House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nuclear.

Topics

Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division stands deferred until Monday, May 25, 2009 at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

May 15th, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

moved that Bill C-20, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is good to be back again speaking about nuclear safety.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-20, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident. Members may be familiar with this bill. It was introduced in the last Parliament as Bill C-5. It is a bill that has had a long history of consultation. It also has a history of good support in the House.

The last time we brought the bill forward both the official opposition and the Bloc supported the bill. We were able to bring it through committee and into third reading without amendment. We look forward to working with the members on the other side of the House to get this bill through as quickly as possible.

Later, I think we will hear the member for Mississauga—Brampton South speak for the official opposition and the member for Trois-Rivières speak for the Bloc. We look forward to working with them at committee to bring this bill through to conclusion as quickly as possible.

The history of nuclear energy in Canada goes back some 75 years. For the past 30 years, it has been a part of Canada's energy mix. It has benefited this country and the citizens of this country in numerous ways.

As members know, a strong nuclear industry brings great economic and environmental benefits. However in order to encourage investments in nuclear facilities, liability rules are needed to provide legal and insurance certainty for suppliers and operators. Without the certainty of the rules concerning liability, insurers would not provide coverage to nuclear facilities, and no one would participate in nuclear development.

At the same time, it is important to ensure that Canadians have access to reasonable compensation in the unlikely event there is a nuclear incident. The health and safety of Canadians is a top priority of the Government of Canada. Canada's nuclear safety record is second to none in the world. We have a robust technology, a well-trained workforce and stringent regulatory requirements.

There are two pieces of legislation that provide a solid framework for regulating the industry. They are the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act. Nevertheless, we must be prepared for the possibility of a nuclear incident, which could result in civil damages.

The responsibility for providing an insurance framework to protect Canadians and provide stability to this important industry falls under federal jurisdiction. The Government of Canada has a duty to assume its responsibilities in this area, and we are doing that.

Traditional insurance is not appropriate for dealing with this kind of liability. It is difficult to determine levels of risk. Canada, like virtually all other nuclear countries, has addressed this void with the enactment of special legislation.

In Canada we put in place the Nuclear Liability Act. This legislation established a comprehensive liability framework in case of a nuclear incident. It is the framework that is in existence today. Both this earlier legislation and Bill C-20 apply to things like nuclear power plants, nuclear research reactors, fuel fabrication facilities and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel.

The framework established under the initial Nuclear Liability Act is based on several principles. Those principles include the absolute and exclusive liability of the operator, mandatory insurance, and limitations in time and amount. These principles are common to nuclear legislation in most other countries, such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom. The principles that were put in place years ago are just as relevant today.

Let me quickly explain these principles. Absolute liability means the injured party does not have to prove that a nuclear reactor was at fault in an incident, only that injury or damages were caused by that incident. As well, the Nuclear Liability Act holds the operator of a nuclear facility to be exclusively liable for civil damages caused by a nuclear incident. In other words, no other business, organization, supplier or contractor can be sued for these damages. The operator is responsible.

This has two advantages. First, it makes it very easy for individuals to make a claim. They know who is liable and they do not need to prove fault or negligence. The other advantage is that exclusive liability allows the insurance industry to direct all of its insurance capacity to the operators.

The principle of mandatory insurance is straightforward. All nuclear operators must carry a prescribed amount of liability insurance in order to be licensed to operate the facility. This is a widely accepted practice in countries generating nuclear power.

The Canadian regime also places limitations on liability in time and amount. In terms of amount, the maximum that has been payable under the Nuclear Liability Act is currently $75 million. As well, injury claims must be made within 10 years of the incident.

These underlying principles of Canada's existing nuclear liability framework address the needs of Canadians while permitting our country to develop nuclear capabilities.

The Nuclear Liability Act made it easier for injured parties to make claims. It guaranteed that funds would be made available to compensate individuals in the unlikely event that there is an incident.

It is a tribute to Canada's nuclear industry that there have been no claims paid out under the act. Still it has served as an important safety net for Canadians and it has provided stability and security that is needed to support the continued development of Canada's nuclear power industry.

Although the basic principles underlining Canada's nuclear liability legislation remain valid, this act is over 30 years old and it needs updating. If we consider the possibility of new investments in nuclear reactors in Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick or Ontario, we can see why this legislation must be made as robust as we can make it. We also have to keep pace with international developments in the field over the years.

As a result of this, the Government of Canada has conducted a comprehensive review of the Nuclear Liability Act and is proposing the new legislation that is before the House today. This has been done with extensive consultation across the country with the industry and with Canadians.

The bill is intended to strengthen and modernize Canada's nuclear liability regime through an all-encompassing package of amendments. Bill C-20 is a major step forward in modernizing the act. It puts Canada in line with internationally accepted compensation levels. It clarifies definitions for compensation and what is covered in the process for claiming compensation.

The bill is a culmination of many years of consultation, involving extensive discussions with major stakeholders, including nuclear utilities, the governments of nuclear power generating provinces and the Nuclear Insurance Association of Canada.

I would like to talk a little about the key changes in this legislation. The main change proposed in Bill C-20 is an increase in the amount of operator's liability from $75 million to $650 million. This balances the need for operators to provide compensation, without imposing high costs for unrealistic insurance amounts, amounts for events highly unlikely to occur in this country. This increase will put Canada on a par with most western nuclear countries.

It is important also that Canada's legislation is consistent with international conventions, not only on financial issues but also with regard to what constitutes a nuclear incident, what qualifies for compensation, and so on. Accordingly, the bill makes Canada's legislation more consistent with international conventions. These enhancements will establish a level playing field for Canadian nuclear companies, who will welcome the certainty of operating in a country that acknowledges these international conventions.

Both the current liability framework and Bill C-20 contain limitation periods restricting the time period for making claims. Under the current act, claims must be brought within 10 years of the incident. However, since we know today that some radiation-related injuries have long latency periods, this limitation period has been extended under Bill C-20 to 30 years for injury claims, while maintaining the 10 year limit for other claims.

Both the current legislation and Bill C-20 provide for an administrative process to replace the courts in the adjudication of claims arising from a large nuclear incident. The new legislation clarifies the arrangements for a quasi-judicial tribunal to hear claims. The new claims process will ensure that claims are handled equitably and efficiently. I think that is an important amendment that people need to pay attention to.

The challenge for the government in developing this legislation was to be fair to all stakeholders and to strike an effective balance in the public interest. I firmly believe the proposed legislation fully meets that challenge. This is supported by the initial reactions that we received with Bill C-5, as well as the reactions we have received with Bill C-20.

We have consulted with nuclear operators, suppliers, insurance and provinces with nuclear installations, and they generally support the changes I have described. I know that some nuclear operators may be concerned about the cost implications of higher insurance premiums, but they also recognize that they have been sheltered from these costs for quite some time.

Suppliers welcome the changes, as they would provide more certainty for the industry. Nuclear insurers appreciate the clarity that would be provided in the new legislation and the resolution of some of their long-standing concerns.

Provinces with nuclear facilities have been supportive of the proposed revisions to the current legislation. Municipalities that host nuclear facilities have been advocating revisions to the Nuclear Liability Act. They are supportive of the increased levels of operator liability and the improved approaches to victims' compensation.

In short, Bill C-20 was not developed in isolation. The evolution of policy was guided by consultation with key stakeholders over several years and by the experience that has been gained in other countries.

Let me now turn to another aspect of our involvement with nuclear technology. There are three other aspects that I would like to point out quickly today.

The first is the safety record of our nuclear industry. Our CANDU reactor is arguably the safest reactor in the world and has all kinds of built-in systems to protect workers and the public.

I would also like to point out Canada's involvement in the nuclear industry and in research and development that has been exclusively for peaceful purposes.

Third, I would like to highlight the fact that Canada's nuclear industry is among the highest tech industries. It spurs innovation, which is the cornerstone of a competitive economy, generating more than $5 billion a year in economic activity. Canada's nuclear industry employs more than 30,000 people. Many Canadians probably do not realize that. Many of those are highly skilled people in well-paying jobs.

It must be recognized that the development of Canada's nuclear industry has been made possible by the civil liability rules provided by the initial Nuclear Liability Act. The improvements by Bill C-20 are now necessary for Canada to remain a leading player in the nuclear industry.

There is an additional aspect to Canada's involvement with nuclear energy. Much of our work in the nuclear industry has been to produce electricity, electricity to provide home comforts and to drive industry and promote jobs across the country. Electricity has contributed to a healthy environment through cheap and clean energy.

In this country we have made a commitment to achieve an absolute reduction of 20% in greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by 2020. We are also committed to meeting 90% of our electricity demand from low-emitting sources by that same year.

As part of reaching these targets, our government is making substantial investments in measures to increase our supply of renewable energy, including wind, solar, small hydro and tidal energy. We also see nuclear energy as part of the clean energy mix that will advance Canada as a clean energy superpower. However, in order for us to advance in clean energy production, we need the certainty provided by an appropriate and up-to-date nuclear liability framework in order to protect Canadians and provide stability to this important industry.

In conclusion, Canada's nuclear safety record is second to none in the world. The Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Liability Act provide a solid legislative framework for regulating the industry and have done so since Canada's industry emerged as a world player. The former seeks to prevent and minimize nuclear incidents, while the latter applies should an incident occur. However unlikely as it may be, we must be prepared for the possibility of a nuclear incident that could result in significant costs.

For these and other sound reasons, I would ask members to support this legislation.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member will have 10 minutes for a question and comment period after question period, but we will move on to statements by members.

Tay Canal
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, two years ago, on its 175th anniversary, the Rideau Canal system was designated as Ontario's only World Heritage site.

This year, the Tay Canal, which runs between Perth and the Rideau Lakes in eastern Ontario, is celebrating its own 175th anniversary.

The Tay Canal forms an integral part of the Rideau Canal system and is part of the World Heritage site.

Completed in 1834, the canal was funded and built by an enterprising group of local farmers and businesses seeking better access to markets for their products, in the era before the railroads.

Today the Tay Canal is a recreation paradise for boaters, canoeists, kayakers and hikers and runs through one of the best wildlife areas of the Rideau Canal corridor.

I invite all Canadians to join in the anniversary celebrations and explore this historical gem.

Canadian Skills Competition
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to highlight the 15th annual Canadian Skills Competition that will happen in Charlottetown from May 23 to 30.

This competition for young students and apprentices will bring together approximately 500 young people from all regions of Canada to compete in over 40 areas of trade and technology.

The competition allows these students to be tested against exacting standards and their peers from across the nation for the honour of being crowned the best in their chosen discipline.

I feel it is important that we recognize and honour those in our society who have such exceptional skills in these fields. Businesses in Prince Edward Island and across Canada need more skilled tradespeople, and this event will showcase them.

I welcome all competitors, their families and friends to Charlottetown and I invite all Prince Edward Islanders to come out and observe the talented competitors in the Canadian Skills Competition next week.

Laurentian FADOQ Games
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, from June 2 to 4, the City of Boisbriand will host the 12th edition of the Laurentian Quebec senior citizens' games for people over the age of 50. Participants will challenge each other to games of beanbag baseball, mini-golf and military whist, as well as to cycling, badminton and tennis competitions. Several thousand people, all of them members of one of the 40 FADOQ clubs in the region, will participate in the games.

The games will be hosted by the Boisbriand Pioneers club and its president, Michel Bossé. Many of the club members will be among the 65 volunteers working to make the event happen.

The Bloc Québécois strongly believes in the importance of sports and recreation activities adapted to those over 50, and in all social and cultural activities that get them out interacting with others and help them stay in good physical and mental shape.

International Day Against Homophobia
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, Sunday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. This day is a worldwide call to action to end violence and discrimination against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited and queer communities.

In Canada, 2009 is the 40th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality. However, around the world 86 countries still criminalize consensual gay and lesbian sex, including seven where the punishment can be death. Sadly, homophobic violence continues here in Canada as well.

Earlier this month, Gender Euphoria Day was celebrated by the trans community in Vancouver. New appreciations of gender identity and its expression can enrich our communities and us as individuals. Transphobic violence, prejudice and discrimination continue to silence our full understanding of gender identity and restrict the lives of those who come to new understandings.

We must act against homophobia and transphobia and stand in solidarity with the GLBTT community in this important struggle.

Langley Christian High School Band and Choir
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am so proud that the Langley Christian High School band and choir is in Ottawa today. They will be singing at the rotunda at 12 o'clock, and the band will play on the parliamentary steps at 1:30 p.m.

They are an incredible group of talented Canadians and I invite all members of the House to take some time today to enjoy their music.

Langley Christian High School has developed a Christian community of learning. They provide a challenging academic program that addresses the needs and abilities of each student and prepares them for living today and for the 21st century. They promote the spiritual and intellectual development of each student. They promote the arts so that students have the opportunity to develop their artistic side.

They have just finished competing at the MusicFest Canada competition in Markham, and they did a great job.

Congratulations to Langley Christian High School band and choir. I am proud of them.

The Environment
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely concerned about the Conservative government's inaction on climate change, but even worse than inaction is its campaign of obstruction.

Top scientists now accuse the Harper government of politicizing science and research funding--

The Environment
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The member knows not to use proper names, but ridings or titles when referring to colleagues.

The Environment
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, excuse me. Top scientists now accuse the Conservative government of politicizing science and research funding by appointing climate change deniers to the very boards that determine research funding priorities, deniers who are on record as disagreeing with the science of climate change and with capping emissions, but the government's own appointed advisory group, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, makes it perfectly clear the Conservatives have no choice but to implement a hard cap and trade system now if they intend to meet their own emission reduction targets.

The Prime Minister is not listening. He is too busy trying to block American action. First, he lobbied Governor Schwarzenegger to gut his new low-carbon fuel regulation. Now he is fighting to weaken U.S. Congress' plans to reduce greenhouse gas--

The Environment
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for St. Catharines.

Mining Industry
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week is National Mining Week, a time to recognize the important role that mining plays in the lives of Canadians.

Our government has given the mining industry access to credit and strong supportive tax and regulatory systems. Further, we are working with industry on the new Canada Mining Innovation Council, the corporate social responsibility centre of excellence and NRCan's green mining initiative, which will all help ensure that Canada remains a global mining giant.

It is hard to imagine a life without minerals and metals; every day we use and rely on products made from them. With Canada's abundance of minerals and metals, we have much to celebrate.

With the help of our government's actions and to make sure that we are securing the environment, the Canadian mining sector will lead the way through the economic downturn and is expected to rebound to continue to be one of Canada's biggest economic engines.

Miners and their families have a government that is helping their industry and is getting the job done for them.

375th Anniversary of Trois-Rivières
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, in January, the festivities marking the 375th anniversary of the founding of Trois-Rivières started off with a bang. Dozens of exciting activities have been planned, and thousands of people will take part.

Le Phénix, a blockbuster extravaganza celebrating the event, was presented last weekend. Over 25,000 people attended, a testament to the magnitude of the festivities and the importance of the event to the people of Trois-Rivières.

In addition to being a source of great pride to the people of Trois-Rivières, the 375th anniversary also commemorates the history of Quebec and North America. Not only is Trois-Rivières the second francophone city founded in America, but its Saint-Maurice forges made it North America's first industrial centre.

The enthusiasm of the people of Trois-Rivières is contagious, and I invite people from all over to participate in the festivities and be reinvigorated by our dynamic community and the excitement that has taken over our wonderful city with its rich historical and cultural roots.