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House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was board.

Topics

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I just wanted to explain that I wanted to intervene briefly in this debate.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am advised by the table that indeed we can go on debate.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like you to clarify the decision that you made a few seconds ago.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Standing Order 67 provides for either a debate on the motion, without amendment, or a vote. Do any hon. members wish to speak to this motion?

The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak briefly to Bill C-4. In itself, this is a very small amendment to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

This bill contains only one short paragraph with the effect of limiting to the owner or occupant or any other person who has the management and control of the nuclear facility the responsibility of taking measures to reduce contamination or the level of contamination.

In other words, very subtly, the intent is to relieve financial institutions and lenders who choose to invest in nuclear facilities of any and all civil or legal liability. These institutions and investors would be completely excluded from the legislation with respect to any liability when investing in nuclear projects.

That raises the basic question of why is this so. Why should they be exempted? Yesterday the report of the Auditor General on contaminated sites brought home to us the issue of extremely costly and enduring problems caused by the disposal of toxic waste.

In 1995 the Auditor General set out a figure of approximately $850 million as the cost for the federal government to arrive at a solution regarding the disposal of nuclear waste.

The nuclear energy industry involves two major risks and problems. First, there is plant safety. I know that in Canada our industry has been reasonably safe. At the same time, examples have occurred, certainly in the United States at Three Mile Island and also outside. Of course the worst example of a meltdown within a nuclear plant was Chernobyl.

Also there is the whole question of nuclear waste. We still have not found a solution to permanent storage of our nuclear waste. Not only Canada but countries all over the world have been wrestling with this problem. Those that use nuclear power are faced with the problem of having to deal with nuclear waste. It is always the problem of where to store waste on a quasi-permanent basis, which is the large challenge posed to them.

The benefits are certainly there. Nuclear power is present in Ontario. Nuclear power is used extensively in France. Certainly the power by itself is deemed by the industry to be clean power. At the same time, there is no possibility of putting aside the huge risks of plant problems and meltdowns, especially the problem of dealing with the waste which can stay in the environment for literally thousands of years.

This is the reason countries like Sweden and Germany have had national debates on nuclear power. Most recently Finland had a national referendum on nuclear power. Finland decided to go ahead with it. On the other side, Germany declared a total moratorium on nuclear power. Sweden declared a moratorium on nuclear power. In Canada, Quebec has decided to curtail nuclear power. It has a small nuclear plant, but no more nuclear power.

We should encourage investment in green energies, renewable energies, whether wind, solar or biomass.

Bill C-4 enables investors to treat nuclear power as strictly a business risk, ignoring all environmental risks and liabilities which are potentially huge. It is due to the huge potential risks that the Paris and Vienna conventions have placed a limit of liability regarding nuclear safety, which is more than six times higher than the limit placed in Canada. In Canada we use a limit of $75 million, whereas the Paris and Vienna conventions place that limit at $600 million.

Therefore, rather than facilitate and exempt investors from any liability regarding an investment in nuclear power, we should heed the report of the Auditor General and with the utmost safety, caution and prevention use all our skills to put in place safeguards and constraints regarding whatever will cause future toxic waste.

The time may have come, like in Sweden and Germany and most recently in Finland, to review our energy policy and declare, especially in the context of Kyoto, that we are firmly in favour of renewable energies and firmly against making it easier for investors and others to invest in nuclear power with its huge health and environmental risk.

For these reasons, I hope that Bill C-4 will not proceed in the way it is structured now, that we revert to a position where, if there has to be such a law, that investors in financial institutions will bear the burden of the risk, as they should. We should not make it easier for investors to invest in nuclear power. We should, on the contrary, put constraints on them so that in turn they turn their thoughts, their money into investing in green energies of the future, especially in light of Kyoto and the fact that we are soon to ratify the Kyoto protocol.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill and to follow my colleague from across the House. The debate on the bill to amend Nuclear Safety and Control Act is important. Nuclear power is an extremely important issue for Canadians, given that it is a major power source in the country, but also a power source that poses some of the greatest security risks.

The purpose of the bill is simple enough. It is to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to clarify who is liable in case of a nuclear accident. As the Minister of Natural Resources has explained, under the current wording, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has the authority to order the owner or occupant or any other person with a right or an interest in it to take measures to reduce radioactive contamination. However, the proposed amendment replaces the words “person with a right or interest in” with the words “person who has the management and control”, which limits the scope of liability.

Further, the minister has said that the amendment serves to clarify the risk for institutions lending to companies in the nuclear industry. What this really means is that banks can freely lend money to the nuclear industry without having to worry about any kind of liability. Therefore, banks can now invest in nuclear power plants without worrying about the consequences, like contaminated air, water or land. They do not have to worry about a possible meltdown or even seepage into the land that grows our food or the water that we drink.

It would be nice to make money without having to worry about how it will affect other people but that is not the world in which we should be living.

Even without the amendment, the liability that banks and any other lending institution faces under the Nuclear Liability Act is a maximum of $75 million. Considering that nuclear accidents, such as Chernobyl, can run up costs in the billions of dollars, banks and others that could be liable are in fact already getting off very lightly. For example, in the United Kingdom the liability limit is $300 million and in other European countries the liability is as high as $600 million.

Considering the dangers and the expenses associated with nuclear power, the only amendment that should be made should be to widen the scope of liability for this industry, not narrow it as the bill would do.

The government has presented the bill as simply a housekeeping measure, but in fact there are many serious issues that arise from it. The bill makes it easier for banks to give loans to nuclear power plants because banks no longer have to worry about liability.

The Minister of Natural Resources said the bill is not and should not be misconstrued as a measure to provide favourable treatment to the nuclear industry. Yet when banks virtually finance anything else, a house, a building or a store, banks take on a measure of liability. Why are the banks being let off the hook when it comes to one of the most dangerous industries in Canada? How can this not be considered favourable treatment?

The federal government has long favoured the nuclear industry, giving it billions and billions of dollars in subsidies. Massive accidents such as the horrendous one in Chernobyl and Three Mile Island and the various smaller problems with nuclear plants in Ontario and New Brunswick have not deterred the government from supporting the nuclear industry. In fact the minister has made it clear that this amendment was designed to make it easier for the industry to gain capital and, therefore, expand.

Iraq and North Korea have been dominating the news lately. Why? Because of the fear that they may have developed nuclear weapons. What does that have to do with Canada? Canada only uses nuclear energy as a power source, as an energy source at this point. However Canada has also exported nuclear technology to countries such as India, Pakistan and South Korea, countries that have used this technology to develop and use nuclear weapons.

As well as the waste product from nuclear power plants that as my hon. colleague across the way mentioned, plutonium is one of the most dangerous products out there right now. Not only is plutonium a key ingredient to make nuclear weapons, it also is a major threat to human life itself.

Radiation release into the environment has led to the contamination of soils, air, rivers and oceans, causing cancer and other diseases in people. The generation of electricity in nuclear reactors produces substances that can be used for the fabrication of nuclear weapons. The dangers associated with the handling of weapons-usable nuclear substances requires a high level of security and secrecy even in democratic countries.

Moreover, nuclear energy has never been economical despite the massive state subsidies that it has received for decades. Even now funding still pours into the nuclear sector at the expense of renewable energy like solar or wind energy.

These are all reasons to stop the expansion of the nuclear industry and to look at alternative fuel sources, yet the government wants to continue to support the industry by making it easier to finance it. At a time when most countries are moving away from unsafe and unclean energy sources, the government seems intent on preserving them.

I and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party have put forward proposals to meet the goals set out in the Kyoto accord and they apply to this bill as well. Instead of expanding nuclear power we should look at safer, cleaner solutions. It is possible and feasible to expand the use of alternative sources such as hydro, wind and solar power. We have also called for a renewed emphasis on urban transit, a clean air fund, and a research incentive program to cut our dependency on sources of energy such as nuclear power.

The bottom line is that we need to stop the expansion of dangerous and unclean energy such as nuclear power and look at viable, clean alternatives. I urge my colleagues in the House to vote against the bill.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, let me first commend the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis on the wisdom of his comments today on Bill C-4, to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

I have had the pleasure and the honour of speaking on this bill for a total of 90 minutes. I have a little more to say. In light of the evidence presented by the government, there is a need to put more energy—not nuclear energy but something more common sense in nature—into this issue, and ask the government not to move any further into privatization by basically promoting private investment in the nuclear industry.

The fact that major financiers were not investing in the nuclear industry because they were indirectly liable for such a project shows that they knew it was risky. It is well known that financiers do not put their money into ventures that pose huge risks, the scope of which they do not know.

No one here can know the full impact of radioactive waste. During the previous session, we reviewed Bill C-27 on the management of nuclear fuel waste. We are well aware, because we examined the issue, that many countries have still not found the solution. I mentioned this yesterday in my speech. Some radioactive elements are present for periods as short as 550 years. That may seem very short in the history of a people or of humanity. However, other radioactive products remain present for 14 billion years, which is a much longer period.

As regards nuclear energy, we must question this form of energy, which is seen as a contributor to greenhouse gases. There is an inherent danger to the use of nuclear energy in terms of the world's safety, whether it is in the production of that energy, in the burial of radioactive waste, or even in the possibility that someone could get these products to make nuclear bombs.

I firmly believe that a debate should take place on whether or not to continue to develop nuclear energy. There are some rather striking examples. Take Germany, where 30% of the electrical energy was dependent on the nuclear sector. Germany is now announcing that it is dropping nuclear energy and that by the year 2050, it will have eliminated around 80% of its greenhouse gases. That country is ending the development of nuclear energy and, at the same time, it is able to commit to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by over 80% by the year 2050.

As we can see, these two objectives are not incompatible. This is what I am urging the government to do. It must go forward and begin a process to drop nuclear energy and its proliferation. This proliferation is being promoted by the bill, which tells major financiers “There is money to make in the short term in the nuclear energy sector, with no long term responsibilities anymore”.

We know full well that large multinationals, whose only objective is to make money, can easily invest in the nuclear energy sector. Should a catastrophic environmental disaster occur, they will just withdraw and their responsibility will be limited. They will not go any further. They will have made their money when it was easy. When there are responsibilities to be assumed, who will assume them? Who will have to clean up all these contaminated sites? Again, indirectly, it will be the public, because this situation will always occur.

In environmental matters, the government is always the one responsible for decontaminating, for reassuring the public and for ensuring that we have a healthy environment to live in. This is why it becomes more and more necessary not to involve the private sector in such important areas but to withdraw it from those sectors because it is not capable of assuming long-term responsibilities.

I think it is pretty clear that the government is not up to speed, particularly where alternate or renewable energy sources are concerned. It cannot therefore really want to invest in them.

Moreover, we are told that governments have invested over $15 billion in the nuclear sector. With opportunity costing, this represents indirectly over $161 billion invested in nuclear power.

Let us try to imagine the investments that could have been made in opportunity costs on renewable energies. There is nothing complicated about it: nuclear waste is with us just about forever, and is a risk to the entire population of the planet and the planet itself. There are, however, other important elements that are also equally eternal: the sun, the air, the water, the land. These are all elements with which we must work to obtain constantly renewable energy.

The Bloc Quebecois has raised this, has made predictions about the potential employment benefits of the wind energy industry. But to no avail, because the government wants to invest in nuclear energy.

This government has a fundamental problem when it comes to wind energy. There is, of course, always the exception that confirms the rule, and I again thank the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis for his speech. The government is still at the stage of wondering whether the windmills are turned by the wind, or create the wind. So if that is the stage they are at, there are a lot of serious questions to be asked.

I am therefore urging the House to put this bill on hold so that the public can have its say as to whether it wants nuclear energy or not. According to the latest surveys, the people of Canada and of Quebec are saying no to nuclear energy.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed motion will please say nay.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. At the request of the chief government whip, the vote is deferred until tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), I would ask that the vote be further deferred until next Tuesday right after question period.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the chief government whip have the agreement of opposition whips to further defer the recorded division?

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will confirm with the other whips whether they agree and report back to the House.

I am told that yes indeed there have been consultations with the other four whips, and there is agreement to defer it further until Tuesday afternoon.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. members have heard the chief government whip. Consequently, the recorded division stands deferred until next Tuesday, at 3 p.m., after oral question period.

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2002 / 4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was only five minutes into my speech when the House adjourned for the day yesterday so I am glad to continue with some of our thoughts regarding Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act.

Yesterday I dealt with some of the reservations of the NDP. To summarize the points I raised, the question that arises is this: Is it a good idea for us to be on the open market with our Canada pension plan savings? I will try to answer that not in an ideological way but just by looking at the empirical evidence.

If we look at the actual experience in the last period of time since the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board was struck, put in place and put in charge of investing our hard earned pension contributions, the experience has been terrible. I could have done better by playing pin the tail on the donkey when it comes to the stock market investments it has made. Unfortunately, it chose to get into this free market, the stock market, at exactly the wrong time, like a bunch of amateurs or a bunch of tourists. It was seduced by the high earnings in the bubble that took place in the high tech sector when people were getting returns of 20% and 30% per year on their investments. The board wanted a piece of it and got in, but it got in at the wrong time and has lost a fortune. Originally the board was given $11 billion to invest on our behalf. In the first return that came back, it had lost $1.5 billion of that.

I am not trying to argue ideologically that it should not be in there. I am just trying to share with the House the empirical evidence. It has been a disaster. What struck me as odd in that first quarterly financial statement is that the board doubled the CEO's salary even though he lost $1.5 billion in the first venture into the stock market. It also doubled his performance bonus. His performance bonus went from I believe $140,000 a year to over $200,000 a year. Imagine that. If the board is going to reward bad behaviour so generously, what if we ever do show a profit? It will be staggering. What I am saying is that we seem to have adopted the worst corporate models in the structure of this board, not some best practices or some unique structure, because let us face it, this is unique. This is the taxpayers' money being invested on our behalf on the private market. Those are my reservations. Yesterday I did raise some of the details of what our reservations are but this summarizes them.

We are apprehensive. Now the fund is no longer $11 billion. The fund has grown, not because we have made smart investments but because the rate of contribution has been massively increased. It is now $53 billion in spite of the fact that in the next quarterly report the board reported a loss of $800 million. In the quarter after that it lost another $1.5 billion. In the quarter ending in September 2002 it lost $1.3 billion. The fund is hemorrhaging. We are making bad investments. The people we have put in charge of our retirement security are investing badly on our behalf.

Whether it is a good idea or not, we cannot argue with the fact that had we not gone down this road those many billions of dollars would not have been lost and would still be sitting there or maybe would have been loaned to municipalities or provinces, as was our past practice, so that the money could have been used in relatively low interest infrastructure loans to benefit Canadians. It certainly would not have been invested offshore, which is the experience now.

Part of the bill would allow the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board to invest on foreign shores 30% of the $53 billion it now plays with. Surely parliamentarians would argue that we are trying to maximize the benefit to Canadians with the use of this money by providing a good rate of return, yes, but that we have as a secondary objective economic development in our own country. Besides, there are no ethical guidelines built into Bill C-3. In fact it specifically states in the CPPIB mandate document that no other consideration other than the “maximum rate of return” shall be contemplated in the investment strategy.

I will not buy shares in a mutual fund if I know that mutual fund is investing in some maquiladora sweatshop on the Mexican border where child labour or rampant abuses take place. I choose not to have my investment dollars invested in unethical investments, but no such guidelines exist within Bill C-3 or within the trust document of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. What if it would get a great rate of return for clear cutting the rain forests of the Amazon? Do Canadians want to participate in that even if we would get a better rate of return? I say no.

If we were to put it to Canadians they would say no, but they will not have a chance to say no. Why? Because of the other thing I raised yesterday, which was the composition of the 12-person board entrusted with our the security of our pension future. It is not representative of Canadians. There is no worker representation. There are no working people, no organized labour, no pensioners and no participants in or beneficiaries of the plan represented on the 12-person investment board that makes the decisions. It is a basic tenet in the trade union movement I come from that any employee benefit plan should have equal joint trusteeship. Labour and management jointly decide how a pension plan is invested, not a bunch of Bay Street appointees of the Liberal Party who are appointed by the minister.

One of them who was appointed is a Liberal member of Parliament whom I beat to win my seat. He has no financial background. David Walker is a political scientist. He is now one of the 12 people in charge of investing $56 billion on our behalf. What is his brilliant financial experience? I am not saying he is not a competent and capable guy, but he is certainly no financier nor does he represent any of the groups that should be represented on the board. I think it is crazy.