Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in adjournment proceedings.
On May 12, I asked the Minister of Natural Resources why the federal government was withdrawing its financial support from the Varennes Tokamak. I denounce the inconsistency of the government's decision, and its lack of vision.
The end of this major project is a considerable loss not only for Quebec, but also for Canada, in terms of developing an expertise in the high technology sector. The Varennes Tokamak, Quebec's number one R and D project in the energy sector, will shut down for good in a few days. The precarious state of public finances when the decision was originally made was used as an excuse for rationalizing.
Today, the Minister of Finance boasts about having put the country's fiscal house in order and having managed to eliminate the deficit. However, the argument of rationalization is no longer valid, now that we have a budget surplus that was created essentially because of the efforts of the provinces and the most disadvantaged. The government can no longer invoke this fallacious argument to justify such an illogical and regressive decision.
The Liberal government now has the means to continue its modest annual contribution of $7.2 million to the Varennes Tokamak. In its last budget speech, the Minister of Finance said, and I quote “the more R and D that is done in Canada, the more jobs that will be created for Canadians”.
How can this statement be reconciled with a decision so disconnected from Canada's future needs in the energy and technology sectors, for which we must prepare right now?
The research on nuclear fusion in the Tokamak project in Varennes is part of a concerted international effort. Four of the major partners in this international project, namely, the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union, invest nearly $2 billion in research on nuclear fusion.
A full member of the select club working to develop a renewable, clean and safe form of energy, the federal government spent only $7.2 million annually on research, while enjoying all the benefits of the knowledge and technical and scientific expertise in the field of nuclear fusion.
With the closure of the Tokamak project in Varennes, Canada will now be deprived of the scientific and technological benefits. Not only will it lose its internationally recognized expertise in microwaves to achieve a modest saving of $7.2 million, but it will destroy the links it had with an international network of contacts in cutting edge scientific research.
In an article in La Presse on May 11, Tom Dolan, the co-ordinator of the world fusion research program with the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, said he was very disappointed to see Canada drop its nuclear fusion research program.
How can such a project be shut down, when the minister was recently claiming to be concerned about the development of clean and renewable energies, and when this objective is part of his strategy for managing climate change?
But since the phenomenon of climate change will have very long-term effects, something the Minister of Natural Resources has just begun to admit, furthermore, research and development of forms of energy such as the one the Tokamak team was working on helps prevent the emission of greenhouse gases and avoid the risk of nuclear accidents presented by the Candu reactors, for instance.
Why would Canada no longer participate in the development of a source of energy such as nuclear fusion? We are told it is a question of priorities. Is it not a priority for Canada to be among world leaders in the research and development of clean and safe renewable energies, rather than limiting its role to that of a passive spectator?