Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise once again in the House and speak to Bill C-27. The point of the debate is to discuss whether or not we should have further amendments to the bill before it leaves this Chamber.
I would argue that there are a number of amendments, many of which have already been recommended, that would add to the validity of the bill and make it much better and more legitimate legislation.
Unlike the member who just spoke, the NDP member for Windsor--St. Clair, the Bloc member for Sherbrooke, the Alliance member for Athabasca and I worked jointly at committee because we all felt the legislation was poorly crafted. We did not use this as an opportunity to slam other members of parliament or try to position one party against another. We simply said that the legislation was poorly crafted and that it was not accountable to the Canadian public.
The problem with the committee was that it never gave the Canadian public the opportunity to look at the details of the legislation or the opportunity to appear before committee.
As parliamentarians, we used the committee to our advantage and tried to bring as many witnesses before it as possible. However we were never satisfied with the length of time the committee had to study the issue. The main reason for that is that this is an issue that is not going away. It will be here next year. Unlike some members of parliament, I do think we have a responsibility to deal with the issue. However, we did not have to deal with it before Christmas. Another month, six weeks or ten weeks of study at committee surely would have produced a better bill.
Significant issues, as well as significant dollars, are at stake here. Certainly the industries that produce nuclear waste in Canada, such as Ontario Hydro, Hydro-Québec, New Brunswick Power and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., are putting significant dollars into the waste management organization. The bill states that Ontario Power Generation will put up $500 million toward the waste management organization; Hydro-Québec will put up $20 million; New Brunswick Power Corporation will put up $20 million; and Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. will put up $10 million. We are talking about nearly $1 billion. On an annual basis, these companies continue to add to the pot. Ontario Power Generation Incorporated puts in $100 million on an annual basis. Hydro-Québec puts in $4 million. New Brunswick Power puts in $4 million. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. puts in $2 million.
We are dealing with a lot of money that would go toward looking after the problem of nuclear waste in Canada. When that amount of money is on the table there should be a number of overlying rules and regulations, one being accountability and another being transparency.
One of the main problems the PC/DR coalition has with the bill is that there is not enough transparency. Federal government money, through a crown corporation, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., would go toward setting up a waste management organization to deal with nuclear waste in Canada, yet access to information will not apply to the legislation. I think most Canadians would be surprised to hear that. Certainly that was not a recommendation by the Seaborn panel, which studied the issue at great length.
Beyond its sloppiness is the very arrogance of this legislation. The mayors and wardens of the three Ontario municipalities which already have nuclear reactors appeared before the committee. They had a number of recommendations. None of those recommendations was accepted.
I put forward a number of the recommendations as amendments. Of the 19 amendments that the PC/DR coalition submitted, not one of them was accepted by the government. The government simply brought its members in and voted the amendments down. The Bloc Quebecois put forward a number of amendments. The New Democratic Party and the Alliance Party put forward a number of amendments. We debated the amendments for two days, yet only two amendments were carried.
Surely on an issue of this magnitude and importance to the Canadian public, there should have been more time and at least some acceptance of the democratic principles applied at committee.
There were amendments put forward to deal with the importation of nuclear waste. I wanted to see it very clearly stated in the legislation that there would not be importation of nuclear waste. That amendment was voted down at committee. All of the opposition parties supported that amendment, every one of them, yet the government voted it down. The fact that other legislation may deal with that issue is not good enough.
As an aside, Mr. Speaker, I have a bad cold and I do not think there is enough water here to bury it. It is interesting that one of the members stated earlier that we could put all of the nuclear waste in Canada in an olympic sized swimming pool. I think I need an olympic size swimming pool just to get rid of this cough in my throat.
There are 1.3 million spent fuel bundles in Canada. I would agree that perhaps we do not need a huge space in which to put that amount of high level nuclear waste, but certainly it would take a considerable space. I do not think one swimming pool would be enough.
We have said from the very beginning that we have to deal with the issue and I agree. I for one do not think the nuclear energy sector will go away. The nuclear energy sector will continue. It provides cheap energy. There is a huge cost to pay for that cheap energy and that is radioactive material that will be with us for the next 500, 1,000 or 1,500 years. Nobody is certain of the amount of time that the radioactivity stays.
We have a number of issues to face as a country. Therefore we have a number of issues here to deal with as parliamentarians. We have to deal with nuclear waste. We have attempted to do that with the legislation. However, the legislation was not accurate enough in detailing what nuclear waste is.
The nuclear sector itself asked for a new name. Instead of calling it nuclear waste, it wanted to call it irradiated spent fuel because there is some life left in the nuclear fuel bundles.
There is a very good possibility that science will find a way to take the remaining radioactivity out of those nuclear fuel bundles and simply recycle them through the reactor until all of the radioactivity is gone. There is an opportunity for science to help with the problem that we are faced with.
There is also the opportunity that science will find other ways. It was discussed at great length at committee that perhaps the whole science of transmutation may allow us to change the nuclear fuel bundles into inert material. We are off into the realm of science fiction here and the issue becomes one of dealing with a radioactive dangerous material today. What are we to do?
One of the major problems is that it really only leaves two alternatives. The two alternatives that the waste management organization and the advisory council came up with are in the legislation. One is deep geological disposal, which seems to be the primary alternative and certainly the one most often looked at. The other one is on site at surface storage.
Personally, I find the idea of on site at surface storage completely contrary and not a feasible long term storage alternative. We would not be dealing with the waste; we would simply be piling it up. We would wait for 20 years for another generation to deal with it, or wait for 50 years or 100 years for someone else to deal with the problem. We would simply not be accepting our responsibility as parliamentarians to do something about nuclear waste today.
Having said that, let me say that there is no reason that it has to be done tomorrow, the next day, or the day after. Certainly there was time enough that we could have studied the issue for another three months. We could have made more amendments to the legislation. We could have crafted a better piece of legislation to send to the Senate. Instead, with typical arrogance, the government is insisting on sending the legislation in its present form to the Senate. I expect the Senate will make amendments as well.
I will outline a number of the specific problems with the legislation. One is that the waste management organization will only have representation from industry. I would certainly argue on industry's behalf that it should be the major player in the waste management organization. It is certainly putting the dollars into the waste management organization. There is no reason that some non-governmental officials could not sit on the waste management organization, specifically representatives from environmental organizations and the municipalities that are home to many of the nuclear reactors in Canada.
The advisory council will be appointed by the waste management organization. It recommends that environmentalists, local and regional governments and aboriginal people, as well as technical experts may be involved in the advisory council. That is only a recommendation. It is only saying that they may be, it is not saying that they must be. There is a critical difference in the wording.
On the issue of foreign waste, the legal advisers for the research council stated that there is nothing in the legislation that prevents the importation of foreign waste.
There is another nuance that is even more insidious and even more dangerous. Let us say that tomorrow Hydro-Québec, Ontario Power Generation Inc. or New Brunswick Power Corporation decided to build a nuclear generating station in Maine, North Carolina or wherever. There is nothing in the legislation that prevents any of them as a Canadian corporation from importing that nuclear waste back into Canada for burial in a deep geological vault or for on site storage.
Most Canadians would agree that continued on site storage should not be a long term option. We have to have a better long term option than that but the legislation only gives us two options: deep geological burial or on site at surface storage.
The sloppiness of the legislation, the rush the government was in to get it through this place and the refusal to accept amendments are all in contradiction to what we are supposed to represent as a democratic parliament. Certainly we could have done a better job.
There is no point in trying to deny the future of the nuclear industry. Although we all may not be supporters of a continued nuclear industry in Canada, I would argue that the industry will continue whether we support it or not. It will continue worldwide, which is an even greater issue.
The future of power generation on the continent is going to turn more and more to nuclear, especially in the Indian subcontinent and in China where they are dependent on brown coal with high emissions. If we are to meet our Kyoto standards we are going to go more and more to nuclear energy.
We stated the opportunities with hydroelectric power. There is still a lot of hydroelectric power to be developed in Canada. The Lower Churchill is a prime example. As the NDP member said, the real problem with hydroelectricity is the transmission line drop. I am not 100% sure but I think it is 2% per 100 miles. That is a significant line drop and loss of power in order to transport it.
Perhaps if we put the type of funding and research dollars into alternative sources of energy and hydroelectric power we would find that there are other ways to combat that. We would be able to get over some of the obstacles.
There are opportunities in wind power. There are opportunities in cogeneration. There are opportunities in continuing to burn coal in a clean and safe manner with fluidized bed coal fired generators. There is an opportunity with natural gas. There are a number of opportunities.
In summary, there are a number of issues. First, this was a poorly crafted, extremely sloppy piece of legislation when it came to committee. The government simply did not do its job the way it should have in bringing this legislation to committee.
There was not enough recognition of the importance of local communities that are home to nuclear reactors, specifically the three municipalities in Ontario whose witnesses appeared before committee. There was not enough consideration given to the role of aboriginal communities that may end up being the home to some deep geological deposit and to the input they wanted to have on the legislation. There was not enough consideration given to amendments, including the amendment to prevent the importation of foreign waste into Canada.
Not enough time was given to adequately bring presenters and witnesses to committee. Nor was enough consideration given to amendments that industry put forth and which the government refused to accept. These are the very people who are paying for this particular waste management organization.
The final point is there is no guarantee that we have democratic representation on the advisory council. There is no guarantee that local municipalities and aboriginal communities will be represented on that council or that there will be the technical expertise.
At the end of the day, we cannot accept or support the bill. It is just impossible.