Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-57. In my view, the amendment in this bill is designed to exempt backers from liability vis-à-vis nuclear energy.
Paragraph 46(3) of the act says:
--any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
This will be replaced 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.
What this amendment would do is exempt backers from liability in the nuclear sector. This assumes that companies which make loans to those who manage nuclear facilities will no longer be liable. They will be able to make loans without subsequently assuming liability for any contamination. When these sites are abandoned, they will have to be decontaminated in any event. We know that this will have to be done at most sites.
We are saying that backers will not be held liable. A company could declare bankruptcy tomorrow morning, disappear, and responsibility would revert to the government. The government would have to assume responsibility for decontaminating the sites in question. There have already been many problems in the past, including with sites which had gas facilities. The companies disappeared, and today the government has to take over responsibility.
In my riding, we had a recent, very obvious example. It involved copper dust contamination. A company in Murdochville, in my riding, has just closed down. This company had used the Mont-Louis and Gaspé ports. Right now, these two ports are owned by Transport Canada; they were extensively contaminated by copper dust. Today, people are calling on the government to decontaminate these facilities.
This amendment is proposing that we tell backers “Go ahead. Make a loan to the company. No matter its responsibility, no matter what it will do. In the end, if it goes out of business, the government will take on the responsibility”. I cannot agree with this proposal; I find it very dangerous and very risky.
Quebec, however, has been asking companies for years now to assume their responsibilities vis-à-vis the environment. The Bloc Quebecois hopes that the Kyoto protocol will be ratified; we even think that this protocol does not go far enough. We must get it into our heads that the environment is very important; the future of the planet depends on it. It is as simple as that.
I will tell you what has been said by the present natural resources minister, who has also been the fisheries minister. Concerning this bill, he said the exact same thing I just said, except that he is the one introducing and supporting this amendment. It explains very clearly what the bill is all about, and it shows that the liabilities of investors in the nuclear industry will be removed. The minister said, and I will quote his press release:
These companies must have access to commercial credit to finance their needs, like any other enterprise, said Minister Dhaliwal. 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 and environmentally sound manner.
The minister said “At the same time, we can continue to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner“. For a minister to say such things, it means he is wondering. Is this the way it will happen in the future?
Really, we can say this today, but what will really happen five, ten, or twenty years from now? In 20 or 30 years, when nuclear plants are decommissioned, who will be held responsible? The investors? The amendment says they will not. Will it be corporations that will probably have disappeared in the meantime?
Ontario Hydro and the New Brunswick utility are government corporations, but, if they are privatized, as could happen in Ontario, they will become private corporations.
We are very well aware that a private business can disappear from one day to the next and can therefore deny its responsibilities, totally abandon its responsibilities, particularly if it is a foreign company, that is one whose financing is mainly from out of the country. These people can just take off and forget all the problems they may have created and left behind them.
We are experiencing a similar situation in the riding of Matapédia—Matane, and just next to it, in Gaspé, with the events in Murdochville.
I personally am a member of the fisheries committee. What I would like to say concerning this amendment is that we should apply the same principle to it that we apply to fisheries. In fact, where nuclear energy is concerned, we should apply what is termed the precautionary principle, that is the principle applied to endangered species in the fisheries field.
If the government really wanted to apply what is called the precautionary principle, the amendment we have before us would never have been introduced. Hon. members will of course have understood that I am totally opposed to the amendment we have before us.
I would go beyond that, however, because this is an amendment that opens a very significant door to the creation of companies producing new types of energy. As for the investments that have been made in recent years into nuclear energy, I would point out that this is not a type of energy that can be considered clean. It produces such a lot of waste, and that waste cannot be processed at the present time. It must be stored and stockpiled.
At this time, there is even a proposal to import and try to process waste from other countries. We know that development of a real technology for handing nuclear waste will take years. We know that attempts have been made in the past. The Americans dumped drums of heavy water into the Pacific, and into the Atlantic as well. This constitutes a very considerable environmental risk.
I come from a region that is a little bit different. It was in the forefront when hydroelectric power was being produced 50 years ago. It is a region that is in the forefront today as far as new types of energy are concerned, because we have wind generators in two locations. We produce wind energy at Saint-Ulric and Cap-Chat, where the facilities have been operating very well for some years.
The first wind generator was set up in the Magdalen Islands 25 years ago. People may not remember this. Hydro-Québec had done some experiments. Another one was set up in Cap-Chat. One cannot say that they were a success, because the technology was not developed at the time.
However, since then, the technology has developed. It has evolved to the point where there are two wind energy production plants today in my riding, and there will soon be another one in the neighbouring riding.
We, in the region, were aware at the time—and we still are—since, as far as possible and with the means available to us, we developed clean energy.
Even today, with the Université du Québec à Rimouski, we are quite far ahead in the development of new energies, such as wind energy, among others.
The federal government recently announced a totally minor investment in the wind energy sector, compared to what it is investing and has invested in fossil energies, as well as in nuclear energy.
This is a minor investment, because it will obviously not promote the development of new technology. It will allow for one thing: to get technology somewhere else and implement it here.
However, this does not really create jobs. It does not really create a synergy to support the development of new energies.
I would simply like to remind the House some numbers. My colleague from Verchères—Les-Patriotes gave them earlier, but it is very important to take note.
Since 1970, direct federal grants to the oil industry—which is one of the most polluting industries and which produces the most greenhouse gas, given the automobiles and the oil that is used—totalled $66.272 billion.
Let us imagine that the federal government had invested $66 billion in the production of new energies and the development of technologies allowing us to have new energies. Where would we be at? We would probably be the most advanced country in the world in terms of new energies.
Today, it might be easier to adopt the Kyoto protocol if, in the past, we had invested as much in new energies as we did in oil. This is very obvious. It is very difficult for people to understand. I do not know anyone in this House who has ever had a billion dollars in his pockets. I do not think anyone has, except perhaps a few people, but they are keeping quiet about it.
I find it very hard to imagine an amount of $66.272 billion. It is a lot of money. This means that huge amounts of money were invested in oil, for the benefit of two provinces: in western Canada, Alberta with the tar sands, and in the east, Newfoundland, with the Hibernia project. It is simple. It is essentially these two provinces that benefited from these $66.272 billion.
Let us also not forget the infamous energy policy proposed by the Trudeau government for oil. Remember its impact in Quebec. We must not forget the Borden Line, which almost killed all businesses in the Montreal region when the issue of oil and the development of the Arthabaska tar sands came up.
I also want to point out that, as regards nuclear energy, we are talking about $6 billion. Again, it is very difficult to imagine such an amount. What does $6 billion mean in concrete terms to people? It is very hard to imagine, but it is a lot of money. These are the amounts that have been invested since 1970.
If we had invested only $6 billion in new energies since 1970, instead of the $66 billion to which I was referring earlier and which were invested in the oil industry, we would be much further ahead in the production of new energies.
I am always going back to the amendment before us. This provision removes the responsibility of businesses, of major banks in the area of nuclear energy. Today, we would not have this problem. Perhaps it would not be necessary to have the amendment now before us if we had invested enough in the production of new energies.
As regards this issue, the Bloc Quebecois proposed a plan. I just toured the region I come from with the Bloc Quebecois leader. We made a very concrete proposal. This concerns only what I just said about new energies, the public's responsibility and the responsibilities of lending institutions and businesses when it comes to using any source of energy, including metals, mines and the environment.
I remind members that we have a similar problem with the closing of the Murdochville mine, where one company has developed copper for 50 years and polluted the area and the environment for the same amount of time. I can assure the House that it will be extremely difficult today to force this company to decontaminate the environment and the river that it contributed significantly to pollute as well as the Bay of Gaspe.
I therefore cannot support such an amendment, which tsays that we are taking the responsibilities away from the lending companies. I certainly hope that those companies lending money in the nuclear energy area will have a certain responsibility. They should be held accountable if there were disaster or a leak in a nuclear plant.
I would like to come back to what I was saying earlier. If the federal government, which as we know is investing almost $12 billion in Hibernia, were now to invest $700 million for the development of new energy sources, like wind energy for example, what immediate consequences would that have? It would create 15,000 jobs in an area like mine. We already have an expertise in this field. Moreover, this is an area where the unemployment rate is close to 27 or 28%, and that has been the case for years because our area has been abandoned by the government, as we know, as all the so-called remote areas have been in the country.
With a small investment of $700 million, we could create 15,000 jobs in the new energy sector. We are talking about wind energy. It is not enough to go get the technology somewhere else. It is not enough to install two or three wind turbines on a hill. This is not what we are suggesting.
We are proposing developing our own technology, which will continue to evolve and grow. We could create 15,000 jobs as early as tomorrow simply by investing $700 million. Imagine, we have invested $60 billion for oil and gas in this country. We are only asking for a $700 million investment, which would allow us to improve our environmental record. This would improve our record when it comes to greenhouse gases.
What are we being told? “We will invest a small amount over a much longer period, over five or ten years”. However, this is almost nothing. What does $25 or 30 million over five years represent in this field? It is a pittance compared to the $60 billion that I referred to earlier. It is a very small amount compared to the $6 billion invested in nuclear energy since 1970.
Who benefited from nuclear energy? A few provinces. My colleague talked about this earlier, there are three provinces that really benefited from nuclear energy.
In Quebec, we developed hydroelectricity. This is a clean, renewable source of energy. We developed hydroelectricity solely with funds from Quebec and from Quebecers. There were no federal subsidies to develop hydroelectricity, yet in Ontario and elsewhere in the country, the government spent a fortune. Six billion dollars to develop nuclear energy. Six billion dollars, which benefited the other provinces. Why were Ontarians not asked to pay for the development of their nuclear energy, the way we did in Quebec, instead of subsidizing them? In my opinion, it is because the federal government has always been biased.
The federal government has always made sure that Quebec makes do without any help. We continue to pay for the other provinces. When it comes to the Kyoto protocol, it is the same thing.
What is being proposed today, is that after having contributed $60 billion to develop the oil and gas energy, and $6 billion to develop nuclear energy, there are problems with signing the Kyoto protocol. The government is realizing that it will not be able to meet the objectives. Why will we not be able to meet the objectives? Because we have spent a fortune developing oil instead of investing sufficient money to develop new energy sources.
Let us take a practical example like developing an electric vehicle. How much money has the government put into developing a new battery for a vehicle that would run on electricity?
Right now, Quebec is losing its only vehicle assembly plant, the GM plant in Boisbriand. Were the federal government a little more conscious of its responsibilities, it could invest in the technology for building an electric vehicle. It would be important, since it is a promising technology. We know that all manufacturers are working on that. We—and I am referring to the federal government here—are doing nothing in that area.
We are having problems with ratifying Kyoto because we did not make any investments in the past. Let us look to the future, take our responsibilities and make massive investments in new energies. Let us at least try to correct the mistakes made in the past. We must ensure a better future for our children. The government created this situation; it should fix it.
Knowing that the government has invested $6 billion of public funds in nuclear energy, I think that it has largely contributed in creating the problem. The same goes for petroleum energy.
When one invests $60 billion in an energy that one knows is not clean and not renewable, one has to take responsibility, and this responsibility belongs to the government.