Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-57. As you know, nuclear energy is a very important issue to me.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to see, during more that a month, how the Canadian nuclear industry completely ignored the people of the Saguenay on the issue of the importation of MOX.
I can only approach this issue with a very critical mind, particularly since Quebec has only one plant, the one in Gentilly. It is for this reason and for many others that I am so interested in this debate on Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, in order to change the category of people whom the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission can order to decontaminate a site.
As it now stands, the act says that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission may, and I quote “...order that the owner or occupant of, or 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”.
The phrase “any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place” is quite broad. It means that any person with an interest may be made to pay in case of a spill or any other kind of problem.
A bank that would loan money to a plant could thus be sued and incur what would inevitably be very high costs. It is mainly to spare third parties, especially those able to finance the nuclear sector, that the bill was put forward.
The purpose of the bill is to replace “any other person with right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination” 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”.
This amendment spares a whole group the obligation to decontaminate. It is not just a simple administrative amendment, as the minister would have us believe.
We must therefore ask ourselves: Why is the Minister of Natural Resources putting forward this bill? In fact, as he indicated in his press release of last Friday, “Companies that own and operate nuclear facilities must have access to commercial credit to finance their needs, like any other enterprise”.
“This amendment will allow the nuclear industry to attract market capital and equity. At the same time, we can continue to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe environmentally-sound manner”.
Two elements caught my eye when I read this document, namely “finance their needs” and “environmentally-sound”.
It is a well-known fact that the current government, led in that by the Prime Minister, has always considered nuclear energy as an incredible economic development tool. Moreover, in terms of respecting its Kyoto commitments, the government is very favourable to this kind of energy.
Here is an example. Two or three years ago, the current Minister of Energy was taking part in a meeting in Bonn, Germany, on Kyoto. At that time, he suggested that Canada should be granted greenhouse gas emission credits because it exported CANDU reactors. Everybody laughed at him, and rightly so.
As we know, nuclear energy is not clean. It produces so much radioactive waste that we do not know what to do with it anymore.
Yet, the Canadian government thinks differently. This is very serious. Indeed, the following can be read on AECL's Internet site:
Nuclear energy has many benefits, particularly in the area of environment. Nuclear energy emits no combustion by-products, no acid gases and no greenhouse gases. It is a clean, safe, and economical energy source that does not contribute to air pollution, global warming or acid rain.
This is quite the propaganda tool, albeit an incomplete one. What AECL does not say is that we are stuck with over 20,000 tons of nuclear waste in Canada and that it will cost close to $13 billion to get rid of it. This waste is currently located on the sites of nuclear plants. Again, this government agency is really not telling all the truth to the public, and it would have us believe incomplete and biased information.
Moreover, we must ask ourselves if nuclear energy is safe. Of course, the Chernobyl tragedy occurred because of the blatant lack of security measures in the former Soviet Union. The government claims that the Candu technology is the best in the world, as are its engineers. But what is the reality?
Here is an excerpt from a report that was broadcast by Radio-Canada on August 11, 2000:
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is concerned about the quality of the maintenance of the main reactor at the Chalk River plant, close to Ottawa. The commission fears that the departure of several experts and engineers in recent years may jeopardize the safety of the plant's operations.
These concerns are in addition to the controversy surrounding the use of the Chalk River reactor to test MOX imported from the United States and Russia.
Samples of MOX, which is a radioactive fuel, have already been sent from the United States to the Chalk River nuclear plant. Atomic Energy of Canada is waiting for more samples from Russia before undertaking a series of tests.
It was then that we people from the Saguenay led an all out battle to ensure that MOX imports would not travel through our region, because we know that it is not safe. The report goes on to say:
This project continues to generate controversy, but now the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is expressing concerns of its own. This time, it is not the movement of MOX that is the source of these concerns but, rather, the quality of the maintenance of Chalk River's main research reactor, the oldest one in Canada.
I am still reading from this Radio-Canada report.
The problem is that, in 1999, a great number of very well trained people have left the plant. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has made an assessment and concluded that Atomic Energy Canada does not invest all the resources needed in replacement personnel training.
Paul Lafrenière, who is the head of the nuclear facilities at the Chalk River plant, has stated:
Since 1957, we have been relying on a system of on the job training. The CNSC would like us to move to a new customized training.
We can see that what is going on right now in nuclear plants makes no sense whatsoever. The Bloc Quebecois has suggested to the government a number of different courses of acation with respect to the nuclear industry.
Recently, the Bloc made public an investment plan of $700 million over five years to promote the emergence of a wind energy industry in Quebec. It could contribute to the creation of 15,000 jobs in Quebec, most of them in the Gaspé peninsula.
We should not forget that in 1997, in Kyoto, Canada made a commitment to reduce, by 2008 or 2010, its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below the 1990 level.
Reversing the tendency of increasing greenhouse gas emissions will limit the extreme weather occurrences like the ice storm and other environmental impacts like the low water level in the St. Lawrence River.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we should strive for greater energy efficiency and produce more with less. This is a great opportunity to encourage technological innovation and develop new structuring industries.
It is in that context that the Bloc Quebecois is proposing a vast federal program for wind energy in the Gaspé Peninsula. For the federal government, the only alternative to clean and green energy is oil and nuclear energy. It has put $6 billion in the atomic energy program alone.
As for financial assistance to the fossil energy industry, since 1970, the federal government has paid $66 billion in direct subsidies to the oil and gas industry. By comparison, businesses in the renewable energy sector received 200 times less from the federal government, which gave absolutely nothing for the development of hydroelectric power, a type of really clean energy that produces no greenhouse gases and no radioactive material. Quebec has been developing this type of energy for more than 40 years.
That is why we believe that Canada should abandon the development of nuclear energy and follow the lead of countries such as Germany, which will permanently give up nuclear energy in 2025 in favour of green energies such as wind energy.
I should point out that, over the last six years, the wind energy industry has experienced an average annual growth of 30%. Germany is the country that favours this kind of energy the most. The wind energy that it manages is 40 times greater than the total for Canada. Europe has almost 75% of the world's aerogenerators. The European Union wants to reach a target of 22% of its electricity from renewable energies, including a large part of it from wind energy.
Canada lags far behind the leaders, with a production of only 207 megawatts. Even the United States has significant incentives, such as a subsidy of 2.7 ¢ per kilowatt hour, to reach a capacity of more than 5,000 kilowatts hour.
Quebec accounts for 50% of this production, which is minimal considering its potential. According to experts, Quebec's wind energy potential, concentrated in the Gaspe Peninsula and the North Shore, ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 kilowatts-hour, which is about 60% of the total for Canada.
The U.S. department of energy says that wind energy creates more jobs for each dollar that is invested than any other technology, five times more than in the case of coal or nuclear energy.
The European Wind Energy Association has estimated that each megawatt of installed wind energy potential creates about 60 person-years of employment, or between 15 and 19 direct and indirect jobs. Therefore, in 1996, the newly installed 3,500 megawatts in Europe would have created 72,000 jobs.
As a confirmation of the association's statements, in 2001, the wind industry was providing employment to more than 30,000 people. In California, where over $5 billion have been invested in the wind power industry since 1991, 5,200 jobs depend on that industry.
That is why the Bloc Quebecois has always said that environment is important. Why is it important? The environment has been abused enough. We have caused enough damage to the environment and we must take immediate measures to protect the environment for future generations. Something has to be done; we have to go the way of renewable energy. Fossil fuels and nuclear energy must be abandoned.
That is why, from today onward, we must invest in energies that create jobs. Let us not forget that the goal is to create wind potential of at least 1,000 megawatts in Quebec, mainly in the Gaspé area. As we know, the Gaspé area has been hit headlong by major job losses, specially with the closure of the mining operation in Murdochville.
They have the expertise in wind energy. It would be important to create industries making wind turbine components. They have a huge potential to make Canada one of the three best wind energy producers in the world. At present, this government is stubbornly staying the course of nuclear energy.
The Bloc proposal would cost $700 million. This is not much compared to all the money that the government has invested in nuclear energy. Let us just compare this with what happened in Newfoundland, when the Canadian government invested money in the Hibernia project. The federal government invested a lot of money in this project.
Today, it tells us that it has no money. It has a budget surplus of $9.8 million for the fiscal year that just ended alone. It has the money; what is missing is the will.
The government tells us that it wants to help the regions. As you know, I am responsible for the regional development issue for the Bloc Quebecois. The government wants to help the regions but is not using the means that reflect the realities of the regions to provide them with the potential to develop. A huge number of jobs would be created in the Gaspé peninsula. This new approach would also allow this government to come out a winner.
Other aspects of the program could also be used. Bill C-57, as tabled by the natural resources minister, is more than an administrative amendment. It will bring about the further development of nuclear energy. It must stop. The government must stop going in all directions at the same time. It is always introducing small bills. It does not ask itself what the effects of its legislation will be. It seems that it is working in a vacuum when it introduces bills.
This bill affects many sectors, including the storing and treatment of nuclear waste that is presently stored in nuclear plants. The Seaborn panel proposed different approaches. Experiments were conducted in the Canadian Shield; there is nothing conclusive yet.
The legislation allows for the investment of more funds in the development of nuclear energy. Enough is enough. The government must stop. I am asking it to withdraw Bill C-57. This legislation does not address the nuclear problem, it allows for its development.
Consequently, we must understand that this bill is a lot more than the administrative change the natural resources minister referred to. The bill will allow for maximal development of nuclear energy. I cannot approve such a philosophy.
That is why, as the member for Jonquière representing people who are very concerned about nuclear energy, I am asking the government to withdraw its bill. If it does not do so, I will vote against it.