Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-4. This is a simple bill. Its intent is, with just a few lines, to change the responsibility of those who finance and operate nuclear plants.
Our listeners may sometimes, too often, think—because they just read newspaper headlines or watch the major news stories on television—that the government is there to defend the citizens' interests and they should therefore trust it.
What we have before us is a bill that is far from defending the interests of our listeners. In fact, it is a bill that has been presented by the Liberal government to aid the nuclear industry. This bill has the support of the members of the Canadian Alliance and the Conservative Party. It is not a bill to help the public and defend its interests. It is a bill specifically to help one type of industry, the nuclear industry. This is a type of energy that is criticized all over the world. In most of the industrialized nations, the situation has gone beyond that, and it has been abandoned.
Perhaps this bill seems innocuous because of its lack of bulk, but it is all the more important because of its impact on the quality of life of our listeners.
I will try to give a brief legislative summary. This bill is, obviously, not very complex and not very thick. I will try to share my experience with the House. We all bring another profession to politics. I am a notary by profession. For the benefit our listeners in English speaking Canada, I will explain that this is a lawyer specialized in drawing up contracts. I will give my legal opinion, in a mild-mannered way, on the text we have before us. In connection with those responsible for site cleanup, the wording on responsibility was as follows:
--any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
This was replaced with the following:
--any other person who has the management and control of--
Clearly, the terminology of “right to or interest in” has been replaced by the words “management and control of” in order to exempt banks, bankers and lending institutions from this responsibility. They would no longer have responsibility.
Actually, this would be the only industry where the liability of bankers would be limited. Business people who are listening know this: when they ask for money from a financial institution, they must comply with all of the environmental clauses. For the past ten years, this has been unavoidable. In larger businesses, there is the environmental stage that covers the preliminary impact study. Often, stage two is required, which is a complete impact study, and phase three, which is decontamination.
This means that bankers would no longer be responsible in the nuclear industry for requiring these three phases. This is how it can be interpreted. Given that they would no longer be liable, they do not have to worry about it. Why do people who run businesses have environmental clauses in their contracts that they have to abide by? Because the banks feel liable. Therefore, they require clauses in lending contracts that force the borrower to comply with those clauses. The banks also require stages one and two, the appropriate environmental studies, and even require the inclusion of relevant updates at predetermined deadlines in the contracts.
This simple provision is being amended. This is a simple paragraph being amended in a legal text, as the Liberal member said earlier. Some might ask why there should be a lengthy debate in the House, given that the act is only a few pages long. However, these few pages are very important, because now financiers will no longer be liable and will no longer require that borrowers meet environmental standards. This may allow the nuclear industry to survive.
I hope that all those listening to us understand, based on the comments made by my learned colleague, the member for Joliette, and by my colleague from Windsor—St. Clair, that nuclear energy is on its way out. It is losing steam and it is destined to be phased out.
Canada is alone in its decision to support nuclear energy. Why? Likely because the Prime Minister has travelled around offering Candu reactors all over the place and tried to promote the industry by selling nuclear reactors, when this is going in the opposite direction of evolution of global society. It is often the smallest bills that have the greatest impact on human health. That is what we are debating today.
There is a reason why only the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party are opposed to this bill. These are parties that are there to defend the interests of citizens and not to defend the interests of big business. This is the game that the Liberal government is playing. It is proposing an amendment that would help the nuclear industry. It is supported by the official opposition, represented by the Canadian Alliance, and by the Progressive Conservative Party, which hopes to get back in power.
Finally, all these people have decided to get together and to help the nuclear industry, which goes against the whole evolution of energy throughout the world.
I will repeat this argument, because a Liberal member rose in the House this afternoon to tell us, “We do not have to have a debate on Kyoto with Bill C-4”.
On the contrary, everything is connected. If we allow the nuclear industry to develop even more in Canada, while this goes against everything that is being discussed throughout the world, we will once again delay reaching our objectives and signing the Kyoto protocol.
It is inconceivable that we should be discussing Bill C-4, as the Prime Minister told us that we would have a vote in the House, before Christmas, on ratification of the Kyoto protocol.
Once again, this bill is rammed through the House to help the nuclear industry before a real debate can be held in Canada. This bill is not in the best interests of our listeners, but rather in the best interests of the nuclear industry, which is slowly dying, as it should be. It is only appropriate for this kind of energy, which is outdated and a health hazard, to disappear. We should not let Bill C-4 be passed. It only has a few lines and a few pages. The Liberals, the Alliance and the Conservatives have decided not to debate this legislation, because it is a short bill. In fact, it helps their friends in the nuclear industry.
Why has the Bloc Quebecois decided today to fight Bill C-4? Because we have the best interests of all Quebeckers and of all Canadians at heart. We are glad to stand up for their interests, since their members of Parliament will not do it.
Members of the Bloc Quebecois have taken a stand on energy development. Our position is clear: wind energy is the way to go. The Bloc proposed to the House the creation of a federal program to invest $700 million in the wind industry. The program could have helped the Gaspé area, a region of Quebec that is going through some very tough times. It could have recovered much of the money invested in wind energy, which is a renewable energy source, the energy of the future. Some people found our proposal very funny. However, the figures mentioned today by my hon. colleague from Joliette and many others spoke for themselves.
The wind power capacity in Germany is of 8,753 megawatts, which accounts for 35.8% of all the energy the Germans use. Those are the facts. In the United States, 4,235 megawatts were wind-generated, which represents 17.3% of all their energy production, compared to 0.08% in Canada. Those are the facts.
Canada generates only 207 megawatts from wind energy. This debate today does not deal with renewable energies that are in tune with the Kyoto protocol. Those listening should know that we are talking now about nuclear energy. The government wants to relieve investors and bankers of their responsibilities for investments in nuclear energy. This is the Liberal government's proposal, and it is supported by the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance, and by the Progressive Conservative Party. This is typical of Canada.
It is not true that the Canadian government defends the public's interest. It defends the industry's interest. I could list many examples that show it does not look after our interests, but those of its friends. The two are not the same for the Liberal government. I am somewhat surprised that the Canadian Alliance is jumping on this bandwagon. If it were in power, it would probably do the same as the Liberal government. It is the only conclusion to be drawn here.
This is the tough reality, but the whole debate on Kyoto should not end. Despite what a Liberal member said this afternoon during the debate on this nuclear energy bill, we should not avoid discussing Kyoto.
This is what I will explain during my time remaining. In Canada, we should promote wind energy. The present government should take seriously the plan put forward by the Bloc Quebecois for an investment of $700 million over the next five years. The federal government does invest in the energy industry. Since 1970, it has invested more than $66 billion in oil energy, more than $6 billion in nuclear energy, and just $327 million in renewable energies, including wind energy. This is the tough reality of lobbies controlling this Parliament.
The oil and nuclear lobbies are controlling this Parliament. They control the governing Liberal Party, the Canadian Alliance, and the Progressive Conservative Party. None of these parties take the interest of ordinary citizens to heart. They care more for their own power than for those they represent, even though they were elected to defend the interests of their fellow citizens.
I hope that the citizens who are listening will have a chance in the weeks to come to ask their MPs why they did not stand up in the House to say how much more important it was to discuss the Kyoto protocol rather than reducing the liability of those who operate the nuclear energy industry. This is an industry which is losing steam and which in any event is doomed to disappear—or so I hope—for the simple reason that the health of the men and women we represent is at stake.
It was a pleasure to debate Bill C-4 and to reiterate that the proposed legislation is a real legal setback. I will, if I may, read it again so that those who are watching understand clearly. Under the existing legislation, the Commission may order that, and I quote:
—any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
Therefore, under the existing legislation, all other persons with a right to or interest in had to participate in the decontamination of the land or place or to resolve any nuclear energy problem.
The government is replacing this simple phrase with this:
—any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures—
Only the administrators and those who have a management responsibility, that is those who have something to do with the operation of the plant, will be responsible for the decontamination of the site. The financial sector is completely excluded.
I have heard colleagues tell us that there were problems with this nuclear energy industry and that there were lending difficulties. My colleague from Windsor—St. Clair is right. This will speed up the privatization process. The nuclear plants are often owned by public corporations because the private sector has no financial interest in them and because these plants would be too risky for them. This will help the privatization process. However, when we talk about privatization, we are not necessarily talking about corporations rich enough to decontaminate a site. Once again, things are not getting any better. They are even getting worse when we think that this regulatory change could allow the privatization of those nuclear plants by taking all responsibilities away from the bankers. We are certainly going backward rather than forward.
It is completely unthinkable that we could go in that direction. We are taking all responsibilities away not only from those who will grant new loans, but also from those who have already granted them or provided financial support. This bill will take all responsibility away from those who have financed nuclear energy in Canada.
It is not enough to say that it could encourage investments in the nuclear industry. On the contrary. This will once again help the friends of the Liberal Party, including the bank lobby, which has financed a part of the nuclear energy industry. These people are no doubt anxiously looking forward to the passing of Bill C-4 that will rid them of the risk that they are now facing.
I hope that my brief submission will have helped to convince the people who are listening, and you, Madam Speaker, that Bill C-4 should never, never be passed in the House. The Liberal Party of Canada, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party would do well to protect the interests of the men and women who elected them rather than the interests of the multinationals or other companies controlling their party coffers.