Mr. Speaker, like most of my colleagues usually say at the beginning of their speeches, I am pleased to rise on this issue. But it is not always obvious.
In dealing with a bill like this one, some analysis was required and we had to consider the amendments tabled in committee, all of which were received about the same way by the government, the governing party. The government categorically rejected every amendment that was moved.
During the clause by clause study of the bill in committee, some 75 amendments were introduced, and rejected. We succeeded in having a few of them adopted, as you indicated earlier, namely Motions Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 8.
It would be appropriate to go back in time. We know that in February 1999, the Senate held a debate on the management of nuclear fuel waste, at which time they took a look back on the report of the Seaborn Commission. The Minister of Natural Resources of Canada also referred to that commission. He said that its work lasted for ten years and that a totally impartial environmental assessment had been conducted. That commission made very important recommendations dealing with the membership of a committee responsible for long term waste management.
The bill was introduced by the minister on April 25, 2001. As early as May 18, I spoke to the bill. At about the same time, the Minister of Finance tabled his budget and talked about the debt that had to be paid off, because future generations should not inherit such a burden and, for all intents and purposes, we were the ones responsible for that debt.
I had draw a parallel with nuclear waste management. Today, we are taking a decision on the management of nuclear waste that will last for hundreds, even thousands of years. The issue will last just as long.
On May 18, 2001, the emphasis was put on what is almost an anticipated reimbursement of the debt, while we were trying to manage nuclear fuel waste that will last for hundreds of years. Since I have my doubts about the efficiency of the government's management over a span of a few years, how could I not have doubts about its management of nuclear fuel waste over hundreds of years?
Incidentally, this bill provides for the establishment of a waste management organization. Its members will include the companies that are using nuclear energy and produce nuclear fuel waste, and Atomic Energy of Canada, which already has responsibilities concerning the development of systems and waste management. From now on, this organization will recommend to the government ways to manage nuclear waste over the long term.
It is quite simple. We have an obvious conflict of interests here. I did support the principle of the bill, because nuclear fuel waste management is important, after all. As a matter of principle, we agree that we should have a nuclear fuel waste management program. But we cannot agree on who will manage nuclear fuel waste and how it will be done. We cannot rely on those who produce nuclear waste to develop a management program. We should consider that important sums of money are involved. The natural resources department was talking about a $12 billion program over 70 to 100 years.
This is a very costly program. People dealing with problems related to nuclear waste could be tempted to go for, perhaps, simpler systems to the detriment of efficiency.
Another key element of this bill relates to the public. The Seaborn Commission said that some of Atomic Energy of Canada's projects barely passed the technical assessment test, but clearly indicated that they could not stand the test of public perception with regard to nuclear waste management.
Where, in this legislation, is the public provided with an input? Of course, we heard evidence in committee. On this, I indicated that I was somewhat disappointed with the way things went on. The clause by clause study of the bill had already been planned for a specific time and date, and half an hour before that we were still hearing witnesses.
It became obvious that our consultation process was bogus. If it was bogus at the development stage of the legislation, just imagine what it will be when the time comes to develop waste management systems.
The bill nevertheless provides, without really stressing the point, that emphasis will be put on consultation. So just imagine that, when faced with such difficult issues, people who rally to voice their concerns about nuclear waste management could very well do so also to voice their dissatisfaction with the process once the government has decided how it will proceed.
Therefore, in the whole development process for this system involving the major producers of nuclear waste, there will be a need to get the public on board so that the government's approach can have some credibility.
For all intents and purposes, in presenting our amendments, we also touched upon the way the House does things, since the decisions made about a specific nuclear waste management program were never brought back to the House.
As we know, in due course, MPs, those elected by the people of Canada, will be held to account to the people on how nuclear waste was managed. This is after all an issue of grave concern to most, if not all, Canadians. Nuclear waste will last almost forever, since we are talking about hundreds, or even thousands of years.
Most of the facilities—there are some 22 producing nuclear waste across Canada—are located in Ontario. Also, most of the electricity in Ontario is generated by nuclear plants. Ontario is therefore a province with a vested interest in the management of nuclear waste.
In Quebec, we often talk about the Canadian Shield as offering a possible solution for the disposal of nuclear waste. We know that a large portion of it is located in Quebec.
Perhaps we should revert to the principle whereby everyone is responsible for the waste they produce. Each person or company who produces waste should be accountable. However, we should ensure that the people have a say regarding these projects.