Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the amendment proposed in Bill C-57. I already had the opportunity to deal with this issue a number of weeks ago.
First, I want to discuss the very substance of the amendment before getting back to the more general context of the bill that includes this proposed change. The amendment seeks to change a provision on the responsibility relating to the decontamination of sites and the storage of waste. It seeks to amend a part of section 46(3) of the act, 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.
This provision would be replaced by the following:
—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 essentially provides that a group, primarily the financiers, who used to be included in the provision on the decontamination of storage sites, would suddenly be excluded. Under this amendment, financiers are no longer covered.
It appears that the investment related risks would be much too high for financiers to be interested in such a venture. If the risks of investing in traditional nuclear energy are much too great for financiers, should we not ask ourselves whether these risks are also too high for a society such as ours?
I am now getting to the core of this issue. The very essence of this bill raises a number of philosophical questions. I mentioned this during my previous remarks on this legislation: in the past, the federal government made a choice regarding the energy sector. It is now up to the government to change that choice, but it seems reluctant to do so.
So, the government made a choice that it wants to maintain against all odds, and I will get back to this in a moment. But the government did make a choice to invest massively in traditional nuclear energy, in nuclear fission. This choice is definitely not a safe choice. It is definitely not an environmentally friendly choice, since it results in the production of a large quantity of hazardous waste. It is difficult to isolate this waste properly.
We must now pick up the pieces. We must adopt effective legislation that will allow us to deal with the waste that is the result of the choices made in the past.
I know some people on the other side, and maybe even on this side of the House, will call us paranoid, but we have to acknowledge that, in the past, the government has generously financed some energy groups that favoured other provinces and some regions in the country, especially western Canada in the case of oil. The federal government has invested more than $66 billion since the 1970s. In 1998-1999, the federal government gave $78 billion in direct subsidies.
When I hear our friends from western Canada criticize the federal government's energy policy, I recognize that there might be some legitimate dissatisfaction in their arguments. However, when we look at the more than $66 billion in investments by the federal government in the oil industry since the 1970s, I do not think that western Canada can complain about the federal contribution to its economic development, particularly in Alberta.
As for the traditional nuclear process, that is nuclear fission, the federal government has invested some $6 billion in that area since the 1970s.
It is therefore $6 billion for the nuclear industry, which, for 1998-1999, represents an investment of some $126 million, or more than $100 million a year invested by the federal government to promote the development of the traditional nuclear industry, that is nuclear fission, which is located mainly in Ontario.
When we look at these figures and compare them to the money invested by the federal government in the so-called green energies, that is renewable energies, it is $329 million since the 1970s. So, $329 million compared to $66 billion for the oil industry, which produces very high levels of greenhouse gases. For the nuclear industry, which produces great quantities of dangerous radioactive waste, it is $6 billion since the 1970s. For the so-called green energies, it is a meagre $329 million.
One could say that since the 1970s, the federal government has lacked a vision in terms of energy development. If this were the only problem, we could be saddened but tell ourselves that it is never too late to do the right thing. However, this government will not budge. Not only has it not learned from the past but it continues to invest massively in fossil energies like oil and in nuclear energy, while investments in so-called green energies remain almost nonexistent. I think we should also be concerned about that.
Most recently, investments in the oil industry development in Newfoundland have reached $3.8 billion. These investments were not made in the early 1970s but fairly recently. The development of energy sources in western Canada, in Alberta, Ontario and Newfoundland in particular, were generously financed. While investments in renewable energies remain almost nonexistent, this government acts as the champion of the environment. It should put action to its words.
For instance, what energy choice did Quebec make? It decided to invest in a renewable, green, and environmentally-friendly energy: hydroelectricity. How much did the federal government invest to support Quebec's efforts in the development of hydroelectric energy? Almost nothing, if anything at all. Quebec supported alone the development of its hydroelectricity.
Now, if the Kyoto protocol is ever ratified, they will want all Canadians and Quebecers to bear the cost of a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, when for years Quebec has been making tremendous efforts on its own to develop an environment friendly energy supply and to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, while other provinces like Alberta show a net increase in the production of greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade. The government would like the cost of the 6% reduction to be shared by Canadians across the board, regardless of the efforts made in the past without any support from Ottawa.
However, if this was only a record of what had been done in the past, once again, we could be saddened, but we could say that there is hope. On the contrary, the situation is only getting worse. Of the meagre $329 million invested in the renewable energies sector since the 1970s, the federal government had invested a few tens of millions of dollars in nuclear fusion, which is the energy of the future. I will come back to this in a few moments.
Governments of industrialized countries are investing massive amounts in nuclear fusion. Canada once invested about 1% of the amount spent on nuclear fusion research worldwide. However, through its partnership with the other countries taking part in this research, it benefited fully from the technological spinoffs of nuclear fusion.
In the early 1990s, after this government came into office, in 1994-95, using the fight against the deficit as an excuse, if I can put it that way, it decided to cut its annual contribution of about $7.2 million to the nuclear fusion program. We are talking about a federal government investment of more than $100 million in the traditional, highly dangerous and not environmentally sustainable nuclear fission industry, and a meagre $7.2 million in the Tokamak activities, in Varennes, in my riding, which was the only nuclear fusion reactor in Canada.
As I said, under the pretext of budgetary restraint, the decision was made to cut the $7.2 million allocated annually to the operations of Tokamak at Varennes.
The result is that the Varennes Tokamak operation very shortly closed down, since the government of Quebec could not support it on its own. To all intents and purposes, the Canadian government has definitively abandoned nuclear fusion as an approach and has in a way just stood back and watched the rest of the world get ahead of us.
The day nuclear fusion becomes feasible as a source of energy, Canada will, to all intents and purposes, become a net importer of a technology which it has helped develop at the cost of several dozens of millions of dollars.
Such an unwise use of public funds, given that it is generally acknowledged that the federal government would recover in tax revenue far in excess of its annual investment in nuclear fusion, given the technological spinoffs of the development of nuclear fusion.
What shortsightedness, saving $7.2 million that would have been spent on a form of energy for the future, simply because, or so it appears, they want to favour energy from nuclear fission in Ontario, and Ontario is a better place to invest.
It is politically more advantageous for the Liberal Party. Moreover, the results are visible: 99 MPs out of 103 is not to be sniffed at. In other words, in Ontario it is very cost-effective to invest in Ontario in this type of energy that is extremely harmful to the environment and highly dangerous: nuclear fission.
When the government made the decision to pull out of nuclear fusion, we asked it why it was so intent on reducing, eliminating, rejecting the nuclear fusion approach?
The answer was that there were some hard budgetary choices to be made”. Obviously,we did not expect there would be some $10 billion in annual surplus accumulating just a few years later. So this was really a shortsighted decision.
Anyway, what we were told was “We had some hard budgetary decisions to make as a government, so we decided to cut nuclear fusion. Hey, that's life”.
The minister of natural resources of the day, now Minister of health, told us loud and clear that fusion was not a government priority as an energy project. How can one reconcile that statement with the statements made by the government as it signs the praises of renewable energy and of the Kyoto protocol and so on?
What is really a source of concern though is that after having been told repeatedly—indeed, we were told by her successor at the Department of Natural Resources, the current Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and by the current Minister of Natural Resources—that nuclear fusion was not a government priority, there seems to have been an attitudinal shift. I was stunned to find out, after the Tokamak project folded up, that the experts that we had developed with our taxes—I am referring to the brains that we had developed in our universities with the taxpayers' money—had to leave the country to use their knowledge.
There was no room left in Canada for these people to use their knowledge. So, we forced them to leave the country. The Varennes Tokamak project was completely dismantled. Once that was done and the Quebec government had barely managed to maintain a very small program to continue minimal research on nuclear fusion, with the available means, so as to preserve the technological expertise that had been developed in the area of plasma and microwaves, I was stunned to learn that the federal government was injecting $1 billion annually in a project that is not supposed to be part of its priorities, this to promote the ITER project in Ontario.
What is the ITER project? It is a project to build a nuclear fusion megareactor, and it is sponsored by an international consortium. All of a sudden, the federal government is interested in seeing this nuclear fusion megareactor on its territory. I would remind members that, according to the former minister of natural resources and her successors, nuclear fusion is not a priority of the government.
The federal government shows an interest in nuclear fusion and is prepared to welcome the $12 billion ITER project on its territory. It is a major project. Where will the site be? In Ontario. It is becoming more and more interesting. The government is starting to see it as a priority. It is willing to invest some money.
As if that were not enough, it was reported in the National Post on May 23 that the defence research and development agency is trying to reproduce an American experiment that would allow for the efficient production of clean low cost energy through nuclear fusion.
Those who are watching will agree with me that the government is starting to show its true colours. This was not a priority of the government at the time when the centre of excellence in nuclear fusion was located in Quebec, but now, after having caused the closure of the centre for magnetic fusion in Quebec, the government shows a sudden interest in the ITER project in Ontario. All of a sudden, national defence is starting to want to reproduce American experiments for the production of energy through nuclear fusion.
I would like to ask this question to our friends in the government. Is fusion a priority of this government, yes or no? Has the government changed its policy with regard to nuclear fusion because Quebec no longer has a centre of expertise in that area? Has fusion suddenly become an interesting form of energy again because it can now be developed in Ontario?
This is simply despicable. This is simply outrageous. Is it any wonder that some people in Quebec say that the best way to ensure our development and our future is to take our destiny into our own hands and achieve sovereignty for Quebec?