Mr. Speaker, further to my question, the issue of nuclear safety in Canada comes up again and again.
In her response, the Minister of Natural Resources reminded us that Canada has a lengthy history in terms of advocating the destruction of nuclear weapons and that all nuclear activity in Canada is conducted only after the most stringent safety and security measures are put into place.
As Chair of the natural resources committee, I studied clause by clause the nuclear legislation that is currently before the House. As a result, I have a true appreciation for the complex issues that surround nuclear safety in this country.
Moreover, I have a true appreciation for the concerns of my constituents and other Canadians who, while acknowledging the contribution of nuclear power to meet our energy needs, insist, and rightly so, that nuclear activity in Canada be undertaken only while adhering to the strictest environmental standards.
I recently met with several concerned individuals in my riding who were members of an organization devoted to maintaining high standards in nuclear safety.
Like these individuals and others like them, I am committed to protecting Canada's environment and natural resources. Our federal government has an ongoing commitment to environmental protection in Canada and has advanced this cause considerably since the original Canadian Environmental Protection Act took effect in 1988.
We know that some toxic substances do not break down naturally but stay in our food, water and soil and accumulate over time. To better protect the environment and the health of Canadians from these toxins, we introduced a new act in December 1996 to manage toxic substances more effectively, improve the application of regulation and encourage public participation and co-operation between governments.
The bottom line is that it is better to prevent pollution than to try to manage it after it has been created. It is this same principle that guides the nuclear safety legislation which establishes the Canadian nuclear safety commission and contains measures that protect the environment.
This nuclear safety legislation replaces the Atomic Energy Control Act with a modern statute to provide for more explicit and effective regulations of nuclear energy.
Formulation of the Canadian nuclear safety commission underlies its separate role from research, development and marketing, and recognizes that since the original act was first adopted in 1946 the mandate of the regulatory agency has evolved from one of primarily national security to one primarily focused on the control of health, safety and environmental consequences of nuclear activities.
This legislation provides the Canadian nuclear safety commission with a mandate to establish and enforce national standards in these areas. It also establishes a basis for implementing Canadian policy and fulfilling Canada's obligation with respect to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The legislation brings the enforcement powers of compliance and penalties for infractions into line with current legislative practices. The commission is empowered to require financial guarantees to order remedial action in hazardous situations and to require responsible parties to bear the cost of decontamination, all measures that will help protect the environment.
The constituents in my riding care about their environment. Canadians care and so does this Liberal government. On behalf of my constituents, I would appreciate that the parliamentary secretary further address these issues.