Mr. Speaker, it brings me great pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-57. I would like to thank my learned colleagues, the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie and the member for Sherbrooke, who so clearly outlined the position of the Bloc Quebecois on this matter and the fact that Canada is again sitting on the fence and continues to use traditional energy sources, when there are some wonderful developments around the world in all kinds of new energies that are far greener.
The purpose of my speech today is to focus on this legislative amendment, which appears to be simple, as certain Liberal members opposite have said, but which illustrates quite well this government's Liberal philosophy. This is what I am critical of.
The current legislation regarding the responsibility of those who do not respect their responsibility to decontaminate a nuclear site says that the occupants are:
—any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
Today, this text would be replaced by:
—any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
The government's objective is clear. It wants to get the banks off the hook and it has said as much. They want to keep the bankers, who would support investment, from being held responsible in any way for the decontamination of a site, or for related costs that could be incurred. However, it goes even further. The words “a right to or interest in”, could even include the federal government, which, through subsidies to industry, might have been seen to have a legal right or responsibility. Obviously, this is the objective of this government. This Liberal philosophy is about ridding itself of any responsibility.
Once again today, we are getting its friends and bankers, who are often great friends of the Liberal Party, off the hook. Inevitably, this leads to getting ourselves off the hook. This bill gets the government off the hook and frees it of any responsibility for contamination that could occur at a nuclear plant site. This is terrible for Quebecers and even more so for Canadians, since most nuclear sites are located in the rest of Canada.
It is a terrible thing not to bring out the fact that the government is not taking this opportunity to show the public what its philosophy is. The government does not take any responsiblities anymore. It is leaving the private sector to make out as best it can. When bankruptcies occur, no one is held responsible. This happens all the time.
While governments tend more and more to take responsibility for contamination, this government is walking away from its responsibilities and getting its friends, the bankers, off the hook. This shows what the Liberal philosophy is. To me, this is probably the most difficult. Since my election in the fall of 2000, I have seen how, in keeping with this philosophy, the federal government has simply decided to no longer get involved in any community problems.
Here are a few vivid reminders of this. During the terrible events of September 11, Canadians and Americans witnessed a unique and unprecedented situation in North America. An industry suffered in the aftermath, and several airline companies were among the casualties. Believe it or not, the federal government did not invest a cent, except for closing down the Canadian airspace for six days and compensating air carriers for the increase in insurance premiums. Nothing more.
It has let several air carriers fold. Men and women who had a lot of experience in air travel lost their jobs. The government allowed this human capital to be lost, taking for granted that the market would pick up and preferring to let it decide all things. This is what the Liberal philosophy is all about.
The government did the same thing in the automobile industry. My riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel borders Boisbriand, where the GM plant is located. The current Minister of Justice, who was responsible for regional development in Quebec, made the announcement: there was nothing that could be done anymore; the Boisbriand plant was going to shut down. He had just attended a meeting with GM officials in Canada and it so happened that he was the one giving the bad news that the plant would shut down.
These days, GM workers are engaged in very important discussions. On the table is a proposal whereby GM is offering to protect union members aged 50 or more. Under the orphan clause, the younger workers will practically lose everything with the closing of this plant. This never bothered the Liberal members of this House for one moment. We had a debate during an opposition day and Liberal members never even spoke. This is the reality.
They are letting the free market dictate things and even though Quebecers buy 26% of all automobiles in Canada, the federal government finds it perfectly normal not to have an auto manufacturing industry in Quebec. On the other hand, they centralize: everything is concentrated in Ontario and they find this very normal.
Again, this shows the Liberal philosophy of letting the free market dictate things, regardless of the consequences of the closing of GM's plant in Boisbriand. I am talking about human capital, about men and women who had a lot of experience. These people will lose their jobs but, more importantly, this human capital will no longer be available for Canada's automobile industry.
It was the same thing in the airline industry. After September 11, the government let the airlines down. Recently, it was the softwood lumber issue. We had long debates and extensive discussions during which the government stated its position.
We are very upset that the Americans imposed a 27% countervailing duty. The minister responsible for this issue told us in the House “We did everything that we could”. The result is that thousands of men and women are losing their jobs, a huge human capital will be lost, because plants are closing everywhere.
The only thing the government saw fit to do was to put forward a $75 million aid package for research and development, to benefit its friends of course. Once again, the mighty big is going to swallow up the small. With a $75 million aid package for research and development, major companies will once again take advantage of the bankruptcy of weaker companies. Bigger monopolies will be created. Often, this is where the major contributors to the Liberal Party are found.
Today, again, we have a fourth revelation through a bill the Liberal Party seems to have introduced in a rather inconspicuous way. In the nuclear industry, it wants only those in management to be responsible for taking measures to reduce the level of contamination in nuclear sites, mainly to exempt bankers.
The government wants to exempt bankers; it wants to let the markets decide. What it is hiding behind all this is the desire to exempt itself from any responsibility regarding contamination of such sites.
This affects the safety of citizens throughout Canada, slightly less in Quebec, but it is very difficult. We are not wishing any disaster on anybody, in Canada or anywhere else.
As we know, the Liberal Party has been going through rough times these past few weeks, and yet the government found a way to introduce a bill that is very important for the safety of people in Canada and Quebec.
This important bill is aimed at no longer holding accountable people who may have a right to or interest in the affected place; only those managing such a place will be held accountable.
Bankers are now exempt and so is the federal government, which could have been held accountable by law for having provided grants to renovate a plant. It will no longer have any responsibilities for such places.
Once again, as I have said, this is a Liberal philosophy that seems to leave everything up to private enterprise as far as responsibilities are concerned. Yet, with regard to safety and nuclear pollution, the damage cannot be assessed in financial terms. If there is a catastrophe, the damage will be terrible.
Today, this party ever so charmingly is introducing this bill, once again with the support of the Canadian Alliance, which is no better than the people opposite. Obviously, whenever the government enacts measures aimed at decentralization in favour of private enterprise or assigning responsibility to private enterprise, it always has the backing of the Canadian Alliance. In my estimation, they are worse than the Liberal government.
So there we have the Canada of today. There is no protection for the weak and the oppressed. There is no protection for those who are so in need everywhere in Canada. As far as the nuclear issue is concerned, there could of course be catastrophes that would totally devastate families.
No problem, though. The federal government wants no responsibility, particularly no responsibility for its buddies, the bankers, who might be the ones bankrolling projects. The federal government will not, of course, want to put its money into businesses.
What they want is for private enterprise to be able to get involved in lending to it without any responsibility except for getting its money back if ever any profit is generated.
Once again, we need to update the Liberal philosophy which is increasingly sloughing off responsibility and placing a lot of it on the private sector. As we know, private enterprise often exists solely on the paper that creates it. This has been seen in all the scandals that have been going on, companies behind other companies, numbered companies and the like.
There is the sponsorship scandal. Even for a single funding of any activity, regardless of how praiseworthy that activity might be, two or three companies will be skimming off some 12% or so, and then contributing to the Liberal Party subsequently. That is the way things are.
They really want to be able to do business with the private sector. When private enterprise has too many responsibilities, as is the case here with nuclear waste, steps are being taken to absolve their little banker friends of any responsibility, for otherwise none of their funds will be forthcoming.
The obvious solution is for the government, if it really does believe in nuclear energy to that extent, to give sufficient resources to those involved in this sector for the industry and its equipment to be safe.
It is therefore digging into its coffers and its marvellous surplus in order to be able to help the industry, rather than requiring the private sector and the banks to finance nuclear energy. It tells them “In any case, if you provide financing, you will no longer be liable. If anything happens, it will just be an unfortunate event”.
It is an unfortunate event for a banker, but a tragedy for all the people living in the vicinity of these plants.
Once again, our Liberal friends across the way have no social conscience. Their social conscience continues to shrink. The more time passes, the more we see that not only do they lack an economic conscience, but their social conscience is shrinking as well. This becomes clear with a bill such as Bill C-57.
As I said, I found it hard to accept this lack of responsibility toward communities. I gave four examples.
There was September 11 with the airline industry. There was the example in the auto industry, with the closing of the GM plant in Boisbriand. The government never stepped in to support employees or come up with reprimands or try to negotiate with GM to keep the auto industry in Quebec.
It is the same with the softwood lumber industry. There is no support there either. Once again, there is no concern about social support for men and women who often represent—in the auto, airline or softwood lumber industries—significant human potential with unprecedented skills. By not supporting these industries, all the government is doing is favouring its friends, who are the most powerful and the biggest in the industry, so that they can take over other companies.
In the process, thousands of jobs are being lost. That is the hard reality of it. In the case of the nuclear industry, people will be exempt from liability. Bankers, who have provided the financing for projects, will be allowed not to check. Without any liability, they will obviously be much less rigorous in their environmental checks.
When this bill uses the wording “any other person who has the management and control of”, it is so that the federal government will not have any liability in the nuclear sector.
In this regard, I agree with my colleagues from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie and Sherbrooke. While the use of such nice renewable and non polluting energies as wind energy is expanding worldwide, and great projects could be available in Quebec, including the Gaspé peninsula, this bill provides nothing to support the industry or wind energy. There is absolutely nothing, let alone a major program to replace nuclear energy with wind energy, so that bills do not have to be introduced in the House to try to take responsibilities away from almost everyone who could be affected by nuclear energy, including our friends the bankers, as the Liberals are doing. The federal government is washing its hands of responsibility, if ever it had to invest any money through a grant or otherwise. Otherwise, it would have been bound automatically, like a banker. This is the reality.
If we want to take away the responsibilities of bankers and if, as a government, we think that we did not have any responsibility, think again. When a bank invests in a business, it has responsibilities. When a government invests money through grants in a business, it has responsibilities.
With this bill, decontamination becomes the responsibility of those who manage the business. The federal government is already having trouble managing its own affairs. It certainly will not try to manage the private sector. People who are listening to us certainly understand that. Bankers manage their banks on behalf of their shareholders. What is most important to them is the dividends they pay to the shareholders every three months, not what may be happening in the field or the problems that a community may be experiencing because of nuclear pollution.
This is not an easy end of session for the Liberal government. It introduced Bill C-57 practically in a panic, to try to keep the members of this House busy. Again, and I will never repeat it often enough, the Liberal philosophy prevails. The government does not want to take responsibility for anything, especially not social and community problems.
It washes its hands of all that. What is worse, the Liberal government even divests its banker friends of any responsibility. In this regard, the bill clearly says that those who do not manage a company and could have some responsibility for the decontamination of nuclear sites will have no such responsibility.
Numbered companies will be allowed to continue to operate nuclear sites and, if there are damages, the people will suffer the consequences. Nobody will want to help these communities. Help will only come after the fact. They will never get help before a problem occurs or while a problem is occurring. A responsible banker and a responsible government see to it that the industry always complies with environmental standards. With this bill, bankers and the government will no longer be responsible.
Such a business will then be left to itself. When financial difficulties occur, businessmen do not focus on environmental problems. They rather try to resolve short term problems like paying the employees salary and others. In the last years of operation of a business, it tends to worry very little about the environment. This is the harsh reality of this bill: the bad managers will be left to themselves, and we will have to pick up the pieces after. But above all, nobody will ever be accountable. They will all be able to say that they co-operated to the project. The banker and the government, having given a subsidy, may say “It is not our fault. It is the fault of those who were there, if things went wrong”. What matters is being able to say “It is not our fault”. In the case of a nuclear pollution disaster, they will all say “It is not our fault, it is the managers' fault”.
This Liberal philosophy of divesting oneself of responsibilities and not having any social or community consciousness is reflected in Bill C-57. It was also present in all the problems that the airline industry experienced after September 11. It is also reflected in the problems faced by the automobile industry, with the closing of GM's plant in Boisbriand for example. It is reflected in the problems faced by the softwood lumber industry since the failure of the negotiations between Canada and the United States. It comes from the desire to skirt any responsibility, and to try and save friends, particularly banker friends in this case, and the government that could have had a certain responsibility. However, when it comes to the airline companies, the automobile industry and the softwood lumber industry, it is a matter of encouraging cronies whose greater might will enable them to gobble up smaller ones, even if it means that thousands of jobs will be lost.