Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party to tell the government in no uncertain terms that we oppose Bill C-57.
I will tell the House exactly what the bill means. It amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to limit the current liability provisions related to the cost of a cleanup stemming from an incident impacting the environment. I just want to point out that a nuclear mishap is not an incident. It is a major catastrophe. To put the word incident in there is simply very misleading to the Canadian people. One only has to be reminded of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island to understand that when we screw around and make a mistake with anything nuclear we are affecting not only the lives of potentially millions of people but we are affecting the environment as well.
As currently defined in subsection 46(3), any person with an interest in the affected land or facility is potentially liable for the cost of cleaning up any contamination resulting from an incident, and there is that word again. This includes not only the owner and operators but also a mortgage lender or a holder of a security interest in the land. The proposed amendment would narrow the scope of the potential liability to include only “the owner or occupant...or any other person who has the management and control”.
This means that if the province privatized it and sold it off to someone, the new owners potentially may be responsible for everything surrounding those particular power plants and the province more or less would get off the hook. It is inconceivable that the government would attempt to do anything in this regard. I want to give credit where credit is due to Howard Hampton and the provincial Ontario NDP for the strong work they are doing throughout the entire province to tell the people of Ontario exactly what privatization of the hydro would do.
Let alone the concerns already expressed by the previous speaker about the environmental issues, let us see what happened when we privatized hydro facilities. In Nova Scotia we were told that when Nova Scotia Power was privatized we were going to have lower rates and cleaner efficiency rates. We were going to have everything better. The sun would shine even brighter. What happened? More and more people are falling by the wayside because they can no longer afford to pay their electrical bills.
What does Nova Scotia Power want to do now that it is privatized? It wants to introduce a 9% increase to power rates to appease the shareholders. It has completely abandoned its responsibility to businesses and citizens within the province of Nova Scotia.
I can assure the House that the mistruth, the stretching of the argument, more or less, because I cannot say that three letter word in the House and I will not, will be that if the nuclear plants of Ontario Hydro are privatized things will be much better for the Ontario consumer. Life will be better and the sun will shine brighter. We have heard this over and over again. It is simply not true. What will happen is that rates will increase, businesses will suffer, and individuals, especially those on fixed incomes who cannot defer those higher costs in electrical rates, will go elsewhere. We will not see anything from that government to help retrofit homes or make buildings more efficient. No, it will say that the government is not in the game any more, that it is up to the private sector market to solve all those problems. It is simply unacceptable that the government of Ontario and, for that matter, the federal Liberal government can treat the people of Ontario in that manner.
On the environmental side, I want to speak on a personal note, not on behalf of the party. I have opposed the use of nuclear power ever since I was a wee kid because of the potential changes and the risk that it poses. I cannot help but think about what we heard after September 11. What did we hear that was one of the things we would have to protect with CF-18s? Nuclear power plants. There was even talk of putting these planes right next to these power plants to ensure that no terrorist would attack them or blow them up.
Everybody knows exactly what would happen if Point Lepreau in New Brunswick or the Pickering plant had meltdowns. That would be absolute catastrophe for the country and for the world. It would be unbelievable. Chernobyl was bad, but we can imagine how much worse it could get.
I would like to say to the workers and families of the power unions and the people who work in those plants that the NDP is not saying we would cut them off tomorrow and throw them out on the streets. It is a long term vision to reduce our use of nuclear power throughout the country. We should start looking seriously at what countries like Denmark have done and what Germany is doing. We should start looking at alternative forms of energy. Denmark now gets 16% of its energy from wind. There is no reason that we could not do the same in this country.
What we are saying to the workers and their families in those communities is that it would be a gradual phase-out and that we would look after them when the changes come. The changes have to come because there is not one person in the House, in the country or on the planet who can tell anybody what to do with nuclear waste. We are talking about burying it in the Canadian shield. What solution is that? We have absolutely no way to handle or contain nuclear waste in a safe way, and forever too.
We have no idea what to do with it, but I can say what we do with something called depleted uranium. We coat weapons with it and fire it into the oceans and onto the land. There is a woman named Susan Riordon, from Yarmouth, whose husband, it is suspected, died from depleted uranium. All the medical authorities in North America are saying that depleted uranium is not a hazard but medical authorities in Europe are saying it is. We have conflicting evidence about depleted uranium and what I have talked about is just a small amount of it.
I cannot leave the House without saying how duplicitous it is about the tragedy that may befall India and Pakistan. The fact is, it is no coincidence that we rushed the sales of Candu reactors to those countries many years ago. It is no coincidence that they used the expertise around those Candu reactors to help build up their nuclear arsenal.
What was done a few years ago when Sergio Marchi was the environment minister? He changed the law literally overnight in order to give China an over $1 billion loan to purchase two more Candu reactors. What do we think China is going do with those Candu reactors? It as well will build up its own nuclear arsenal down the road.
Canada cannot wash its hands clean on this one. We have to stop selling Candu reactors around the world, stop this reliance and stop the subsidization of Canadian tax dollars in promotion of this industry. What we should be doing is promoting much more environmentally sound industries, industries that we can all look to for a very bright future, especially for our children. All we are doing right now is making it easier for the private marketplace to take control, but in the end these corporations will have no responsibility.
If something happened to one of those plants under private control, I can guarantee that the owners of the plant would walk away. Who would be left cleaning it up? It would be the taxpayers again, the Canadian people. It would be just like Enron all over again. The shareholders would disappear and say that it is up to the government. Where would the people turn? They would not turn to the private corporation, which is generally foreign controlled and owned. They would go back to their elected representatives.
Therefore I would like to tell those elected representatives to throw away Bill C-57 and start looking at alternative forms of energy so that we can look forward to a future for our children.