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House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was property.

Topics

Security Intelligence Review CommitteeRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 53 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, I have the honour of tabling, in both official languages, the Annual Report of the Security Intelligence Review Committee for 2006-07—An Operational Review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Nineteen recommendations have been put forward in the annual report of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. All recommendations are either implemented now or are in the process of being implemented by CSIS.

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting supplementary estimates (A) for the financial year ending March 31, 2008, was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Supplementary Estimates (A), 2007-08Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of the supplementary estimates (A) and a copy of the vote allocations by the standing committees.

Procedure and House AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Orders 104 and 114, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the membership of committees of the House.

Access to Information ActRoutine Proceedings

October 30th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-470, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act (response time).

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to introduce my first private member's bill. It will help improve the speed of answers on access to information requests. Many members know that there is a need for amendments to the Access to Information Act. My bill would have the government explain why an access to information request was not completed within 100 days and set a projected completion date for the information to be released.

The bill will bring greater transparency and clarity to access to information. If it takes over 100 days to reply, it really makes a joke of the system. If a request is not completed within 100 days, the government will have to report to the person on the reasons why. It will have to report to the Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioner's annual report will show which agencies have these outstanding reports. Hopefully this will make the system more effective and I hope all parliamentarians will support such an improvement.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal CodePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to present petitions on behalf of a number of concerned citizens residing in my home province of Saskatchewan. The petitioners call upon the government to proceed with changes to the criminal justice system so that those convicted of serious Criminal Code offences serve their time consecutively, not concurrently, and that those convicted of multiple Criminal Code offences have time served for parole eligibility with those convictions counted consecutively.

These petitioners want to ensure that the victims of violent crime see justice done in our criminal justice system.

AsbestosPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition today signed by dozens of Canadians in their effort to force the Government of Canada to stop subsidizing the asbestos industry, to prevent Canada from promoting asbestos overseas, and to put in place a just transition program for those working in the asbestos industry. As we all know, asbestos is one of the leading industrial killers in the world. This is a substance that has many, many years and many thousands of documents behind it. It is time the Government of Canada actually stood up and paid attention to Canadians' desires.

Memorial Wall of NamesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Inky Mark Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise this morning to present thousands of names on petitions calling on the government to provide a suitable area of public lands to be used for the location of a memorial wall of names for all of Canada's fallen. The poppy reminds us of the 115,000 fallen who have their graves in 75 countries around this world. The petitioners ask that the government consider sharing funding arrangements with the established registered charity 84021 for the creation of and future maintenance of this national shrine to Canada's fallen.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Saanich—Gulf Islands B.C.

Conservative

Gary Lunn ConservativeMinister of Natural Resources

moved that Bill C-5, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House to present Bill C-5, the nuclear liability and compensation act. This legislation will replace the 1976 Nuclear Liability Act.

The purpose of this bill is to update the insurance framework that governs the nuclear industry and protects the interests of Canadians. This is an area in which we as a federal government have a responsibility to take action. The existing insurance framework was introduced in the 1970s and has become outdated in the last 30 years.

Today, I would like to explain a bit more about our role in this area, the principles of the insurance framework, and the modernizations this bill proposes.

The history of nuclear energy in Canada goes back some 75 years. For the past 30 years, nuclear power has been an important part of Canada's energy mix. Currently, there are 22 nuclear reactors in Canada providing over 15% of our electricity needs. These reactors are located in three provinces: Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

The operators of these reactors are different in each province. In Ontario, Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power are the operators. In New Brunswick, it is New Brunswick Power. In Quebec, it is Hydro-Québec, which has safely managed its nuclear program for more than 30 years.

Decisions on the appropriate role, if any, that nuclear energy plays are decisions made by individual provinces. As I have said before, at the end of the day it will be up to each and every province to decide on its own energy mix, but we will be there to support them if they believe nuclear power should be part of their energy mix.

The responsibility of providing an insurance framework for the nuclear industry falls under federal jurisdiction. The Government of Canada has a duty to assume responsibility in this area. I am pleased to say that we are doing just that.

Canada addressed this responsibility with the enactment of the Nuclear Liability Act of 1976. This legislation established a comprehensive insurance framework for injury and damage that would arise in the very unlikely event of an incident. It is the framework in existence today. Both this earlier legislation and Bill C-5, now before the House, apply to nuclear power plants, nuclear research reactors, fuel fabrication facilities and facilities for managing used nuclear fuel.

The framework established under the legislation of 1976 is based on the principles of absolute and exclusive liability of the operator, mandatory insurance, and limitations in time and amount. These principles are common to the nuclear legislation in most other countries such as the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. These principles are just as relevant today as they were when the original act was introduced.

Let me explain these principles in more detail.

Absolute liability means there is no question as to who would be at fault in the unlikely event of an accident. There is no need to prove that an operator was at fault in an accident, only that injuries and damages were caused by the accident.

As well, the legislation holds the operator of the facility to be exclusively liable for civil damages. In other words, no other business, organization, supplier or contractor can be sued for these damages.

This has two advantages. First, it makes it very easy for those who would make a claim for damage. They know who is liable. They do not need to prove fault or negligence. The other advantage is that exclusive liability allows the insurance industry to direct all of its insurance capacity to the operators.

The principle of mandatory insurance is straightforward. All nuclear operators must carry a prescribed amount of liability insurance in order to be licensed to operate its facility. This is a widely accepted practice across the world in countries generating nuclear energy.

The Canadian regime also places limitations on liability in both time and amount. In terms of the amount, the maximum that is payable under the current 30 year old legislation is $75 million. As well, injury and damages claims must be made within 10 years of an incident.

These underlying principles of Canada's existing nuclear insurance framework both protects the interests of Canadians, ensuring that they are covered in the unlikely event of a nuclear incident, and provides the certainty and stability that allows the nuclear sector to develop.

The insurance framework makes it easier for claimants and guarantees that funds are available to provide compensation.

Although there have been no major claims under the act, it has served as an important safety net for Canadians. At the same time, it has provided the stability and security needed to support the continued development of Canada's nuclear power industry.

Although the basic principles underlying the existing legislation and insurance framework remain valid, the act is over 30 years old. It needs updating to keep pace with international norms and standards.

The bill is intended to strengthen and modernize Canada's nuclear insurance framework through an all-encompassing package of amendments. It would put Canada in line with the internationally accepted compensation levels and it would clarify definitions for compensation: what is covered and the process for claiming compensation.

The bill is a culmination of many years of consultation involving extensive discussions with major stakeholders, including nuclear utilities, the governments of nuclear power generating provinces and the Nuclear Insurance Association of Canada. They wanted to be consulted and they have been.

Canada's nuclear compensation and liability legislation should be consistent with international nuclear liability regimes. This requirement goes beyond financial issues related to liability and compensation. It extends to definitions of what constitutes a “nuclear incident” and what is a “compensable damage”, and so on.

Consistency brings Canada a broader national benefit. It makes it possible for us to subscribe to international conventions we do not already belong to should we wish to subscribe in the future. There are two international conventions that establish compensation limits: the Paris-Brussels regime and the Vienna Convention.

In the case of the Paris-Brussels regime, the maximum compensation is approximately $500 million Canadian, available through a three tier combination of operator, public and member state funds.

The Vienna Convention sets the minimum liability limit at approximately $500 million Canadian. The operator's liability can be set at $250 million by national legislation, provided public funds make up the difference to $500 million.

Although Canada is not a party to either of these conventions, it has participated in them in order to monitor international third party liability trends and other issues of interest, such as definitions of nuclear incidents and the extension of time limits for death and injury claims. It encourages investment in Canada. It also levels the playing field for Canadian nuclear companies interested in contracts abroad. These companies may be inhibited from bidding because of uncertainty about liability and compensation issues.

Consistency is important for a more fundamental reason. It demonstrates Canadian solidarity with other nations on issues of safety and liability. And, as a major user and exporter of nuclear power technology, Canada must uphold its reputation for uncompromising excellence, responsibility and accountability.

The key change proposed in Bill C-5 is an increase in the amount of the operator's liability from $75 million to $650 million. The current limit of $75 million is outdated and unrealistically low. Changing this limit balances the duty for operators to provide compensation without burdening them with huge costs for unrealistic insurance amounts. This increase would put Canada on par with most western nuclear countries.

It is important also that what is proposed in this bill is consistent with international conventions, not only on financial issues but also in regard to definitions of what constitutes an incident, what qualifies for compensation and so on. These enhancements would establish a level playing field for Canadian nuclear companies that will welcome the certainty of operating in a country that acknowledges international conventions.

Both the current insurance framework and Bill C-5 contain limitation periods restricting the time period for making claims. Under the current act, claims must be made within 10 years of an incident. However, since we know today that this is not adequate, the limitation period has been extended under Bill C-5 to 30 years for personal injury claims.

Both the current legislation and Bill C-5 provide for an administrative process to replace the courts in the adjudication of claims arising from a large accident.

The new legislation clarifies the arrangements for a quasi-judicial tribunal to hear claims. The new claims process would ensure that claims are handled equitably and efficiently.

In developing this legislation, we needed to be fair to all stakeholders and to find the right measures to protect the public interest. I firmly believe that the proposed legislation fully meets this challenge.

We have consulted with nuclear operators, suppliers, insurers and provinces with nuclear installations and they are supportive of the changes I have described. It is our intent to continue this practice and that stakeholders with expertise are consulted as the necessary regulations are drafted.

I know that some nuclear operators may be concerned about the cost implications or higher insurance premiums but they also recognize that they have been sheltered from these costs for some time. Suppliers welcome the changes as they provide more certainty for the industry. Nuclear insurers appreciate the clarity provided in the new legislation and the resolution of some long-standing concerns.

Provinces with facilities have been supportive of the proposed revisions to the current legislation. Municipalities that host nuclear facilities have been advocating for revisions for some time. They are supportive of the increased levels of the operator liability and improved approaches to compensation.

Parliamentarians have also spoken on this issue. In 2001, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources recommended that the government increase the mandatory operator liability limit from $75 million to $600 million.

In short, Bill C-5 was not developed in isolation.

The evolution of policy was guided by consultations with key stakeholders over the years and by experience gained in other countries.

I will now broaden my remarks and talk about the context within which I put forward the proposed legislation. As I said earlier, nuclear energy in Canada has a long history that goes back some 75 years. I should note that never in the history of Canada have we had a significant nuclear incident. We are a leader in peaceful development of this technology.

To highlight one of the great Canadian success stories, Canada is a leader in the production of radioisotopes, an element produced by nuclear reactions. Isotopes have been put to dozens of uses that have improved agriculture and made industry more efficient. Their most significant applications, however, have been in medicine where they have performed wonders in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.

It is a little known fact that Canada supplies 50% of the world's reactor-produced radioisotopes for nuclear medicine and is used for the treatment of cancer and in over 12 million diagnostic tests each and every year. I believe the medical isotopes produced here in Canada are used in some 76,000 medical procedures each day.

The most widely used radioisotope is produced at AECL's Chalk River laboratory and prepared at MDS Nordion's facility in Ottawa. The short half life of this radioisotope requires efficient transportation around the world. Shipments are on airplanes within 24 hours of the material coming out of the reactor. Globally, an estimated 76,000 people benefit from these diagnostic procedures each day.

The improvements provided by Bill C-5 are now necessary for Canada to remain a leading player in the nuclear industry.

Much of our work in the nuclear industry has been to produce electricity, electricity to provide home comforts, to drive industry and to promote jobs across the country. Nuclear electricity has contributed to a healthy environment and affordable clean energy.

Purely from an environmental point of view, one has to consider nuclear power as a clean, greenhouse gas emission-free technology. Our government recognizes that Canada needs this type of clean energy. We need to encourage the development of all types of clean energy in Canada.

I believe that as an emerging energy superpower, Canada must become a clean energy superpower.

Under our eco-action plan, we are contributing to the development of clean energy technologies and practices that will provide cleaner air, reducing pollution and greenhouse gases and sustaining both our environment and economic competitiveness.

These cleaner sources involve hydroelectric power, wind, solar, tidal, biomass and other forms of renewable energy. I see nuclear power as part of that clean energy mix that will advance Canada as a clean energy superpower.

However, in order for Canada to advance in clean energy production, we need the certainty provided by the appropriate and up to date nuclear reliability framework to protect Canadians and provide stability to this important industry.

Canada's nuclear safety record is second to none in the world. Nuclear power is an important part of Canada's diversified energy mix. Now we need to update and modernize our nuclear insurance framework to reflect international norms and continue to provide the protection Canadians deserve. For this reason, I would ask all members to support this legislation.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the minister's comments on this nuclear limited liability program, for which I think many Canadians would have some concern.

When we look at nuclear accidents that have happened around the world, let us call it what it is. Nuclear reactors do break down. It could be human error or it could be mechanical failure. We all would like to believe and hope they would never happen but, as we know, accidents are not predictable and they do in fact happen. We can ask the residents of Chernobyl if they expected it the day before their accident.

The figures promoted by the government may not be sufficient to allow full compensation of the potential costs of such an accident. If we look at where the nuclear plants in Canada are located, many of them are near large population centres. Many of them are very close to vast drinking water supplies for tens of millions of Canadians and Americans.

The compensation package is based upon historical evidence as to what it costs to actually clean up a site because the waste is so hazardous. It is the most hazardous waste material we know of on the planet. It is not simply taking a broom and sweeping it up. This is an extensive and expensive cleanup.

First, with regard to the liability limits he has prescribed, what happens if claims exceed those liability limits? What happens if there are claims in excess of what the government has laid down? Who picks up the tab? It is a fair question to put to the minister. Is it the public coffers that pick it up? He has obviously limited the liability in this bill regarding the suppliers who may have supplied some materials that in fact caused the accident. This is a confusing piece.

Second, and perhaps an equally important point, his claims of the nuclear industry being able to provide so-called clean power excludes the very notion of what nuclear waste is. He at one point spoke of being willing to take the nuclear waste from Canada's reactors into his riding. He was quoted as saying that it would only fill a couple of gymnasiums. That makes it sound as if it is not much, that it is not dangerous and that it does not last forever.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry but the hon. member has gone on for a couple of minutes now and we need to give others a chance.

The hon. minister.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

First of all, Mr. Speaker, I did not say that. There are proper storage facilities. Let us bring this debate back to a factual basis and that is what we are purporting to do. We should take the politics out of something that is this important.

As far as the liability limit today, the act is 30 years old. The current amount is $75 million. The international standards and the Paris-Brussels regime has a maximum compensation of $500 million. It is $500 million minimum in the Vienna convention. We are purporting to set the minimum at $650 million. Arguably, this is the adequate amount. We will continue to pursue this.

As far as the volume of nuclear waste is concerned, that is another issue that is being dealt with. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization was set up by the previous government. It is an independent body with some leading scientists, who made a recommendation to government, and we have adopted that recommendation. It will begin a very lengthy consultation process on the storage of nuclear waste. Right now all of this is regulated.

Just to bring it back full circle, safety is fundamentally the single most important aspect of anything to do with nuclear energy, not to mention that it touches all our lives with the use of medical isotopes. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which regulates the industry, does an outstanding job. It monitors the most extensive standards of any country in the world to ensure the safety of all Canadians. We should support it for that effort.

This amount of $650 million is above both the Paris-Brussels convention and the Vienna convention.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is a very important and timely resolution in terms of an issue that has been going on for some time. We all recognize that $75 million may not be enough.

The House will know that the first large commercial nuclear reactor is located in my riding of Pickering--Scarborough East. It employs well over 2,000 employees of the Power Workers' Union, who live in that community. We would like to believe that the reactor is not only safe but that regulations and legislation are following to make these things, to a greater degree, far more important so that our constituents and certainly Canadians in my province will benefit as a result of lower emissions in terms of nauseous gases and the burning of fossil fuels.

I would like to ask the minister if he envisions a greater role for the mayors of host towns such as Durham and Clarington in Ontario. Will mayors such as my great mayor David Ryan, and of course the mayor for the Bruce Peninsula, have a much more meaningful role to play in terms of the deliberations of this liability since the host communities tend to take a significant amount of the responsibility for nuclear waste as well as the responsibility for the potential for liability, which we hope does not happen?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have had an opportunity to talk to the Power Workers' Union. As the member has expressed, this is a great organization and it should be commended for its leadership and its consultations, which have been going on for some time.

A Senate committee reported back to this House in 2001 or 2002 that this had to be done. There have been ongoing broad consultations. I do not have the specific information with respect to those mayors, but officials in my department would be happy to entertain a discussion with each and every one of them to ensure that their views are on the record. We would endeavour to proactively do that through the officials in my department as this bill winds its way through the parliamentary process. I will follow up to ensure that happens.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat my question for the minister as he may have missed it the first time.

It is possible that there will be more than $650 million involved with respect to claimants considering where these nuclear plants are actually located and the number of people who would be affected by a major nuclear disaster such as a meltdown or other such thing. I know the minister has based this amount on others, but we do know of countries that have gone into the billions of dollars in terms of setting their cap. Why limit the liability? If the liability is limited to this point, clearly it is an investment certainty, who would pay the tab beyond that? Will it fall to the public sector? Would Canadians, who are in the process of suing for some compensation, be left out in the cold?

It is a very straightforward question, and I would appreciate an answer.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

First, Mr. Speaker, the member said that some countries set their caps in the billions. This is not a cap. The $650 million is the minimum that would be required. It is important to set the record straight.

In the unlikely event that something would far exceed this, there actually is a report tabled in Parliament which explains this in great detail, not that I would be able to do that in a few minutes in the House but he would obviously be welcome to access that. That would precisely answer his question in the event that the resulting incident was over $650 million.

This is the correct amount. All the consultations with all the sectors and international standards, as I said, today are $75 million. We have to set a realistic amount. As I said, the other international conventions are at $500 million. This is at $650 million. This is the correct amount and I think we should again keep this based on the facts before us and listen to the experts in this area. That is exactly what we have done. This is not an issue to be politicized.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-5. I want to thank the minister for tabling the bill and I also want to take this opportunity to thank department officials for providing me with an informative and educational briefing session yesterday afternoon.

As the minister extensively outlined, the bill is a housecleaning bill which updates the 1976 act and reviews the liability limit that was set in that act. He also did talk about the fact that it is a culmination of many years of discussions and consultations. In fact, I am aware that the Senate tabled a committee report a few years ago that recommended adjusting that limit. So this is a very important bill and I will be recommending to my caucus and my leader that we support it and send it to committee. In committee we will be doing our job as official opposition listening to stakeholders and experts, and we will review the bill in detail.

Since I am given the opportunity today to speak on this bill I want to discuss the importance and the significance of the energy file to our country. Energy is an important dimension of the triple E triangle. The triple E triangle is made up of energy, environment and the economy. Energy relies and has an impact on the environment. The economy depends on energy and this ongoing circle or triangle is very important and significant to the future and success of our country.

Unfortunately so far, the Conservatives have presented no national energy strategy. They have outlined no vision and have not acted. I want to take this opportunity today to call on the Conservatives to put some energy into their energy plan and produce real action and an outline for Canadians of what they plan on doing for this sector.

The Prime Minister always likes to talk about how Canada is an energy superpower, but he has yet to outline for members of this House and for Canadians what he means by that and what he plans on doing with that power. I agree with him that Canada is rich in natural resources. Canada is rich in skills and talent. Canada is a major producer of energy to the world, but what are we doing about that? We need real action and a real plan.

I want to take this opportunity to highlight an example that I would call on the Prime Minister to follow. The Ontario Liberal government under the premiership of Dalton McGuinty has just outlined a 20 year energy plan to set a strategy for the Province of Ontario for the electricity production system. The plan talks about conservation, renewable energy, nuclear and natural gas, power production, and this is a really important milestone in the history of the Province of Ontario. Obviously this was overdue after the eight years of mismanagement by the Conservative government in Ontario.

I would like to call on the Minister of Natural Resources and the Prime Minister to review this plan and to follow the lead that was set by Premier Dalton McGuinty in outlining a 20 year plan for energy supply needs.

Energy supply, energy suppliers, economists and industry talk about the need for energy predictability, and so far we are lacking that at the national level. We need to talk about conservation, about renewable energy plans, new technology, environmental consideration, and about our short term, medium term and long term goals.

My Liberal leader has already taken a leadership role on that and he has outlined various plans to address these concerns. My leader has talked about his carbon budget to address our environmental need for meeting the most important challenge that our planet is facing, climate change. We cannot sustain the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and we must put in a plan to deal with this increase.

My leader has clearly and strongly outlined what we could do about confronting this challenge. He set an ambitious target of 12,000 megawatts of renewable power, almost 10% of our total electrical power. He has outlined a vision of how to get there and that we must get there by 2015. We talk about energy conservation and working with industries and Canadians on how to achieve those goals.

Obviously nuclear energy is an important component and an important source of electricity as we face the rise in increasing needs. Greenhouse gas emissions are garnering greater attention than before. This deserves more debate and thoughtful discussion.

The Minister of Natural Resources said earlier this year that we are a nation of energy consumers and we must be prepared to have an open discussion about nuclear power. I could not agree with the minister more, but I am still waiting for the open discussion that he talked about. I am still waiting to receive an invitation to those discussions. I am hearing from stakeholders and Canadians in general that there is a great concern about the increased secrecy and lack of accountability when it comes to nuclear energy in particular.

It was reported in 2006 that the Prime Minister had been engaged in discussions in the global nuclear energy partnership initiative. It has been more than a year and we have yet to receive any information about what the Prime Minister plans to do, what the Prime Minister has committed Canada to doing and what the Prime Minister has in mind.

There is an increased shroud of secrecy, lack of accountability and an avoidance of openness. There are many unanswered questions. This initiative brings forward many issues to which Canadians want answers, for example, on waste disposal and the production of nuclear power. There are many unanswered questions. The government which claims to be a champion of accountability and openness appears to be avoiding this discussion. It does not want to reveal any information.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs did not want to answer questions earlier this month about his discussions with our international partners. It appears as though this discussion has become too radioactive for the Conservatives. I am not clear as to why. Even though they wanted to talk about it initially, all of a sudden it is a matter of secrecy and darkness.

We in the Liberal Party want to shed light on these discussions. We want to be involved in the discussions. We want all Canadians to be involved in the discussions. We call on the minister and the Prime Minister to open up the discussions and invite thoughtful debate.

I understand that the Conservatives do not appear to be that energetic about this discussion. I understand there is no political excitement in this topic, but it is very important for Canadians. We as elected officials must play our roles and accept our responsibility toward Canadians by engaging in debate. It is incredibly important for the well-being of our country economically, environmentally and socially.

I call on the minister and the Prime Minister to show leadership and to heed the calls of economists, engineers, environmentalists, other stakeholders and Canadians in general to follow the lead of the Liberal Party leader and the Ontario Liberal premier and articulate a national energy strategy that can set the tone for the next few years. This would create predictability for the industry and energy producers. It would respond to the needs of Canadians and put them at ease with regard to the many unanswered questions.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite challenged us to show leadership on the energy file and on this file in particular. That is what we have done. That is why we are here this morning. That is why this bill is important enough that it is at the lead of our legislative agenda.

The member opposite said that the Liberals would like to do something on this. They had a report for over five years that encouraged them to do exactly what we are doing, which is to raise the liability limit under the Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act. We are doing that. The Liberals did nothing.

While the member was speaking, I noticed he was extremely vague about the position that he is going to be taking on this issue. Could the member tell us if the Liberals are going to be supporting the bill or opposing it, or has the Liberal leadership confusion over there resulted in their not knowing what position they are going to be taking at this point?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not so sure what the member's question indicates about his listening capacity, but the first thing I said in my speech is that we will support sending this bill to committee and that we will perform our duty as the official opposition in listening to stakeholders, in listening to experts and in having discussions with our colleagues in the House and in committee and then perhaps producing amendments.

In the meantime, I want to stress the fact that we have been very clear and we have taken leadership on this issue. The member himself and the Minister of Natural Resources know that this bill was started under the previous Liberal government. The minister said in his speech that this was a combination of discussions that took place over a few years.

I am glad this bill has come to fruition, and we will be performing our role as the official opposition.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is treating this issue with great vigour and dedication. He brings a very fresh perspective to the area as critic for natural resources. Ostensibly, issues of energy will flourish over the next few days, certainly, with the cost of energy as we head into a colder period of time.

During the deliberations, will the hon. member be able to provide direction to the government, considering what has happened south of the border in the United States? In California, a relatively depopulated area, we see that the forest fires there have accounted for well in excess of $1 billion in liability. Considering the cost of damage and that a number of our reactors find themselves in populated areas, I am wondering if the hon. member would be able to provide at least some direction to both the committee and to the House, should this bill be referred to the committee, as to whether or not that amount itself would be sufficient given the current realities in market valuations.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his ongoing dedication to his riding and to his constituents.

I know that in his riding there is a nuclear power generation plant. I can assure him that I will be consulting with him and other stakeholders in his riding about the future of this bill and the direction it will be taking. From what I understand so far, the minister has outlined that this comes up to international standards. It certainly is a significant improvement from the previous one. The information that I have so far leads me to believe that it is close to the international standards. I am certainly keen to listen to the ideas and the advice of expert witnesses in considering the future of this bill.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad my colleague has such enthusiasm for a bill I am not entirely sure he has read.

When the question was put to the minister in terms of what happens to liability claims that go beyond the cap of $650 million, the minister replied that there is some legislation in front of the House which means that, just so everybody is clear and we understand, if the claims go beyond the liability the provider is meant to hold, then a committee is set up by this place and the committee would designate how much money the public coffers of Canada would dole out to the actual victims of a nuclear reactor disaster.

If the public in this case were to pick up the cost of any unforeseen accidents, is that a good scenario in terms of the public purse?