House of Commons Hansard #198 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chairman.


Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I can answer that question directly with a brief explanation.

The government has to do both. I believe the bill finds a way to facilitate investment into the nuclear sector. At the time my colleague from Sherbrooke made his speech I believe he said that $66 billion had been invested into oil fired hydroelectric development in this country, that somewhere around $6 billion had been put into the nuclear sector and that only about $290 million or $296 million had been put into other green energy forms, such as wind energy.

Without question the government has a responsibility. It has had ample opportunities to do it and has refused to do it. We need to invest more dollars into solar energy and into thermal electricity. We need to invest more dollars into harnessing the deep sea ocean currents, many of which move at 30 to 40 knots. It is a tremendous source of energy once we find a way to harness it.

We can do more with tidal. We can do more with hydroelectricity. If we cut down the power drop in electrical power lines we can increase the electrical output of this country by a huge margin, simply by finding a better way to move that electrical current from point A to point B .

There are all kinds of avenues for the government to invest in. That does not mean that it does not have a responsibility and that we do not have a responsibility to clear up what was a blatant mistake in the original legislation.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, this is an interesting bill because it is being camouflaged as just a minor amendment to protect financiers. However it is really about the Liberal government getting in bed with the Ontario Conservative government to cover up a huge mistake it made when it moved to privatize Bruce Power and British Energy about a year and a half ago. It missed a little section.

However the bill is about the future of the nuclear industry as far as generating power for the country.

Those are the two issues and both are very important issues in the short term and may be more important for the long term environmental health of the country. Therefore, to suggest, as the government has, that we just need to slide this through to deal with a little technical problem is really a sham.

Let us look at what happened around the whole issue of privatization. We had a very right wing Conservative government elected in the province of Ontario and one of its mandates as it interpreted it was to downsize government. It looked at a number of areas to do that and one of them was in the field of production of hydroelectric power and energy more generally.

We have heard some of the recent boondoggles around the Ontario government trying to sell off Hydro One that in effect was stopped by the courts. There is a real analogy here. The Ontario government thought it had the ability to do it. What really happened was that it had not looked at the legislation. There was no empowerment legislation in Ontario that would allow that government to sell off Hydro One.

Now the courts have told the Ontario government that it does not have the authority to sell Hydro One. The Conservative government recently introduced a bill in the house to allow it to go ahead with the sale although it is obvious that the new premier of Ontario is getting cold feet because of all the opposition from Ontario to privatize. It looks like he may be backing off.

It is clear that the Ontario government did not know what it was doing. It is also clear, as more and more analysis falls on the deal that was made by the Ontario government with British Energy to let it manage and control Bruce Power, that it was a very favourable deal to British Energy. Much like this legislation, it was drafted in such a way that ultimately, if things do not go so well for British Energy, the Ontario government and obviously the Ontario taxpayer will be left to pay the tab. That is such a consistent pattern with the nuclear industry, not just in Canada but across the globe.

Over the last few months, as British Energy looked to expand and re-open part of Bruce Power, it was being told by its financiers about this section in the act. In spite of some of the allegations we have heard in the House that somehow we were just going to treat those financiers of nuclear power the same as we treat everybody else, the opposite is true.

I am not clear whether this is true in Quebec but as it sits in the common law in the rest of Canada, if an operation is financed, whether it be a mortgage or some other security against land, buildings, equipment, and the company defaults on its payment, the lender is responsible for the cleanup.

I will bring this down to a basic level. If I were to purchase a home only to find out later that there was a problem with toxic waste on the site, I, as the subsequent purchaser of that home, and my mortgage company would be responsible for the cleanup. That is the law in Canada with, as I say, perhaps the exception of Quebec, because I do not know that.

We are not rectifying some discrimination here against lenders who want to lend to the nuclear industry. The law, as it sits now, treats them no differently than they are treated in every other aspect of their lending.

What is really offensive, other than this attempt to cover up the mistake made by the Ontario government, which the Liberals seem to be willing to help out with, is that we have favoured the nuclear industry for a long time. Our Prime Minister runs around the globe as a salesperson for it. He is its biggest booster. We give it all sorts of breaks, and by that I mean royalties, tax breaks, any number of things. It is also subsidized at the provincial government level.

If the Ontario government privatizes Ontario Hydro a huge debt will be left behind. The vast majority of that debt, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 75% to 80%, was accumulated through its overspending when it first opened some of the nuclear plants in Ontario. Cost estimates ran 200%, 300% and, in some cases, almost 400% over what the original estimates were. We in Ontario will be paying for that.

What we are now doing is saying that we will give the industry another break. We cannot do that. This is an opportunity for the government and the country to say that we have been wrong about nuclear power all along. We need to face the fact that this is not a sustainable industry and, as have a number of other countries, we have to look at phasing out the industry.

We are sitting with a huge bill that we will need to pay somewhere down the road. How will we deal with the existing waste, which we are continuing to produce, and then the decommissioning of the nuclear power plants in the country?

In the fall and early winter we went through a review of the nuclear waste disposal bill. In spite of the fact that there are some trust funds being established to deal with that, they are grossly inadequate.

What we are doing here today as we look at this bill is burying our heads in the sand and pretending that we can let the financiers of this industry off the hook. We can pretend that the government does not have to assess this industry with the same type of risk assessment it uses for every other industry.

Before I was elected I sat as a member on a credit union board. We gave out fairly substantial commercial loans. We had to do risk assessments. Certainly one of the risk assessments we had to do was environmental. We needed to know if we were taking on a piece of property as security for a loan that could potentially end up back in our laps. We were no different about this. Every credit union and financial institution in the country does the same thing. Therefore we now regularly do an environmental assessment of the site.

If we do not impose the same standard, we again are pretending that the nuclear industry is risk free from an environmental standpoint. That is what we are saying to the financiers and the financial community. We are saying that it is okay, that they do not have to treat this industry like they treat every other sector of the economy when they are considering advancing funds, either by way of investment or loans. That is what the amendment to the act would do and it is wrong. That is not what we should be about as a country. We should not be facilitating either the privatization or the expansion of this industry, which this amendment would allow.

Again, to suggest that there are no particular major issues here is an attempt on the part of the government to grossly mislead the House. It is really about going back and covering up the mistake that was made. It is pretending on an ongoing basis that the nuclear industry does not have these costs associated with it. That is in fact how we have conducted public business in Canada for the better part of five decades. It is time for that to stop. We cannot allow ourselves to continue on in this way. We talk a lot about sustainable development. This industry is not sustainable.

We have heard where we will go with this. I just want to say one more thing about privatization. If we allow the amendment to go through, it would open the door to privatization. By that I mean turning over either ownership and control or control of every nuclear plant to the private sector because the private sector would not have to worry about its liability and it would not have to do that risk assessment.

I want to be very clear about this. We could say that maybe to be fair to the financiers we should not impose this on them. We should think about it from the other angle. We are private sector persons. We have entered into an arrangement where we have taken over either ownership or management of a plant. We know now that we can go out into the financial community, because this amendment has been passed, and say to the financiers that they should not worry about liability because it all rests with us.

There is no accountability. There are no standards for operators. The operators do not have to worry about it. They would have their financing from the financiers because they did not have to worry about any liability. They could expand plants without doing all the safety things. They could cut some corners here and there to save some money and make greater profits. At the end of the day they could shut down the plants and walk away.

Before anybody tells me I am crazy and says that this does not happen, we should think about how many mining industry sites, including uranium mines, have been abandoned and sitting with tailings. I just came from committee this morning. We heard about tailings that had been dumped from uranium mining and how they were now leaching into waterways in Saskatchewan and up in the territories. It has happened specifically in this industry and we know it has happened in a number of others. We should think about all the brown sites in our cities, toxic sites from which people have walked away. It does happen and the costs with regard to nuclear are so phenomenal. We should be doing absolutely nothing that would make it easier for those operators.

Quite frankly, if we look at the specific operator at Bruce go back and look at its history in England, we will see that it is not a very good one. There have been some monumental problems. Major fines have been levied against it because of the its operation of some of the plants.

I just want to deal with costs for a minute and what we will be looking at if that type of scenario develops. I will use as an example a project that has just been funded by the U.S. congress with taxpayer dollars to the tune of $7.5 billion because the site is contaminated. The engineering firm that developed the methodology to clean it up just won an international award. The end result is that the site will be cleaned up and it will no longer be radioactive. However that waste will be run through another nuclear plant in South Carolina. At the end of the day there will still be nuclear waste. That one site will cost the American taxpayer $7.5 billion.

Right now we are on a curve to produce more nuclear waste by 2010 than will be produced at that time in the United States. We will have by that time more waste than in the United States. That is what we are talking about in terms of this industry.

As my friend from the Bloc, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, has pointed out, we have alternatives. If someone asked he and I if our proposal was that we not do this and that the nuclear industry should be phased out, we both would say yes. If someone then said to us that we did not have an alternative, our answer would be that we did have alternatives. The hon. member enunciated a number of them such as wind.

Canada has the ability and potential to create more wind energy than any other country in the world. That would be wind energy drawn from onshore and offshore turbines. It is interesting that I know this and it is not because of any work done by the government. It is through analyses that have been done by companies and countries in Europe.

One of the great sacrileges is because the government has dawdled on this for so long, we are now at least a decade behind Europe in technology for offshore development of wind power. The British Columbia government has entered into a short term and potentially long term contract with Germany. It bought the technology from Germany to provide one of the first offshore wind generated power plants in the country.

A small country like Ireland, with a population of 3.5 million to 5 million people, opened the largest offshore wind generating plant in the world last fall. England is about to open one in the next 12 months that will be even larger. We do not have that technology. We will have to buy it, which will cost us cost us more money.

We should be moving into that area as rapidly as we can. If we are going to subsidize any industry with regard to energy, it should be renewable energy sources, not these industries that are dead or dying. The bill simply contributes to that.

There are alternative sources. Let us take a look at ethanol and using it as a power source. We have the potential to do great things in that area. Some very interesting experiments are going on right now and they are ready to be used. Again, there has been a lack of government policy either to provide subsidies or to provide the economic infrastructure that would facilitate, encourage and enhance these industries.

The government announced a week ago, 10 years too late, substantial funding and methodology. However it is way behind and it is not enough. We have to move faster and more extensively than that proposal allows.

We have the ability to develop solar energy. We heard from my friend from the Conservative Party who comes from the maritimes about our ability to develop energy from wave power and underwater currents. The indications we have at this point are that we can do that without causing environmental damage while at the same time create substantial sources of new renewable energy.

It is in fact possible to phase out the nuclear industry. It will not be done tomorrow or probably for a long time. However we have to plan for the decommissioning of the plants and how we will deal with the waste produced by that time, including what will be left over from the decommissioning. By that I mean we will have to consider how we will treat the people who work in those plants and that industry.

I want to acknowledge the work done by the Canadian Labour Congress and a number of the other individual unions to develop some standards and methodologies, which is generally referred to as just transitions, and how we will deal with that.

If we continue to hide our heads in the sand and ignore the reality that these plants will have to be shut down and phased out at some point, the real risk is that workers and communities will be very negatively impacted. We have to plan for that now. That concept of just transitions has to be applied to both the employees within that sector and the communities that rely on this industry so that over a period of time they can find new employment in other sectors within the economy and communities can be provided stability.

Members heard my friend from the Bloc, the member for Sherbrooke, talk about the experience of Denmark and Germany with the development of wind power in those countries. It shows very clearly that we can also do that. We can produce a lot of jobs for a new sector of the economy.

I could go on for another 20 minutes on this topic, but I will conclude by saying this is not a simple amendment. It has very severe complications to it.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders



Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Windsor—St. Clair for his position.

Elected officials must demonstrate political courage to separate themselves from this nuclear leash that we wear. We know that citizens are very sensitive to nuclear issues. Obviously, we must act, educate people and build a movement that will succeed in proposing other ways to supply the planet with its energy needs.

I think that my colleague shares the same apprehensions and fears that I have as regards the development of nuclear energy and the fact that the private sector can invest more and more in this area.

Personally, I am afraid. Some may say that I am paranoid. However, we know that the thirst for energy in the United States is steadily increasing. Given the fact that there could be nuclear power plants popping up all over Canada and increased investment by the private sector, is there not a danger that we may one day end up as the energy supplier to the United States? I do not know if my colleague shares this fear.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Sherbrooke for his question.

It is a fear that I have. I have it in a number of other areas with regard to the huge, black hole across the boundaries with the United States and its demand for power. We cannot pretend any innocence here. We actually consume more energy than the Americans do on a per capita basis, so we have a tough time pointing a finger at them.

It is a real concern around the whole issue of privatization. I see it not only with the nuclear industry, but quite frankly, and I feel this personally because of the region of the country I come from, I see it with the attempt on the part of the Ontario government to sell off coal-fired plants. I am concerned about that in terms of it being privatized because of the temptation for both those industries if the demand is there.

I want to be clear about this. The demand in the United States will be there and it will be at a value greater than what we are paying for energy in Canada right now. There will be great incentive for private operators to increase production in the existing plants. Corners may be cut in coal-fired plants where a number of those plants have alternative fuel sources. In some cases they will be able to use natural gas and in others they will use coal.

The demand will be there. For example, if Chicago were to have a hot summer Illinois Power would say to Ontario that it needs an extra thousand megawatts. We would dump more coal into those plants and crank it up, or if it were a nuclear plant, we would say that we probably should not be reactivating it because there are a couple of problems but we will do it anyway because we will make so much money.

There is a real fear that with privatization that type of conduct will be coming because of the profit incentive that is built into those private plants.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dave Chatters Canadian Alliance Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I cannot help but express disappointment that the NDP has chosen to turn this debate on a simple seven word amendment to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act into a debate on the future of nuclear power in this country.

I have many of the same concerns with nuclear power and its place in Canada that have been expressed here today, but it is a gross exaggeration to turn this seven word amendment to limit the liability of a nuclear power plant into a debate on the viability and the future of nuclear power. To suggest that it is no different than the bank that holds a mortgage on my house being responsible should I contaminate that house or property simply is not true. That is not factual, particularly if I do not go bankrupt.

Quite frankly Bruce Power still belongs to the government of Ontario and will continue to belong to the government of Ontario. It is entering into an agreement to refurbish and to operate the plant with British Energy. Every nuclear power plant in this country belongs to a government. The chances of a government going bankrupt and therefore passing that liability on is a far stretch.

I suggest that the debate seems to be more about the philosophy of private sector versus public sector ownership of the industry and how that affects people. I suggest that the NDP should consider the protection that the bill would provide to union pension funds that might be invested in the industry, or the jobs of the thousands of workers at Bruce Power who depend on the refurbishing of the plant. It seems to me that the issue is being broadened far further than it should.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if there was a question in the member's comments, but allow me respond to the commentary with a comment of my own.

I reject the argument or the fearmongering about the loss of thousands of jobs in the member's statement. The reality is that no jobs will be lost if the bill does not pass. Bruce Power is operating now and employees who are presently there will continue to be there. The member is correct that if funds were being advanced and the expansion was to take place there would be a relatively modest increase in the number of jobs.

To suggest that we should be concerned about pension funds is again fearmongering. As it is right now, those pension funds invested in the British Energy arrangement are about 2% of the operation. Those are secured funds. If this were not to go ahead the funds would not be any less secure because they would have already been taken care of. It would prevent the industry, which is a good idea, from putting more money into this type of operation because I do believe this industry is dying and eventually will be phased out.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the remarks made by the member for Athabasca and also refer to the comments made by the member for Windsor—St. Clair.

The member mentioned earlier that his mortgage lender was not responsible if he contaminated his land. He used this as an example.

However, I have news for him. If, throughout his lifetime, he did oil changes that he dumped on his land, and at some point he went bankrupt and left, the mortgage lender, when taking over his assets, would automatically be required to decontaminate the land. However, I know that this would never happen, since I doubt that the member is a polluter. So, he will not have a problem with this.

However, I would like to come back to the section that existed before. I would like to know from the member for Windsor—St. Clair if he thinks it was truly the legislators' intent to limit private investment in this way.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a difficult question to answer. The concept of privatizing the nuclear industry did not exist in this country at the time the bill was originally passed. I do not think there is any way of determining what was in the mind of the government when it passed the legislation at that time.

There are a number of wells in my constituency that have been drilled in the farming area so farmers are faced with this problem and there are lenders. If we were to look at the way the law was generally applied in Canada I would say it was contemplated that the industry would be treated the same and it would be liable if it were a lender, and it borrowed or defaulted.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, members must have noticed that the exchange in the last few minutes between the members for Windsor--St. Clair and Athabasca puts the focus on the crux of the question behind the bill.

The question behind the bill is: Should a private investor in the nuclear industry be exempted from responsibility should there be a contamination if that private investor has invested in a nuclear plant? That is the crux and the difficulty of the question.

It seems to me that an investment in a nuclear industry cannot be compared to an investment in a water bottle plant or in a plant that produces clothing or shoes or most other articles which do not imply in their production any dangerous activity to human health. We are talking about an industry which not only has been heavily subsidized by the government over the years, as everyone probably knows, but an industry that is engaged in the production of a type of electricity that has potential dangers involved in its activity.

It is not only implicit but actually explicit because the explanatory note in the bill itself refers to the fact that there may be situations where the level of contamination might have to be reduced. It would aim at exempting investors from this type of responsibility.

Upon reflection it becomes clear that this type of exemption is not desirable, quite frankly. We are dealing with an industry that has played quite a role in the development of energy and electricity in Canada. There are good reasons why the bill has been drafted in the manner that it has.

The legislation as it is presently drafted has merits over the proposed amendment. I would suggest that an amendment of this kind would draw away investments from other forms of energy investments, particularly the ones that have been referred to by my other colleagues in the field of renewable energy, for instance, where the returns may be slow in coming but an industry that requires a strong injection of investments if we are to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

A measure of this kind, as the member for Athabasca pointed out, is a narrow one and should only be taken in its limited scope. A measure of this kind in the long run would actually not be a desirable one if we consider the fact that we are increasingly receiving representations at our environment committee, for instance, by groups of citizens who are extremely disturbed by the fact that the establishment of nuclear waste at the Bruce plant in recent years has not received the proper in depth environmental assessment that should have been given to it. In addition to that, the organization that appeared before our committee went so far as to establish serious epidemiological links between the plant and its nuclear waste storage facility and the health of children, particularly those now affected by leukemia.

Bill C-57 should therefore be seen in a much broader context than merely as a measure to facilitate investment in a certain industry, an industry which, as I mentioned earlier, has enjoyed phenomenally high levels of investment over the decades. A few points need to be made with respect to the bill. First, the legislation as it is worded is not bad at all and should be retained.

Second, if the bill were passed it would encourage investment in the nuclear industry and draw away potential investment from renewable energy alternatives.

Third, we have already had a warning by the auditor general. A few years ago the auditor general made repeated references to the necessity of including the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants in the price of electricity. The fact that we seem to exclude from the cost of energy certain aspects and steps required by the nuclear industry needs to be addressed.

I would submit, as the former auditor general did so well in his report, that the cost of decommissioning plants is becoming a reality as existing plants become older. In addition to that there is the cost of short term storage which, in the language of the people at the commission, means something up to 50 years.

The costs of storage and decommissioning do not seem to make their way into the cost of electricity in the marketplace. These are two serious shortcomings from an economic point of view. It is true that the cost of energy should reflect exactly the cost of producing it. However because of its unique character nuclear energy should include the cost of materials which are used, stored for a while and then put away permanently, probably underground, at considerable expense. The issue has not yet been resolved despite the fine work of the Seaborn commission. Finally, there is the cost of decommissioning plants.

We are talking about much more than a little amendment. We are talking about a complex process that deserves the attention of parliament if the industry is to attract further investment.

The issue of temporary and safe storage is still with us, as has been registered forcefully by witnesses at committee in recent weeks. The issue of alternate storage is unresolved despite the efforts of the Seaborn commission. The costs of decommissioning and storage are not yet clear. It has not been clearly established whether they are included in the cost of a kilowatt hour. It is therefore inevitable that an amendment of this kind would trigger all these interventions by members concerned with the larger picture.

The larger picture leads to the issue of energy because we are talking about human requirements for energy and whether we need a new energy policy in Canada. I would submit, and I am sure many members in the House think the same way, that we badly need a new approach to energy policy because energy policy and the Kyoto agreement are intimately related.

The need for a new energy policy should force us to think about our consumption levels, our demand and our supply. It should force us to ask ourselves difficult questions: Should we not be more careful in our use of energy? Should we not be more innovative? Should we not, as other members have said so eloquently, intensify and accelerate the shift from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy? Should we not redesign our taxation system to achieve the goals of our energy policy?

A wide range of measures need to be contemplated for this type of major undertaking, an undertaking which is being resisted because of the energy policy of the early 1980s and the fear that a new policy may have negative political repercussions. However I am convinced that an honest and thorough effort on the part of the government to launch a new energy policy would be extremely well received by Canadians. It would involve all sectors of society and facilitate efforts to reach the objectives of the Kyoto protocol which we hope will be ratified soon.

Coming back to Bill C-57, we should not be too bold in commenting on it beyond what has already been said. If there is a prorogation this summer and we go into a new session perhaps the best thing to hope for is that it dies on the order paper. We may then see a much broader approach to the nuclear question.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the bill brings to mind the question of nuclear liability. If I remember correctly, we are still suffering from a nuclear liability rate or insurance limit that is set at $75 million. In other words, in the case of a major disaster the liability would be set only at that amount. As members are probably aware, the Vienna convention and another convention, I do not remember which, set the minimum liability many years ago at $600 million in case of a disaster. We are now at $75 million. An amendment to the act, not the Nuclear Safety and Control Act but the Nuclear Liability Act, is therefore urgent and necessary if we are to have preventive measures in place should, perish the thought, something happen.

The debate on Bill C-57 is forcing us to think about the broader issue of nuclear energy production and the various issues related to it. These include the cost of electricity, appropriate liability levels, the importance of drawing investment to the renewable sector, the need to reorganize our taxation system, and a host of other measures I am sure members have already covered or will cover in the course of the debate.

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12:25 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the member for Davenport.

The member for Davenport is right. Contrary to what the minister for natural resources seems to be saying, this is not a purely administrative amendment.

This bill, which we believe to be a mere housekeeping measure, will open a real Pandora's box. IWe are opening up the whole issue of nuclear energy and the storage and processing of the radioactive waste buried on site at nuclear plants. We are also opening up the issue of the proliferation of nuclear energy. We are wiping out any possibility of investment in wind energy and renewable energies.

I would like to ask the following question to my colleague, the member for Davenport, because of the important speech he just made and because of his great wisdom. Does he not think that his government should withdraw Bill C-57 and say “say that it will examine the whole issue of nuclear energy and start all over, in the interests of Canadians”?

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12:30 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no great wisdom on this side. I only gave my point of view and I am sure the government will carefully listen to the comments by all members, including those of the member for Jonquière.

Naturally, as always, I will listen and pay close attention to what the member has to say when she decides to participate in this debate.

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12:30 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for Davenport for his analysis. He said lending money to the nuclear industry may take it away from other energy sectors where it may well be needed. It brought to mind a company whose representatives I talked to at a show. The company was trying to develop an industry around wave power but could not get financing in Canada. It is an excellent point.

Is the hon. member concerned that if we provide an exemption for financiers in the nuclear industry we may be faced with a series of requests from lenders who want to lend to pesticide companies or chemical companies and are concerned about liability? Is he concerned that we would be developing a trend?

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12:30 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must admit I have not thought that far. However it would not be the first time the hon. member for Windsor--St. Clair has been light years ahead of me in anticipating certain situations.

I can only repeat what I said earlier. Investors in the nuclear industry have a special responsibility because it is not like any other industry. The present wording of the legislation, in the wisdom of the parliamentarians who passed it several decades ago, is the one I would recommend as being preferable. What we have now in the books is the proper approach. Investors should think before they make investments. If they choose the nuclear route they ought to carry the responsibility of their investment.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-57. As you know, nuclear energy is a very important issue to me.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to see, during more that a month, how the Canadian nuclear industry completely ignored the people of the Saguenay on the issue of the importation of MOX.

I can only approach this issue with a very critical mind, particularly since Quebec has only one plant, the one in Gentilly. It is for this reason and for many others that I am so interested in this debate on Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, in order to change the category of people whom the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission can order to decontaminate a site.

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 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.

A bank that would loan money to a plant could thus be sued and incur what would inevitably be very high costs. It is mainly to spare third parties, especially those able to finance the nuclear sector, that the bill was put forward.

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 amendment spares a whole group the obligation to decontaminate. It is not just a simple administrative amendment, as the minister would have us believe.

We must therefore ask ourselves: Why is the Minister of Natural Resources putting forward this bill? In fact, as he indicated in his press release of last Friday, “Companies that own and operate nuclear facilities must have access to commercial credit to finance their needs, like any other enterprise”.

“This amendment will allow the nuclear industry to attract market capital and equity. At the same time, we can continue to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe environmentally-sound manner”.

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.

Here is an example. Two or three years ago, the current Minister of Energy was taking part in a meeting in Bonn, Germany, on Kyoto. At that time, he suggested that Canada should be granted greenhouse gas emission credits because it exported CANDU reactors. Everybody laughed at him, and rightly so.

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. This is very serious. Indeed, the following can be read on AECL's Internet site:

Nuclear energy has many benefits, particularly in the area of environment. Nuclear energy emits no combustion by-products, no acid gases and no greenhouse gases. It is a clean, safe, and economical energy source that does not contribute to air pollution, global warming or acid rain.

This is quite the propaganda tool, albeit an incomplete one. What AECL does not say is that we are stuck with over 20,000 tons of nuclear waste in Canada and that it will cost close to $13 billion to get rid of it. This waste is currently located on the sites of nuclear plants. Again, this government agency is really not telling all the truth to the public, and it would have us believe incomplete and biased information.

Moreover, we must ask ourselves if nuclear energy is safe. Of course, the Chernobyl tragedy occurred because of the blatant lack of security measures in the former Soviet Union. The government claims that the Candu technology is the best in the world, as are its engineers. But what is the reality?

Here is an excerpt from a report that was broadcast by Radio-Canada on August 11, 2000:

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.

These concerns are in addition to the controversy surrounding the use of the Chalk River reactor to test MOX imported from the United States and Russia.

Samples of MOX, which is a radioactive fuel, have already been sent from the United States to the Chalk River nuclear plant. Atomic Energy of Canada is waiting for more samples from Russia before undertaking a series of tests.

It was then that we people from the Saguenay led an all out battle to ensure that MOX imports would not travel through our region, because we know that it is not safe. The report goes on to say:

This project continues to generate controversy, but now the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is expressing concerns of its own. This time, it is not the movement of MOX that is the source of these concerns but, rather, the quality of the maintenance of Chalk River's main research reactor, the oldest one in Canada.

I am still reading from this Radio-Canada report.

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.

Paul Lafrenière, who is the head of the nuclear facilities at the Chalk River plant, has stated:

Since 1957, we have been relying on a system of on the job training. The CNSC would like us to move to a new customized training.

We can see that what is going on right now in nuclear plants makes no sense whatsoever. The Bloc Quebecois has suggested to the government a number of different courses of acation with respect to the nuclear industry.

Recently, the Bloc made public an investment plan of $700 million over five years to promote the emergence of a wind energy industry in Quebec. It could contribute to the creation of 15,000 jobs in Quebec, most of them in the Gaspé peninsula.

We should not forget that in 1997, in Kyoto, Canada made a commitment to reduce, by 2008 or 2010, its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below the 1990 level.

Reversing the tendency of increasing greenhouse gas emissions will limit the extreme weather occurrences like the ice storm and other environmental impacts like the low water level in the St. Lawrence River.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we should strive for greater energy efficiency and produce more with less. This is a great opportunity to encourage technological innovation and develop new structuring industries.

It is in that context that the Bloc Quebecois is proposing a vast federal program for wind energy in the Gaspé Peninsula. For the federal government, the only alternative to clean and green energy is oil and nuclear energy. It has put $6 billion in the atomic energy program alone.

As for financial assistance to the fossil energy industry, since 1970, 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, 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.

That is why we believe that Canada should abandon the development of nuclear energy and follow the lead of countries such as Germany, which will permanently give up nuclear energy in 2025 in favour of green energies such as wind energy.

I should point out that, over the last six years, the wind energy industry has experienced an average annual growth of 30%. Germany is the country that favours this kind of energy the most. The wind energy that it manages is 40 times greater than the total for Canada. Europe has almost 75% of the world's aerogenerators. The European Union wants to reach a target of 22% of its electricity from renewable energies, including a large part of it from wind energy.

Canada lags far behind the leaders, with a production of only 207 megawatts. Even the United States has significant incentives, such as a subsidy of 2.7 ¢ 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. According to experts, Quebec's wind energy potential, concentrated in the Gaspe Peninsula and the North Shore, ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 kilowatts-hour, which is about 60% of the total for Canada.

The U.S. department of energy says that wind energy creates more jobs for each dollar that is invested than any other technology, five times more than in the case of coal or nuclear energy.

The European Wind Energy Association has estimated that each megawatt of installed wind energy potential creates about 60 person-years of employment, or between 15 and 19 direct and indirect jobs. Therefore, in 1996, the newly installed 3,500 megawatts in Europe would have created 72,000 jobs.

As a confirmation of the association's statements, in 2001, the wind industry was providing employment to more than 30,000 people. In California, where over $5 billion have been invested in the wind power industry since 1991, 5,200 jobs depend on that industry.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois has always said that environment is important. Why is it important? The environment has been abused enough. We have caused enough damage to the environment and we must take immediate measures to protect the environment for future generations. Something has to be done; we have to go the way of renewable energy. Fossil fuels and nuclear energy must be abandoned.

That is why, from today onward, we must invest in energies that create jobs. Let us not forget that the goal is to create wind potential of at least 1,000 megawatts in Quebec, mainly in the Gaspé area. As we know, the Gaspé area has been hit headlong by major job losses, specially with the closure of the mining operation in Murdochville.

They have the expertise in wind energy. It would be important to create industries making 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.

The Bloc proposal would cost $700 million. This is not much compared to all the money that the government has invested in nuclear energy. Let us just compare this with what happened in Newfoundland, when the Canadian government invested money in the Hibernia project. The federal government invested a lot of money in this project.

Today, it tells us that it has no money. It has a budget surplus of $9.8 million for the fiscal year that just ended alone. It has the money; what is missing is the will.

The government tells us that it wants to help the regions. As you know, I am responsible for the regional development issue for the Bloc Quebecois. The government wants to help the regions but is not using the means that reflect the realities of the regions to provide them with the potential to develop. A huge number of jobs would be created in the Gaspé peninsula. This new approach would also allow this government to come out a winner.

Other aspects of the program could also be used. Bill C-57, as tabled by the natural resources minister, is more than an administrative amendment. It will bring about the further development of nuclear energy. It must stop. The government must stop going in all directions at the same time. It is always introducing small bills. It does not ask itself what the effects of its legislation will be. It seems that it is working in a vacuum when it introduces bills.

This bill affects many sectors, including the storing and treatment of nuclear waste that is presently stored in nuclear plants. The Seaborn panel proposed different approaches. Experiments were conducted in the Canadian Shield; there is nothing conclusive yet.

The legislation allows for the investment of more funds in the development of nuclear energy. Enough is enough. The government must stop. I am asking it to withdraw Bill C-57. This legislation does not address the nuclear problem, it allows for its development.

Consequently, we must understand that this bill is a lot more than the administrative change the natural resources minister referred to. The bill will allow for maximal development of nuclear energy. I cannot approve such a philosophy.

That is why, as the member for Jonquière representing people who are very concerned about nuclear energy, I am asking the government to withdraw its bill. If it does not do so, I will vote against it.

Nuclear Safety and Control ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Jonquière, on her speech.

According to her, is it unrealistic to think that one day, the Liberal government will turn green? I am not asking the government to stop being red, but it could be a bit greener. The fact of the matter is that the investment it is seeking from the private sector for nuclear energy will mean less money for the development of renewable resources.

Moreover, as my colleague clearly demonstrated, not only is wind power a renewable energy but it creates jobs. In regions like the Gaspé peninsula, this would be beneficial in every regard: for job creation, for families and, of course, for the government, in tax revenue.

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12:55 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, and congratulate him for his performance in the matter we are dealing with today.

If we keep raising the issue, I hope it will become less and less unrealistic for this government to take a greener approach.

I hope the government will wake up. It has the power to change its way of doing things, with us, in the opposition, who are advocating the use of environmentally sound approaches, of new, green energies such as wind and hydro-electric power, which must be promoted.

I hope this government gets out of utopia and moves in the right direction so that we can finally take steps to improve our environment.

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12:55 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to point out that my colleague from Jonquière sat as I did on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources when the report on the long term management of nuclear waste was examined.

She is therefore very much attuned to the nuclear waste problem. We had the opportunity to look into it in great depth and it is, obviously, a major problem.

I wonder how anyone could convince him or herself that there is no problem with nuclear energy. Just dig a hole, dump in the waste, and the world will be none the worse for it.

I wonder how anyone could have such a perception of things. This is both my first question and my first comment.

I imagine that the process of osmosis, as far as the Liberal members are concerned, is not working very well. Given the colour of the seats in the House, they ought to have gone green a long time ago.

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12:55 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the humour of our colleague, the member for Sherbrooke, is always recognizable.

It is true that we took part together in the consideration of the bill that put forward some means of getting rid of the waste that is now buried at nuclear plant sites. We know that, besides having a life, waste has a half-life of several hundreds of thousands of years.

Just imagine that. The government does not know yet—even after the Seaborn report—what it will do with the waste that is stored at nuclear plant sites. There is now almost 20,000 tonnes of it. This is huge. The government does not know what to do with it.

Imagine if, on top of this, through such a bill, the government were to allow people, providers of financing, to avoid being held responsible for the pollution that would result from further nuclear development.

Imagine all the waste that would be created every day, during all these years to come, yet the government does not know what to do with the waste currently stored at our nuclear plant sites.

As my colleague from Sherbrooke said, I hope, if the trend could continue, given all the green seats in the House, that the government will choose this colour.

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12:55 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague if she agrees with me. Like almost everybody else, for some time now I have been pondering all the problems we have in our society and my conclusion has been very simple; it can be summed up in just one word: concentration.

When we talk about greenhouse gas emissions, in fact we are really talking about concentrations of these emissions that are too high. When we wonder about all the problems there are in the area of nuclear energy, we are really thinking about the high concentration of nuclear waste.

Finally, in almost all areas, even in the case of social problems, everything is due to concentration. Therefore, this problem is even bigger than we think.

Even here in the House, the problem is due to concentration; there are simply too many Liberal members.

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1 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, even if this is a very serious issue, my colleague, the member for Sherbrooke, is such a humorous person that I cannot help but laugh; it certainly helps to lighten things up.

It is true that concentration keeps the people from opening their minds up to other ideas. When all our energies are focused on one point, we cannot see the forest for the trees. This is why the government should withdraw this bill and start all over again on the whole nuclear energy issue: storage, processing, development and alternative energies.

The government should draft a bill and rework the whole issue of nuclear energy, so that Canada can improve the situation. We have to get on with the greening of Canada.

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1 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, since I have a little bit of time left, I would like to make a comment.

On the topic of wind energy, to stay in the same vein, even here in this House, we could save a lot of energy by installing a small windmill. With all the hot air produced by Liberal members across the way, the windmill would go round and round and light up the whole chamber. It would probably produce a greener light, which would provide more inspiration to the Liberal members. That was my comment.

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1 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to second what my colleague from Sherbrooke just said. It would be a good idea to start in this very chamber. Just imagine how much we could improve the quality of the environment in Quebec and in Canada.

I urge the Minister of the Environment, who is here in the House, to take the necessary steps to finally ratify the Kyoto protocol and develop wind energy, especially in the Gaspe peninsula.

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June 4th, 2002 / 1 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-57, which was introduced at first reading on May 31, 2002.

It is fair to say that in this House we have seen more comprehensive bills amending a number of acts. However, the bill before us today amends a single section of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. According to the sponsor of the bill, the Minister of Natural Resources, the bill is designed to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. He calls it an administrative amendment or bill, meaning that it is not a complete overhaul of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

However, this amendment, even though this is not obvious yet, will have a serious impact on the way the nuclear industry operates here in Canada. It is significant that the minister has decided to introduce the bill we are debating today. The bill amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.

Of course, I will speak about Bill C-57 and the amendments at issue, but I would also like to talk about the long term management of nuclear waste.

Members will recall that there has already been a debate in the House on the disposal of nuclear waste. This debate took place in the context of Bill C-27. This was an interesting bill, as it was introduced and considered in committee. It was also interesting because Canada studied the issue of nuclear waste management for a ten year period with the Seaborn commission, which I will speak about later.

Of course, I will speak to Bill C-57, and I will also refer to Bill C-27 and the whole issue of nuclear waste disposal. I will also speak to the issue of the importance of public consultations in cases where the disposal of such waste is being considered in locations and regions in Quebec and Canada.

As an example, there is a case we asked questions about to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission just this morning in the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. There was even a ruling on this case by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. It is the case of the Bruce complex in Ontario. This is a site where radioactive waste will be stored on the shores of Lake Huron, and the residents would have liked a commission to have been set up, through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, to consult with residents and to study the projects.

The Bruce complex is located on the shores of Lake Huron and has been designated, first, as a high level complex. Second, it is one of the biggest disposal sites in the world. The residents would therefore have liked to have been consulted.

Finally, I would like to close by outlining to Canadians and Quebecers the impact that nuclear waste and nuclear energy can have on human health. A number of reports have been published on this. These reports conclude that nuclear waste and nuclear energy are significant in the development of certain diseases when workers, residents and more specifically children are near this waste.

So, Bill C-57 amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. Clause 1 would replace a paragraph in the current legislation, which reads 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”.

Bill C-57 would amend paragraph 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to read as follows: “--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”.

In fact, only a few words will be changed if this bill is passed. But the impact will be considerable.

In his press release, the minister tells us that these amendments are purely administrative. That may be so from a cosmetic point of view, but the impact will be considerable.

What are the government's true intentions in introducing this amendment? It is good to ask ourselves this question. If the amendment is purely administrative, there should not be any impact. But this bill amends the act significantly and will have a considerable impact on the development of the nuclear industry here in Canada.

Basically, the government wants this amendment to exempt one group from decontamination obligations. Third parties should no longer be responsible for decontamination.

In this connection, we know what the government's intentions are. Its true intentions are to ensure, for example, that a bank making a loan to a nuclear plant could—under the existing legislation, if we succeed in defeating this bill—be taken to court and would inevitably incur very high costs.

It is primarily to exempt these third parties, the banks, those able to finance the nuclear industry, that this bill was introduced.

The government wants to arrange it so that those parties—be they banks or other interests—who have helped developed the nuclear industry in Canada are exempt from their decontamination obligation.

This runs counter to a fundamental principle recognized in Quebec which is that the polluter pays. Anyone who contributed to the contamination of a site must share the costs of decontamination.

We on this side of the House are of the opinion that to the extent that a citizen, a third party, but more importantly a citizen, whether a corporate entity or not, has contributed to contamination by nuclear wastes, he must assume the costs thereof. This is what the government is trying to take away with this bill and this is basically what we are opposed to.

There have been some significant debates on this in the past. As my colleague from Sherbrooke has indicated, a commission was set up here in Canada because the storage of nuclear waste needed to be given some thought. There are 20,000 metric tonnes of waste—or 18,000 to be more precise—in Canada at the present time.

This represents 1.3 million bundles, as we know, and we also know that there are three types of waste: nuclear fuel waste, low level radioactive waste and uranium mine and mill tailings.

It is worthwhile taking the time to look at the nuclear waste situation in Canada. It must be pointed out that, of these 20,000 tonnes of waste, the bulk of it comes from spent nuclear fuel bundles. We are talking here of the 22 Candu reactors, most of which date back to the 1970s. Ontario Power Generation Inc. is currently operating 20 reactors. At the present time, 90% of the nuclear waste is in Ontario.

Hydro Québec produces some at its Gentilly plant, of course, but the nuclear waste produced in Quebec accounts for only 3% of the total of 20,000 tonnes currently available, if I may use such a term.

An energy company in New Brunswick accounts for another 5%. Atomic Energy of Canada' experimental reactors produce 2%, of the total of 1.3 million bundles.

We have trouble understanding how certain obligations can be taken away, how steps can be taken so that third parties will no longer be responsible for decontamination, when we can see what the problem is like in Canada at this time as far as the management of nuclear waste storage is concerned. How can bills get passed in this House that will facilitate the development of the Canadian nuclear industry while we are having such trouble managing the present 18,000 tonnes? This makes no sense whatsoever.

Why, as a matter of public policy, are we not focusing on the development of clean renewable energies, as my colleague from Jonquière suggested about ten minutes ago? How can we adopt measures like the one in front of us, which benefits this industry, while we are still waiting for financial incentives to develop renewable energies?

I am glad to see that the Minister of Environment is present to hear what I have to say. How can he feel comfortable in a debate on this issue? How can we reject that proposal and apply the polluter pay principle? This bill raises some questions.

I will summarize the Seaborn commission findings. For one thing, what we are expecting from the government in terms of a nuclear fuel waste management plan is that the technical aspects of the storage program be taken into consideration at the planning stage.

Public consultation has to be at the basis of the Canadian policy on waste management. Canadians livre right beside the waste storage complexes. The best solution cannot be only technical. It has to include a sociological approach to management. We would have liked to see the government focus on green energy instead of making social choices that favour the Canadian nuclear industry.

The government is again being called to account for its refusal to hold public consultations, which were called for by the Seaborn commission.

On May 30, 2002, Normand de la Chevrotière appeared as a witness before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, on the issue of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Bill C-19. He told us that his group, which includes 300 families, had asked the government to establish an environmental assessment board to examine the Bruce complex, which is designed to store radioactive nuclear waste near his community.

This complex on the shore of Huron Lake and the waste storage site are considered among the biggest in the world and are termed high level facilities, and experts will understand what I mean. People from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission told us this morning that they are certainly the biggest in North America.

I was reading some papers this morning, particularly an article from the September 1996 issue of Québec Science . Six years ago, the possibility of storing weapons grade plutonium from Russia and the U.S. at the Bruce complex was being examined . Six years ago, papers in the scientific community were considering this possibility.

The Department of Environment deemed that it was not appropriate to consult the public. It does not matter that 300 families will be living close to this site.

I want to go back to what I was saying two minutes ago when I was referring to the conclusions of the Seaborn panel. Sure, it is necessary to evaluate storage techniques but, more importantly, the public must be consulted.

I am under the impression that this bill is providing oxygen to the Canadian nuclear industry. The government is promoting the establishment in Canada of places to store nuclear waste, while ensuring that third parties, who may not necessarily have the responsibility to manage these sites, cannot be required to decontaminate them.

If a bank decides to fund the Bruce complex storage project, will it be responsible for decontaminating the site if this bill is passed? The answer is no. Those who will have provided the necessary funding to establish this complex on the shores of Lake Huron will have no environmental responsibility.

We want this government to send to the nuclear industry a clear message that its members must behave like good corporate citizens. The legislation already provides for the funding of storage projects by banks. However, it is totally unacceptable on the part of the government to remove the banks' responsibilities by condoning this.

So, this bill must be examined from a different perspective, not from the perspective of the government, which is trying to fool us with mere administrative and cosmetic arguments, because it wants to ram this legislation through the House. This shows how, sometimes, bills that amend only one section may have a major impact.

This is why we are opposed to the bill's only clause. It will have a major impact on the development of Canada's nuclear industry.

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1:20 p.m.


Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie. Like my colleague from Jonquière, he is particularly committed to the environment. He is also a striking example of renewable energy. Today is his birthday; I believe he is turning 33, yet he looks 18. His is a constantly renewable energy.

Sometimes there are things that I do not comprehend. Even the public would like to know this. My colleague talked about 18,000 tonnes of nuclear waste. It can be hard to imagine how much waste that represents. I wonder if my colleague could explain.

At the same time, given that the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Natural Resources do not seem to be concerned about nuclear waste, I would like him to tell me whether it could be stored in their swimming pools.

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1:20 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is interesting. These 18,000 tonnes of waste represent 1.3 million bundles and it is only one kind of waste. As I said, there are three different kinds of waste: nuclear fuel waste, low radioactivity waste and uranium mine and mill tailings.

I mentioned earlier the issue of spent fuel storage bays. Since these 18,000 tonnes of waste represent only one kind of nuclear waste, members can easily see how much nuclear waste there is in Canada. I was referring only to nuclear fuel waste dealt with in Bill C-57.

We know that storing this kind of nuclear waste is a problem at present. Spent fuel storage bays are overflowing. The capacity for conventional storage of nuclear waste, the conventional method of storing and stockpiling nuclear waste is being exceeded. There is no more room. Meanwhile, the government is putting forward a bill to foster the nuclear industry in Canada. This does not make sense. Here in Canada, we have to have a real debate on the various sources of energy.

Canada is at a crossroad. We must change direction and put forward measures, both legislative and fiscal, to develop renewable energy. In a few years, we will no longer be able to provide non polluting green energy, but we will be stuck with waste we have nowhere to store except in the Canadian Shield. We debated this solution, but nothing has been decided yet.

We must not look for ways to increase the number of storage bays. We must not look for new methods of storing nuclear waste. A logical situation would be to reduce waste. At present, we have nowhere left to store waste and we are looking for new ways to do so.

What we should do is stop producing nuclear waste. To this end, we need a Canadian energy policy designed to develop renewable energy.

We are still waiting for a wind energy policy, for which the government has been announcing a few million dollars here and there. We are waiting for the greening of the energy sector for the sake of future generations, but also to comply with the Kyoto protocol, which Canada has yet to ratify.