Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to speak to Bill C-5 regarding nuclear liability.
What is the cost of cleaning up a nuclear accident? We had a nuclear accident in the 1940s in New Mexico and a series of nuclear accidents in the 1950s in Russia, in Chalk River, Ontario and in Illinois. If I have time later, I will go through some of the examples.
However, the nuclear accidents that captured the public's attention the most were Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Windscale.
I pay a lot of attention to Chernobyl because we have seen a huge increase in the rate of thyroid cancer in children and families in Chernobyl. I know a lot about thyroid cancer because I have thyroid cancer and after studying the disease I noticed that one of the causes was exposure to nuclear reactors, nuclear waste or nuclear radiation.
Thyroid cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the world, aside from skin cancer, although both have a growth rate of about 5% per year.
What is the cost of helping survivors of this disease? Once the thyroid has been removed, people will need to take certain types of drugs for the rest of their life. The cost of the drugs, in a country where there may not be adequate health care or pharmacare, could be enormous. Therefore, it is absurd that the bill would limit the liability of a nuclear accident to only $650 million. It costs so much more, not only for each individual, but also to repair all the damage that is inflicted by a nuclear accident.
The liability for a nuclear accident in U.S. is $10 billion. The Canadian amount of $650 million is at the bottom of the heap according to the international standard. Yes, Canada is well known to be at the bottom of the heap with regard to the international standard, not only on nuclear liability but also with regard to nuclear waste. Nuclear waste lasts for thousands and thousands of years. It is a good comparison to look at something that lasts for that length of time versus something that is so much about our future, our children.
The children of Canada are our first concern because they are our future. Canada is not only at the bottom of the heap in terms of nuclear liability and the $650 million limit if this bill passes, but we are in fact putting our children, in terms of our investment in a national child care program, also at the bottom of the OECD heap.
In terms of liability, in Germany there is no limit. Not only Germany but a lot of European countries are moving more toward unlimited liability limits. As the world is going in one direction, Canada is going backwards as usual by saying that we are going to cap the liability at $650 million. Also, no private insurance would be made available.
That actually says to a lot of the cities and areas around nuclear plants that they are only worth $650 million. If there is a nuclear accident, it would cost billions of dollars in damage, personal injury and death, so who would pay? Let me answer that question in a minute, because this is the critical situation. If it is not the corporation that is paying, who is paying?
That is why the New Democrats, at the committee and at report stage, moved 35 amendments. We took the Liberal Party at its word. In the House of Commons in October of last year, the Liberal critic said:
--this is a very important bill and I will be recommending to my caucus and my leader that we support it and send it to committee. In committee we will be doing our job as official opposition listening to stakeholders and experts, and we will review the bill in detail.
However, as usual, the Liberals are missing in action. They try to say that they really are worried about the nuclear industry, but they are not sure whether they are saying yes to nuclear industry expansion. They were saying that maybe the liability was too low, maybe they would amend this, and maybe they would study it.
After all of that discussion, what did they do? They did not bring in any amendments whatsoever. We are not surprised, are we? The Bloc did bring in a few amendments, which were nothing that would fundamentally alter the bill, but it did not matter, because the amendments from the Bloc and the New Democratic Party were defeated. Why? Because the Liberals did not support any of them, even though they said publicly that they were extremely concerned about nuclear safety.
As members may recall, when there was a shutdown at AECL, the Liberals were saying that safety is really important. They said that we must invest in safety. As for the history of AECL, for example, there was hardly any investment in the last 15 years. What the Conservative Party is doing right now, after firing Ms. Keen because she said that perhaps it was not very safe, is to sell AECL and privatize it.
I notice that the Conservatives have not met an issue that they do not want to privatize. They are privatizing the airline industry safety measures in Bill C-7, which we are debating. It is about privatizing airline safety so that the airlines would police themselves. The Conservatives are saying not to worry, to let them do their own thing.
On immigration, it is the same thing. They are saying to privatize it, to give the contracts to the visa office and let those private companies deal with it.
It is the same thing here in Bill C-5. If there is a problem, the government is saying, we will let the taxpayers pay for it. But $650 million is not enough. It will take many billions of dollars. Who is going to carry the costs of cleanups?
Who is going to carry the cost of cleaning up of the Great Lakes if Pickering has some trouble? Who is going to clean up the environment? Who is going to deal with the people who develop ill health? It will be the taxpayers, not the industry. The government does not worry about taxpayers. It will let the industry do its own thing. In fact, this legislation is a big yes to the nuclear industry.
I note that the Conservatives want to sign on to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and turn Canada into a nuclear waste dump for those who do not have space for nuclear waste. Canada is a big country. Maybe they can put some of it here, because after all, if there are any problems, the liability would be capped at only $650 million. Do not worry about it, that is the attitude, and do come to Canada, even though we know there is no long term nuclear waste storage solution in the world.
For example, let us look at cleanups. There are huge and expensive cleanups. Port Hope is stuck with a huge number of problems that it has to clean up. The Northwest Territories is another example.
Nuclear waste remains deadly even after thousands and thousands of years. The bill in front of us is saying that the government will not have to worry about this waste, that taxpayers can handle it. That is extremely unfortunate. Why? Because many of the municipalities in southern Ontario are saying no to this kind of reckless behaviour.
Let me give the House an example. Twenty years ago, Guelph had a record of being one of the best cities in terms of dealing with waste management. Now, with the new mayor, the entire city is focusing on how to have zero waste. Guelph wants a big reduction in the amount of waste.
Last weekend, a conference was held in Niagara Falls. It was put together by the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition. The coalition is looking at a situation in which companies that have waste take on the responsibility for that waste. For example, Interface is a big carpet company. If someone buys a new carpet from Interface, it takes the old one back.
We are seeing a trend toward this, which is that people and companies must take care of their products, whether it is the waste or the packaging. That is the direction the world is taking. We should do the same thing with nuclear waste.
If there is a nuclear installation, we want make sure that its waste is taken care of and that if there is an accident, the liability limit is unlimited, or at least to a standard that is extremely high, in the billions of dollars, for example, not this measly $650 million in Bill C-5.
That is why I am astounded that the Liberals and the Bloc will not do everything they can to block this bill. This bill really limits the civil liability and compensation for damage in the case of a nuclear accident. We know there has been a series of accidents in the past. I have a long list of them. How can it be possible that on the last day of this sitting of the House of Commons we get no debate but only complete silence from both the official opposition and the Bloc?
Are they not worried about their residents, their voters, discovering that in the last few sitting days of the House of Commons before the summer break we allowed a bill of this nature to pass? How can we possibly do that?
Do we think that people in southern Ontario, where there are big nuclear plants, are not worried that if there are even more nuclear reactors being built the company liability would be only $650 million? What is the worth of a city? Let us look at Guelph. What is the worth of the Great Lakes? What is the worth of Aurora, right beside Guelph? I went to the University of Guelph for a short period of time. There is the city and the zoo and a great number of places. In Pickering, it is the same thing.
How can we say that if there is an accident it would cost $650 million and we could repair everything that is damaged? Just for the lake itself, cleaning up the water would cost $650 million, never mind the health damages and contamination of all the buildings in the area.
Let me tell members about some of the nuclear leaks. I will start with recent ones. In Tennessee in March 2006, 35 litres of a highly enriched uranium solution leaked during a transfer into a lab at the Nuclear Fuel Services plant in Erwin. What happened? The incident caused a seven month shutdown and required a public hearing on the licensing of the plant.
A company wanting to build a new plant and seeing a liability of only $650 million perhaps might think that it could skip a few safety standards. Maybe it would not do everything that it should to ensure that it has the safest nuclear facility because, after all, the liability is only $650 million.
Further, by the way, the bill also says that a person would have to take action within three years of becoming aware of damage, with an absolute limitation of 10 years after an incident. In the case of bodily injury, the limit is 30 years.
However, we know, and I know personally, that cancers and genetic mutations, et cetera, will not appear for at least 20 years following exposure. That is why in Chernobyl for the first 10 to 15 years it was not very obvious. It was only 20 to 30 years later that we began to see the huge rates of thyroid cancer, other cancers and genetic mutations in the future generations, with the children suffering.
By that time, according to this bill, it would be too late. No one could sue or do anything because of the time limit.
The bill also restricts liability to Canadian incidents except when there is an agreement in place with another country and the operators are Canadian. What happens if the operators are not Canadian? They could be German, Chinese or American. Does it mean that the operators would not be liable? That is outrageous. How can we possibly allow this bill to pass?
I have at least 14 pages of nuclear accidents since 1945. There are hundreds of them, and each of them has had serious implications. Let me list another one. In 2005, in Illinois--