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House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to order made earlier today, Motions Nos. 1 and 2 are deemed adopted, Bill C-21, an Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, as amended, is deemed concurred in at report stage with further amendments, and deemed read a third time and passed.

(Motions Nos. 1 and 2 agreed to, bill as amended concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill dealing with the European free trade agreement with Canada.

The bill is one that started its progression internationally in 1998 when the then government of Mr. Chrétien moved forward on deliberations with our partners and began dealing with this particular issue. The agreement was signed on January 26, 2008, in Switzerland and it was tabled in our Parliament on February 14, 2008.

The purpose of the bill is to eliminate duties on non-agricultural goods and selected agricultural products, giving Canadian exporters better access to Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination. Many Canadians would find it interesting that the particular destination is a group of northern European countries, including Liechtenstein and Norway.

This particular free trade agreement is one that has broad support. The Liberal Party supports this particular bill. There are some concerns in a few sectors, including shipbuilding, but I think we have worked together quite well to put forth some solutions that would enable our shipbuilders in Canada to find some recourse because the phase-out of tariffs will be over quite a prolonged period of time.

We want to ensure that in Canada we capitalize on our areas of expertise, and one of those is, quite frankly, in the shipbuilding area. On the east coast and west coast of Canada and in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, we have outstanding individuals, fine craftsmen and craftswomen, who work in the shipbuilding industry and provide exceptional products.

Some of those have been built for our Canadian Forces. When Liberals were in government, we commissioned a number of projects, including the Orca class of boats that have been built in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca by the shipbuilders there. Quite frankly, the product they have is superb.

My hope is that the government will work with our private sector to ensure that our capabilities will be exported and that those capabilities will find markets in other countries. It would certainly be a fine testament to the exceptional workers that we have in our country, in both eastern and western Canada, who have that ability.

There is one area in shipbuilding in particular that the government may wish to pick up on. We have a tariff on importing ships. A company in Canada that wishes to import a large vessel would pay an import duty. That duty goes into general revenue.

The government would be wise to consider, rather than putting those import duties into general revenue, to put them into a fund that would have to be matched by the private sector, which would double the size of the fund, so that those moneys could be directed toward infrastructure for the shipbuilding industry. The funds spent by the companies could then be recirculated within the shipbuilding industry. The private sector would then know that its import tariffs were going back into the shipbuilding industry.

Third, it would also increase the bang for the buck because the government would be putting those moneys in to match. The matching funds would share the responsibility between the private sector and the government, so there would be dual responsibility and a dual opportunity for both the private sector and the government to enable the private sector to compete with other shipbuilders, particularly those in northern Europe, who quite frankly have done a pretty good job of developing a fine product and are competing internationally.

However, those countries subsidize their domestic shipbuilding capabilities, and while they do it in certain ways, it is important that our shipbuilders not be under the gun or behind the eight-ball when they are competing with other shipbuilding companies in other parts of the world.

The scope of the bill is very interesting. As I said before, the EFTA countries are the world's fourteenth largest merchandising traders and Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination.

The two way Canada-EFTA non-agricultural merchandise trade is, in total, $12.6 billion. Our exports to the EFTA were $5.1 billion last year and our imports were $7.4 billion. Our exports included areas such as the aerospace products industry and I want to take a moment to talk about the MacDonald-Detweiler issue when the government, I think wisely, made the decision to prevent that sale from occurring.

There is a challenge, though. While the MDA sale was quite rightly blocked because Canada and Canadian taxpayers had put more than $500 million into enabling MDA to be a world leader in the aerospace industry and paid for satellites that are some of the best in terms of earth monitoring capabilities, there is another side to this. There are over 1,200 scientists at MDA and unless they have products to sell and be competitive internationally, we will lose those scientists.

It took some 20 years to bring those scientists to Canada and to build and create the capabilities. It is of the utmost urgency that the Minister of Industry work with and listen to MDA to find ways to ensure that those scientific capabilities stay within Canada. If we do not, the very real danger is that we will lose that world class capability we have within MDA with the pool of 1,200 scientists to other parts of the world. In particular, we will lose them south of the border to the United States.

This is not something we can wait on for a long period of time. This is something that has to be done quite quickly. I would again urge the Minister of Industry or industry officials to meet with MDA officials to determine what we can do to ensure we do not have this loss of very highly skilled, extraordinary individuals.

The other issue I want to talk about is international trade, as this is a trade issue, dealing with the WTO and the Doha round of talks. This is very appropriate given the fact that we have a world food crisis on our hands. It has caused governments to collapse and food riots, and it particularly affects those citizens of our planet who are the poorest and most impoverished in the world. One billion people live on less than $1 a day and 1.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Two and a half billion people on our planet live on less than $2 a day.

What happens if our foodstuffs increase 140% in a matter of less than a few months? That is what happened with rice. This year, rice prices have increased 141%. Wheat, sorghum, corn, the staples of life, have increased significantly over the last two years. Some have even increased 25% in a day.

Most of us in our country have been somewhat insulated from the effects of that for various reasons, but for the poorest people in the world, that is not the case. People living on less than $2 a day have a choice between food and sending their children to school, food and having a roof over their heads, or food and health care. Those are the stark choices people would have if they lived in those countries in the world, more than 58, where there is endemic poverty.

The food crisis has not hit us yet in terms of prices but it will. When it hits, it is those Canadians who are least able to afford it who are going to be hurt, people who are single parents with very little money, people making minimum wage or a bit above it, and seniors on fixed incomes who live hand to mouth. The implications of this are quite significant.

What if people have to make choices within food groups? That is how it happens. As prices increase dramatically, people actually have to jettison vital food groups that are important not only for the health of adults but are critical for the development of children.

We know that the deprivation of micronutrients and malnutrition on a developing child is catastrophic. If children are deprived of micronutrients and are malnourished, the developing brain in particular is affected. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies create long term cognitive, intellectual and physical disabilities that are permanent.

Children would grow up to be adults who are less than what they could be. The downstream effects of this are what? The downstream effects are that children who are deprived of micronutrients and are malnourished have long term physical, cognitive and intellectual disabilities that affect them when they are adults.

When they are trying to be employed; go to school; acquire training; live and work; act, behave and interact; all of those are negatively impeded by virtue of the fact of what happened when those individuals were children. Early deprivation has long term, profound implications not only for the individual but for society as a whole. The tragedy of it is that it is entirely preventable.

When we know that, it behooves us to start to tackle this issue in a pragmatic way. Let us talk about some of the antecedents as to why the food crisis is taking place. Demand, to be sure, is going up in countries such as India and China, pushing prices up.

Second, there is the issue of higher energy costs. Energy is required to produce fertilizers. Seeds are becoming more expensive. Availability is down. Biofuel, the conversion of foodstuffs such as corn into ethanol, which is put in our gas tanks, is also a driver to move prices up.

The last and the most pernicious area is the area of trade barriers. There is something we could do that would dramatically ameliorate the effects of food prices and that is the tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade that are dramatically impeding our ability to be able to produce the food that we require.

Imagine that the Doha round and WTO has ground to a halt. It started in 2001, I believe, and it has been sitting there moribund or endlessly going around in one big circle. The countries that are most responsible for this are those that are the richest. The countries that pay the price are those that are the poorest.

Imagine that. We have a world food crisis where some of the poorest people in the world are unable to put food on the table and we, as developed countries that are the richest countries in the world, are actually doing things to prevent people who need food, who live on less than $2 a day to feed their children and themselves.

Why has the government not demanded an emergency series of debates at the WTO to move the Doha round forward and to implement the Doha round of agreements? This is something that our new Conservative government has fallen flat on, among many other things on the international stage. Why has the government not done this, instead of sitting back? Why has the government not taken a leadership role to address this international challenge?

Canada can do this. We can take a role in mobilizing the more than 27 agencies such as the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, WFP, and WTO. All of those organizations, 27 in total, are tasked with a responsibility to deal with food issues.

Canada can make a profound impact at the WTO. Canada needs to get our diplomats behind this. There has to be a sense of urgency that has to come from the Prime Minister's Office. The Prime Minister has to tell our highly competent diplomats to move this forward and get the job done. They have to get the Doha round of agreements completed and mobilize this with our international colleagues.

On the development stage, we have heard very little. In fact, we have heard nothing on this. Moneys were given. A good thing the government did was to not tie the aid and I compliment it for that.

The amount of money given by the government was $50 million more than last year, but prices have increased by 40% plus for the demands that the World Food Programme is trying to meet.

We have an increased demand but we also have increased costs. As a result, the amount of money that we are actually putting forward on this is not even able to keep up with the increases in prices. This is something that is unconscionable.

What else can happen? As I said before, some 500 million small landholders live on less than a hectare. About a tonne of foodstuffs, grain and basic products can be derived from a hectare. We know what we could do. Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University has made some very eloquent interventions. We could double or even triple the output from these small landholders, who are some of the poorest people in the world.

Imagine if Canada were to tap into some of the extraordinary research available in the International Development Research Centre and other areas in Canada to deal with the issues of better seed quality, better access to fertilizer and markets and better agricultural practices, water security and irrigation techniques. That combination could be used quite significantly to triple the output of foodstuffs from small landholders. What a remarkable thing we could do if Canada were to take up that leadership role.

I would be remiss if I did not draw attention to two areas of excellence within CIDA. One is the micronutrient initiative in which Canada plays a leadership role. I urge the government to work with the Minister of International Cooperation and other partners to support this initiative because micronutrient deficiencies have a profound impact on developing children.

CIDA has discovered high protein, high caloric, high energy bars. The government could work in this area as well because these bars would be effective during a food crisis.

I also want to talk about food security and, in particular, the fisheries issue.

A good chunk of the world relies on fish for food because it is an important source of protein. Ninety per cent of world fish species have been removed from the oceans, particularly large fish species like tuna and shark. This is a catastrophe. Our oceans are dying. Dr. Sylvia Earle from Woods Hole in Massachusetts has done an excellent job of articulating this. She calls it the dying oceans. Why is the government not dealing with this catastrophe?

I will give the House an example. As draggers fish, they destroy the beds upon which fish reproduce. Draggers are horrible, destructive elements in fishing and they are creating an environmental catastrophe. If Canada were to work with our partners to ban dragging, that would go some way toward addressing the problem of our dying oceans. The reason I mention this is because this is part of international trade agreements and trade negotiations.

We have heard nothing from the government on all these issues. We have given the government a number of constructive solutions on which it could act. It could act on the food crisis. It could act through international development and trade. The government could ensure that Canadians are not going to be affected by the storms that are wafting over the world right now. So far we have been somewhat protected, but that is not going to exist much longer.

These are big international issues that demand international action. Our country can act with authority and knowledge. I implore the government to demonstrate some leadership and do this for our citizens and for the world.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member has spoken to the European Free Trade Association agreement with Canada. As he is well aware, it is an agreement between the Government of Canada and EFTA, which is a bloc of four countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, to implement a bilateral trade agreement between us and those four countries. It is a bloc of countries that is made up of about 12 million citizens. It is a good trade deal because it is a free trade deal with countries that have similar or even higher labour and environmental standards as compared to Canada's. It is a step in the right direction.

I note that this is in Europe. The big trading bloc in Europe is the European Union, an area of about 27 countries and close to 500 million citizens.

What does the member think the Government of Canada needs to do in order to conduct a trade agreement with the European Union? The real future opportunity for Canadian trade, for Canadian business and for Canadian society is under a free trade agreement with the wider European Union, as I mentioned before, a trading bloc. It is one of the largest trading blocs in the world, made up of close to half a billion citizens and 27 member states. What does the member think we need to do as a country, as a government, to move that sort of trade deal along now that we have the first building block of a free trade agreement with the EFTA?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has hit on a very intriguing challenge for the reasons he has mentioned, in terms of the size of the existing population. He also knows there are enormous barriers within that bloc, particularly in terms of the trade subsidies, the tariff and non-tariff barriers, that exist within the European Union and between the European Union and us.

I submit that there are two channels we could take.

One is to pursue it through negotiations, but be very certain that our domestic producers will not be harmed. Critical to that and incumbent upon the European Union is to remove the tariff and non-tariff barriers that so far have created tremendous price distorting issues, not only in the agricultural sector but also the non-agricultural merchandise sector too.

The second channel is we move to the WTO. The member knows I have a particular passion, and I know he does too, in dealing with the Doha round of talks. It is unfathomable I think to most of us to see the intransigence on the part of the Europeans in trying to move forward with something that will help the most impoverished in our world. The failure to complete the Doha round is self-defeating. In the absence of moving through Doha and in the absence of completing these talks, we affect negatively the very security that we are trying to deal with not only in Afghanistan but also in other parts of the world. The failure to complete Doha creates insecurity in some of the most impoverished parts of the world, which ultimately will come to address us in terms of insecurity.

I will close by one point. Maybe the area in which we can attract our European friend on this is the issue of immigration to Europe from other parts of the world that are quite poor and the effect that has in its own countries. They are deeply concerned by the immigration issue. If they were able to go and complete Doha, then a lot of the people who would go to their countries, seeking simply a better and more secure life, as any of us would do, would not happen.

Therefore, the carrot for the European countries would be diminished immigration. A lot of the immigration challenges and racial issues within Europe would be defused. They would also be providing security in areas that have been a source of terrorist activity and insecurity for Europe.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Accordingly the division on the motion stands deferred until the end of government orders today.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Don Valley East, Federal-provincial Relations; the hon. member for Bramalea—Gore—Malton, Citizenship and Immigration; the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, World Food Crisis.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it is good to get up on Bill C-5, because it is such a good bill. I think that all members are going to be interested in it. I would encourage all of them, as I said, to support it.

I want to mention that the Standing Committee on Natural Resources did a great job in dealing with this bill. There was a very positive study of the bill by the committee and the bill was reported back to this House without amendment. We certainly appreciate the work the members of the committee put into their study of Bill C-5.

Canada's nuclear safety record is second to none in the world. We have a robust technology, we have a well-trained workforce, and we have stringent regulatory requirements.

There are two pieces of legislation that provide a solid framework for regulating the industry in Canada. Those are the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and the Nuclear Fuel Waste Act.

Responsibility for providing an insurance framework, that is, a framework to protect Canadians and to provide stability in this important industry, falls under federal jurisdiction. The Government of Canada has the duty to assume its responsibilities in this area, and through this bill it is doing just that.

Canada, like virtually all other nuclear countries, addresses this responsibility with the enactment of special legislation. In Canada, we have put in place the Nuclear Liability Act. That act was passed years ago. Bill C-5 modernizes the Nuclear Liability Act. It does so by doing a number of different things. It brings the compensation levels into line with internationally accepted compensation levels. It expands the categories of compensable damage. It improves the compensation procedures and the way people make claims. It increases the financial liability of nuclear operators.

Up to date rules are needed to provide certainty regarding insurance and legal liability for suppliers, operators and the general public. Without this certainty, Canada would not be able to attract leading international firms and suppliers of technology in the nuclear industry. Of course, it could be argued that Canada's current legislation more or less accomplishes these objectives. Therefore, the question needs to be asked, why do we need new legislation when we already have a serviceable act in place? The simple answer is, as I mentioned, that the current act is outdated.

The Nuclear Liability Act was passed in 1970. In terms of today's nuclear technology, that is the middle ages. Several lifetimes of nuclear and related technologies have come and gone since then. In short, Canada's existing Nuclear Liability Act reflects the technology, the science and the thinking of an earlier period.

In the interim, it is not only the technology of nuclear energy that has advanced considerably, but the evolution of jurisprudence has contributed to substantial increases in potential liability. Therefore, the government has made the decision, and Canadians are supporting it, that our legislation must be upgraded.

There are, of course, certain fundamental principles of the 1970 act that must be retained. These include absolute liability, exclusive liability and mandatory insurance. I would like to take a couple of minutes to explain what those terms mean, because I know everyone in the House is very interested in them and fascinated by them.

Absolute liability means that the operator of a nuclear facility will be held liable for compensating victims in the rare case of a nuclear incident. This means that victims would not have to negotiate with a highly complex industry in order to determine who is at fault. There would be no question of where to take a claim for compensation.

A second and related principle, exclusive liability, means that no other party other than the operator, for example, no supplier or subcontractor, would be held liable. This removes the risk that would deter secondary enterprises from becoming involved in nuclear projects.

To modernize our liability scheme, we must have legislation that goes farther, although retaining certain fundamental principles. That is what Bill C-5 does.

The proposed legislation increases the limit of liability for nuclear operators. The current liability act sets the maximum at $75 million. That amount was substantial when it was set, but now stands as one of the lowest limits among the G-8 group of nations.

The proposed legislation reflects the conditions of today by raising that limit to $650 million. This balances the need for operators to provide adequate compensation without burdening them with huge costs for unrealistic insurance amounts, or impossible insurance amounts, for events that are highly unlikely to occur in this country. Moreover, this increase puts Canada on a par with most western nuclear countries.

Bill C-5 also increases the mandatory insurance that operators must carry by almost ninefold. It permits operators to cover half of their liability with forms of financial security other than insurance. This has been an important provision for the industry. These could, for example, be things like letters of credit, self-insurance, and provincial, or in the case of Atomic Energy of Canada, federal guarantees. All operators would be required to conform to strict guidelines in this area.

Bill C-5 makes Canada's legislation consistent with international conventions. It does so not only with respect to financial matters, but it also does so with clearer definitions of nuclear damage reflecting today's legal and international nuclear civil liability conventions. These definitions include crucial matters as to what constitutes a nuclear accident, what damages do or do not qualify for compensation, and so on.

These enhancements will place Canadian nuclear firms on a level playing field with competitors in other countries.

Bill C-5 also makes changes to the time period for making claims. Under the act that was passed in 1970, claims had to be brought forward within 10 years of the incident. However, the proposed legislation raises the time limit on compensation for claims to 30 years. Both the earlier Nuclear Liability Act and Bill C-5 provide for an administrative process that will operate faster than the courts in the adjudication. However, the proposed legislation clarifies what the arrangements for the quasi-judicial tribunal must be in order to hear those claims. This new process will ensure that claims are handled both equitably and efficiently.

There has been a lot of debate about some of these proposed measures. For example, there has been discussion about how and why the government arrived at the $650 million amount. Questions have been raised as to other international practices and what goes on in other countries. We believe the $650 million liability limit will adequately address any foreseeable incident in a Canadian nuclear power plant.

Although the U.S. operator liability is cited as $10 billion Canadian, in practice, individual U.S. operators effectively carry $300 million Canadian in primary insurance coverage. A few countries, namely Germany, Switzerland and Japan, do incorporate unlimited liability to the operator under the provisions of their nuclear civil liability legislation. However, in practice, that liability is always limited to the amount of coverage provided by existing insurance plus the net worth of the operator that is liable.

Questions have been raised as to how the $650 million liability limit will stay modern. It is important to note that the $650 million limit set out in Bill C-5 can be increased by regulation, and that limit needs to be reviewed at least every five years. This review will examine changes in the consumer price index and international trends, but will have the flexibility to take into consideration any other criteria that is deemed appropriate.

We have made the argument, and Canadians have accepted it, that this is a proper limit in order to ensure that we have the nuclear liability amounts that we need.

The challenge for the government in developing this legislation was how to be fair to all stakeholders and to strike an effective balance in the public interest. In developing Bill C-5, we consulted with nuclear operators, suppliers, insurers, the provinces with nuclear installations, as well as the public. They generally support the changes that I have described.

I know that some nuclear operators may be concerned about cost implications for higher insurance premiums, but they also recognize that the current levels have been outdated. 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 issues.

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

In short, Bill C-5 was not developed in isolation. The evolution of policy was guided by consultations with key stakeholders and by experiences gained in other countries. The reality is that we have general support of the industry at large for Bill C-5. I would urge the members of the House to join in that consensus.

To conclude, Bill C-5 establishes the compensation and civil liability regime to address damages resulting from radiation in the unlikely event of a radioactive release from a Canadian nuclear installation. It ensures that a proper compensation program is in place and channels civil liability to operators.

The introduction of Bill C-5 adds to this government's track record of making responsible decisions on the safe, long term future of nuclear power in Canada. It adds to the government's record of promoting a safer, more secure and cleaner world through the responsible development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, based on the debacle of what occurred last year with respect to the current Minister of Natural Resources and what took place at Atomic Energy, I want to ask a simple question. What assurances can the member give Canadians that there is an open and transparent process by which Canadians can be confident that the oversight mechanism at Atomic Energy is actually competent and transparent, and that Canadians will be aware of the process and the findings of what occurs when we are examining our atomic energy facilities?

While the chances of something happening are small, if something did happen, it would be catastrophic. Canadians have a right to know what safeguards the government is putting into place to make sure those catastrophes will not happen.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I need to point out that the Canadian technology being used is extremely safe and the likelihood of any sort of a nuclear incident is very, very small. I think we will hear that from other members who will speak to this bill, who were at committee and understand that issue.

I should explain the oversight mechanism as it is at present. Clearly, AECL has been the provider of the nuclear technology in this country for a number of years. We have initiated a review of AECL to determine what its role should be in the future. Apart from that, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission provides the oversight of the safety of nuclear installations in this country. We have confidence that the commission can do that and it has been tasked with that job.

Overall, the Canadian nuclear industry is healthy. It is a safe industry and we look forward to the future.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question about the liability the Government of Canada may have with respect to its involvement in the nuclear industry. I am not sure if the member can answer the question, but I will ask it anyway. There are two incidents that I will point out on which I think we have had liabilities or currently have liabilities.

I wonder to what extent this piece of legislation restricts the federal government's liability with respect to the nuclear industry. In the summer of 2005, the government of the day transferred $2.3 billion from the Government of Canada to its crown corporation, AECL, in order to recapitalize the corporation with respect to its liabilities for waste management.

Another liability that comes to mind is the liability associated with the medical isotope reactors that were to be built at Chalk River. That project was recently cancelled. My understanding is that the Government of Canada is partly responsible for the cost overruns and liabilities associated with that.

Could the member indicate whether or not this piece of legislation in front of us limits the Government of Canada's liabilities, either with respect to these sorts of incidents or in any other way?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of areas there which I could talk about for some time. I will try to make it short so other people have an opportunity to ask questions.

Clearly, in the development of the bill and the changes to the Nuclear Liability Act, there was an examination of what would happen in the unlikely event there was any sort of an incident in this country. There was a study of what level of compensation needed to be put in place in order to deal with whatever situation might arise. The former amount was $75 million. It was felt that $650 million was a good requirement in order to cover any incident that may occur in this country. That is why that number was picked. It is a practical number which, after studies, debate and discussion about what liability would exist, it was felt would cover more than adequately any event that would take place in this country.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the parliamentary secretary’s remarks. We are now at third reading and he knows that the Bloc Québécois will support the bill.

My question is closely related to Bill C-5. Today, in La Presse, we see a front page article by François Cardinal with the headline, “Nuclear: Safety is less than maximum” due to a lack of resources.

Today we are discussing a bill that offers guarantees, that assigns responsibilities to operators and that provides for compensation to people who suffer the consequences of a nuclear accident.

Can my colleague tell me whether, in his opinion, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has all the necessary means and all the human and financial resources to properly play its role of monitoring and ensuring the safety of all the nuclear installations under its responsibility?

After reading the article published this morning, we have doubts about that. Since we are discussing responsibilities related to nuclear energy, I hope the parliamentary secretary will take this opportunity to reassure us by telling us that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has all the human and financial resources it needs to carry out its entire mandate.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that Bill C-5 deals with a number of these issues in terms of providing the environment we need to ensure the nuclear environment in this country is safe.

The bill would bring compensation into line with internationally accepted compensation levels. It would expand the categories of things that are compensatory. It would improve the compensation procedures. It puts in a number of procedures that would make it much easier for people to make claims in the event of an incident. It would increase the financial liability of financial operators. On that side, Bill C-5 would put a very strong framework in place for Canadians.

On the other side, in terms of AECL, this government has provided extra resources to AECL. We have also undertaken a review of AECL and its role in Canada. As was mentioned by my colleague earlier, we have provided extra resources for cleanups and those kinds of things.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has been given the resources that it needs to do its job, which is to supervise the safety of our nuclear installations in Canada. We believe it now has adequate resources to do that job.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to my original question for the hon. member because he did not answer it. It is a very fundamental question for most Canadians because most Canadians want to know if the nuclear industry is safe.

The member is right when he says that it has been safe in our country but that does not mean that it will always be safe. Let us look at the situation in Chernobyl in Ukraine. If we had asked representatives of the Russian nuclear energy agency at the time whether Chernobyl was safe, they would have said that there was never going to be a problem. Therefore, saying something is safe does not mean that it will be safe.

My question for the member is a very fundamental one, a non-political one and one which I hope he answers. What assurances can he give Canadians that the mechanism of observing and ensuring that the atomic energy industry in Canada and our atomic energy facilities are safe? What can he tell us about the process the government has implemented to ensure those safety mechanisms are transparent, open and available to the public?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, those structures, for the most part, are already in place. The public has access. It is an open process in terms of understanding what is going on.

As I have mentioned a couple of times, the CNSC has been given the responsibility for overseeing the safety of nuclear installations in Canada. It has clear guidelines and directions as to what needs to happen in these facilities. I think we saw some of that previously this year in terms of the things that it demands from the installations themselves.

I do not think it is fair for the member to even consider that we can compare with Chernobyl because our technology is completely different. We have decades of safety and safe operation behind us. It is not the same technology at all. For him to be even comparing the two is not realistic.

AECL is developing new technologies and, obviously, the technologies are becoming safer as the procedures are becoming more demanding. We are willing to work with that.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River.