Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-5, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident.
From the outset, we will have to make changes in committee. The Bloc Québécois will have to make improvements to the bill, as it always does to protect the interests of Quebeckers as well as Canadians. I must say that just because we are tackling Bill C-5 to increase compensation for damage, does not mean we support the Conservative government's whole plan for developing nuclear energy.
I find it very inconsistent of the government to introduce a bill in this House to increase compensation for damage while the Prime Minister is currently prohibiting his ministers from discussing the entire nuclear energy plan. It is being discussed in secret, behind closed doors, with the United States among others, in the framework of the global nuclear energy partnership.
Those who follow the news in print media understand quite well that the Prime Minister's Office issued an order banning his ministers—and his members of Parliament—from talking. It is clear that the Conservative Party intends to move forward with developing nuclear energy. It is not for nothing that it is introducing Bill C-5 to increase compensation for damage. Since 1990, the government has been very lax and has not increased the amount of compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident.
Today, the government is introducing a bill as a precursor. It is increasing compensation for damage. It seems that the Conservative government intends to push the development of nuclear energy and invest time and money on the side, in secret, while preventing its members of Parliament and its ministers from talking about it.
This is very difficult for us, as Quebeckers, in the Bloc Québécois. Earlier my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie explained quite well that there is only a single nuclear power plant in Quebec. Roughly 95% of our energy comes from hydroelectricity, without a cent from the federal government. I want to remind my colleagues from all the parties that Quebec developed hydroelectricity without any federal money by using the hydroelectricity fees and the taxes paid by Quebeckers.
So, you will understand our hesitation when we see the federal government using public funds to invest in nuclear energy or any other kind of energy while we in Quebec have developed hydroelectricity using our own tax revenues. Yet we pay one quarter of the bill when the government decides to invest in nuclear or other, fossil fuel energy. It is difficult to accept, especially because the wrong message is being sent. The Conservatives have become the master impressionists. They are trying to give the impression that they will solve our energy problems.
Witness the news release issued in June by the Minister of Natural Resources. The title was “Canada's Nuclear Future: Clean, Safe, Responsible”. The minister wanted to spread the message that it is clean energy. However, in responding to a journalist’s question about what would be done with radioactive waste, if nuclear energy were developed, he said that he did not know. They do not know where they will bury radioactive waste. They have not yet decided.
As my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said, there is one part of Quebec where they hope to offer significant royalties to Quebec for burying radioactive waste produced in other parts of Canada. Surely, you will understand our hesitation. They are trying to make us believe that nuclear energy is clean, even though there is a large and serious problem concerning nuclear waste. This Conservative government, just like the Liberal government before it, has not been able to solve this problem.
Nuclear energy creates considerable waste. Where and how is that waste going to be buried? What will be the result of all that, especially, in terms of transport? Absolutely nothing has been settled but the federal government decided to go ahead and participate, under the table, as I have explained, in discussion with other partners, including the United States, as part of a global nuclear energy partnership. They want to develop a nuclear network. They do not know where the radioactive waste will be disposed. Obviously, they hope that Quebec will accept it. You should understand that we produce only about five percent of all the nuclear waste produced in Canada.
Some people want Quebec to accept all the nuclear waste. You must know that the people of Quebec will not be fooled. This bill, which is in three parts, covers the operator’s responsibilities, the conditions and financial limitations of responsibility and the establishment of a nuclear claims tribunal.
The fact that the amount of damages jumps from $75 million to $650 million reveals the laxity of the federal government over the past 31 years because there have been no amendments in all that time. This is the first time that a major amendment has been introduced.
Clearly, one must ask a serious question. Is the amount of $650 million sufficient, considering that, in our opinion, the federal government should not be investing any money in nuclear development?
We should leave the responsibility of paying the full amount of the bill to those who want to develop this kind of energy. You must understand that in Quebec, it was Quebeckers themselves who paid for hydroelectric development. Therefore, it would be perfectly normal that those who want to develop the nuclear option should pay the whole cost.
Quebeckers do not need to be obliged to pay one-quarter of this bill because they already provide between 23% and 25% of all the money that Canada spends. We would like to say something about the fines. If there is a violation some day, will $650 million be enough? We will study this in committee. Witnesses will be called and we will place our trust in the committee responsible for improving this bill.
At first glance—and from reading articles by people who are knowledgeable and expert in the field—we are inclined to say that the fines will have to be substantial because the damages from nuclear catastrophes can be incredibly large. In view of what happened at Chernobyl, the last great nuclear catastrophe, I do not think that $650 million will suffice. The bill should be very clear on the levying of fines and the way in which the nuclear industry should be allowed to develop so that funds can be created that are sufficient to deal with nuclear incidents or catastrophes.
If Canada wants to go in this direction and the Conservatives intend to continue what they have started over the last few weeks and months, that is to say, international negotiations or discussions on the development of the nuclear industry, it will be very important for them to be able to impose rules on the people involved in this form of energy. In our view, it should not be up to the federal government to provide any money at all for the development of nuclear power.
The provinces and people who want to have this kind of power should do it, but they should also create a compensation fund so that it is not the taxpayers, including those from Quebec, who are summoned once again to cover some of the bill.
I will never be able to say it enough, but it is very important for my colleagues to understand that the federal government did not contribute any money at all toward the development of the entire hydroelectric system in Quebec. It was Quebeckers who did it. The federal government never contributed. This was not the case, however, of the development of fossil fuels, including oil, and more than $40 billion has been invested since 1990 in the development of other kinds of energy, including nuclear.
We would therefore like it to end. We have to stop making Quebec pay for developing other people’s energy, while we ourselves are paying, with no federal assistance, to develop our own energy. It bears repeating: hydroelectricity is clean energy and we are proud of it. This is a choice that Quebeckers made in the 1960s. We could have chosen nuclear power, but we decided to invest in hydroelectricity, and it has paid off for us. It is what has made Quebec the first province to be able to meet the Kyoto objectives.
If Quebec were a country, we would have ratified the Kyoto protocol. We would be taking part in discussions about the carbon exchange and we could be benefiting our businesses, which have clearly made efforts, in both the manufacturing sector and the aluminum industry, and which have succeeded in reducing their emissions based on the objectives set in the 1992 Kyoto protocol.
Quebec companies have thus done far better than the Kyoto objectives set in 1992. As of today, we would be able to sell credits on the carbon exchange. That is not the case, because obviously we are part of Canada, which will never ratify the Kyoto protocol, regardless of what the federal government’s environment ministers may say, particularly the Conservatives, who are trying to negotiate agreements with other countries that would run flatly counter to the Kyoto protocol and try to create their own system for doing things.
All the while, the icebergs are melting in the North and we are talking about a navigable passage in the North. This is a direct consequence of the greenhouse gases that are destroying the most beautiful ice fields on the planet, on which a large part of our ecosystem depends. This is a choice made by the Conservatives. We see it again today, with bills to oversee nuclear development, with a Prime Minister who stops his ministers from even talking to journalists about the nuclear option. We see where this government wants to go: against the Kyoto protocol, pro-nuclear, pro-war, everything to destroy our wonderful planet. This is the choice made by the Conservatives.
It is clear that the purpose of my speech is to state that although the Bloc Québécois does support this bill to increase liabilities and fines for those who could cause damage through a nuclear catastrophe, it is not because we support the development of nuclear energy. Quite the contrary, we will completely defend only the development of clean energy that does not produce radioactive waste.
Once again this government is making a mistake by trying to sell nuclear energy as a clean energy source. No, it does not emit greenhouse gases, but it does produce radioactive waste that takes tens of millions of years to break down. The exact figure has not yet been calculated. We should be able to decontaminate this waste. We must stop trying to bury it. Given that the technology has not yet been developed, Canadian regions, including Quebec's North Shore among others, are offered large sums. There is a wish to bury the waste from other Canadian provinces in Quebec, despite the fact that Quebeckers decided to develop a clean energy, hydroelectricity, using their own money.
It is clear now that the Bloc Québécois will support bill C-5, but it will make improvements to it in committee. As for the $650 million in damages, we find that a very low figure given that a nuclear catastrophe would cost a great deal more. Witnesses will be called in order to adjust this amount. This does not mean that, while we support Bill C-5, we support the way in which this Conservative government has decided to develop nuclear energy, behind closed doors, in secret negotiations with other countries.