House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-35.


Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC


Motion No. 2

That Bill C-27, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing line 35 on page 2 with the following:

“6. (1) The Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the appropriate standing committee of the House of Commons, shall”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-27, in Clause 6, be amended by replacing lines 4 to 7 on page 3 with the following:

“(2) No nuclear energy corporation may be a member or shareholder of the waste management organization.”

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-27, in Clause 14, be amended by replacing lines 18 to 21 on page 8 with the following:

“14. (1) The Minister shall engage in such consultations with the general public on the approaches set out in the study as may be necessary.”

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-27, in Clause 32, be amended by replacing lines 33 and 34 on page 15 with the following:

“32. This Act comes into force on January 1, 2003.”

Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

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.

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12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to be able to add my comments to the report stage of Bill C-27. Although my party did not introduce any amendments at this stage of the bill, we still have mixed feelings about it, as well as with some of the amendments that the Bloc submitted.

Clearly we support the concept of the bill. An important principle is being established here in the nuclear industry which is past due. That is the principle of polluter pay and that the industry itself be made directly responsible for the costs of cleaning up and disposing of the waste it creates.

Most other resource industries have had that responsibility for a long time already. For a long time the mining industry and the oil and gas industry have had to post bonds to guarantee that the cost of the liability of the cleanup and disposal of hazardous waste is taken care of. The bill would establish that same principle within the nuclear industry. However it does not go far enough in that it only relates directly to the cost of disposal of high level nuclear waste. It should have gone further. The trust fund should also have been included and have been adequate enough to guarantee the cost of decommissioning of nuclear plants and disposal sites.

I do not think anybody has any idea what that cost would be. The minister has told us that the cost is somehow included in the electricity rates that are charged. With the kind of debt incurred in the Ontario industry mainly because of the nuclear plants, it gives me little confidence that Ontario Hydro has the resources put aside, or is prepared to put aside, to cover the cost of decommissioning of any of the reactor sites. While it is a beginning, the bill certainly does not go far enough.

I have another issue with the bill. Although some of our concerns were addressed at clause by clause in committee, it became clear that while the bill requires the establishment of a waste management organization made up of the producers of nuclear waste and the creation of a trust fund to cover the cost of disposal of that waste and it requires the waste management organization to produce a study and make recommendations to the minister on the best way to dispose of nuclear waste, it goes no further than that. Once the organization fulfills those obligations under the bill and makes a report to the minister, there is no timeline or requirement to implement the plan.

The bill would allow the waste management organization to fill the responsibility within the bill. However, nothing would really happen in the form of implementing a plan and disposing of nuclear waste in the country for another 20 years. We have been working for 20 years to try to figure out a way of what to do with nuclear waste up to now. The government and governments before it, and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. which is doing the research around the issue, have been working on it for 15 or 20 years and have not been able to come up with a solution. I am really not sure how the waste management organization created in the bill would come up with a solution when others could not, that would have the confidence of the Canadian public to proceed.

That is the key to this bill. That is basically the subject of some of the amendments the Bloc has put forward and many of the amendments that were put in at committee stage. The aim was simply to try to change the bill in a way that would allow the waste management organization, because of transparency, openness and accountability, to gain the confidence of the Canadian public that it was doing the right thing, that it was safe, and that it was addressing all of the social and economic issues around this.

There are still some real weaknesses in the bill. In my opinion it will not give the Canadian public the kind of confidence needed to make it a success.

Some of the amendments the Bloc has produced, specifically Motions Nos. 2 and 3, were an attempt to change the bill to comply more fully with the Seaborn recommendations in moving the whole issue away from the industry, from the producers of the waste. I do not support that.

I like the idea of the producer pay principle. If it is going to put up the money to cover the cost, then it is reasonable that it be the one to create and manage the organization that actually does it. I would certainly feel no more comfortable in having the government, through AECL or any other government created agency, responsible for implementing and coming up with the plan than I do with the industry. The industry has produced the waste and it is paying for the disposal of the waste. As long as it is properly regulated and there is proper oversight, then that is the form it should take. I do not support Motions Nos. 2 and 3.

Motion No. 6 is an attempt to bring more clarity to the issue of public consultation, transparency and accountability. We heard at committee that everyone wanted to see that in place. The industry itself clearly stated in testimony that this process could only be successful if there was absolute transparency, openness and accountability to the public so that the public could have confidence in the process that was taking place.

Motion No. 8 is another amendment which I support. There is no legislative requirement in the bill that would have the waste management organization move to implement its chosen form of disposal, to get busy and start taking care of some of this stuff. All it has to do is report to the minister. The minister could sit on it for years and years and we would be not much further ahead than we have been for some time. Motion No. 8 specifies a date when the act comes into force. Maybe it does not answer every aspect of the issue but at least it brings some certainty to the requirement that the bill be brought into force and that we proceed with it.

Some good concerns have been brought forward and, as you said when you grouped the amendments, Mr. Speaker, reflect some of the concerns that were also addressed in committee. There again the government would have been wise to take note and perhaps to have accepted some of the amendments that were made in committee to make the bill more accountable and transparent and to give the public confidence that the industries that are producing nuclear waste in the country are thinking on the broader picture of the public interest and public good, and not simply of their own economic interests and other interests.

With that, I will save my other comments for third reading debate on the bill.

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12:45 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, with your permission I would like to add a couple of items to the discussion on this very important bill which deals with the long term management of nuclear fuel waste. It seems to me that it would be desirable in the discussion, if it cannot be done within the framework of the bill because it is already at report stage and I missed intervening--

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12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not see a tie on the hon. member.

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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I think the hon. member for Davenport has had occasion to face this situation before. The rules clearly say that indeed you need a tie in the House of Commons.

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12:50 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention from the hon. member reminding me of the rule. The explanation I would offer is that I was only notified a few moments ago that this debate was on and I rushed to the House without going to my office. I can assure the House that I will do better the next time.

The discussion on the bill must include two considerations which are, at least in my opinion, of some importance. I would have liked to have put them on the record at second reading but hearings of the standing committee on Bill C-5, the endangered species legislation, prevented me from doing so.

One consideration is the fact that nuclear energy corporations, wherever they may be, have followed practices which, from an accounting procedure, leave much to be desired. They do not calculate in their balance sheet and appropriately report the cost of decommissioning a plant. As is the case with a number of nuclear plants in Canada, which are now reaching a certain age, it becomes evident that the cost of decommissioning a nuclear plant, which is very high, ought to be included in the calculation of the operation of that particular corporation and also included in the cost of the electricity generated and used by the consumer. It is a hidden cost that ought to be brought to the surface and included in the charge for that particular service.

As the auditor general has repeatedly insisted in a number of reports, the most recent one, if I remember correctly, in 1997, if they were to be included the price of electricity, of course, would be more realistically close to what it should be, namely, it would be higher. There is nothing wrong with that. The cost of energy is an important factor and ought to be one that could and should lead us to more careful consumption and to higher and better levels of conservation, particularly in relation to what we are attempting to do at the present time, namely, to meet our commitments through the Kyoto agreement in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Obviously if the cost of electricity is a realistic one, we would be more careful in the consumption of it and therefore the emissions would accordingly be reduced by a certain percentage.

That is the first point that needs to be stressed and I am addressing Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Power Corporation. All these have been identified by the auditor general in his report. Over the last 50 years they have ignored the cost of nuclear waste disposal, as well as the decommissioning of the plants.

This brings me to my second point which is of interest to our electors and to many members of the House who come from a region where nuclear waste is being disposed or stored. The cost of this storage also needs to be accounted for. Here again we see a pattern identified by the auditor general of not taking into account the cost of this particular disposition of nuclear waste discharge or the nuclear waste that the particular plant is producing.

We must find ways of disciplining these corporations in a way that they will set aside for the decommissioning of nuclear plants the amount that is required, which means anticipating the cost and including it in the calculation of the product, namely the electricity that they make available to the consumer. If this is not done we would in a way disguise the true cost of nuclear power generation to the consumer. The cost of nuclear energy production should be paid through the electricity rates charged to the consumers from the building of the plant to its operation, its maintenance, the disposal of the nuclear waste and finally, as the fifth step in the evolution, the decommissioning of the nuclear plant. If every nuclear energy corporation were to internalize these costs, the price per kilowatt hour of nuclear power would be higher than it is currently. This would yield significantly different public policy choices with regard to the generation of electricity. Now it is kept artificially low because these costs are hidden from the consumer.

As a society, we continue to think that nuclear power generation is cheap but this is only because the true costs are not reflected in the electricity rates. As legislators and policy advisers, we continue--

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12:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate that the hon. member wants some intervention on the bill and would like to speak to the bill in parliament, but he has had other opportunities to do that. This course of action that we are setting upon today is to speak to the amendments brought in by the member for Sherbrooke and I have not yet heard the hon. member speak to any of the amendments.

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12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In the two minutes that the hon. member for Davenport has left I am sure he will tie up his previous remarks to the group of amendments that we are debating at the moment.

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12:55 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was a fair comment on the part of my colleague. What I am doing is addressing the amendments which are missing at the report stage and which, in my view, ought to be included. Therefore I am speaking within the relevance of the debate.

We must also keep in mind the fact that over the decades the Government of Canada has provided subsidies to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited that reach close to $6 billion. The last subsidy, which was last year, amounted to $110 million, bringing the total of subsidies given to AECL over the years close to $6 billion. Despite this dependence on government grants and repeated urging, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited does not seem to be able to come to grips with the necessity of including in its accounting the cost of decommissioning plants in Canada nor the cost of radioactive waste disposal. In other words, what we are facing is a certain degree of indifference to public opinion and to the reports published by AECL's own auditors.

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1 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in the debate today on amendments brought forth by the member for Sherbrooke to Bill C-27, the nuclear fuel waste act.

I agree with the member for Athabasca. The bill is not transparent enough, there is not enough accountability and it does contain too much ministerial and privy council discretion. That has been the position of the PC/DR coalition from the very beginning.

I want to speak specifically to the amendments. Several were put forth and a few were not allowed at this stage. I would have preferred to speak to all the amendments because I believe all amendments were very good. Although there are a couple of amendments that I will not support, they were put forth in a manner and a tone that was meant to improve the bill and to bring more accountability and transparency to the process.

I think it would benefit everyone if I were to review the bill and what it establishes. Bill C-27 would see the establishment of an independent waste management organization, or WMO, which has been referred to by other members, and would require the WMO to provide recommendations to the minister on long term nuclear waste storage possibilities. Some of those possibilities could be and are expected to be deep geological disposals somewhere in the Canadian shield.

The reports, statements and studies done by the WMO would be made public, and that is important. We fought diligently to make sure that occurred. The bill should ensure that Canadian taxpayers are not liable for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste, which again is extremely important. It is important to note that the industry players who fund the WMO, Ontario Hydro, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Power Corporation, would not only put funding in place but they would have some say in what happens. These rates, however, would be arbitrarily established by the minister, which I do not think any industry player or any corporation in Canada would be comfortable with.

I think what needs to be said and what I will say again at third reading is that the bill does not preclude foreign waste from being deposited or disposed of in Canada. The bill does not require aboriginal, environmental or municipal representation on the advisory council. It speaks in a very general way that it would be nice and warm and fuzzy if there were representation from the aboriginal community, the municipal players and the environmentalists but it does not make that an absolute. The bill does not establish the WMO at arm's length from industry. I have some qualms about that. Industry is funding this so I think it needs some control in the process but the Seaborn panel did recommend that it be at arm's length from industry.

One of the really serious failings of the bill is that it would continue to place power in the hands of the minister and the governor in council, and provides little role for parliament in decisions on the long term management of nuclear fuel waste.

There could have been a number of things that would have improved this particular piece of legislation and I will speak to some of those amendments now.

Amendment No. 1, which was amendment No. 3, would prevent nuclear energy corporations, including Ontario Power Generation, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Power Corporation, from being members on the waste management organization. As the bill currently reads, the nuclear energy corporation shall not only be members of the WMO but always remain members of the organization. It would allow one of the recommendations made by the Seaborn panel when it studied the issue of nuclear waste disposal. That was the arm's length relationship which I have already mentioned.

The PC/DR coalition will not be supporting this amendment, although we would have considered supporting it had it provided for some nuclear energy corporations to be members of the waste management organization. When the power companies appeared before committee, they were clear about the need for active involvement in the WMO, given that they were the ones supplying the hundreds of millions of dollars for the management of nuclear fuel waste. The coalition supports industry on that point and cannot agree with this amendment.

The other question becomes one of liability. If industry could, and I expect it will, have some liability in this process, for example contamination of ground water, then it should be more directly involved in the process. Maybe the process could be nuanced so that industry would not have all the members, but it should certainly have some representation.

We totally agree with amendment No. 2, which was previously amendment No. 6. The amendment would require the minister to engage in public consultations on the disposal method recommended by the waste management organization. That is quite a bizarre thought I am sure for the government to engage upon. However it would be a nice way to give Canadians a Christmas present that does not cost them anything, by letting them know that it is looking at the bill, that it wants to make the bill more accountable and that it wants to involve and allow Canadians to participate in decisions that will concern them. Therefore, members of the PC/DR coalition support this. We supported a similar amendment at committee and we continue to support it now.

The last amendment would see the act come into force on January 1, 2003, instead of a day to be fixed by order of the governor in council. I think the amendment is meant to allow a little more time in the process and I understand why the member for Sherbrooke put it in, but it is not an amendment that I would tend to support. There has been enough time, studies and work on this. The bill is delinquent in a number of areas, but I do not see the day that the act would actually come into force as being one of those areas. This would not be an amendment that we would support.

However, I commend the Bloc member for Sherbrooke for his participation at committee and involvement in the bill. He, like many of us on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources, has really quite serious doubts and problems with this specific piece of legislation, not the least of which is the fact that the legislation is just plain and simply poorly crafted, not unlike other legislation that has been gone through the House as of late. There has not been enough input from the parliamentary process and certainly not enough input from committee.

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1:10 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also want to commend my colleague from the Bloc for moving these amendments. I wish others also had got through the screening process. However before I address them specifically, there is a general pattern in the amendments here which address the major concerns that I believe all opposition parties have to the way the bill has been drafted.

The reason we all share that concern I think is because of the recommendations of the Seaborn panel contained in the Seaborn report as it is referred to. Underlying the report were the findings it made about how the general public did not trust the process that had been undertaken up to that point and the manner with which nuclear waste would be dealt.

As drafted, the bill would nothing to increase the Canadian public's sense of well-being in how nuclear waste would be dealt with. The comfort level, if anything, will deteriorate because the bill as drafted would not deal with a number of the points that are dealt with in these amendments. It would not allow for significant participation by the community. It would not be open and accountable in many respects.

Some of the proposals that have been made by my colleague from the Bloc, address some of those concerns. Amendment No. 2, which was allowed through, would provide for some review and involvement by a parliamentary committee as opposed to almost the complete exclusion of parliament, a parliamentary committee and parliamentary democracy from the process. If the bill goes through, it will be on the government's side and parliament will see very little of the process.

The proposed amendment would at least allow for a parliamentary committee that would have some review power. Quite frankly, it would be a lot less than what was proposed in a number of amendments at committee. The committee process was interesting. Not only were they summarily rejected, but we generally could not even get the government members to make a response. Opposition members made arguments or proposals on their amendments, good and valid comments. There were at least 74 amendments proposed. Other than on four or five proposals, we got no response from the government at all. It was not a democratic process. It was a charade.

Therefore, I strongly support the amendment. If it goes through, it will at least reintroduce some concept of democracy to the process and allow us as members of the committee to have some review and some input as to how the nuclear corporation, which will dispose of these wastes some point down the road, will be established.

The second amendment before us is one which again goes to the whole issue of building trust with the community that could be affected by any decisions made by the waste management organization. It indicates that there is a potential for a conflict of interest or at the very least an appearance of a conflict of interest by the people who will be an exclusive part of the WMO. The people who produce the waste would now be delegated to make almost 100% of the recommendations and decisions around it. Only the final decision would be made by cabinet as to how waste would be disposed.

The input level for the general population is almost miniscule. It is almost entirely controlled by the nuclear industry. If the government thinks it is going to be able to sell that to Canadians, I suggest it go back once again and read the Seaborn report. It obviously has not digested it; it has not taken it into its psyche. If bill, composed as it is, goes through, there is no way we will find a community in Canada that will be willing to accept these wastes, in whatever form we ultimately decide to dispose of them.

The final amendment, which is the sixth one in the list that we proposed and the third one that was allowed, is about consultation.

At committee, we heard from a number of groups that had worked on this issue, some for 10 or 12 years. Quite frankly, I want to acknowledge, and I probably will again when I speak to it on third reading, the input we received from three mayors of towns in Ontario who have nuclear plants in their communities.

They were quite eloquent on the impact that those plants have had on their communities. They dominate a good deal of the issues, planning, zoning, et cetera, with which those communities and the elected officials at the municipal level have to deal. They were also very strong in saying to the committee they were entitled to representation on this board if they were the ones who were going to be most impacted.

They also shared with us a strong argument as to why communities, which were the recipients of these wastes, should have an entitlement to be involved at that level, the very centre of the decision making process. They said that all aspects of the issues would be considered, input would be taken from all the appropriate groups and communities rather than just the industry itself, which to a great degree is the way the bill is constructed.

We heard from environmental groups at the committee. We took testimony from them about their involvement and their concerns, not only for themselves, because of the work they had done on it, but for the general Canadian populace.

They also spoke eloquently about the need to involve the communities that would be considered as depositories for these wastes. If one looks at the bill in its entirety as it is now, the government has ignored those communities, those groups and those mayors.

To conclude, if the government is at all serious, if it has any belief at all that the communities out there, where these wastes may eventually go, will respond with any degree of trust and openness to proposals for them to become depositories, then these amendments should be allowed to go through.

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1:15 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Bill C-27,an act respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste.

The Bloc Quebecois is not against the sound management of nuclear waste. There are currently close to 24,000 tons of nuclear waste stocked on the sites of Canadian nuclear facilities. These tons of waste have a life expectancy of 24,000 years. These figures just keep getting larger. It is therefore quite normal to try to manage these time bombs.

The Bloc Quebecois supported the principle of the bill at the second reading stage. We told the government that we would table amendments in committee and were hoping for some open-mindedness on its part. However, once again, it must be recognized that what has been going on these past two weeks is totally absurd.

The important amendments presented to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources were not read not heard. The liberals answered “No, no, and no.” This is all we could hear.

We are dealing with a major issue here. When I held a public meeting in my region about the importation of 24 grams--and I repeat grams--of MOX fuel from Russia and the United States, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited came to tell us that it had held consultations. There were 28 days of consultations on an Internet site. How many people from my riding said they were opposed? Well, 99.9 % of my constituents said they were opposed to any importation of nuclear waste from just about everywhere.

There was opposition from 124 municipalities throughout Quebec, the regional county municipalities, the Communauté urbaine de Montréal, the Communauté urbaine de Québec, the Quebec government, all the environmental groups and all the stakeholders. What did the government do in the middle of the night? I cannot figure out how they went about it. There is a military base in my region. There was sheer panic. They arranged to have armoured vehicles, and they were supposed to come our way. Ultimately, we did not see a thing, but nevertheless, nuclear waste was imported. It cost several hundred thousand dollars.

I consulted some American experts, who can also give us information on the nuclear issue. I consulted internationally renowned experts. They told me that governments must address this issue and must not import other countries' nuclear waste.

We asked this government to include in the bill a clause that would state quite humbly the position of the Government of Canada as against importing nuclear material from other countries. What did the Liberals say? No, no and no.

This bill does not even contain a guarantee that waste will not be imported from other countries.

When Bill C-27 was introduced, the Minister of Natural Resources said that it was in response to the Seaborn commission. I am not sure if the minister did indeed read the report, or if he was conscious that he was reading the Seaborn report, but this bill does not respond at all to the Seaborn report.

We wanted to improve it, we agreed. We said that we had the Seaborn report, that we wanted to improve it along those lines. We were aware that he wanted to act. We said that we would give him the opportunity to manage what needs to be managed in our region.

As for the committee chair, I would like to discuss this. Sometimes I wonder if he was not both judge and judged from the start. I think that the issue we are debating today is an extremely serious one, which we debated in good faith in committee.

Nobody listened. The first recommendation of the Seaborn commission stipulated that the government must consult Canadians, and that it have significant support from them. I do not know what happened to that consultation, nor the support. But the Liberals are moving ahead.

I am very sad to say that this is yet another dark moment in the history of Canada. This is a great tragedy. We are not talking about hospital waste. We are talking about nuclear waste. This is serious.

I do not even think that the government members on the committee knew what they were talking about. Yet, they were there to vote. They watched the parliamentary secretary vote and followed suit. We even explained the amendments that we had proposed, but they did not even bother to listen. In the end, it was clearly no use; it was almost a farce sitting on the committee.

I do not think this is something to joke about. It is a major issue for the present and future of our societies. We are talking about nuclear waste. Nuclear energy is not some little candle that can be blown out. No. It is very dangerous, particularly when there is also talk of burying this waste in the Canadian Shield. Three quarters of the Canadian Shield is located in Quebec.

Will Canada, and Quebec in particular, become a dumping ground for waste from around the world? We have only to think of household waste. People do not want that buried in their backyard. Imagine if it were nuclear waste.

I think that what we have here is a semblance of democracy. I will never accept this. The debate is beginning. The government was not interested in anything we had to say. We will never accept such an insubstantial bill. It is an ineffective response to a commission which lasted ten years and did some serious work. This is not what the commission was trying to accomplish.

Enough. As the House knows, we put forward four extremely important amendments at report stage. I hope the Liberals will pass at least one of them but I am sure they will not because they are deaf and blind. These are the Liberals' only attributes right now when it comes to this bill.

I said I was not going to get worked up today but I cannot help myself. This is frightening. We will fight the battle. We will, keep on fighting until third reading and, if they do not reconsider at report stage, I think they will have to be held accountable. As MPs, we are accountable to our constituents. These are not waste management organizations. The Minister of Natural Resources will be judge and judged. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited reports to the Minister of Natural Resources. So why does he have responsibility for a piece of legislation which makes him the judge and the judged? There is something very wrong with this.

I hope that the Minister of Natural Resources, for whom I have great respect, is listening today and that he will say to his parliamentary secretary “That was not what I wanted you to do in committee. I wanted you to listen to the opposition”. Like the eight other henchmen on the committee, he did not listen to the opposition. This is just the beginning and we will keep on fighting.

Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on the amendments to Bill C-27. The reason it is so important to have these amendments considered and added is that the lack of these amendments has drawn the proliferation of nuclear energy to a slower start.

In my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke we had the birth of and were responsible for the initial Canadian scientific research into nuclear energy. We have had many inventions relating to nuclear energy as spinoffs as a result of the growth stage of the nuclear industry, for example, the MRIs we have right now and the medical isotope research. We supply over 70% of the world's medical isotopes. That is a result of the acceptance of nuclear research.

The amendments, if accepted, would bring more clarity to and provide the general public with more insight as to what the nuclear industry is all about. Once we have more public acceptance of the nuclear industry, then we will have the support to go forward and do more research.

For example, for the past two years cabinet has been considering funding the Canadian Neutron Facility. Even though the member who spoke previously said that the Minister of Finance had accepted this in principle and that we are just waiting for the go ahead on the funding for the Canadian Neutron Facility there is still reluctance on the part of government to go ahead because it is not sure whether or not the public will see it as a positive move. The reason people will not necessarily see it as a positive move is that there is an element of secrecy surrounding the entire nuclear industry. What these amendments seek to do is demystify the nuclear industry.

Energy is the key to our future. The need for energy is growing exponentially. The electronics industry is an example. More computers are showing up in people's homes.

Right now in Ontario we are preparing for a potential shortage of electricity for the upcoming winter by building more coal fired plants. With coal fired plants we have the emission of carbon dioxide. As we all know, this contributes to global warming. The use of nuclear energy as a part of the overall mix in power supply is necessary not just to have an ample supply of energy but to save the environment.

In the amendments before us we have Motion No. 2 which deals with the outline of the establishment of an arm's length organization to monitor and dispose of nuclear fuel waste. We cannot support this motion because it takes away from companies the onus on dealing with nuclear waste. Companies and the producers of nuclear waste say that they want to have an active role in storing the spent fuel. In fact the whole issue of storing spent fuel can be an industry in itself. It can be an economic boon to the communities who accept it. Therefore we would not necessarily want to take away the opportunity for the power industries and companies to eventually use the spent fuel, the infrastructure and the jobs surrounding it, as a means of a profit sharing idea.

If we had a profit element to the spent nuclear fuel commodities, it would serve to subsidize fuel costs. Last year's high increase in fuel costs was debilitating for people on level incomes. We need to ensure that does not happen again. Anything that a power company can do to decrease costs for customers is a real plus.

Motion No. 4 would attempt to bring more accountability and openness to the activities of the waste management organization by making it subject to the Access to Information Act. We support this. A few years ago the riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke had the opportunity to house spent nuclear fuel. Some of Canada's brightest scientists could be found in this community. The community understands the chemistry and physics behind nuclear science.

People in the community were willing to accept this because they knew what it was all about since they had worked at the plant for over 40 year. It could have meant more retail jobs and more people coming into the community. Yet because of the fear of the unknown and the lack of accountability or the public not being informed of everything there was to know, this drew to a standstill and the community lost out on the opportunity.

Motion No. 5 would amend clause 12 which states that the waste management organization must submit plans to the minister for proposed disposal approaches as well as recommendations within three years of the act coming into force. The amendment would extend the deadline to 10 years, which is far too long to wait for the nuclear industry to be able to grow again.

It is important for the nuclear industry to go forth at this time because of alternate uses of energy and not necessarily nuclear energy itself. For example, the science behind hydrogen fuel cells was developed at the research station in Chalk River. When a nuclear reactor is not needed it does not have to be shut down. It could continue to operate but instead of being used for the production of power it could be used for the production of hydrogen. Rather than building a whole new plant to produce hydrogen for fuel cells these plants could be used to make hydrogen.

Car companies are looking for ways to store hydrogen and electricity in fuel cells. Instead of all vehicles being carbon burners we could use this technology. The science behind knowing what nuclear energy is all about has promise for not just the nuclear power industry but for other industries as well.

Another side advantage of the research behind the nuclear industry is the science of materials. Reactors are also used to look at different types of materials, to look for fractures and to examine structures. For example, when the space shuttle Challenger crashed it was Chalk River and the nuclear reactor science department, NRC, that examined it and determined that an o-ring was not responsible for the crash.

It is very important to discuss these amendments. Motion No. 8 would give further clarity and openness. The bill must be passed but with the proper amendments in the best interest of all Canadians.

Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise to speak to this important bill, Bill C-27. This bill may not seem important, but it is because it has given rise to major debates in various regions of Canada, most specifically in certain regions of Quebec.

Let us take, for example, the area represented by my colleague from Jonquière. He was eloquent in listing the realities surrounding the importing of MOX in his area, which was done without any real consultation by the federal government.

This bill is important because it also affects Quebec, particularly the Gentilly plant, where, inevitably—because Hydro Quebec will become a member of the waste management organization—Quebec will become involved in a broad debate involving not only the crown corporation, but over time, we hope, all Quebecers.

Four amendments by my colleague aim to improve transparency. Members opposite criticize my use of the word transparency. This bill demonstrates one thing: that this government never once listened to the opposition, including in committee, as my colleague mentioned, when it came time to make proposals regarding consultations. Not only did it not listen to the opposition, but in real cases, when it came time to consult the residents of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, the federal government failed to set up a consultation process and mechanism that satisfied the expectations of residents.

What is the objective of this bill being considered today? One of them is to require owners to take on financial responsibility when it comes to nuclear waste management. As well, a second basic objective of the bill is to undertake waste management in a comprehensive, integrated and efficient manner.

It is important to highlight that there are three categories of radioactive waste. First, there is waste from nuclear fuel. The second type is low level radioactive waste. The third type is uranium mine and mill tailings.

The bill before us today deals primarily with the first of these three types of waste, namely nuclear fuel waste. Currently there are 1.3 million nuclear fuel bundles in Canada, which means that more than 18,000 tonnes of waste are stored in so-called pools. The nuclear fuel waste is put in these pools to neutralize it to some extent.

However we must not delude ourselves. This is not a long term solution. On the one hand, it is not intended to last some 30,000 years, as could be the case if the nuclear waste was buried in the Canadian Shield and, on the other hand, it is not a long term solution because the pools used to store nuclear fuel are currently overloaded.

We fully agree with the federal government's decision to establish a long term plan to better manage this waste. This is the first objective of the plan proposed at the time by the federal government.

The second fundamental objective of the plan is to permanently store waste over a 20 year period in the geological layers of the Canadian Shield.

This is where there is a problem. Even though a number of scientific studies indicate that the Canadian Shield could be a long term storage area, for a period of about 30,000 years in the case of nuclear fuel waste, the various consultations that were held, including by the Seaborn commission, show that, in several regions, the public is strongly opposed to the storing of such waste.

Scientists have confirmed the desirability of such a solution. For example, an article published on September 24 in Trois-Rivières' daily Le Nouvelliste refers to comments made by Don Wiles, a chemist from the University of Ottawa. The article said the following:

As a scientist, Mr. Wiles feels that the best solution to the problem remains the burial of nuclear waste in the Canadian Shield, where such waste could be stored for 30,000 years without posing any risk to people or to the environment.

The chemistry expert tells us:

Mr. Wiles hopes Atomic Energy of Canada will offer more transparent and simpler explanations, which might facilitate public acceptance.

Greater transparency is where the problem lies with Bill C-27. There is no transparency whatsoever and no desire to involve citizens or groups of citizens on the boards of waste management agencies.

Where the basic criticism lies is that only energy companies such as Hydro-Québec, New Brunswick Hydro and others with nuclear waste on their territory would have a say in this waste management agency, although from past experience we know that the public wants to be involved.

We have the example of the MOX in the riding of my colleague from Jonquière and the instances of public outcry when there were plans to bury waste or experiment with the possibility of burying nuclear fuel waste in the geological layers of the Canadian Shield. All of this demonstrates that people want to have a say in decisions.

But no, not only has the government not integrated these provisions in its bill, it also seems, for all intents and purposes, prepared to reject the four amendments by the Bloc Quebecois. First of all, Motion No. 6 calls for more consultation.

Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

An hon. member

The least we can do.

Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

It is the least we can do, as my colleague said.

We also asked that no nuclear energy corporation be a member or shareholder of the nuclear management organization.

The Liberal Party is against transparency, as the chemist said he wanted. It is against consultation and it supports the involvement of energy corporations within the waste management organization.

This is why, in 1989, the Seaborn panel was mandated to examine the merits of the techniques and solutions proposed by the government. This panel sat for 10 years and submitted its report in 1998.

One conclusion of the Seaborn panel that I remember and that should guide the government in its decisions with regard to Bill C-27 is this, and I quote:

Broad public support is necessary in Canada to ensure the acceptability of a concept for managing nuclear fuel wastes. Safety is a key part, but only one part, of acceptability. Safety must be viewed from two complementary perspectives: technical and social.

Therefore, I hope the government will accept the arguments of the Bloc Quebecois, and especially those of the people of Quebec.

Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will also speak to this important bill, Bill C-27, an act respecting the long term management of nuclear fuel waste.

What I am seeing mostly is the way that my party has analyzed this bill. Our party has a long term vision. When someone has a long term vision, he or she is able to provide, through sound regulations, a framework for a project such as the one proposed with Bill C-27.

If our party has moved new amendments today, it is because, when the committee studied this bill, all the amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois were once again opposed by the Liberals.

It is as though this government, which should normally be more transparent, was not able to accept any idea put forward by another party. These people think they are totally controlling all the democratic decisions here in this parliament. If our parliament became the model of what the Liberals want, there would be no more democracy here. The only democracy here is when we have the opportunity, like now, to make ourselves heard and to put forward interesting proposals, but that is all.

When we work in committee, I often notice that we have trouble getting started on time because these people are so serious we cannot even have a quorum. However, when the time comes to reject motions, there are seven, eight and even ten liberal members there to quash our proposals. That is what they call democracy.

I want to refer back to one amendment in particular which I think should have been accepted. With that amendment, Bill C-27 would have created a transparent management committee. The proposal gave some people the opportunity to participate in transparent and fair management.

Let us look at the proposed membership for the board of directors. We asked for two representatives of nuclear energy corporations, which is normal when dealing with nuclear energy; one representative from the government, once again a normal request since the government is responsible for the implementation of the act; one representative from the aboriginal community; and one from a recognized government agency active in the environmental area. As far as I know, nuclear waste management does have an impact on the environment. As the issue is very specific and highly technical, we also requested one representative from a scientific and technical area related to nuclear waste management and one expert in public affairs in the field of nuclear energy.

From the expression on your face, Mr. Speaker, it sounds reasonable. Everybody agreed with that. It was good common sense. Unfortunately, our proposal was rejected at committee.

Let me give an example. When a child goes through negativism—the infamous no, no, no phase—we figure he will soon grow out of it. As far as I can see, negativism has such a great hold on members on the other side that it will be years before they reach political maturity. When they do, they will be capable of openness and they will understand that we too, on this side of the House, can have good ideas and move a bill forward.

We can hope that one day there will be political maturity on that side. However, since my election here, on June 2, 1997, I have often despaired of the fact. I would like to return to two amendments introduced by my colleague from Sherbrooke.

Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

An hon. member

You have not read them.

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1:50 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Yes, I have. It is my custom, when I hear something, to respond regardless of whether it is an off microphone comment or not. It is an idiosyncratic holdover from another career.

It is important to talk about one of the amendments by my colleague from Sherbrooke, that is the one on consultation. Here again, I will speak of the government's consultation practices.

I have travelled twice across Canada with the Standing Committee on Finance. It would have cost the Minister of Finance a lot less to take the Liberal Party's program and publish it in its entirety. A lot of money would have been saved. The consultations were bogus. What we wanted were democratic consultations, consultations in which the public would be heard and would see there can be responsible people in a political party.

The way the party opposite could show it is responsible is by listening once in a while. We realize it does not. These people do not listen. I know that when we speak the truth, it is disturbing. I note that, as I advance in my remarks, the other side—pardon the expression—fidgets. Do you know what I mean, Mr. Speaker?

When we have to resort to using such expressions, it indicates how sad a point democracy has reached on the other side. It is to show that there is no responsibility. When serious things are being discussed and people are fidgeting, it means they are not part of the debate. It is they we are talking about when we say they are fidgeting. They are always on the outside of the real debates.

Nuclear Waste ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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1:50 p.m.


Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Let us get serious. When this sort of expression describes democracy today, we can understand that all the amendments introduced in committee were defeated by the members on the government side. I insist. They can stop. First, they can accept real consultation and, second, they can also make sure no nuclear waste management organization will be in conflict of interest if it sits on a management committee.

I hope the members opposite have understood common sense and that it was important to adopt the amendments of my colleague from Sherbrooke.

PeacekeepingStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, on December 14 I will have the honour of presenting Chief Warrant Officer B. D. Kennedy with the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal.

The peacekeeping service record of this officer reinforces my deep admiration for the men and women of the Canadian armed forces. As everyone knows, peacekeeping has become one of the hallmarks of our international identity. Time and time again, Canada has demonstrated not only military expertise but patience and diplomacy.

Now as we face the latest threat to our way of life and with holidays approaching, let us take a moment and remember our navy personnel who today are serving overseas to help establish and maintain international peace, stability and therefore a better Canada. My only hope is that in the December budget our armed forces finally will be funded as professional soldiers should be and not as the Liberals see them, as boy scouts equipped to shovel snow in Toronto.

Ron LenykStatements By Members

November 29th, 2001 / 2 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my constituent Mr. Ron Lenyk on becoming this year's recipient of the Dean S. Lesher Award.

Ron's achievements during his 30 years in the newspaper industry include the introduction of colour photographs throughout his newspaper, a sophisticated neighbourhood distribution system and the introduction of community specific editorial coverage.

As well, under Ron's leadership the Mississauga News became the first newspaper in the world to implement a full desktop pagination system of production.

Ron's achievements in the city of Mississauga in community projects such as the Christmas bureau fund, community living, the millennium committee and the sports celebrities dinner are also to be commended.

On behalf of the citizens of Mississauga West I congratulate Ron Lenyk and thank him for his dedicated service to the newspaper industry and to his community.

Kim EveringhamStatements By Members

2 p.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to congratulate Kim Everingham of Stratford, Ontario. Kim has recently been awarded a Wayne Gretzky-CNIB scholarship to continue her studies in sociology and psychology. The scholarship was presented to Kim by Canadian National Institute for the Blind district manager Sherry Malcho during the November 16 commencement at Northwestern Secondary School. It is one of only 15 of these scholarships which will be given out this year.

Although Kim has bilateral optic atrophy and is considered to be legally blind, she has chosen to maintain a positive outlook on her life. Kim has continued to set goals for herself and is presently attending university on a full time basis. She is able to use a computer and has special needs software to assist her in her studies. Kim, who holds a Honeywell scholarship, is determined to continue on to teacher's college after completing her degree.

I am extremely proud to congratulate Kim Everingham on her persistence in pursuing her dreams regardless of her visual impairment. She has set an example to many other young people, both those with and without disabilities.