which brings us here today with the amendments that we have in front of this House right now.

One of the key amendments that we are looking for is to take out any limit on nuclear liability. Unlimited amounts would probably be the preferred method to deal with it, just as Germany does. It has an unlimited liability on nuclear facilities. That means that whatever the costs are, when there is an accident those who are responsible for the plant will need to pay those costs.

The $650 million limit set in this bill pales next to that of our major trading partner, the United States of America, which has an $8 billion to $10 billion liability ceiling on its nuclear facilities. Most of our nuclear facilities are located in highly populated areas in southern Canada, areas similar to where the nuclear facilities are located in the United States.

Why should we think that our situation is remarkably different from the situation in the United States? Why should that be part of the equation? Is it because if we set the limit to where it should be, the nuclear industry would have to reflect the true costs of doing business in this country? If we set the ceiling at $650 million, would we be giving the industry another break and Canadians would not have a clear indication of the issues surrounding the industry and the associated costs?

The Conservatives are taking a very cavalier attitude toward nuclear safety. We saw that before Christmas. I do not want to denigrate the effort Parliament made with respect to the issues surrounding Chalk River, but it showed how much trouble we have working on issues around nuclear safety in this country. We saw the method by which these very serious issues were derailed by the government by its failure to pay attention to them. We saw the blame game that was played with the Nuclear Safety Commission.

Those things all stand out as stark examples of why we have to be very careful with the kind of legislation we are dealing with here today. We need to protect Canadians. The first and foremost job of this institution is to protect and enhance the lives of Canadians. This bill does not accomplish that.

Many of these amendments speak to the difficult time Canadians would have in trying to achieve compensation if there was a nuclear accident. Many of the proposed amendments would make it better for Canadians to get the compensation they should be entitled to receive. The amendments would make sure that all the issues surrounding a nuclear contamination incident would be addressed. They would assure Canadians about the compensation they would receive and that they would not be tied up in court forever trying to get that compensation.

Those are some of the issues that have brought us to this point. The NDP is not trying to obstruct Parliament. We are trying to get these issues out front for Canadians to make sure they understand what is at stake here with this nuclear liability bill. We are not going to simply push it forward so that some other restructuring in the nuclear industry can take place. We are not going to simply push it forward so the nuclear industry can be assured that it will not be judged by U.S. standards when there is a contamination accident and might be judged by these much softer Canadian standards.

These are all issues behind the legislation. These are all reasons that the legislation appeared when it did. We agreed that there was a need to move ahead with better nuclear liability provisions. We had hoped for a fulsome and useful debate in committee where we could put forward the correct type of amendments, but that did not happen, and that has brought us to this stage here in the House of Commons.

I urge all members to take a look at what we are doing here. I urge them to consider the amendments and to consider the spirit in which they have been presented.

Motions in Amendment
Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Western Arctic for his intervention and for initiating these amendments. I would like to ask my colleague a question concerning this bill and why it has been so long since we have seen Bill C-5. Canadians are aware of the incident that occurred at Chalk River during that time. It is interesting to observe that this bill was put aside for quite a while. We had quite a spirited debate in this House and certainly in society in general around nuclear safety.

Why is it that Bill C-5 is only being brought forward now? Why was it not brought forward earlier? It has been almost six months.

In light of the concerns that Canadians have expressed around nuclear safety and accountability, and which we have certainly debated in this House and outside this place, and we see governments such as the Ontario government moving full throttle on nuclear, why is it that the government is not paying more attention to the issue of nuclear safety and in this instance to the liability that stems from nuclear power?

Motions in Amendment
Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to impute motives as to why this bill has taken six months to come back to Parliament for discussion. Certainly we had a most active and interesting debate around nuclear safety during December and into January concerning the Chalk River incident. That heightened the issues in the minds of Canadians. The issues are still there. We see the same kind of concern today as we saw during December and January. I do not think any delay of legislation is going to change that.

On the other point that my colleague mentioned in terms of the nuclear industry and where it is going, we see many actions taking place here. We hear talk about the restructuring of the nuclear industry as part of what is going on. Once again I am not able to impute motives. My job here is to speak to the liability issues within the bill.

I wholeheartedly ask members to consider whom we are protecting with this bill. How the bill should work to protect whom is key to a lot of what is going on here.

Motions in Amendment
Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-5. I spoke in the debate at second reading and now I have the opportunity to speak at report stage.

Fundamentally, the bill is an administrative one. It does a lot of housecleaning on the Nuclear Liability Act. The last time that was done was over two decades ago. There has been a need for reforms, upgrades and updates. For several years the Department of Natural Resources did extensive work in preparing the bill and Bill C-5 was the outcome. We had the opportunity in committee to conduct a comprehensive study on the bill.

First, I will outline what the bill does. Initially it raises from $75 million to $650 million the limit of liability that any nuclear operator has to carry in case of an unlikely accident. Initially it was $75 million, a very small figure. Obviously there was a need to raise that amount and this bill raises it to $650 million. It also tightens up the definitions of liability and all associated legal terms that come with that liability.

The bill establishes clear criteria for operators to hold financial instruments or security to ensure that liability. Any operator must carry some type of financial security to ensure that the operator is viable and is able to comply with that liability. As well, the bill offers some flexibility on what type of financial instrument the operator can carry.

The minister is required to review the limit every five years. The bill allows for the liability to be increased through regulations; it is no longer required through legislation. Also, the minister has to review it every five years and perhaps amend it.

The bill establishes a nuclear claims tribunal, which did not exist before. If there is a claim and there is a dispute, rather than settling it through the courts, an independent quasi-judicial tribunal will be able to adjudicate on those things.

The bill does a lot of excellent housecleaning work. It establishes criteria, tightens up definitions and expands on certain areas. It is the product of a lot of work and consultation.

The natural resources committee has done a great job in talking to all stakeholders and experts about the bill, its ramifications and its implications. We heard from nuclear operators, from insurers, host communities and municipalities that have nuclear power plants in their vicinities. We heard from experts, from NGOs. We heard from organizations that are anti-nuclear.

We had an opportunity to ask questions. As committee members we had an opportunity to engage with the experts and stakeholders. We had some amendments. Eventually we kept the bill as it stands.

There was an issue whether $650 million was the right limit. There are other countries that have greater limits and there are other countries that have equivalent or smaller limits. The question is a legitimate one, not that other questions are not legitimate, but that question is the one we struggled with the most. What should the right limit be? Given that the royal recommendation of the bill set that figure as part of the core substance of the bill, it was very difficult logistically and procedurally to even contemplate an addition.

We are hoping that over the next few years the minister will look at this bill, conduct further studies, and consult with more groups. But, realistically speaking, the new figure of $650 million seems reasonable and in parallel with a lot of the international standards, the Europe standards, and those of many countries around the world. It is a big jump from $75 million, which is the current figure, and the bill is hoping to make it $650 million.

The committee, to its credit, did a great job examining all the evidence. The bill actually passed in committee last December. Therefore, the question I have now is: Why did it take the minister six months to bring this bill back?

Many nuclear operators and groups have been waiting for this bill because they need stability in the industry but the minister has chosen to wait for six months. Once the bill is passed at report stage, we want to pressure the minister to bring it back as quickly as possible. Operators are waiting for this bill to become law. It is essential for their business and the future of this industry.

There are a lot of remaining questions about the Conservative government's ability to manage the nuclear industry and their vision of the role of nuclear in the future energy mix of our country. We saw how the Conservatives bungled the situation with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. We saw how they took unprecedented action by firing a quasi-judicial, independent nuclear commissioner just for doing her job.

The Auditor General's report criticized the government's handling of AECL, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. We heard from AECL about its need for finance support and some direction about the future. We know now Ontario is looking to buy a nuclear reactor and AECL is in the bid for that proposal. The problem is that Ontario needs to know what the Conservatives' plans are with AECL. They have yet to tell us about their plans. We know they hired a consultant in February. We have yet to hear what the mandate of that consultant is, when to expect a report or anything about their vision.

We also know that they promised to conduct a review of the fiasco that happened in Chalk River. We have yet to hear anything from that examination. Canadians are really uneasy about how the Conservative government has been handling and managing the nuclear file. We all know that nuclear has a bright future.

Motions in Amendment
Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the time for statements by members has arrived. The member will have a minute and 42 seconds remaining in his speech.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

Clement Bowman
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House today and pay tribute to one of the greatest minds Sarnia—Lambton has known.

Dr. Clement Bowman has won one of the world's most prestigious scientific honours, the Global International Energy Prize, which he will share with two prominent Russian scientists. The award is designed to foster international cooperation in solving challenges in the power generation industry.

Dr. Bowman came to Sarnia in 1960 and his research and development has taken him across the world, yet he has always returned to Sarnia.

Dr. Bowman's career highlights include: chair of Alberta's technology and research advisory committee, president of the Alberta Research Council, vice-president responsible for the research centre at Esso Petroleum Canada, founding chairman of the Alberta oil sands technology and research authority. This latest award is just one of many, including becoming a Member of the Order of Canada in 1994.

I commend Dr. Bowman for his continued dedication to research and development on behalf of Sarnia—Lambton and all Canadians, who are so proud of his accomplishments.

National Youth Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, National Youth Week is held during the first week of May and is dedicated to the celebration of youth and their active participation in their community.

Youth Week brings young people of different communities together to promote youth achievement, activism and volunteerism.

Its goal is to motivate and inspire young people in Canada and internationally to contribute to their community year round.

I encourage all members of the House and all of the communities across this great country to celebrate this highly enthusiastic and immensely valuable segment of our society.

National Youth Week is an opportunity for all communities to celebrate our youth.

Maskinongé Business Awards Evening
Statements By Members

May 5th, 2008 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, the regional municipality of Maskinongé recently held its 20th Soirée des sommets, an event celebrating excellence in the municipality's socio-economic sectors.

Through their actions, their vitality and their creativity, the honorees are helping to enhance the wealth and quality of life of this part of the Mauricie region. I congratulate Maskinongé's chamber of commerce and industry, the many volunteers and the local development centre, the community futures development corporation, Emploi-Québec, the regional municipality and the municipal councils, which enthusiastically support our socio-economic sector.

However, the regional municipality is suffering because of cuts this government has made to regional programs and the lack of support for its manufacturing sector. This is yet more proof that this government does not understand or respect Quebec's interests.