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House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

You know, Mr. Speaker, if there is one quality that is important in everyday life, that quality is curiosity. It promotes debate.

It will therefore be a pleasure to answer this question. I have already said this, but I will read my document slowly. With Bill C-4, the Canadian government is choosing investors over Canadians.

Freeing financial syndicates from their moral obligations while leaving untouched their profits, which are not negligible, I am sure, can only be a cause for concern about the future of both the Canadian and the Quebec societies. The government is relinquishing its responsibility to protect public health and the environment.

You will have understood that the Bloc Québécois is fiercely opposed to Bill C-4, and I think my colleague will agree with me.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question to my colleague from Laval Centre.

This afternoon, in the House, a Liberal member rose to tell us not to discuss Bill C-4 in combination with the Kyoto protocol. Discussing nuclear energy without referring to the Kyoto protocol does not make any sense. This is the object of my question to my colleague from Laval Centre.

The government should, as soon as possible, have a debate on the Kyoto protocol, especially before passage of Bill C-4, whose purpose is to facilitate the development of the highly polluting nuclear industry, one of the most polluting industries on the planet. Is it not the time for the government to put that front and centre, table all relevant information and immediately hold a debate on Kyoto?

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for his question.

When Parliament was prorogued, many of us were naive enough to believe that the Speech from the Throne would be innovative, that there would be some consistency. We are forced to say that, once again, consistency is not part of the Liberals' vocabulary and that what they are serving us is inconsistency. Indeed, as my colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel has correctly pointed out, delaying discussion of the ratification of the Kyoto protocol, holding a thoughtful, common sense, intelligent debate such as we are capable of having sometimes, delaying this and introducing Bill C-4 clearly demonstrates a kind of paradox that everyone is aware of: nuclear energy is dangerous. Even if we had absolutely safe nuclear plants, the fact still remains that nuclear waste has a life span that is obviously terrifying for everyone.

For the government to consider storing in the Canadian Shield very fine, very compact bricks that will stay there until the end of time, it is a sign of arrogance, of believing that humanity, in its great competence, is capable of being stronger than nature. I think that nature is strong; we must work with it and not against it. It is the objective of the Kyoto protocol: protecting the environment to give nature the opportunity to serve all living creatures on Earth.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I speak to Bill C-4, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Laval Centre, for her clear-sighted and impressive speech. It opens doors for the debate we will now have on Bill C-4.

I am very happy to have the opportunity to talk about Bill C-4 today. As you know, nuclear energy is a very important issue for me. For more than a month, two years ago, I saw how the Canadian nuclear energy industry laughed at the citizens from the Saguenay region in the matter of MOX imports.

You all know about the debate we had on importing MOX from the Soviet Union and how people in my area were opposed to the idea of airplanes transporting containers of that product over their heads. We won our case.

Research scientists in the industry work behind closed doors, ignore the population, paint a bright picture of the industry and think that the public cannot and should not understand the situation, because people do not have the required training to do so.

One does not need to be an expert to understand that the nuclear industry creates radioactive waste that will last for thousands of years and that it is not a green energy like wind or solar energy, but rather a form of energy the appropriateness of which should be reviewed.

I can only approach this issue with a very critical mind. It is for this reason and for many others that I am so interested in taking part in this debate on Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

As it now stands, the act says that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission may, and I quote “--order that the owner or occupant of, or any other person with a right to or interest in the affected land or place [to] take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”. That is what the current act says: “take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.

The phrase “any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place” is quite broad. It means that any person with an interest may be made to pay in case of a spill or any other kind of problem. This means everybody, including lenders. That is what the current act says.

A bank that loaned money to a plant could thus be sued and incur what would inevitably be very high costs. It is mainly to spare third parties, like banks and lending institutions, especially those that are able to finance the nuclear industry, that the bill was introduce. The purpose of the bill is to replace “any other person with right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination” by “any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.

This bill frees all third parties and lenders who finance nuclear energy, from any responsibility. What is being done through this bill is serious, all the more so when one thinks about all the doors that it will open for nuclear energy.

If the bill is passed, these legal entities would no longer have to clean up the sites contaminated by nuclear waste or the byproducts of nuclear energy exploitation.

It is not just a simple administrative amendment, as the minister would have us believe. There is a lot involved in this bill.

In fact, as the minister indicated in his press release, “Companies that own and operate nuclear facilities must have access to commercial credit to finance their needs, like any other enterprise”. This is where I have a problem.

Two elements caught my eye when I read this document, namely “finance their needs” and “environmentally-sound”.

It is a well-known fact that the current government, led in that by the Prime Minister, has always considered nuclear energy as an incredible economic development tool. Moreover, in terms of respecting its Kyoto commitments, the government is very favourable to this kind of energy

But, as we know, nuclear energy is not clean. It produces so much radioactive waste that we do not know what to do with it anymore. Yet, the Canadian government thinks differently, despite all that we know and the current situation. This is very serious.

Indeed, it says on the Internet site of the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, and I quote, “Nuclear energy is a clean, safe, and economical energy source that has many benefits, particularly in the areas of environment... It does not contribute to air pollution, global warming or acid rain”.

What a wonderfully incomplete propaganda tool. What Atomic Energy of Canada does not say is that we are stuck with over 20,000 tonnes of nuclear waste in Canada. This is serious. Do members know how much it would cost to get rid of it? It would cost over $13 billion. This waste has a half-life of 24,000 years—and this will answer the question of the hon. member for Laval Centre—and they want to bury it deep in the Canadian Shield. As we know, three quarters of the Canadian Shield is located in Quebec.

They want Quebec to become a dumping ground for the waste of others. It is Canada that has nuclear plants. It is Canada that created these 20,000 tonnes of nuclear waste currently stored on the plants' sites.

This government agency is really not telling the whole truth to the public and it would have us believe this incomplete and misleading information.

Furthermore—

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, would you please call the Liberal member on the other side to order. He has not stopped heckling me for my entire speech. If he would like to speak, let him wait to have the floor.

Furthermore, we have to ask ourselves if nuclear energy is safe. The government, just like its engineers, claims that the Candu technology is the best. But is that true?

In a report aired by the French CBC on August 11, 2000, we learned that:

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is concerned about the quality of the maintenance of the main reactor at the Chalk River plant, close to Ottawa. The commission fears that the departure of several experts and engineers in recent years may jeopardize the safety of the plant's operations.

The problem is that, in 1999, a great number of very well trained people have left the plant. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has made an assessment and concluded that Atomic Energy Canada does not invest all the resources needed in replacement personnel training.

Since 1957, we have been relying on a system of on the job training.

Clearly what is happening within our nuclear plants makes no sense. The Bloc Quebecois therefore proposes different ways for the government to deal with nuclear energy.

Recently, and it is important to remind the House of this; my colleagues have said this and I want to remind the House—the Bloc has proposed an investment plan of $700 million over five years to encourage the development of a wind industry in Quebec. This plan could help create more than 15,000 jobs in Quebec, mainly in the Gaspé Peninsula.

We know that we must help the people in the Gaspé Peninsula. We must help these people, and we know that the ideal place in Canada and in Quebec to invest in the wind industry is the Gaspé Peninsula, because of the wind, because of the unique sites there for this type of energy.

I remind the House that in 1997, in Kyoto, Japan, Canada undertook to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 6% compared to the 1990 level by the year 2008 to 2010.

For the federal government, the only alternative to clean and green energy is oil and nuclear energy. This is serious. It has put $6 billion into the atomic energy program alone.

As for financial assistance to the fossil energy industry, since 1970—the Canadian people have to know this—the federal government has paid $66 billion in direct subsidies to the oil and gas industry. By comparison, businesses in the renewable energy sector received 200 times less from the federal government, which gave absolutely nothing for the development of hydroelectric power—not one cent to Quebec—a type of really clean energy that produces no greenhouse gases and no radioactive material. Quebec has been developing this type of energy for more than 40 years.

This is why we believe that Canada should give up on the development of nuclear energy.

No wonder Canada lags far behind the leaders, with a production of only 207 megawatts installed. Even the United States has significant incentives, such as a subsidy of 2.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, to reach a capacity of more than 5,000 kilowatts-hour.

Quebec accounts for 50% of this production, which is minimal considering its potential.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

It is great to see that my Liberal colleagues are listening. I am very pleased. Congratulations and thank you.

According to the experts, Quebec's wind energy potential, concentrated in the Gaspé Peninsula and the North Shore, ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 megawatts-hour, which is about 60% of the total for Canada.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois has always said that environment is important. We have caused enough damage to the environment; we must take immediate measures to protect the environment for future generations, for our children, our children's children and also for the present generations. Something has to be done; we have to go the way of renewable energy. Fossil fuels and nuclear energy must be abandoned.

It would be important to create industries manufacturing wind turbine components. They have a huge potential to make Canada one of the three best wind energy producers in the world. At present, this government is stubbornly staying the course of nuclear energy.

Bill C-4, introduced by the Minister of Natural Resources, is more than an administrative amendment. It will bring about the further development of nuclear energy. This must stop.

The legislation allows for additional funding to develop nuclear energy. Enough is enough. The government must stop. I am asking it to withdraw Bill C-4. This legislation does not address the nuclear problem. It only allows its development.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that the hazards associated with nuclear energy require tighter regulations than for any other type of energy.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that if financial backers find this too risky an investment, there is no reason for society to react differently.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that the government should focus its efforts on developing clean energy such as wind power.

Where energy is concerned, the Bloc Quebecois demands, first and foremost, ratification of Kyoto, and I will vote for it.

I wish to move an amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill C-4. I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence”.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The amendment is in order. Moving on to questions and comments. The hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, the British Parliament commissioned a study which has now been published. It looked at the requirements for energy in England from now until 2050. It looked ahead that far. It analyzed the needs. The report is quite extensive.

The same report proposed how that country would meet those requirements. It is broken down from the perspective of what it is going to do with its nuclear industry and fossil fuels. Most important, a time schedule has been set out for how it is going to replace those energy sources extensively, if not completely, over that period time with alternative renewable sources of energy. It is the most comprehensive plan I have seen for the whole of any country.

Would my colleague from the Bloc care to comment on the need for that type of a plan in Canada? More specifically, is that type of plan a good reason that we should not give second reading to the bill? Should we not give the government time to do that type of analysis?

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair.

Yes , it would be very important for this government not to act in a shortsighted manner in connection with nuclear development.

In the throne speech, the Prime Minister of Canada told us of his commitment to ratify Kyoto in the coming months. That is what he said. How is it then that today he is allowing Parliament to debate a bill that would increase greenhouse gas emissions in Canada?

I do not know if the Prime Minister of Canada is aware of what is going on in this place at this time. I would ask him to listen and to tell his MPs, particularly his Minister of Natural Resources, to withdraw this bill.

Today it would be more important to debate the Kyoto protocol. Today, we, as parliamentarians, should debate that, instead of a bill that makes absolutely no sense, the purpose of which is to develop nuclear energy, which will add to the amount of nuclear waste. There are already 20,000 tonnes stockpiled at nuclear plant sites, and we do not know what to do with this waste.

The government will have to get back on track, stop telling us whoppers, stop telling us that it is going to do this or that and then do the opposite as far as Kyoto is concerned.

In response to my colleague's question, yes, this government needs to have a long term view of the situation as far as anything to do with pollution is concerned, anything to do with the agreements we made about ratifying Kyoto, because we made a commitment in 1990 before the world about ratification.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jonquière for her remarks. She described very well the problem with nuclear energy. Being from New Brunswick, I am well aware of the situation at Pointe Lepreau, where we are in the process of deciding if the plant should be closed because of all the problems, especially pollution.

The same thing is happening in some regions of Quebec, the Gaspé for example, where many people from Atlantic Canada have settled, and also in Lamèque, in New Brunswick, and Miscou Island.

Has the time not come to develop new environmental-friendly technologies instead of giving the government new tools to make things worse for the environment?

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member is right and I urge the government to take his advice.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before resuming debate, I just want to remind the House that now speeches will be 10 minutes without being subjected to 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, in speaking to the motion to hoist the bill, I always accuse the government of being naive, but perhaps I was a little naive on this one.

In the last session we had the opportunity to see this bill in its prior incarnation as Bill C-57. As I was reviewing some of my notes for today, I looked at some of the comments of the member for Davenport. He asked his own government to take another look at this. My naiveté is that I thought the government might take another look at the bill over the summer and not bring it back, or if it did bring it back, it would be in a significantly different form that would not have allowed for the removal of the liability that extends presently under the act to people who are financing the development or rebuilding of nuclear plants in the country.

Perhaps this is asking too much of them, but I thought they might take a look at an overall comprehensive energy plan. That would have required them to look at the Kyoto protocol and map out in quite significant detail an implementation plan. In addition, it would have required them to do what England has done, which is to develop a long term energy policy.

There are two parts to that. It would require them to do an inventory of our energy sources in the country now, what we would continue to have from whatever sources, and then decide with very detailed recommendations any plan of how they would phase out heavy polluters such as coal and other fossil fuels, how they would phase out the nuclear industry over an extended period of time, and how they would phase in the available alternative sources of energy that require some technological development but in most cases simply need a plan of implementation.

On looking at experiences in Europe and other countries we can safely say that they are moving along those lines and are a decade to a decade and a half ahead of us. That puts us in a very bad position in terms of developing our technology as opposed to having to buy it from Europe or other countries over the next decade or two.

As I said, I expected that we would see some very extensive proposals and plans from the government. Obviously we did not get them.

The attack we have seen against Kyoto centres on the incompetency we are seeing from that side of the House. They are unwilling to face the reality that we need that type of long term planning and are refusing to carry it through. We hear the Prime Minister, for instance, saying that it is no big deal, that we have until 2012 to have the implementation plan in place. I do not know if he really understood how erroneous that was in terms of the requirements we have to meet under Kyoto. It is just dead wrong in a number of ways. We have to do a lot of preparatory work well in advance of 2012.

His comment a couple of weeks ago also reflects the attitude that this is something they will do, probably because of the political pressure in the country. However it reflects that the Prime Minister and the government do not care a lot about the quality of life we will live if we do not deal as quickly as possible with climate change and global warming. It reflects a real unwillingness either to face that reality or to have the sensibility to understand the need to get started right away.

There is lot of criticism of the government. The start of this should have been four or five years ago when we first signalled that we would ratify Kyoto. We were the first country in the world to sign on and we are one of the last countries in the developed world, with the exception of the United States, to begin to deal seriously with the issues surrounding Kyoto.

One of the reasons this hoist motion should go ahead is that the matter would be put off. It would give them another six months to begin to deal with it. I would have expected as part of that plan that they would have dealt with issues around the subsidies to both the nuclear industry and the fossil fuel industry. They continue to be granted to the fossil fuel industry and the bill is a reflection of those subsidies.

I expected that we would have seen by this time a detailed plan of how in fact we are going to subsidize, provide incentives and give the creative juices in this country the ability to move to those alternative fuels that we so badly need. Again, we see nothing like that. It is a strong reason for putting off the bill. That would send a clear message to the government that it has to do this type of planning. It is not in any way simply a method of stalling out the bill. It really would be a serious message to the government to say that this is not the way to go.

Let me in the minute or two that I have left address one final point: the issue of privatization that the bill would permit and in fact encourage, specifically in the nuclear industry. We have seen just so many negative consequences of privatization in the energy field. We have seen some of it in our country. We now are experiencing it in this province. We saw it in Alberta and we will see more of it in the next few months and years. We saw it very extensively in the United States, particularly in California but also in a number of other states that had the same problems as they tried to privatize as well as deregulate the industry.

The bill should be pulled off the order paper, sent back for more work to be done on it and brought back in an entirely different format so that the issue of privatization would be addressed full on. This would make it very clear in our country that we are not in favour of privatization but that in fact energy sources and the energy needs of the country will be met by public bodies, not by the private sector.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 6:30 p.m.)