Mr. Speaker, here I am again, the luck of the draw. So now I have the opportunity of pointing out that you are in the chair as I prepare for my first speech of the new session. This is a speech that is very particular in that it was prepared by a young man from Alberta. His name is Lee Wheeler and he is a parliamentary intern. So yesterday I announced to him “Dear, you are going to write me a speech“ and he paled. He did not get a wink of sleep but he turned up with a speech and I would ask you to listen because it really is the product of his reflection.
My first speech of this new session will address nuclear safety. It is a very clear illustration of my concerns, as well as one of the major concerns of the Bloc Quebecois, and of Quebec society, and I am pleased to think of Canadian society as well: environmental quality and its preservation.
If energy has revolutionized the industrialized world, but with disastrous consequences, alas, for the environment , needless to say this debate cannot ignore the very real dangers of nuclear energy. This debate ought instead to give us an opportunity to look at all of its aspects.
Who among us does not recall Chernobyl or, closer to home, Three Mile Island. As we know, energy is fundamental to the development of modern society. The world's energy comes in large part from fossil fuels, coal and other petroleum products. Although new industries have developed in recent decades, nuclear energy in particular—which had much promise but has turned out very different from expectations—the environmentally friendly alternatives such as wind and solar power, continue to be ignored, neglected by the federal government.
Despite the dangers and risks clearly associated with nuclear energy, the federal government has chosen to amend the Nuclear Safety Act in order to—imagine—make it less strict, and consequently less effective, as well as consequently more sympathetic to the major financiers. The changes proposed in Bill C-4 are unacceptable on a number of grounds, and should not be adopted by this chamber.
The government claims it is presenting a simple and minor change. This is true, two and a half lines could not be simpler. However, this bill will most certainly have serious repercussions not only in Quebec, but also throughout the rest of Canada. The Nuclear Safety Act is supposed to protect Canadians from the environmental and financial risks involved in a potential nuclear disaster. Currently, the wording of the bill gives the Atomic Energy Control Board the power to order site owners or occupants or “any other person who has the management and control of , the affected land or place [to] take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.
This wording covers a wide range of parties who are considered liable, since it ensures that all those who are involved in the industry are responsible for the burden of decontamination, in the event that an accident were to occur.
Through Bill C-4, the government is attempting to eliminate the decontamination obligation for a whole group of individuals involved. Instead of including “any other person with a right to, or interest in”, the Liberals are proposing that only those who have “the management and control of” the land must “take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.
This is a major change; it is a change that is completely unacceptable for the Bloc Quebecois, for Quebec and for Canada.
I have a few questions. What on earth could have pushed the Minister of Natural Resources to propose such changes? Why is he being a party to the federal government's scheme in proposing such a change? Why is he choosing to threaten the health, even the lives of our fellow citizens? The answer is quite simple, even “elementary my dear Watson,” as some would say.
According to the Minister of Natural Resources, and I quote him, “The Act's current wording has been interpreted to extend site remediation liabilities beyond the owners and managers to also include lenders”. This is terrible. This cannot be the minister speaking.
He continued by saying that lenders would therefore be confronted with “financial obligations that may exceed by far their commercial interest”. Who is ignoring the fact that the potential dangers of the nuclear industry are immense? What lender would commit to such projects without assessing the risks involved? That is why the Nuclear Safety and Control Act was adopted in the first place.
A simple cost-benefit analysis clearly shows that the investment is not worth the risk. Why then should we, as a society, take on these risks and these responsibilities and pay the price if there is contamination? There is only one answer to that question: we should put on our biggest smile and take on those risks for the benefit of those who invest in polluting industries.
We do not and will never agree with the government. Nevertheless, the status quo is not the solution here. In the wake of Kyoto, we need to promote and support alternative energy sources. This will not only create thousands of new jobs, but it will also prove that our societal choices are based on developing environmentally friendly industries.
What the Bloc Quebecois is proposing is a federal investment program to support the efforts of a strong alternative energy industry in Quebec, something that would benefit Quebec and the rest of Canada.
We are talking about a $700 million investment--not a lot of money compared to what is spent on health, the economy and the environment--over a five-year period to encourage the development of the wind industry in Quebec, especially in the Gaspé area. This would reflect Canada's commitment to the protection of the environment.
We have heard several times the federal minister responsible for regional development regret the hardship facing outlying areas, and not only in Quebec. The way to help outlying areas is to have the fortitude to bring forward measures to foster the development of these areas, like promoting the wind industry.
Quebec has always been a leader in the production of green energy in Canada. While several other provinces continue to depend on coal and other oil products to heat their homes and light their buildings, and are not unhappy about it, Quebec relies mainly on hydroelectricity for its energy needs. For Quebec and Quebeckers, this is a legitimate source of pride. Incidentally, Quebec produces more that half of all wind-generated electricity produced in Canada, and this production is well short of its real capacity.
The development of alternative energies is a priority not only in Quebec, but also in all developed societies. The ratification of the Kyoto accord has long been advocated by the Bloc Quebecois. In April 2001, the National Assembly of Quebec passed a unanimous motion in favour of this position. For many years now, Quebec has been working on the international stage to promote the fight against climate change with tools like the U.N. framework convention on climate change.
Two action plans have been implemented in Quebec since 1996 to ensure Quebec's formal adherence to the convention's goals. Presently, in Quebec, electricity is 95% green. Unfortunately, the Liberal government continues to favour polluting industries, to use fossil fuels and to ignore the need to look for green alternatives. Even if natural resources are under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government, with its encroachments, its hemming and hawing and its lack of vision, is not only impeding the national success of these businesses, but also undermining Quebec's environmental leadership on the international stage.
But members will admit that this is not the first time this government has tried to undermine Quebec. The most recent statements concerning Quebec's delegations abroad are perfect examples of what I just said; I must however congratulate the Liberal members who dared challenge those statements.
It would appear that how to finance these new energies is also a problem. If we look carefully at the government's decisions over the 1990s—it was almost yesterday—we see that over $450 million went directly to the oil industry and the nuclear industry, whereas a paltry $8 million went to the renewable energy industries. One dollar to green energies, and fifty to the nuclear and oil industries. Honestly, the difference is striking and everyone would have to agree that the government's priority is certainly not the quality of the environment, regardless of its announced intention of ratifying the Kyoto protocol in the coming weeks. Or the inconsistency is systematic.
This disparity is unacceptable. Rather than committing to the promotion of green energy, the federal government shamelessly continues to subsidize the polluting industries. With Bill C-4, its choice seems clear: pollution at all costs.
In Newfoundland the Hibernia project alone—which was good for Newfoundland, I agree—received over $3.8 billion in subsidies, loans guarantees and interest advances. This amounts 65% of the total cost of the project. This is not bad.
The benefit for Newfoundland was obvious since it resulted in an economic growth of over 6.5% a year—which Newfoundland really needed—and as a result of this economic growth the province is posting the lowest unemployment rate in 12 years.
The economic benefits of a wind energy project in Quebec will not be any less positive; they will be even better since they will not be polluting.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy—they know how to count, they are big guys--wind energy creates more jobs than any kind of thermal energy, over five times more than thermal energies and nuclear energy.
For its part, the European Association of Wind Energy believes that for each megawatt of wind energy produced, around 60 year-round jobs are created. The association is forecasting that by the year 2020—neither you nor I will be here by then, Mr. Speaker—over 2.4 million people will be employed by this industry in the European Union. This should be food for thought for the opponents of Kyoto.
The positive impacts of the development of a wind energy industry in Quebec and in Canada are obvious. I would even add that this is an inevitable change. The only problem is the lack of will on the part of the federal government. Although they claim to be ready to ratify Kyoto, the Liberals are obviously hesitant to push for the development of renewable energy industries, as you will see in the following example.
The December 2001 budget—it was a Christmas present—introduced an extraordinary indicator to show its interest in wind energy projects: 1.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of production for projects commissioned in 2002; 1.1 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2003, and so on, down to 0.8 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2007. Had it been 2008, it would have rhymed.
The federal government is far from the 2.7 cents per kilowatt-hour subsidies provided in the U.S. It is even a bit ridiculous. It is obvious that ridicule has never killed anyone yet, but it could happen one day.
The Bloc Quebecois is proposing a program that could set an example for all of Canada. Quebec is responsible for the majority of the green production in Canada. It is very well positioned to promote and develop these industries. The impact of such a development will contribute to the creation of more than 15,000 jobs. The growth of these industries will facilitate the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, not to mention the fact that the wind energy industry in Quebec will prove to be a financial success.
By maintaining the fiscal imbalance between Canada and the provinces, the federal government will once again miss a golden opportunity to develop a strong clean energy industry in Quebec and in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to know if I still have time because I have to decide on what is important here. I hope that questions will be asked to—