Madam Speaker, it is with a feeling of frustration but also with enthusiasm that I take part in this third reading debate on Bill C-27, which deals with long term management of nuclear fuel waste.
I have a feeling of frustration because we have to admit that we made choices on energy in the past and we now have to suffer the consequences and manage very dangerous nuclear waste, and also because even if we admit we should bear the consequences of choices made in the past and manage this waste, there are a number of things we think should be done and are not provided for in this bill.
For reasons I mentioned earlier, we supported this bill at second reading. We support the principle underlying the bill, not with a great deal of enthusiasm, but because we are a responsible political party. Again, as a society we made certain choices on energy, and we should now accept the consequences of these choices and make long term decisions to protect the environment and public health.
However, during the review in committee at report stage, we tried to propose some amendments to this bill, which we feel is not only incomplete in many respects but, to put it bluntly, ill conceived.
We worked in all good faith, as we generally do when participating in a debate affecting the public. At second reading stage, we made proposals that were in the interest of the public and devoid of any partisan intention.
Yet, both in committee and at report stage, acting blindly and with partisan arrogance as it has done since 1993, the government rejected almost all of the amendments that came from the opposition side. If it does not come from the government, from the Liberal Party, it is not worth passing. They did not even try to find time to look at these amendments. It was simply not worth the trouble as far as they were concerned.
Such arrogance, such disregard for the opposition parties, which after all were elected by the people and express the concerns of their fellow citizens, is absolutely incredible. It is unbelievable.
This is one reason why, while recognizing that something must be done for the long term management of nuclear fuel waste, we do not feel this bill is the right tool to do the job, because the government refused to approve the necessary changes, amendments and improvements we had proposed.
Furthermore, one of the reasons I will oppose this bill, as the member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes, is the one I mentioned earlier, namely that I am here to reflect the concerns of fellow citizens. I must strongly condemn the choices that have been made to this day by the government in the energy sector.
It may be that after World War II, there was a degree of enthusiasm, of blind excitement that led western world countries to choose nuclear fission as a source of energy. Up to a point we can excuse the decisions that were made back then, but with experience, with Three Mile Island, with Chernobyl, we have come to see the limits and the dangers of this source of energy.
The government opposite is ignoring the warnings. It is ignoring the fact that all over the world people are beginning to think about new sources of energy. They are beginning to think about doing without nuclear fission, which is dangerous and which pollutes the environment, but this government is bent on selling the Candu technology all over the world.
Allow me to say that I am not the least bit surprised by the positions presented earlier by the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. I am not surprised. What surprises me, however, is to see a parliamentarian who should normally have a modicum of independent thought arrive here and read pamphlets and booklets produced by the Canadian atomic industry.
I am not surprised, because the atomic industry and nuclear fission facilities are primarily concentrated in Ontario and primarily benefit that province. Therefore, we should not be surprised to see a member of parliament from Ontario extol the virtues of nuclear fission. We should not be surprised, but we should be concerned.
In the few minutes I have left I will talk about a political game that has been going on behind the scenes for a number of years. The result of that game is that Canada has made decisions in the energy sector that will impact very negatively on the future of Canadians and Quebecers, particularly the future of our children and grandchildren.
We have deliberately chosen to follow this technological route, pushed no doubt by the Ontario nuclear fission lobby. Riding the wave of what was happening elsewhere around the world, we nonetheless undertook, in the 1970s, a very small research program in nuclear fusion. This program was quite modest in comparison to the nuclear fission program that used the traditional technology of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
As a society, colossal sums of money were invested in the field of nuclear fission in Ontario. We are talking about more than $5 billion invested so far in nuclear facilities by the federal government alone. The federal government has invested approximately $150 million annually in traditional nuclear fission technology.
In addition to this, the government of the day, together with the governments of Ontario and Quebec, had the wisdom, at least, to establish a small experimental nuclear fusion research program. As a result of this very modest research program in nuclear fusion, we managed to build a small nuclear fusion reactor, the Tokamak, in Varennes, in my riding.
Over the years we have not invested $150 million a year, but as a society we have nevertheless invested tens of millions of dollars in this research project, which is the way to the future.
Canada and Quebec had established a partnership—partnerships are rare—but it seems to annoy the federal government. I will come back to and conclude this story in a moment.
Through its nuclear fusion research program, slightly more modest in Ontario, and more significant in Quebec, Canada contributed approximately 1% of the world research in nuclear fusion. However, because it was conducting research in nuclear fusion, it benefited from 100% of the technological benefits of the international research in the field.
Nuclear fusion is a production mode that basically contrary to nuclear fission, which splits atoms, fuses atoms. This fusion, and the resulting heat that is produced, creates energy. The technology is essentially based on the dream of creating solar energy in a bottle.
The energy produced by nuclear fusion is recognized as a relatively economical and safe form of energy that does not harm the environment and produces an infinitesimal quantity of waste, which is no small feat under the circumstances.
As I pointed out, however, we were enjoying 100% of the technological benefits at the time. The federal government invests some $150 million annually in traditional nuclear fission technology, concentrated primarily in Ontario, compared to the $7.2 million it invested annually in nuclear fusion research.
INRS-Urbanisation studies showed that the federal government was probably taking in more in tax revenues than its annual investment of $7.2 million in nuclear fusion.
What happened? Early on in its reign, this government asked Atomic Energy of Canada Limited to cut a number of secondary, superfluous programs, using deficit reduction as an excuse. It was not very difficult for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the bulk of whose operations are in Ontario, to identify a number of projects that were felt to be less important. Tokamak very likely led the list of proposed closures.
So the federal government, in its infinite wisdom, showing an astonishing lack of vision, decided to cut this $7.2 million which was being invested in nuclear fusion research. The result was that the Tokamak project in Varennes, in my riding, had to shut down.
What is absolutely mind-boggling, apart from this government's lack of vision for the future, is that it made its decision without even consulting or warning its partner. Suddenly it announced in a federal budget that federal funding for the Tokamak project in Varennes was going to be dropped, that federal funding for nuclear fusion research was going to be cut, thus flying completely in the face of the general trend internationally.
This is not the first time that the federal government has completely ignored the general trend on this issue and on many others as well.
So the federal government cut off funding. At the time the government of Quebec, which was in an even worse situation financially than the federal government, could not single-handedly come up with the $15 million needed annually by the Tokamak project in Varennes if it was to continue with its research in a satisfactory manner.
Installations worth tens of millions of dollars were abandoned. This is not what I call a responsible management of public funds. A team of some 100 research scientists, high level technicians trained in our universities at taxpayers' expense, had no choice but to take their high level knowledge to foreign countries. This is an excellent example of brain drain. Our nuclear fusion specialists were forced to leave the country and find work in countries where people believe in nuclear fusion.
Furthermore, Canada had developed extraordinary lines of specialization in plasma and microwaves. How will we be able to maintain the level of specialization that we have developed in those areas? It will be very difficult.
This decision was totally unjustified and unjustifiable, all the more so since the federal government has been wallowing in budgetary surpluses ever since. Not only that, but it has the gall to claim, year after year, that it is promoting innovation, research, science and technology in its budgets.
After killing the most important research and development project in the energy sector in Quebec, this government has the gall to say that it considers technology, research, science and development priorities. It is a true scandal to hear the government say such things.