Mr. Speaker, before the interruption I was talking about the financing of the nuclear industry in Canada.
Large scale projects which sustain Canada's nuclear power industry cannot proceed without appropriate private sector debt financing, effectively discouraging domestic and foreign investment and the viability of future projects.
This amendment would limit liability to owners, occupants and persons with management or control of contaminated land, making the section consistent with Canadian environmental law.
The Canadian Alliance supports the removal of government funding of the nuclear sector. Without this amendment, the only investor qualified to invest would be the government, thereby possibly leaving Canadians liable for anything that happens in the industry.
A constraint on private sector financing in the nuclear industry remains a serious concern of the Canadian Nuclear Association. Subsection 46.3 of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act is considered a barrier to raising capital. The industry also recommends amending the Nuclear Liability Act, which the government has not looked into yet. The Canadian Nuclear Association contends that the government should do something about the Nuclear Liability Act as well, but it has ignored dealing with that.
Also, the association contends that issue of the third party cross-border liability has to be addressed. That has not been addressed yet.
We need to ensure private funding is available for the nuclear energy sector to remove involvement of government, thereby removing liability from ordinary Canadians.
This legislation could put the nuclear industry, which deals with this most serious and dangerous stuff, on par with other industries in providing overall safety for Canadians, which has not been a priority for the government for so many years.
Demand for products of the nuclear industry continues to grow worldwide. Products include electricity and nuclear medicines and therapies, for example, radioisotopes, et cetera. Fifteen to twenty million medical imaging and therapeutic procedures are performed each year in Canada.
We have perhaps 22 nuclear power plants active in Canada. We have sold Candu reactors to other nations around the world. Some of them have built nuclear bombs based on our reactor's technology.
Candus have the lowest marginal operating costs of western reactor design, that is, three cents per kilowatt hour. Approximately 13% of all electricity in Canada is generated by nuclear sources and is soon expected to be 20% after the restarting of six more reactors. It is estimated that the market value of that is more than $3 billion.
We are talking about an industry which has a brighter future and which has a huge dollar value attached to it. Many jobs may be created in this industry in the future. We have the potential to earn more and probably enhance trade with other nations. This is an important industry we are talking about.
Nuclear power reduces greenhouse gas and smog emissions, unlike coal. It may be debated; some people may say yes and others may say no, but the argument stands on both sides. Generally it is considered that nuclear power plants can be environmentally friendly. Nuclear power plants are considered among the most secure and robust industrial facilities and contribute to energy security.
Energy will be a main issue in this century. We need to prepare for that and encourage the industry to do proper research and development, ensure safety and enhance its output.
Although public acceptance remains a challenge to new nuclear power plants, for example, the new version of the Candu ACR, progress needs to be continually made on matters relating to nuclear fuel waste management.
The issue of terrorism may also be on the public's mind. Another issue is how to treat nuclear, radioactive and other hazardous wastes.
It would not be fair to treat the nuclear waste issue as only a domestic one. When I was a member of the foreign affairs committee a few years ago we studied nuclear proliferation. I heard many harrowing tales of how nuclear material was stolen in many of the former Soviet republics and exported by criminal elements around the world.
There were 73 different incidents of the smuggling of nuclear materials that were caught between 1993 and 1996. That is just in those three years. I will give some examples.
The Romanian police had in their possession 82 kilograms of radioactive material, which is enriched uranium. In another incident, Lithuanian officials seized 100 kilograms of uranium 238. In another incident, the Belarus committee for state security seized five kilograms of cesium 133, a highly radioactive material. The German parliament discussed how three smugglers offered it 11 kilograms of Russian weapons grade plutonium. Similarly, Greenpeace was offered 800 kilograms of scarred warheads for public display in Berlin. The list goes on.
We also know that nuclear material and technology is transferred from certain rogue states to countries around the globe that have nuclear ambitions. Both Iran and North Korea are examples of countries that are believed to have transferred nuclear technology and materials to the highest bidder. We all have heard about Iraq and its ambitions of securing nuclear warheads.
If Canada is not to become the weak link in nuclear proliferation, Canada's waste management organizations will need to examine security procedures, storage and disposal, et cetera, particularly when we are fighting a war against terrorism. Obviously the issue of security and the storage of nuclear material or waste is not just a Canadian issue. It is an international issue.
I want to give an example from my constituency of Surrey Central regarding the storage of radioactive material. We must ensure that the waste management organizations act responsibly in the storage and disposal of nuclear waste, including the federal Liberal government.
For over two and one-half decades my constituents have been exposed to radioactive and toxic materials in the heart of the community of Newton in Surrey which at one time was the fastest growing city in Canada. In June 1972 a firm in Surrey was licensed by the federal government to import niobium, which is an ore that contains radioactive thorium.
The imported ore was used in smelting operations. Tonnes of hazardous waste were ignored and left unattended in the open for four years, until 1976. It was 1984 before the federal government accepted responsibility for it. The federal government issued the licence. The material was imported and processed. The waste was left unattended in the open air.
No one was ready to accept any responsibility. The provincial government said that it was not the province's responsibility because the federal government had issued the licence. The material was on the property of the municipal government, but it could not do anything about it. Finally, after eight years the responsibility was assumed by the federal government in 1984.
What happened next? People in that area said that small children played on the radioactive material. People confirmed reports that some cows from a nearby dairy farm died because they were grazing in that area. The feds forgot about it and did not take any action until October 1989. For three years after assuming responsibility the federal government did not do anything.
In October 1989 a special task force was appointed on a voluntary basis. Imagine. The government knew about such a serious issue for a long time and it dealt with it by appointing a task force on a voluntary basis to deal with the storage, handling and disposal of that hazardous material, unprotected piles of smelter slag and contaminated soil lying in a corner at 7800 Anvil Way in Newton.
There are barrels of concentrated radioactive material rusting in CN Rail's Thornton yard and at other locations in North Surrey. I went there and took pictures. I saw the iron barrels in which the concentrated radioactive material was stored. It had been stored for so many years that the barrels were rusting and the material was leaking. The slag which was left in the open remained there for a number of years. The material was also used as a filling when a building was constructed on that site.
The federal government appointed on a voluntary basis an organization comprised of only two people to look after this radioactive material. The Surrey Siting Task Force consulted with the local, provincial and federal governments. The material was stored in a concrete bunker for 25 years, a quarter of a century. This was called temporary storage. My constituents were appalled when they listened to this story; radioactive material left in the open, then neglected and ignored and then handed over to a volunteer organization which stored it for 25 years in a concrete bunker in that area.
The federal voluntary task force could not find a permanent solution to the problem. Communities it contacted, including remote and abandoned uranium mines, refused to accept the material. Even the abandoned uranium mines refused to accept the material because the communities around them would not accept it. It is a crime to have kept that hazardous material in the heart of the country's fastest growing city, Surrey.
As a member of the foreign affairs committee then dealing with nuclear proliferation, I found out about this neglected storage site. After some research and consultation, I lobbied for three years and personally followed up with the Minister of Natural Resources and became involved in this issue until that 4,000 tonnes of dangerous material was finally removed from Surrey. After my efforts the material was finally removed from Surrey. Some of it went to Chalk River, Ontario while more was dumped in Arlington, Washington in the United States of America.
As I mentioned, a building had been built on the slag and the land slag was excavated under the building. The whole operation was very expensive to the taxpayers. I am talking about the monetary aspect, but no one is talking about the health issue. The federal government has kept this a secret. I am happy that my pressure finally had results. The former Minister of Natural Resources was helpful in dealing with the issue, and I thank him for that. Finally action was taken.
The longer the delay, the higher the cost, and the more potential for harm and danger to the community. I knocked on doors in that area to find out what people thought, but many did not even know about it. People did not know about it until the issue was raised in Parliament as well as in the community. The federal government made no effort to educate the community or to protect the communities around that material. This is a shameful story, highlighting carelessness and neglect by the federal government in dealing with hazardous and radioactive waste in Surrey.
On behalf of the people of Surrey Central, I pay very close attention to see that the travesty that occurred in my riding does not happen anywhere else in Canada.
Another example in British Columbia is the 8,600 tonnes of dioxin laced hazardous toxic material which was scheduled to be moved into British Columbia from Oregon in the United States. Those examples show that the government does not care how radioactive hazardous material is stored or that it is moving into Canada.
I asked the Minister of Natural Resources a question about this situation of during question period. The minister happens to be the political minister for British Columbia and is supposed to care about British Columbia's concerns, not ignore them. How can he afford to accept radioactive hazardous materials into the province from somewhere else? The environment minister was the former political minister for the province. How can the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of the Environment, both from British Columbia, let hazardous materials be stored in their province?
I asked the minister why hazardous material, which is too toxic for the people of Oregon, would be safe in British Columbia. It is important that nuclear waste, which is a lot of radioactive material or hazardous waste, is taken care of properly and stored in a way that is efficient, cost effective and safe to people in the communities.
In exciting news a constituent of mine, Mr. Bill Carnegie of Cloverdale, has informed me of a breakthrough technology that a firm he is associated with in Surrey has invented. All over the world scientists have been working for many years to find a process or means to destroy radioactivity or to treat the radioactive material so that its radioactivity is nullified. No one could find it. Even Einstein's theory indicates that it cannot be done, but this firm has done it. Last night in Stockholm, Sweden, they conducted tests. In those tests they established that they could reduce 10,000 units of radium to 80 units of radioactivity in that material.
It is very interesting that technological breakthroughs will take place when these firms are assisted both financially and otherwise to do their research and development. However this firm did it without the government's help. Dr. Roberto Monti of Monti America Corporation has invented this method of processing materials to render them non-radioactive. This Monti process, as he calls it, has been tested recently with very good results in other places as well.
I was so delighted to hear that this scientist and this group was invited to the White House a couple of months ago because of this breakthrough invention, but in Canada people do not even know about it. I have not read about it in any newspaper. I have not heard anyone from the government congratulating this firm for this breakthrough invention or discovery. On behalf of my constituents and the members on this side of the House, I congratulate this organization for the research it has done to make the world a safer place, to destroy the radioactivity and hazardous outcome from the radioactive material.
The debate seems to be more about the philosophy of private sector versus public sector ownership of industry and how that affects people. To suggest that it is no different than the bank that holds a mortgage on my house and that I would be responsible should I contaminate that house or property is simply is not true, particularly if I do not go bankrupt.
Subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act prevents owners and operators of Canadian nuclear facilities from obtaining debt financing. It represents a significant barrier to any form of domestic and foreign investment in the nuclear industry in Canada. It puts the Canadian nuclear industry at a substantial disadvantage internationally. I wonder what the government has been doing and where it has been. Why has it let this thing happen for so long?
Subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act goes far beyond the common law principle of liability and the provisions of provincial and federal legislation. The subsection means that there is unlimited liability for the cleanup of environmental contamination for anyone with a legal right to or interest in the contaminated land or facilities. This includes mortgage lenders and other security holders.
The provision is unique to the nuclear industry. It does not appear in any other federal or provincial environmental legislation. Subsection 46(3) goes so far as to make passive investors or shareholders and lenders liable for the cost of cleanup in case an accident or anything else happens. As a result the nuclear industry has difficulties in arranging financing since the bringing into force of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act just two years ago. In all other such environmental legislation, lenders and other security holders are not exposed to such levels of liability unless they exercise their security and assume management and control of secured assets.
The individuals who drafted the original legislation could not foresee this complication in the form of the current act. It is appalling. The problems inherent in the legislation are obvious. The justification argument may be to protect abandoned sites. That is when companies operating facilities, usually mining, have gone bankrupt and walked away from remediation, thus leaving the federal and provincial governments with the cleanup responsibilities.
It is hard to understand why the government would hamstring the nuclear industry with this provision. Sometimes the most obvious problems escape the notice of the Liberal government until the problem becomes so significant it is finally forced into action. This is the situation here.
We know Bill C-57 was introduced in the last session. The bill attempted to make these changes which I am debating today. However it died on the order paper, so we have to start the whole process again.
The Canadian Alliance supports private sector involvement in the financing of the nuclear industry to keep government involvement and public funding of such projects to a minimum. I have long had a problem with the conflict situation in which the Canadian government is both the sales agency for Canada's nuclear technology, such as the Candu reactor, and is the sole regulator of the nuclear industry and nuclear research in the country. This industry has the government's involvement in both. The government is proactive in selling Candu reactors and is proactive in regulating the industry at the same time. I see some conflict of interest there.
The situation makes us vulnerable to compromise in the safety and regulatory body in favour of the commercial side of the industry. We all know that when Candu reactors were sold to China, that was financed by the Export Development Corporation and the environmental requirements were waived. Why? Because the government was regulating at the same time that it was selling the technology so the environmental implications of the requirement were just waived in favour of government. That was wrong.
The Canadian Alliance also supports reducing barriers that impede private sector competitiveness at a time when all forms of cleaner fuel must be considered. If the nuclear industry is to be part of the energy mix of the country for a longer period of time to come, it is imperative that it is kept on the same playing field as other energy industries in Canada. We cannot be discriminatory from one industry to the other. If industries are competing in the open market, they must be treated fairly and on an equitable basis. Conditions must be competitive when industries are competing.
Like many other energy industries, the nuclear industry requires a huge amount of funding to remain viable, but so far this restriction does not give the opportunity to the industry to have access to the same funding as their competitors. The role of nuclear industry may be debated, but the nuclear industry should be allowed to attract investors to further allow the future development of the industry on both the domestic and international fronts. It must be able to make accurate long term plans to remain stable and attract private sector investment. Continuing uncertainty regarding the availability of financing could jeopardize not only the substantial economic benefits of such investment for Canadian nuclear manufacturers, but also the jobs of thousands of Canadian workers who work in the industry.
Therefore, the amendment is critical to the revitalization of the Ontario electrical industry as well as in New Brunswick and other places.
In conclusion, Canadians are very sensitive when it comes to the nuclear industry. The safety, health and benefit of Canadians are of utmost importance. The government must be embarrassed, and Canadians will notice yet another Liberal attempt to cover up misguided incompetence in drafting the act. Canadians deserve better.
I talked about the regulations. Let me stress that 80% of the component of law in Canada is by way of regulations, while about 20% of the law by way of legislation. All members in both Houses passionately debate legislation but the regulatory component is not a part of that debate in the House. We have been lobbying for democratic reforms for so long, reforms such as free votes, work in the committees, the way private members' business in treated and so on. Parliamentary reform becomes very important. In parliamentary reform, regulatory reform is an integral component.
The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, of which I happen to be co-chair, has been demanding that it be able to scrutinize regulations and then table a report in the House that could disallow those regulations. However, surprisingly the disallowance procedures for regulations are not on a statutory footing. If the minister chooses not to accept the report and not to disallow those regulations, the committee has no other powers to deal with it.
I introduced a private member's bill in the last session of the House, which I reintroduced in this session, to at least put the disallowance procedure on a statutory footing in the House so that the scrutiny by the security of regulations committee becomes somewhat meaningful. At least a committee of the House would have full authority to scrutinize regulations of statutory instruments that are not a part of the debate in this House.
I wish the government would always table the draft regulations along with the legislation so that debate can take place in the House. Then those draft regulations could be referred to the committee for public input and some debate. Then regulatory reform becomes an integral part of parliamentary and democratic reform. I am sorry that I have to point out that the federal Liberal government is light years behind other jurisdictions, including provinces such as Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia which have had regulatory reform. They have moved from red tape to smart tape and from smart tape to smart government.
Regulations are not a bad thing but they cost businesses and Canadians. It has been estimated that $103 billion per year is the comprised cost of regulations in Canada. When we talk about federal regulations, provincial regulations and municipal regulations, there is a dire need to harmonize regulations among those different jurisdictions.
There is lots of overlapping. I know of one example. Different departments of government have different regulations. Sometimes they contradict each other. There are four different regulations which monitor one particular industry. Business people have to choose which regulation they should comply with because the four contradict one another. They are overlapping.
I was surprised at what they do. They pick that regulation where the penalties are the highest so they can comply with it and minimize their costs and they ignore the other three regulations, even if the fines are small. What can they do?
As we talk about regulations, I urge the government to move ahead with regulatory reform for smart regulations that can regulate the industry but not be a barrier for business, innovation, research and development or investment. All these things are in a vicious cycle. They affect our productivity and our standard of living. I was amazed to find that the compliance costs for regulations come to something like $13,700 per household, which is a cost second only to that of shelter. But this is a hidden tax. The hidden taxes are not talked about much because they are hidden.
As we are talking about regulatory reform, I think this is a time that the government needs to accept the proposal by the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance. We have always shown them their dark corners with a flashlight. The government has sometimes stolen our policies, but this policy of democratic reform is one that I want it to steal so Canadians can enjoy democracy.
With regard to our topic, the funding or financing of the nuclear industry, in an effort to rectify the deficiencies in the existing regulatory regime we went through a process two or three years ago of restructuring the Canadian nuclear safety and control bureaucracy. Bill C-57 was an amendment to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act that would have fixed the problem with subsection 46(3) of the current act, a problem that should have been recognized by the drafters of the bill at that time. With these comments, I will conclude. Different industries should be put on an equal footing when they are competing in the market. This section should have been, at least now, corrected so that the industry has access to financing by bankers and lenders.