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House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nuclear.

Topics

FinanceGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to participate in this prebudget debate with two objects in mind, first to outline an alternative federal budget which would give Canada a fresh start for the 21st century, and second to define two distinctively different approaches which members of this House can take to the prebudget debate and the budget debate next spring. One approach is essentially negative and reactionary. The other approach is positive and constructive.

The people of Canada long for a federal budget that delivers high growth rates, many more jobs, higher incomes and increased personal security. Canadians want a federal budget that vastly accelerates job creation. Under this government we have 1.5 million unemployed, a youth unemployment rate of over 17 per cent, two million to three million underemployed people and one out of four workers afraid for the future of their jobs.

Canadians want a federal budget that strengthens social security because under both Liberal and Tory administrations, federal support of health, education and old age security has deteriorated in absolute terms.

Under the current administration, for example, federal health care spending has been reduced by over $3 billion and reform of the Canada pension plan languished while government members preoccupied themselves with revamping the MP pension plan.

Canadians want a federal budget that reduces federal debt and increases personal incomes. Why? Under Liberal and Tory administration the federal debt has risen to over $600 billion while the disposable income of the average Canadian family has declined by $3,000 over the last three years.

High taxes kill jobs. Tax relief for consumers and private sector job creators creates jobs. Thus, Canada needs a federal budget that clearly establishes the link between job creation and tax relief and that makes tax relief, not further tax increases, a national priority.

Canadians need a federal budget that aims at federal surpluses, not further deficits. Why? Surpluses make possible reinvestment in those social programs like health care that have been cripples by cuts, and only with federal surpluses can one start making progress on debt retirement.

Because the federal budget that the Canadian people need is so much different from the budgets that have been produced thus far by the government, Reformers produced an alternative budget plan in our fresh start platform.

That fresh start budget calls for five actions. Number one, balance the federal budget by 1999, a faster timetable than that pursued by the government.

Number two, aim for surpluses after 1999, with the size of those surpluses increasing each year.

Number three, from those surpluses use $5 billion to $10 billion as initial down payment on the federal debt, with some fixed proportion of future surpluses being devoted to debt retirement.

Number four, increase federal transfers to the provinces for health and education by $4 billion per year.

Number five, provide up to $15 billion in broad based tax relief through seven specific tax relief measures, all targeted to increase consumer spending, raise the disposable income of families and stimulate job creation by private sector job creators.

That is the kind of federal budget Canada needs. It is the budget described not in the government's prebudget document but in Reform's fresh start platform.

This prebudget debate and the budget debate next spring will be a prelude to the 1997 federal election debate. There are two distinctively different approaches which members on both sides of the House can take.

On the one hand, there is the negative and reactionary approach to ideas for improving Canada's budgetary situation, an approach which has unfortunately been taken so far by the Minister of Finance.

For example, on page 18 of our fresh start platform Reform presented a proposal for increasing, not decreasing, federal funding for health care and education by $4 billion a year and presented a budgetary strategy for doing that.

How has the government reacted to this proposal? The finance minister stood in this House and charged the Reform Party with wanting to eliminate health care. In other words, the response of the government and the finance minister to one of our principle budgetary proposals was reactionary, 100 per cent negative, and in this case 100 per cent false.

On page 19 of our fresh start platform the Reform Party drew the attention of Canadians to the critical state of the Canada pension plan and put forward a four point plan to rescue the Canada pension plan from 30 years of Liberal and Tory mismanagement.

That rescue plan for CPP calls for guaranteeing that every citizen who is a senior receives every penny he or she is entitled to under CPP.

It proposes to extend the principle of RRSPs, personalized tax sheltered retirement income savings accounts, to lower income workers. It proposes to reduce poverty among elderly widows and widowers by allowing funds from a deceased person's RRSP to be transferred to the surviving spouse tax free.

Yet on November 18 the finance minister replied to a question from the hon. member for Beaver River, a member who has public credibility on the subject of pension reform because she opted out of the obscene MP pension plan. In his reply the minister made the astounding statement that Reform stood for abolishing the Canada pension plan. Again, that is a reactionary statement which is completely negative and 100 per cent false.

On pages 7 to 11 of our fresh start program Reform puts forward a budgetary plan containing the most comprehensive proposals for tax relief and job creation through tax relief ever presented in this Chamber. Six of our seven specific tax relief measures, over 90 per cent of the $15 billion in tax relief offered by Reform's program, are aimed directly at lower income and middle income Canadians.

Reform's proposals to raise the personal and spousal income tax exemptions provide tax relief to every Canadian, especially lower and middle income Canadians. More than 1.2 million low income Canadians would be removed from the tax rolls altogether.

Under Reform's tax relief measures an average family earning $30,000 per year would have its federal taxes cut by 89 per cent. Under Reform's plan a single mother with one child and an allowable child care expense of $4,000 per year would have her federal taxes cut by 100 per cent.

Yet what is the reaction of the Prime Minister, the finance minister, the Liberal government to these proposals? In Toronto the Prime Minister declared that there would be no national tax relief for Canadians under his administration. The Liberal government completely opposes faster deficit reduction so that tax relief and debt retirement can come about more quickly. The government is against increasing the personal exemption for every federal income taxpayer, as Reform proposes. The government is against increasing the spousal exemption and changing the child care tax deduction, as Reform proposes. In other words, it is against providing broad based tax relief to families and against making the tax system neutral with respect to the form of child care chosen.

The government is opposed to substantive cuts to payroll taxes and capital gains taxes, as Reform proposes, tax cuts designed to put more dollars into the hands of private sector job creators.

The government wants to retain the Tory 3 per cent and 5 per cent surtaxes, so bitterly criticized by Liberal MPs when they were in opposition, rather than remove them, as Reform proposes.

On November 18 in the House the finance minister even went so far as to describe the Reform Party's tax relief package as a tax cut for the rich. That can be found on page 6366 of Hansard . Again, a reactionary and negative statement, and one that is 100 per cent at variance with the facts.

What we have here is an approach to budgetary proposals from the government which is completely reactionary and negative. I frankly fear where this approach is going to lead. It is my experience that once a debate on any subject becomes completely negative and reactionary, and particularly when that approach is taken by people in positions of responsibility and authority, it simply breeds more of the same.

I do not know why the Prime Minister and the finance minister especially are so adamantly opposed to the consideration of a budgetary plan to deliver tax relief to Canadians. I do not care to speculate on their personal motivation, but what I can report on is what an increasing number of Canadian taxpayers are saying. It is their deep suspicion that well to do, tax sheltered, prime ministers and finance ministers simply cannot personally identify with the tax burden now carried by the hard pressed Canadian taxpayers.

If all they see from the Prime Minister and the finance minister is negative reactions to tax relief, particularly negative reaction to tax relief for low and middle income Canadians, they will react in kind.

Therefore, it would not surprise me at all if those taxpayers, through their various associations and interest groups which are mushrooming all over the country, were to in their anger and frustration, produce a pamphlet, a newspaper ad or a TV commercial with the following headline: "Well-to-do, tax sheltered Liberal leaders indifferent to tax burden of working Canadians". If and when that happens, the Prime Minister and the finance minister will react in anger and frustration, as the finance minister has already in this House, and the whole subject of tax relief and alternative budgetary plans to deliver tax relief will be lost in a welter of negative reactionary recriminations.

Is there an alternative approach to the prebudget and budget debate which is more positive and constructive, one which would inspire public interest and hope for the future rather than anger and recriminations? I believe there is. That approach is for each major party to this debate, in particular the Liberal government and the Reform Party, to put forward their alternatives plans and proposals in as positive and constructive a light as possible, and let the public decide which course of action represents the best budgetary plan for Canadian citizens and taxpayers.

This is the approach that Reformers prefer to take to the prebudget debate, to the budget debate and to the federal election campaign itself.

In taking this approach, Reform will propose that this country aim for a trim $94 billion a year federal government, one that balances its budget sooner rather than later, one that focuses on 10 major areas of national and international responsibility and decentralizes virtually everything else to provincial and local governments.

We would propose a $94 billion a year federal government which focuses its social spending on three major areas: federal support of health, education and old age security, and which reduces its spending on virtually everything else in order to sustain and guarantee its commitments in those three areas.

In contrast, working off the prebudget documents provided by the government, the government is on course to present Canadians with a $109 billion a year federal government. Under the government's plan, which is really an extension of the status quo, the federal government would attempt to continue to provide certain programs and services from regional development grants to the continuation of the CBC as a public corporation, to a plethora of social expenditures which Reform would either eliminate, privatize or delegate to lower levels of government.

The big difference between these two alternative budgetary approaches is about $15 billion a year. The question for the Canadian people is which course of action is best for them and their children. Will that $15 billion per year be more productive in terms of job creation and social security if it is collected by the Liberal tax man and spent by Ottawa or would that $15 billion be more productive in the hands of Canadian consumers and private sector job creators through tax relief?

This is the great issue ultimately to be decided in the prebudget debate, the budget debate next spring and to be conclusively decided in the next federal election.

I want to conclude by appealing to members on both sides of the House. The prebudget debate, the budget debate and the federal election debate can be negative and reactionary. We are already seeing examples of where that can lead and all it does is divert media and public attention from the real issues and the decisions that have to be made.

On the other hand, we can approach this debate positively and constructively. Let the Liberals put forward their budgetary plans for a $109 billion a year federal government with no tax relief and defend that as best it can. Let Reformers put forward its plans for a $94 billion a year federal government plus $15 billion in tax relief and argue as strenuously as we can for the benefits of that approach.

Let us take these alternative proposals before the great tribunal of the Canadian people and then, appealing to the good judgment and better instincts of our fellow citizens, let Canadians make the decision as to which approach will provide a fresh start for the Canada of the 21st century.

FinanceGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think all members of the House are pleased that the leader of the third party has joined in the debate, a debate which is very important. As he has quite correctly pointed out, it involves an incredible number of choices that as legislators, as representatives of the people, we have to make on behalf of Canadians from every region of the country.

It is constructive that Reform members have made the effort to put before Canadians an alternative budget, an alternative strategy, that they have thought it out, that they have put numbers to it, that they are offering that type of alternative. Just as our debate on the prebudget report is the subject of extensive debate throughout the country, I welcome that he has put forward their alternative budget as a serious element of debate.

I commend the third party for doing this. It is a departure from the traditional role that opposition parties have played. Traditionally opposition parties have simply criticized. They have nit-picked, they have gone after the chinks that they saw or thought that Canadians might perceive to exist in the other party's platform. The Reform Party has dared to be creative. I commend it for the

approach that it has taken. I know it has done that with a great deal of sincerity and a great deal of thought.

We have had on the finance committee through the excellent leadership of the Reform Party and its members very constructive debates from coast to coast throughout this country on many of the very important issues we face. I think members from all parties have been influenced by this exchange of philosophies and exchange of means of getting to a new end. All of us realize that we have to go beyond where we are today.

The Reform Party did a marvellous job over the past three years in pointing out the incredible problems that we face in Canada because for the 20 previous years governments of both stripes spent way beyond the means of Canadians and put us behind the eight ball. We are so far in the hole that our biggest expenditure today is $50 billion on interest, which is two and a half times what we spend on our next biggest expenditure, seniors' pensions.

I do not denigrate the approach which Reformers have taken but I do put forward with a certain amount of enthusiasm the approach taken by the Minister of Finance under the leadership of the Prime Minister. There are not too many people who five years ago would have thought that it was going to be the Liberal Party that had to come to grips with the deficit and the debt.

We took an approach which has reduced the deficit from 6 per cent of GDP when we took office down to 5 per cent, 4 per cent, 3 per cent and it will be below 3 per cent of our gross domestic product and heading for zero, be it in the year 1998-99 or the year that the leader of the third party would like to see it hit zero, 1999-2000.

We are not going to be far off from what the leader wants in terms of that objective if we continue to surpass the deficit objectives the way we have. We agree probably with the Reform Party that government does not have a role of intervening in every aspect of Canadian life even though we might like to or feel that we have an obligation to help. We can no longer afford this. This has been demonstrated by the fact that incredible cuts have had to be made in budgets. There is a difference between our parties and the approach that we have taken.

First, our cuts have been gradual, not the draconian cuts that were called for by the other party. This has allowed provincial and municipal governments to adjust. It has enabled Canadians to adjust over a period of time to the tough, harsh realities. This is not a disagreement on what had to be done, but it is the timing and giving Canadians the opportunity to adapt.

Second, I think our vision of what the country is about is slightly different, perhaps vastly different. For example, none of our budgets cut equalization payments which we feel are so critical to maintaining that confederation, that community of provinces, that community of neighbours, a country which is sharing and cares about every region.

This has been built on our history. It has been built on the fact that at the time of Confederation, Nova Scotia was the richest province. Before the big oil discoveries in the 1940s, Alberta was really a have not province.

FinanceGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, a point of order. The comments are very apropos, I guess, but they are really not giving the member for Calgary Southwest time to respond.

FinanceGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I was watching the time. I was going to warn the hon. member for Willowdale in another minute or so that he was going to perhaps put himself in that position and I am sure that he did not want to do so. I expect he will conclude his remarks shortly.

FinanceGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly in your hands. Please, just tell me when my time has expired.

The very fundamental difference between the Liberal Party and the Reform Party is that we believe equalization is fundamental to the maintenance of the partnership that exists among all provinces, the federal government and Canadians no matter where they live.

We also have a fundamental disagreement on how we should treat health care. Part of the Reform platform is that it will allow provinces to opt out of the Canada Health Act, that private billing can be done and a two-tier medical system. Now, all of a sudden it said that it is going to pour $4 billion a year more into medical care. This will be done through increasing transfers to the provinces. However, there will be no strings attached. How does Reform intend to do it?

We have fundamental differences and but we are fighting toward a lot of the common goals.

FinanceGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member, the chairman of the finance committee, for his generous comments. Perhaps the Christmas spirit has permeated this place, and we reciprocate.

However, let me respond to three of the points he made. He mentioned that one difference between the government and Reform is the pace at which we would balance the budget. The government has proposed to take the gradual approach. What he did not mention was the price that is paid for going too slow. Part of the price has been that the government has accumulated over $100 billion in debt because it has gone slow on deficit reduction. That is the other side of the story.

The interest charges on that debt have resulted in the government having less money to spend on social services. That is another part of the price. And the biggest part of the price of going slow on deficit reduction is not being able to get quickly to a surplus position. Therefore, the government cannot offer substantive debt retirement, it cannot offer substantive social reinvestment and it cannot offer tax relief. We say the price the government paid for gradualism is too high. It would have been better to have gone

faster, to follow the timetable followed by the majority of the provinces.

With respect to equalization, let me say that we support equalization, but we support a true and focused equalization. Right now under equalization, three provinces are carrying seven. We believe we ought to strive more to a situation where there will be four or five carrying six and five rather than the current situation, and target equalization even more steeply to the most disadvantaged provinces.

The third point is on health care. The Reform position, as I argued earlier, is to increase the funding for health care. We are able to do that because we have a plan that gets to surpluses faster than what the government is doing. We would argue that is a more sound approach to preserving health care than the approach that the government is taking. It is the government itself, not Reform, that has reduced federal transfers for social and health programs by over $7 billion.

My last point would be to respond to the member's question. He asked how we can hold the provinces to spending transfers that the federal government may say are targeted to health care, education or something else when there are no strings attached to those transfers. There is one simple answer to that.

If both levels of government listen to the public they will find the public has a set of social spending priorities. If both levels of government listen to the public that is where they will get their direction as to how social dollars ought to be spent and they will both hear the same message because they are talking to the same taxpayers.

FinanceGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from October 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-236, an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada, be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

December 11th, 1996 / 5:25 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe that you will find consent for the following. I move:

That at the conclusion of the debate on Bill C-236 this day, the question be deemed put, a recorded division be deemed requested and that the said vote be deemed deferred until Thursday, December 12, 1996 at the end of the time provided for Government Orders.

(Motion agreed to.)

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Dauphin—Swan River Manitoba

Liberal

Marlene Cowling LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to conclude this debate in the House of Commons on the proposed legislation, Bill C-236.

Throughout the debate we have heard many arguments for and against this bill. The members opposite repeatedly stressed that they want to prevent Canada from becoming the world's dumping ground for radioactive waste. The image of a dumping ground is misleading. Today radioactive waste in Canada is managed in an environmentally reasonable way. All forms of radioactive waste management and disposal are strictly regulated by the Atomic Energy Control Board, the independent federal nuclear regulator.

As the House is aware, the Government of Canada has recently introduced modern and comprehensive legislation, the Canadian nuclear safety control act. Bill C-23 updates the Atomic Energy Control Act. During the debates the Government of Canada presented its reasons for not supporting Bill C-236 and the three main reasons can be summarized as follows.

First, this bill is simply not needed. The regulatory system in Canada already strictly controls the management of radioactive waste, including imported waste specifically. Canada has the knowledge base, the expertise, the infrastructure and the regulatory systems to ensure that radioactive wastes are treated in such a way that they pose no undue risk to human health or the environment.

In Canada an independent federal agency, the AECB, strictly regulates the nuclear industry. This bill adds nothing to Canada's current regulatory system. It adds nothing to the regulations under the Atomic Energy Control Act, nor to those under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Compliance with these regulations is mandatory for all licensed applicants to the AECB whether they be individuals, companies or groups, including aboriginal groups. There are no exceptions.

The current concept for the disposal of nuclear fuel waste in Canada is intended for handling waste from domestic CANDU reactors. There are no plans to import nuclear fuel waste from other countries.

In Canada, the owners and the producers of low level radioactive waste are planning for the disposal of their own waste. Under the radioactive waste policy framework, waste producers and owners

are responsible for funding, organizing, managing and operating disposal and other facilities for these wastes.

Uranium mine and mill tailings will be decomissioned at the mine sites.

Second, the bill is a threat to Canadian companies exporting medical equipment containing radioactive substances or the substances themselves.

Let me offer two examples to highlight the government's concerns. Nordion International Inc. is a worldwide leader in the production of medical radio isotopes. In 1995 its total revenue was $191 million. About 98 per cent of its sales come from exports and it sells to more than 70 countries. Should the bill pass, the company expects to lose half of its annual revenues.

This is because its clients around the world in developed as well as developing countries require sales contracts to include a take back clause for the spent radioactive sources. These spent materials are considered radioactive waste.

Nordion is quite willing to include such a clause since Canada can indeed effectively deal with the disposal of such waste. Take back provisions and practices are highly recommended by international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency since it ensures that the wastes are managed by the most capable authorities under effective regulatory regimes.

Theratronics International Ltd. is a worldwide leader in cancer therapy machines. It would also be hurt by this bill. In fact, Theratronics executives say that the legislation would probably put the company out of business since the repatriation of radioactive sources for disposal is an integral element in its contract and is often a condition for new sales.

The company feels that it has an obligation to offer disposal services such as services for a good way to keep track of spent radioactive sources. This tracking is essential to avoid the kind of tragic radiation accident that occurred a few years ago in Brazil where several people died after being exposed to radioactive materials that had been carelessly abandoned.

If we are not prepared to take back the spent radioactive substances resulting from the use of medical equipment abroad, then Canada may have to stop exporting to countries that cannot deal with the waste.

This would deprive the people in those countries of access to modern medical devices. The result could be needless illness and death in client countries, the disappearance of these successful Canadian high tech companies and significant job losses.

Third, the bill would impair our co-operation on radioactive waste management initiatives with other G-7 nations, especially the United States. It would also hurt our reputation with developing countries.

Again, let me be more specific. The law in both Canada and the United States covers on-site storage of radioactive waste at hospitals. Under some circumstances it may be more practical, effective, efficient and environmentally sound to use the disposal or storage facilities across the border, but this co-operation has to work both ways.

Developing countries, many African nations for example, have recognized that they do not have the expertise, the infrastructure or regulatory authority to safely handle these wastes and have banned their import. They are well aware that they will have to export such waste if they are to avail themselves of modern medical devices that contain radioactive material. This is not the case for Canada, which has leading expertise in this area.

If passed, this legislation would send a signal to developing countries that we are indifferent to their medical needs. As a developed nation, Canada is an active and effective participant in international fora to develop conventions, codes and guides to ensure that all countries adopt proper radioactive waste management practices.

Up to now Canada's views have commanded respect in the international community. Our opinions are actively sought because we have the expertise, the infrastructure and the regulatory authority to deal with radioactive waste safely. This legislation would show the G-7 countries that Canada is no longer prepared to effectively participate in international fora.

I will address the specific issue of nuclear fuel waste. Canada has developed something called the deep geological concept, a proposed method for disposing of nuclear fuel waste generated in this country by burying it deep within the stable granitic rock of the Canadian Shield. In the international scientific community there is general agreement that the deep geological method is the best form of disposal for nuclear fuel waste.

I re-emphasize that Bill C-236 offers no advantages and entails many harmful consequences related to the import of radioactive waste. This bill would produce no benefit whatsoever for Canadians and would add nothing to Canada's current regulatory system. On the contrary, it would inhibit environmentally responsible practices both here and abroad and would result in significant job losses in the nuclear medical equipment industry in this country. I strongly urge members of the House to vote against this bill.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Deshaies Bloc Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity today to express my views on Bill C-236, standing in the name of the hon. member for Fraser Valley-East, which would prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada.

The hon. member is to be commended on his initiative, and I want to say that I support his proposal, because this is a very serious matter, involving future generations for which we are responsible.

Much has already been said by my colleagues who support this bill and who spoke earlier in this debate. After the events of Chernobyl, none of us can afford to ignore the terrible impact such dangerous materials have had on the local population. Ukraine, with thousands of people dead, people who are sick and children who have become invalids, knows the consequences.

We have no right to put humans at risk nor, for that matter, the animal and vegetable species of this planet. We must not expose our country to potential disaster for financial considerations.

That is why legislation is needed to ensure that commercial interests do not look to the market in radioactive waste as a golden opportunity to make a quick buck, at the expense of the health and safety of the public.

Let me explain. Certain groups see attempts being made by countries to get rid of their own radioactive waste as an opportunity to make a huge profit. We must have the courage to speak out, again and again, because the huge amounts of money they can charge for burying radioactive waste are the only reason why they are prepared to ignore the very real risks involved.

It is surprising that despite the potential risk, there is no legislation to control the importation of radioactive waste. Because of our vast uninhabited areas, Canada is the ideal destination for industrialized countries that are incapable of dealing with the disposal of their radioactive waste.

I cannot imagine my riding, Abitibi, most of which is covered by the Canadian shield, being selected for this purpose. I might as well say right away that the people of Abitibi, like Canadians generally, do not want radioactive waste in their backyard, especially if it comes from a foreign country.

The people in my riding held a major debate some ten years ago, when there was a possibility of excess PCB material being stored in our region. I expect that the debate would be stormy if the subject were nuclear waste.

It is, of course, our responsibility to get rid of our own nuclear waste, but other countries must make the same commitment. We have no responsibility in the problems currently faced by the United States, for example. The United States is no doubt a country of excess, in economic and other terms, but surely in terms of its radioactive waste as well.

For example, the Hanford site, 300 kilometres south of the British Columbia border is a huge radioactive waste disposal site. To give you an idea of the size of it, it is some 26 times the size of a football field and a metre thick. You can imagine the cost.

The American government estimates the cost to be approximately $57 billion, only to convert the site. As I mentioned earlier, you can imagine that certain groups see this as an opportunity to make huge profits by importing waste and burying it here. They figure the profits will be good. The cost of cleaning up all of the States is estimated at $230 billion. With a net profit of 1 per cent, these companies could make a tidy sum eliminating these products, but at what risk and to whose advantage?

Are we prepared to become the nuclear graveyard of the U.S. or any other country in exchange for financial compensation? I think the people of Canada would say no.

Why do countries trying to get rid of their waste by selling it not keep that money and invest it in research to find a solution to the problem they have created for themselves? Because, however advanced the technology may be today, it cannot be denied that there are still risks involved.

I digress for a moment to say that Canada is not necessarily better than any other country, as it is not considering the use of other technologies to eliminate large amounts of nuclear waste.

For example, the Tokamak nuclear fusion project in Varennes offers unique high technology facility for research on clean energy, because unlike fission, fusion produces energy without radioactive waste. If it could be commercially developed, this process would allow atomic energy to be produced without any waste.

The federal government refused to finance half of the $14 million project by investing $7 million into it, arguing that it could not afford to spend that kind of money, when it has spent $23 million on the flag project. The way of the future may be to manage our own nuclear waste, but it would certainly be brighter if very little or no waste was produced.

I would like to remind the federal government that Canada is party to the convention signed in Switzerland on March 22, 1989, that came into force on May 5, 1992. The terms of this agreement were clear. They provided among other things that no country will import dangerous waste that poses a threat to the environment. Everyone will readily agree that there is a very serious threat to the environment involved. This is an indisputable risk, given that nuclear material can have effects that last for thousands of years.

However, under the convention, the export of waste is allowed if the exporting country does not have the necessary facilities to dispose of the waste, and if the importing country can recycle and manage that waste. One can see the danger for companies trying to

prove that they can manage and bury their hazardous waste, in order to make a profit.

The fact is that we have not found a solution to stock our own waste. We have been searching for a solution for 10 years and we have invested several millions of dollars without being sure of finding a solution. The Canadian shield may be a solution to deeply bury our own radioactive waste, but that solution cannot apply to all the countries in the world.

Daily newscasts remind us that the issue of atomic waste must be taken very seriously. We must not confuse the recycling of plutonium from nuclear warheads, as part of the disarmament process in the United States and in Russia, with other requests. Canada can indeed do its share to promote nuclear disarmament in the world, but some would probably take this opportunity to get rid of other dangerous radioactive material in their country.

As member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, I discussed Bill C-23, which seeks to replace the old Atomic Energy Control Act. Bill C-23 will still allow the commission to import radioactive material, but does not specify the nature of this material. The bill of my colleague, the hon. member for Fraser Valley East, Bill C-236, is intended as a complement to this to prevent any legal possibility of importing radioactive waste.

In closing, I should like to return to the speech made by my Liberal colleague, who said this was not necessarily the right time to introduce this bill. On the contrary, I believe that, given the present turn of events, this is the ideal time to introduce a bill on this matter, so as to protect Canadians and Quebecers.

She also said that the public is sure that current waste processing operations are safe. This is not true. At the present time, regardless of the studies, there is no certainty that this is a risk-free undertaking, even if the Canadian shield, a very good location, is used.

She also said that there were no plans for importing waste at this time, while in the same speech she referred to Nordion, which was taking back the waste from its sales. I also believe that the purpose of a law is prevention, and there must be prevention before we have to face the consequences.

You will conclude that the Bloc Quebecois and myself are in agreement with legislation in this area. If the Liberal government thinks this is not totally justified, it will have the option of tabling a bill which might not be totally airtight, perhaps, but it absolutely must see that a bill on the importation of radioactive waste is necessary. And we shall be voting in favour of the bill.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Bill C-236. It is very timely to talk about setting ground rules for the transport of nuclear waste. It is something that has been in the news the last couple of nights. I was rather shocked a few minutes ago to hear the parliamentary secretary for natural resources say that there are no plans for the movement of any nuclear waste between countries, that there are no plans anywhere.

Whatever researcher wrote that speech obviously must have done it prior to April because the Prime Minister agreed openly and publicly to accept Russian nuclear waste at the Russian conference. He said Canada would do its part to take nuclear waste. I am not talking about medical waste. I am talking about war grade plutonium.

Just two days ago one of the ministers in Mr. Clinton's cabinet noted that Canada had agreed to take U.S. nuclear waste and that a test project would be undertaken in the next few months. It is kind of scary that the parliamentary secretary for natural resources would say that the government has no plans. The Prime Minister announced the plans and other ministers have confirmed those plans. To say it is untimely to talk about this and that something like this is not necessary is totally and absolutely incorrect.

Members are getting used to having different things said at different times and the interpretations are left for the public which will see what the truth really is.

For decades there have been problems with the waste from the the 413 commercial nuclear reactors that now exist in the world. Not only is it a problem in Canada, it is a problem in many countries. I would like to relate to the House an experience in the last month when we were in the Scandinavian countries looking at the problem of Russian nuclear waste.

In Murmansk there are 80 submarines containing nuclear waste which it would be so dangerous to move that they would need a cement ship built around them. They would then have to be transferred in a special rail car with a special rail line built to transport them.

The question is how that nuclear waste can be transported to Canada. Two icebreakers are 3,000 feet under the ocean leaking nuclear waste. That needs to be cleaned up. Eighteen nuclear power plants are as bad or worse than Chernobyl. The world has a serious nuclear waste problem and we need to look at what Canada's role should be.

It is very fitting that we talk about the transport of nuclear waste. How is the nuclear waste to be moved from one point to another? How is the nuclear waste from the U.S. to be moved to Canada? How is it going to be moved from places like Murmansk? Do Canadians want to be the nuclear dumping ground for the world?

What are nuclear wastes like? I am not chemist or physicist and I do not know the details about this, but I am told that a grapefruit sized ball of plutonium conceivably would destroy a city the size of Toronto. We are then told that the intensity can be downgraded

so it can be transported safely. Let us have the details concerning that transportation.

The next item we need to have some details on is terrorism. How is the transfer of this plutonium, of this nuclear waste, of these spent rods, from Russia to Canada to be secured? How can this plutonium be guarded so that it is not open to terrorists to get their hands on it? If they are that dangerous, Canadians at least need to have that item discussed.

A serious study was done, the Bellona report, which resulted in the top Russian nuclear scientist committing suicide and the second in command nuclear scientist in Russia now being held in prison without a trial because he released some information on the dangers of the nuclear waste.

One does not fool around with this stuff. It is not something about which you make an ad hoc deal with the Americans or the Russians around tea some place. This is the sort of thing that should be openly discussed with Canadians, that should be openly debated in the House of Commons and the decisions are made after that debate.

For the parliamentary secretary to say that we have no plans for moving nuclear waste is wrong. The Prime Minister signed a deal in April in Moscow saying we would do our part and take war grade nuclear wastes.

One can argue that is our part to the international community but to say that we do not have any plans, there are plans. There are plans in Russia and in the U.S. Those are clear, open and we know about them.

There are more questions to be asked. If we can get it here without terrorists getting their hands on it, if we can transport it safely without it being dangerous to the population, then we have to find out how much of it can be burned. Only about one-third of that waste can be burned. The two-thirds that are left have to be stored. That means transporting nuclear waste here, of which only one-third can be burned and the other two-thirds will have to be stored. How are we going to store them? How much is it going to cost? How are we going to deal with the problem? As far as I know, there is no answer to those questions.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

We would have to store it for 2,800 years.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

The half life is 2,800 years. Where are we going to store these nuclear wastes for 2,800 years and who is going to pay the bill?

In Russia the spent rods are stored in a gully. They have been dumped there and they are leaking. In Canada we store the rods in an air conditioned, liquid filled cement vat and the cost is phenomenal. In Russia they turned off the air conditioning because they could not afford the power so there was no air conditioning for the stored rods. Is there a time bomb there? You had better believe there is a time bomb there and it is one we have to deal with.

It can be argued that accepting nuclear waste creates a lot of jobs. If that is the case then we have to weigh the jobs versus the costs and the benefits versus the dangers. The point I am making here is the fact that we must have an open debate on this subject. I believe that this bill is saying that before we agree to transport any nuclear waste, we must know the facts and they must be clear.

It does concern me as a Canadian that the government does not have a plan, that this is going to be done ad hoc. It will be sprung on us and there will be only two days of debate or a take note debate some night and at the end of it we will not get to vote and we will be stuck with tons of nuclear waste.

To say that we have legislation and that this bill is redundant is totally untrue. We need legislation and a long term plan. Obviously if we are talking about 2,800 years, that is a pretty long term plan.

To simply say that this bill is not timely or that it is not important to the Canadian public is really misrepresenting the entire issue of nuclear waste. I know Canadians across the country are going to start asking these questions. They are going to expect answers to the many questions members are raising during the discussion.

In conclusion, I am saying that Canadians need information, an open debate, open discussion, open presentation to the House of Commons. It affects every one of us. Before any further planning is done in this regard, we need to deal with it here.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Ian Murray Liberal Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to clarify Canada's approach to the safety of radioactive waste management.

I just want to mention I believe that the hon. member for Red Deer referred to plutonium in his remarks. In looking back at the remarks of the hon. member for Fraser Valley East when he spoke on the bill, he said: "From the outset I want to make it clear that this bill would not ban the importation of plutonium from the U.S. and Russian warheads". He went on to say: "That is not waste. We can still do that and Canadians are willing to consider that option because they feel it is part of what we can do. If we can get rid of the number of nuclear weapons around the world, we certainly are prepared to do our part".

Before I get into a discussion on the Canadian approach to the safety of radioactive waste management, I also want to draw the attention of the House to one of the unintended but important negative aspects of Bill C-236. I am pleased that the parliamentary secretary raised this in her remarks because two of the companies

she mentioned are in my riding, MDS Nordion and Theratronics. They literally could be put out of business if the bill becomes law.

Fifty years ago the company we now know as MDS Nordion began operations with three employees in a temporary government building beside the supreme court, just a few hundred yards away from this building. Today in its segment of the health care industry it is recognized as a world leader in the development, production and marketing of radioisotope products and technology.

The radioisotopes it produces and distributes are used in nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat disease. Every year roughly 20 million diagnostic imaging tests are carried out in hospitals around the globe using Nordion's radioisotopes. Industrial processes too, such as quality assurance and non-destructive testing, rely on radioisotopes supplied by the company.

MDS Nordion is also the world leader in the supply of radiation processing equipment and cobalt 60 used to sterilize medical and surgical supplies and a wide range of consumer products from bandages to contact lens solutions to baby powder. This same technology can be used to eliminate salmonella bacteria in poultry and E. coli, a deadly bacteria sometimes found in red meat, particularly hamburger.

MDS Nordion is a major economic contributor to Canada's economy. It employs more than 600 well educated and highly skilled men and women in Kanata, Vancouver, Laval and overseas. Ninety-five per cent of the products it produces at its main production facility in Kanata are exported to more than 70 countries.

Theratronics employs some 240 people in Kanata. It is recognized internationally as the leader in the manufacture of cobalt teletherapy units and cobalt teletherapy treatment planning systems. It has one of the largest installed bases of cobalt units and treatment planning systems in the world. As a supplier of cobalt sources for these units, Theratronics has a moral obligation to offer disposal services.

Many countries do not have the infrastructure to properly dispose of radioactive material. This is because the quantity of the material generated does not warrant a full program. Developing countries often do not have the financial resources to commit to the disposal of radioactive material or do not have the required expertise. Smaller countries with large populations do not have the land or geography required to set up a radioactive material repository.

As with MDS Nordion, the radioactive material which is being imported for disposal by Theratronics originated in Canada and was created through a nuclear process at the Chalk River laboratories. Cobalt 60 is totally Canadian or being replaced by Canadian made sources.

I wish to make it absolutely clear that the control of nuclear energy falls under federal jurisdiction. To prevent undue risks to human health and the environment, any practice involving radioactive waste management would be strictly regulated by the Atomic Energy Control Board, the AECB, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

The Government of Canada is well aware that the nuclear regulatory body must be competent and empowered by appropriate legislation if it is to ensure that operations in the nuclear industry are conducted safely. The government has introduced modern and comprehensive legislation, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Control Act. This act updates the Atomic Energy Control Act and is currently before the House. I remind the House of this fact in view of statements made during the last two House debates.

During the last two debates members on the other side of the House argued that Canada should not even think of accepting radioactive waste from other countries since it cannot properly manage its own radioactive waste. To support this premise they referred to the May 1995 report of the Auditor General of Canada on federal radioactive waste management. Clearly these hon. members are not aware of the expertise acquired by Canadians over the years. They risk alarming the Canadian public unnecessarily.

The main message of the auditor general's 1995 report was not that Canada cannot properly manage its radioactive waste, but rather that it has not kept pace with some other countries, namely Finland, France and Sweden, with regard to some aspects of disposal plans.

Federal officials closely follow developments in other countries and they know about the processes driving the scheduling of radioactive waste disposal around the world. In fact, countries around the world have already expended considerable effort to come to an agreement on the transboundary movement of hazardous and radioactive waste and to establish appropriate principles for the import and export of these materials.

In Canada steady progress is being made in the field of radioactive waste disposal. For example, on July 10, 1996 the Minister of Natural Resources announced a radioactive waste policy framework that will guide Canada's approach to radioactive waste disposal into the next century.

The framework establishes a comprehensive and integrated approach to long term management and disposal of radioactive wastes. The government developed the framework in consultation with waste producers and owners. The policy framework recognizes the federal government's responsibility for developing policy, regulating the industry and ensuring that waste producers and owners comply with legal requirements and meet their funding and operational responsibilities.

Under the policy framework, the polluter pays. In accordance with this principle, waste producers and owners are responsible for funding, organizing, managing and operating disposal and other facilities for their waste. The policy framework emphasizes the Government of Canada's commitment to sustainable development.

I assure the House that the first priority of the Government of Canada is the health and safety of Canadians. The AECB, through various processes, including inspection and ongoing assessments, reviews, and licence renewal, works to satisfy itself that the operations of its licensees are safe.

The bill we are discussing today does nothing to contribute to safety. It adds nothing of value to regulations under the Atomic Energy Control Act nor to those under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Existing regulations are strictly enforced. National and international organizations continue to develop safe practices for the management of radioactive waste including its import and export. The Government of Canada will continue to ensure that any projects or policies that involve the management of radioactive waste do not pose any undue risks to health, safety, security or the environment.

Canada clearly has the ability to properly manage the waste we generate domestically. Banning the import of radioactive waste on the specious grounds that we cannot even manage our own supply is simply not warranted.

I believe votes in this House should be based on credible information. There is no real doubt that Canada has the knowledge base, the expertise, the infrastructure and the regulatory system to ensure that radioactive waste, including imported waste, is treated in such a way that it poses no undue risk to human health or the environment. I urge all members of Parliament to reject this bill.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-236 which was introduced to the House by my colleague from Fraser Valley East. Bill C-236 has a very simple bottom line. It would ban the importation of high level radioactive waste into Canada.

I will speak as a citizen of the province of Saskatchewan which has a nuclear industry. In fact one of Saskatchewan's major industries is the uranium mining industry. It has generated a lot of income. I am not an alarmist who gets fearful. My knees do not begin to shake when I hear about nuclear energy. When electricity was invented and was being developed, it had a dangerous component and a beneficial component. The automobile can be very useful; it can get us to Ottawa, it can get us around our ridings but it also has a potential for danger.

The problem with the nuclear industry is the waste material associated with it. Some may want to pretend it is not a serious

matter. Others may want to be alarmists and suggest that the whole industry should be immediately shut down. Both responses are very irresponsible.

It would be wrong to shut down electricity producing plants, whether for hydro or nuclear electricity, just because a person had been electrocuted. It would be wrong to ban automobiles because someone had been killed in a car accident. Those would be rather extreme reactions to very real problems.

In the agricultural sector which I am involved in, there is waste. The trick is learning how to deal with that waste. In Canada we have high level radioactive waste and we do not know how to deal with it. We are developing the technology but we are not there yet. My colleagues have outlined a number of these problems.

If we have problems here at home, why are we even considering the importation of high level radioactive waste into Canada? We should be developing the technology to handle and control radioactive waste. Once we have the technology down, once we know how to handle our own problems then perhaps rather than importing radioactive waste from outside Canada we should be selling that technology to other nations around the world so that they can effectively deal with their high level radioactive waste.

It is common sense. Reformers always talk common sense. I know, Mr. Speaker, you have been persuaded and I appreciate this very brief opportunity to make a very cogent point.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This being the third hour of debate on this bill, could I ask the permission of the House for 30 seconds or so just to wrap up this discussion on my bill?

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Does the House give its consent?

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I hear nos. It being 6.15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier this day, the question on the motion is deemed to have been put and a recorded division deemed demanded and deferred until Thursday, December 12, 1996 at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to speak about the Singer affair.

Over a period of some time, we have asked three different ministers a dozen questions in all concerning Singer. Unfortunately, we are still getting vague answers. It is clear from the minister's latest answers that the door to any out of court settlement is being slammed shut. I find this completely disgraceful.

Of course, we could have asked that this matter be raised during proceedings on the adjournment motion each time, but you know that an MP's duties are already sufficiently thankless, difficult and numerous. We do not always have the time, but since we have been stepping up our questions over the last few weeks, we felt it very appropriate today to table a request for a reply from the government. I am pleased that the House is able to grant me four minutes so that I can at least explain the problem.

Today, I want to tell you about a terrible injustice. Between 1942 and 1967, the federal government was trustee of a retirement fund for Singer employees, who, at the time, had great confidence in the federal government. They told themselves that, if the government was looking after it, there was no problem.

Unfortunately, several decades later, there is an enormous problem. From 1942 to 1967, surpluses accumulated in the fund. Instead of observing the terms of the contract it had signed at the time with Singer employees to the effect that these dividends could be paid out at the end to employees, the federal government allowed Singer to stop paying premiums.

Instead of paying its annual share for the employees' pension plan, the company, seeing that there was a surplus, said: "This year, we will pay only part". If the surplus was greater, it said: "We will not pay at all".

Employees continued to pay their fair share, but Singer did not, with the result that, at the end of 1967, the accumulated dividends should have been $450,000. It does not take long to figure out that, if the amount is doubled every eight years, it would be close to $6 million today.

Therefore, if the federal government had kept its part of the bargain, these retired employees, whose average age is now 80, would be receiving $6 million. Unfortunately, the employees and ex-workers perhaps placed a little too much trust in the federal government, because we have asked these questions of three ministers, and three ministers have shut the door in our face.

These employees won their first suit, because there are a number of potential suits. I was telling you that, from 1942 to 1967, the Canada Pension Plan was involved, and then, from 1967 to 1986, the Quebec Pension Plan. They have just won their case against the Quebec Pension Plan and many other cases are pending. One of them is the case involving the federal government, where we will have to get involved in lengthy legal proceedings if the minister shuts the door in our face tomorrow and the day after, the last days before the House rises. There is a statute of limitation, and employees will have to go to court.

People in their eighties have a rather short life expectancy. Although the minister has said some nice things, and told us he will act with all due diligence, being forced into a lengthy lawsuit at this time does not leave these employees very hopeful.

I have some typical examples. My own father worked for Singer for almost 45 years. Do you know what he now gets from the Canada Pension Plan, the federal plan? My father gets $12 a month, after 45 years of contributions. It is a complete travesty. These retired employees are getting $20 a month on average.

They are victims of the federal government and of Montreal Trust, because, beginning in 1967, Montreal Trust also held the money in trust. When their spokesman, Mr. Châteauneuf, to whom I give my regards by the way, lodged his claim, the court agreed to freeze the Montreal Trust fund with approximately $2 million in it.

Despite all that, Singer's counsel took their fees out of the Montreal Trust fund. Montreal Trust was guilty too. Singer, which had changed its name to TSCO in the United States, got away with approximately $10 million. The workers are up against employers who have exploited them all their lives, while these same workers have worked all their lives to build up a pension fund. Now they are staring at nothing.

In conclusion, I tell you that time is of the essence. This case must be resolved. Singer has been granted a $30 million tariff exemption. Now it is the employees' turn. We are asking the department to resolve this matter before the House rises.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Bruce—Grey Ontario

Liberal

Ovid Jackson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to respond on behalf of the Minister of Human Resources Development to my hon. colleague's question.

Based on the advice we have received we believe that the Government of Canada has fulfilled all its contractual and legal obligations concerning the contract between it and Singer.

However, the points of law raised by the former employees are serious and complex, and existing precedents do not provide a definitive answer to the issues raised.

The Minister of Human Resources Development had to refuse the offer to settle out of court made by the lawyer representing the

former Singer employees. The legal issues raised by the employees are, briefly stated, simply too serious and complex.

The minister must ensure that the plan is administered in compliance with the Annuities Act and that the rights of all citizens are respected. The department has nevertheless shown compassion by co-operating fully with the receiver, that is the liquidator, appointed in 1995 by the Régis des rentes du Québec.

Consequently, HRDC employees have done a considerable amount of work without charging liquidator's fees to help divide surpluses held by a private trustee by providing detailed information about each annuitant to the actuaries hired by the receiver.

We should also remember that the Government of Canada has always borne all the administrative costs incurred under the Annuities Act, which today amount to approximately $3 million per year.

The government finds the situation regrettable. Let us remember, however, that the Government of Canada has not abandoned its seniors. Through the combination of old age security benefits and the guaranteed income supplement, the Government of Canada offers low income seniors a monthly income up to $875.16.

We want to repeat that these former Singer employees, if they are to go to court, the Government of Canada will try to ensure that any costs that they may incur are kept to a minimum and that the case progresses as quickly as possible.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, on December 5, I put a question to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration about the $975 head tax immigrants must pay when they apply for permanent residence in Canada.

Since it was introduced by the federal government in February 1995, this tax has been vigorously and repeatedly condemned in this House by the Bloc Quebecois. It is a particularly odious, unfair and discriminatory tax, especially when imposed on refugees.

This tax has met with almost unanimous opposition from agencies involved in assisting and defending immigrants and refugees, human rights organizations, labour unions, the Bloc Quebecois and now the Liberal Party of Canada.

At the last convention of the Liberal Party held in Ottawa from October 23 to October 27, a resolution was passed demanding that the tax be either reduced or abolished altogether. The resolution indicated that these expenses were an obstacle to large families intending to immigrate to Canada and a heavy burden on those who were trying to become part of the Canadian economy. This document went on to say that the admission fee should not be payable until after the arrival of the new immigrant. The minister should therefore act on his party's resolution immediately.

On November 3, in Vancouver, I met Maria Barahona and her five children, who had sought refuge in Trinity United-St. Mark's Anglican church to avoid deportation. This family has lived in the basement of this church for a year, since December 6, 1995, exactly.

They are living in difficult conditions, despite generous support from the church ministers, administrators and congregation as well as from labour unions and community organizations, but not, however, from the Liberal member for Vancouver Centre.

Maria Barahona is 34 years old and comes from El Salvador. She applied for refugee status in 1991. Her application was turned down by the IRB. She and one of her children suffer from asthma. Children are unable to attend school.

I was deeply touched by this tragic situation. I ask, in fact I beg the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to stay the enforcement of the deportation order and to grant this family a ministerial permit, followed by permanent residence in Canada.

I hope that the Christmas spirit will prompt the minister to render a favourable decision in this case. I also wish to raise the problem of Zairian nationals in Canada, who are currently being returned to their country of origin.

As everyone knows, the situation in Zaire is very precarious. It is therefore dangerous to deport these people to Kinshasa. Would it not be more appropriate to stay the removal orders against Zairian nationals in Canada, given the involvement of this government in the African Great Lakes region?

Why is it that, while it is considering taking part in an international humanitarian operation in that region, the federal government continues to deport people to Zaire? There is a glaring inconsistency that will have to be corrected to preserve the credibility of this country on the international scene.

Mr. Speaker, allow me to conclude by wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to my family and to my staff, who are sitting in the public gallery.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Bruce—Grey Ontario

Liberal

Ovid Jackson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to respond on behalf of the minister of immigration to my friend, the hon. member for Bourassa.

It surprises me that the hon. member for Bourassa seems to be concerned about the unity of the Liberal Party, given the present condition of his own party. Perhaps he and his colleagues should get their own house in order before they start criticizing others.

It is true that the Liberal Party's membership has asked the government to examine the right of landing fee, and that is exactly what we are going to do. We will take the recommendation from the party very seriously.

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has already said that she will look at the question in depth. Such a review will need to take into consideration several factors, including the views of the party, the wishes of the Canadian people and the fiscal restraints facing the government.

When the Government of Canada introduced the right of landing fee it created a loan option for immigrants and refugees to help get the financial assistance they need to help pay the fee. Not all immigrants have immediate resources necessary to pay costs associated with becoming a permanent resident. The government knows that and that is why we developed a loan program in the first place. The loan is available to newcomers who can show that they need it and have the potential to repay it.

The loan option helps to maintain a balance between Canada's humanitarian commitments and the government's response to program review. It helps us to ensure that no one will be denied permanent residence just because they did not have enough money in the bank.

We have a good system in place which helps us to meet our immigration needs and our humanitarian commitments. We are constantly striving to make the system even better. If it means re-examining our policies, we would not hesitate to do that, which is exactly what the government is going to do.

Radioactive Waste Importation ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

A motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.29 p.m.)