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House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was application.

Topics

(Return tabled)

Question No. 246Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

With regard to the tax reductions and child care support introduced by the government since the beginning of 2006, how much would a two income employed couple earning $35,000 and $52,000 (for a combined total of $87,000) living in Ontario, with two children under 18, including one under 6: (a) save in taxes as the result of (i) the reduction of the goods and services tax, (ii) the reduction of personal income tax rates, (iii) the increase of the basic personal amount, (iv) the introduction of the child tax credit, (v) the introduction of the employment tax credit, (vi) the introduction of the children's fitness tax credit, (vii) the introduction of the transit tax credit, assuming the cost of the monthly pass is $566 a year; and (b) receive from the Universal Child Care Benefit?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

The House resumed from May 5 consideration of Bill C-5, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Mississauga—Erindale has just under two minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have had to make a speech over a period of two days. I have about two minutes left so I just want to summarize what I said previously in my speech, which is that the Liberal Party does not support the amendments presented by the NDP. We think that the bill as it stands, after a comprehensive study, is needed for the industry, and we urge the government to bring it back for third reading as quickly as possible.

However, I also want to summarize by reminding the Conservative government of some unanswered questions that remain in the minds of Canadians. When it comes to the future of nuclear energy in our country, there are a lot of unanswered questions, questions that the Conservative government has failed to answer.

First, we still need to know what the government has learned from the recent fiasco at Chalk River.

Second, we know that AECL is in need of clarification of its mandate and its future. We know that the Ontario government is waiting to hear from the Conservative government about that future in determining its bid process for the future of power plants in Ontario.

We also know that the Minister of Natural Resources intervened with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. We want to know what is the future of that commission. We want to know if the minister intends to strengthen the independence of that agency.

There are a lot of unanswered questions. Canadians have a lot of hesitancy about the competence of this government.

I notice that the Conservative government has not yet put up anybody to speak on the amendments to this bill, so I hope the Conservatives can answer these questions in their remarks. Until then, we look forward to them bringing that bill back for third reading so that we can vote on it as quickly as possible.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:15 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, I listened to the member's speech with interest yesterday and today. I want to thank him for his support of the bill and for the work we were able to do with him in committee. I think we have a pretty good bill here.

Yesterday he mentioned that the bill does raise the liability limit from $75 million to $650 million. I am going to ask him a couple of questions. Could he reflect on why the NDP has made a decision to oppose some of these things? I would like to ask him if he has any idea of why the NDP would want to leave the liability limit at $75 million.

The bill also tightens the definition of liability, establishes clear criteria for financial instruments for operators and gives alternatives to them to use different financial instruments in ensuring their operations. Again I would like him to answer and tell us why he thinks the NDP would oppose allowing operators to seek alternatives or options when it comes to their financial instruments.

Third, a number of the amendments deal with the nuclear claims tribunal that is going to be set up in the event of a nuclear incident. I wonder if he could also reflect on why the NDP would be willing to interfere with the operation of the tribunal to the extent that it is. It does not even seem to be willing to let the tribunal function properly.

It seems to us that perhaps the NDP is just putting these amendments forward in order to try to delay the bill. Does he have any reflections on that?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I first want to echo my colleague's comments about the fact that our committee has been doing a pretty good job of working together and advancing good, strong, sound policies. Fortunately our committee has escaped some of the Conservative tactics. I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for working cooperatively with the committee.

He really does ask good questions. I am very interested in hearing the answers from the NDP. I cannot speak on their behalf. I can speculate that the NDP members sometimes play on the emotions and the fears of some Canadians. Their intent to pander and to be alarmist causes them to inflame some of those emotions, fears and concerns.

Let me be clear. I do not want to undermine the debate about what the amount should be. The question of the $650 million liability limit is a good and legitimate question. We have debated it extensively in committee. Yes, there are some good questions about what the right amount is, but given the experts and the witnesses we heard from and given the comparison to other international standards, we feel that it is a good leap from $75 million to $650 million. Also, the minister now has the authority to review it every five years to make sure it is adequate and comparable to international standards.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague on an issue to which he referred. He said that the bill appeared to be what the industry needs.

The concern we have in the New Democratic Party is not only what the industry needs, but what the citizens of Canada need. What do they need from a nuclear liability act? What do they need to protect them and ensure that when there is such a calamity in our country, that the compensation is done in a fair, open and prompt fashion and that the amounts geared to be put forward are adequate? How does the bill guarantee the rights of Canadians in receiving the kind of compensation that could be applicable in the event of a nuclear catastrophe?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am really surprised because my colleague is not known for hyperbole and being selective in his remarks.

When I spoke to the bill, I said that not only the industry asked for it, but the host communities did as well. I do not know if he was there when the mayors testified before committee. They supported the bill. In fact they said that they wanted it now.

The member can claim that he is speaking on behalf of Canadians, but the record is clear. Mayors, host communities, the industry, the insurance industry, all stakeholders and experts support the bill.

Yes, there are some outstanding questions, and I do not diminish them, but the member cannot tell me that I only said the industry supported the bill. Host communities and mayors agree with it. The member should really read the transcript or speak to the mayors who host these power plants and get their opinion if he has any doubts.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about Bill C-5 and debate the amendments proposed.

Perhaps we should remind the people who are watching why we are debating this bill today. As it happens, this bill was introduced by the government in October 2007. It is now May 2008. Many months passed before this bill was put back on the agenda. Later, perhaps we can try to understand why this government took so long to bring this bill back to the House.

Bill C-5 aims to establish a liability regime applicable in the event of a nuclear incident that makes operators of nuclear installations absolutely and exclusively liable for damages up to a maximum of $650 million. The bill also replaces the power to create a nuclear damage claims commission with the power to create a nuclear claims tribunal.

As the member who spoke before me said, the members of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources have worked diligently and professionally and heard a great number of witnesses. We must remember that the bill is quite technical, and that it includes insurance, reinsurance and compensation terms. This bill is also very complex. The witnesses and experts who came to meet with us and give us their opinions were unanimous in their belief that this bill needs to be put into place, especially since it updates a law that was neglected by various governments—Conservatives and Liberals. The latter forgot to update this law.

It has to be said that, in recent years, nuclear energy has not been very “in”. Today, we hear a lot about it, because the energy crisis has led people to take another look at nuclear energy. Here in Canada, several provinces have nuclear plants they are having to repair. For example, Ontario has decided to refurbish its nuclear facilities and New Brunswick has decided to build new ones. Even Alberta is considering building a nuclear plant to provide energy for developing the oil sands. Nuclear energy is a topical issue. Some people are in favour of it, while others are not. My opinion on this issue is well known. Unlike the Minister of Natural Resources and the Conservatives, I do not consider nuclear energy to be clean energy. It does not emit any greenhouse gases, but it could hardly be considered clean energy.

A number of amendments were proposed. Some were debated and others were refused by the Speaker. Today, a dozen amendments are before us for debate. I have noticed that many of the proposed amendments pertain to the $650 million liability. The current act—which applies as long as the new act is not in effect—provides for a $75 million liability. If a major nuclear accident were to take place today, the operator's liability would be limited to $75 million. The bill provides for a $650 million liability. This change was long overdue. As I mentioned earlier, the different governments have neglected to update this amount. According to experts, the new amount was based on practices in other countries and the ability to insure such an amount. Like our NDP colleagues, we questioned this amount. Witnesses—especially mayors of communities that have a nuclear facility—said that in the event of a major accident, $650 million would not be enough to cover all the damages.

One mayor in particular told me that in the case of a nuclear accident, we must think about the municipal infrastructure that will have to be rebuilt as well as the credibility and visibility of this municipality, which will lose its citizens and will lose appeal to industries, plants, etc. It would have a huge impact on individuals, but also on the community as a whole.

It is true that, at first glance, the $650 million amount could seem insufficient. We questioned the witnesses at great length about this. They told us that currently, given the popularity and renewal of nuclear energy across Europe and worldwide, it is difficult to find financing for this amount. If the amount had been changed to $1 billion or $1.5 billion, or if there were unlimited compensation, the reinsurance market would have had problems.

We know that there is a process underway to increase the amount. The Bloc supported the amount of $650 million because one clause of the bill states that the minister must review the amount of compensation at least every five years. There is a difference there. It is not every five years, but at least every five years, which means that if the market changes and if he has the means, the minister could propose changes to the amount of compensation.

I understand that people—myself included—were feeling insecure the last time we debated the amount of $650 million. Aside from the creation of the tribunal, this was really the essence of the update of Bill C-5.

We also recognize that the status quo was not working and changes needed to be made. We refused to support the bill after it was democratically debated in committee and after it was amended because the bill was not acceptable as it was. It needed further amendments. To that end, in a responsible fashion, the Bloc Québécois supported the bill, but it will not support all the proposed amendments that we are discussing here today. We do not want to end up with an outdated bill that fails to serve communities or individuals.

I would like to take a closer look at some of the proposed amendments. I do not understand why, for example, one of the amendments proposes deleting clause 22, which gives the minister the authority to regularly review the liability limit at least once every five years. I do not understand why one of the amendments proposed by the NDP seeks to delete this clause, which I think is important to guarantee that citizens and communities have a way of pressuring the minister to review the compensation amount.

As a final point, it is important to keep the tribunal mentioned in the bill and avoid allowing people to select their tribunal, which we think would delay the compensation of individuals or communities that might be affected by a nuclear accident. We believe that an independent tribunal that reviews the applications is the best tool for citizens to be able to obtain justice and redress as fairly and as quickly as possible.

I am now ready for questions from my colleagues.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, whom I worked with on the committee, for her interest in this bill and for her interest in these issues generally. I share some of her concerns.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources suggested that the amendments would mean we would be back at the $70 million limit. No, the sum total of the amendments would mean there would be unlimited liability for nuclear accidents, much as there is in Germany.

We originally had taken a different position in the committee, but this is the position we could bring forward as an amendment, to have it as unlimited liability. If we take into account deletion of clause 21 and the deletion of the amounts referred to in subclause 21(1) in the two amendments, the bill would then refer to unlimited liability on the part of the operators for any damages incurred by their facility.

If there is unlimited liability, then oversight as to the amount of the liability is not required. The liability is set and continues forever as unlimited liability. It is up to the insurance company to understand the nature of unlimited liability. In the case of nuclear plants, there can be very different degrees of liability according to the locations of those plants.

That is the explanation and I hope that helps my colleague.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member opposite for his explanation.

I would like to understand whether the proposed amendment in fact removes the compensation under subsection 30(1). In the current bill, a victim of a nuclear incident who applies for compensation has 30 years to do so. For example, if that person develops cancer 15 years later, he or she can, up to 3 years after he or she is diagnosed with cancer, apply for compensation.

Under the bill, a victim has this recourse for up to 30 years after the incident. Obviously, this is a very complex and technical matter. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to delete such an important clause that allows people to get compensation up to 30 years after the incident.

To my knowledge and in light of everything the witnesses have told us, I think that after an incident, repercussions such as illness or a condition can appear more than 30 years later. According to the witnesses, 30 years is enough time to report this.

I am surprised. Since this was not debated in committee and since we are seeing this amendment for the first time today, I would like our NDP colleague to elaborate on this.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I simply have a question for the hon. member.

According to the hon. member, what would be the potential effects of this bill if the government decides to go ahead and privatize some or all of Atomic Energy of Canada?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to comment on such projections. The debate is not over. We know that the government is currently conducting a study on Atomic Energy of Canada.

This morning the Minister of Natural Resources appeared before our committee. He told us that the study was not finished and that privatizing Atomic Energy of Canada is still a possibility.

This is certainly worrisome since there could be consequences to privatizing that agency. Nonetheless, I do not believe that privatizing Atomic Energy of Canada is problematic in the context of this bill.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Bill C-5 in its unamended form, particularly in light of the discussion which I have been privileged to hear today in the House.

I want to pick up on the points that were raised by my colleague from Mississauga—Erindale, which had to do with a number of fundamental questions about the future of nuclear energy in this country which underlie this bill. I also want to echo what my colleague from Western Arctic said, that as we think about that future, we have to think about not only the interests of the nuclear industry, but also the interests of the whole population of Canada.

First, at the deepest level, this bill raises a number of very profound questions about the future of nuclear power in Canada, about the future of AECL itself, about the future of the nuclear regulator, about the future of Canada's own Candu reactor, the future of evolving nuclear technologies around the world, competitive technologies to the Candu reactor and, indeed, the future of nuclear power around the world.

It is evident that the great change which has occurred in the debate about nuclear power has been driven by climate change. This has radically altered the terms of debate. It has radically altered the way in which we think about these issues.

I can say that as a long-time environmentalist, I have been one of those who, over the years, has had reservations about the nuclear industry. I have moved from that position to one of being agnostic, but today, as I weigh the odds, the chances and the dangers, I now find myself on the side of a nuclear future for Canada. I believe that inevitably, nuclear power will be an increasingly important component of our national energy portfolio in the years to come.

Even if we funded and built no new nuclear plants in this country, Canada would have been having a nuclear future for a long time anyway. If we consider the very lights in this chamber, two out of every five lights in this chamber and in Ontario are powered by nuclear power. Forty per cent of all the power currently generated comes from nuclear generators.

Their importance becomes all the more compelling, because we know what the future of coal fired energy plants is in this province. That is to say they will be eliminated, which puts an even greater burden on nuclear power certainly in this part of the world for the future. There is no existing alternative source of energy on the scope and scale of nuclear power which can replace coal fired generating plants.

Second, the climate change argument puts us in a world in which we have to balance off risks. That is what we are here for. We are here to make choices. To govern is to choose.

On the one hand, a world in which carbon dioxide continues to increase exponentially along with other greenhouse gases puts us into a perilous future when we would reach an increase in world temperature of plus 2°C. This would take us to a place we have not been in many generations and millions of years, versus the well-known risks of nuclear power, which have been nuclear accidents, terrorist threats or how we dispose of nuclear waste. These are not trivial matters, but we have to choose. We have to decide what is the greatest peril and can we manage the risks on the other side.

Bill C-5 itself and the debate about its amendments is about risk management, about somewhere between zero liability and limitless liability. The committee came down and decided on $650 million, increasing it from $75 million. That is about risk management.

The problem with climate change is that this is not a manageable risk if we continue not to do anything about it. That is the challenge, that we are in a potentially runaway situation. Nuclear power must be part of the answer to that.

The third point I would like to make is that around the world we do see a renaissance of nuclear power. There are currently operating in the world 439 nuclear power reactors. They have been operating for a collective number of 10,000 reactor years of experience. There are now 200 new nuclear power plants being planned around the world. During the entire nuclear power period there have been only two accidents: Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Only one of those, Chernobyl, had fatalities associated with it, and there is no denying that was a major, major accident.

However, what we do forget as we think about risk is what happens as a result of the emissions from coal and power plants every year from mining. The number of deaths every year associated with coal mining so that we can actually power coal fired generating plants far exceeds the number of deaths associated with the Chernobyl disaster, and yet we never balance out those risks. That is what our job is as legislators, to balance choices, to balance risks and try and do the best we can for the future.

The fourth point I want to make is about nuclear waste itself. It is a problem which ultimately is technologically controllable. The exciting part, if I may say so, about nuclear waste is that it represents a potential future source of energy which we have not found a way of exploiting yet. There will be a new generation of reactors which will be able to extract from our existing nuclear waste energy almost on an indefinite, time unlimited basis. It is true we do not know exactly what that road ahead looks like of using nuclear waste for new power, but we also know that if we do not get on with change what our future looks like in a world of plus 2°C climate change. That we have a much stronger sense of. Again we have to choose; we have to balance.

My fifth point is that we have in AECL, a world leader, a company which has led the nuclear revolution not only in power but in medical isotopes and other areas. It deals with an evolving technology which has a tremendous future. Someone somewhere in the world, some industrial group is going to be developing the next generation of nuclear plants and the question is why should Canada, pioneers in this area, leaders for half a century, not be that somebody? Why should we leave it to France or to General Electric if we are going to be having a nuclear future in any event?

This brings me to the sixth point which is national interest. We have had interesting debate recently on a Canadian owned company, MDA, which developed RADARSAT and the Canadarm, as to what our national interest is in high tech companies. The government has said, and I credit it with this, that for things like space technology, this is in the national interest. I would argue that AECL is in the same vein. It is in our national interest to give this technology the resources and the support to take us to the next level and to take that technology to the world to see it not only in terms of contributing to the climate change debate but to wealth creation.

Finally, by passing Bill C-5, clearly we are anticipating a long life ahead for nuclear power in Canada, otherwise we would not have this bill. This might as well be a future where Canada is a leader. As the member for York Centre used to put it in his former life as a hockey player with the Montreal Canadiens as they got ready to play a game but they were feeling a little discouraged, “Well, since we have to play the game anyway, we might as well win it”. I think the same is true of nuclear power.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my colleague really touched on some very important points in his speech, one of them being that we simply cannot deal with the nuclear industry in this piecemeal fashion, and that is correct.

We have many problems with the liability limits in the bill. We did not have a context in which to put that. We did not have a sense of providing leadership in terms of identifying the true cost of the industry to the consumer. This is one point for someone who is interested in the comparison of directions in which we have to go.

If we continue to hold the liability for nuclear accidents above $650 million with the Government of Canada, we are instituting a long term subsidy of the industry. We are not expressing the true costs of the industry in relationship to other potential new energy sources at which we may be looking.

Our amendment would simply create an unlimited liability for the nuclear industry, much as there is in many other countries. This would ensure that the cost to deal with it would be left with the industry. It would be reflected in the prices that the industry would charge for its product.

Is that not a better situation than continuing the liability of the government in subsidizing the industry?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

May 6th, 2008 / 1:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, three points were raised, and very valid ones, by my colleague.

First, he raises the question of establishing true costs. However, in any discussion of true costs, we have to compare, for example, what the true costs are of coal-fired electrical generating plants. Do we take into account the true cost to health when the particulate goes up? Do we take into account the true long term cost of global warming? Therefore, I am in favour of true costs, but they have to be compared on a wide basis.

Second, on the issue of subsidy, I think that is right. This is an industry, certainly through AECL and its research side, that needs to be subsidized. It needs to be controlled by the Government of Canada because it is such a crucial technology and it is also one which, if mishandled, has very dangerous and negative consequences. Therefore, I do not shy away from the notion of subsidizing a technology which takes us to a new place and will enhance our export capacity.

Finally, on the subject of unlimited liability, I guess the issue is if we were to change it from $650 million to unlimited liability, would we in fact destroy the possibility of there being a nuclear power future for Canada and the world?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member almost was my university professor in Halifax. I do not know if that is his loss or mine. However, I was very enraptured by his comments, especially as I come from New Brunswick, which has put a lot of its power generating eggs in the basket of the nuclear power future.

Is the government and its climate change policy in step with the policy for nuclear power in the future and this bill in particular? What is it about this climate change policy of the government that in any way meshes with the nuclear aspects of his comments?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, to the extent that there is a climate change policy of the government, I would be very hard pressed, generous as I am and creative as I am, to find a connection between a nuclear strategy and a climate change plan and also one in which we saw the wealth creating component of our future climate change plans as being part of the mix, that when we think of climate change and the future we have to think of technologies and how we can actually make money by being green and by doing the right think.

I would locate this larger debate about nuclear power in that context about innovation and wealth creation.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

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.

These amendments are being passed off by the government and many in the Liberal Party as simply administrative changes to modernize an obsolete law. However, all Canadians should be very attentive to this legislation. It raises many questions as to who the government is really protecting through it and as to the future of nuclear energy in Canada.

Comments have been made by the government about fearmongering. I was one of those people who many years ago lived in Europe and experienced Chernobyl. I happened to be living in an area of France that received some of the fallout from that meltdown. I was one of those people who was very opposed to the nuclear industry.

Over the years and with climate change, at this point I am open to the idea, but it has to be done following very stringent regulations. This industry cannot be privatized. It cannot follow a financial bottom line. It is out of the concern to protect all Canadians that the NDP has proposed a number of amendments.

The bill, as was suggested, proposes a new compensation limit. The cap has been raised from $75 million to $650 million. It would be reasonable to assume that this limit is based on the risk and the implications to Canadians, but this is not so. The NDP brought forward an amendment to clause 22, which would establish a risk based on the consumer price index for Canada, as published by Statistics Canada, financial security requirements under international agreements and other considerations. The limit to the compensation is clearly insufficient and will be even worse in coming years.

Canada has not signed any international agreements on nuclear liability and has consistently resisted taking part in these agreements. The minister needs to take into consideration more issues than the CPI, such as the risk of an accident.

Risk has been defined in the following way, as being equal to the probability of something happening times the consequences. Using this actuarial definition, the probability of a nuclear incident in Canada is, as has been said, very low. However, when one factors in the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear incident, we see that then the risk is very high. It has been estimated that a nuclear accident would cause billions of dollars in damage in personal injuries, death, contamination of the surroundings and so on. The cap is clearly insufficient.

The U.S.A., for example, has a cap of $10 billion. Germany, which has experienced the fallout of the Chernobyl meltdown, has an unlimited amount. Many countries are also moving toward an unlimited amount.

Bill C-5 brings compensation levels up to an absolute international minimum. In the case of a nuclear accident, as remote as that might be, the damage would be catastrophic. That means with the level of compensation proposed in the bill, only a handful of dollars would be offered to Canadians impacted for loss of life, loss of limb, for contaminated property and so on.

In our opinion the legislation represents an almost cavalier attitude toward an energy source with the potential for catastrophic levels of damage and with no consideration of the risk levels as established by actuarial norms. We have proposed amendments to the bill to protect the interests of Canadians.

Earlier the parliamentary secretary said that the NDP wanted to have the compensation limit remain at the very low level in the earlier legislation. I must clarify that misleading statement because it could not be further from the truth. We feel that the cap proposed by the government should be unlimited. If one considers the NDP amendments together, they would have that effect. Following the principle of the polluter pays, nuclear operators should be prepared to cover a larger portion of the liability for their actions.

Canadians need to ask, why such a low limit? I will start by setting the legislation in the context of the recent events at Chalk River.

As with the legislation, it is important to ask whose interests the government was protecting when it fired the nuclear safety inspector for doing her job, or when the natural resources minister mused about having the private sector build a nuclear reactor to power the tar sands.

Last December's crisis at the nuclear plant in Chalk River gave Canadians cause for concern. It certainly has not inspired our confidence that the Conservatives will put safety ahead of profits.

First, for a decade both Liberal and Conservative governments ignored deficiencies in the operations of Atomic Energy of Canada, and that has been well documented by the Auditor General.

Second, Conservatives ran emergency legislation through the House supposedly to settle medical emergencies due to a long-time dispute between AECL and Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission, and that is now questionable.

Finally, the Conservatives continued with their trademark bullying tactics of silencing those who disagreed with them and fired the head of CNSC for stubbornly standing up for the safety of Canadians.

The way in which the Conservatives handled the Chalk River crisis raises concerns about whether safety is paramount to them.

Other worrisome questions have emerged about the Conservative privatization agenda.

The minister commented publicly on this. In the Globe and Mail, of November 2007, the Minister of Natural Resources said:

It is time to consider whether the existing structure of AECL is appropriate in a changing marketplace.

In an interview with Sun Media, the minister said:

It's not a question of if, it's a question of when, in my mind. I think nuclear can play a very significant role in the oil sands.

He admitted that he had been involved in discussions about a two year exclusive deal with Calgary based Energy Alberta Corporation to establish the Candu reactor technology in the oil sands.

The legislation facilitates the government's intention to privatize the nuclear industry. First it fired the safety inspector. Now it wants to set up an insurance plan that would take liability away from the operators, placing it on the backs of Canadians.

The government's drive to privatize all that is government, including the nuclear industry, should be a red flag to those who think money should not be the main driver in nuclear energy. It is too risky to leave it to the whim of the market. We know the Conservatives hands-off approach to government. They look the other way at efforts to privatize our health care system. If there is one other industry where money should not be the main driver, it is the nuclear industry. It cannot be left to the whim of the market nor to its cost cutting patterns for increased efficiency. Government should be subsidizing this industry.

I see my time has run out, but I assume I will be able to continue after question period.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member's time has expired, but there will be five minutes for questions and comments consequent on her speech after question period.

Auditor General's ReportGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to lay upon the table the report of the Auditor General of Canada dated May 2008, with an addendum on environmental petitions from July 1, 2007 to January 4, 2008.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(g), this document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Charles CacciaStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the Hon. Charles Caccia, who passed away this weekend.

In 1993, as a veteran parliamentarian, Charles must have been bemused when 201 rookies, myself included, came to this place. I clearly recall turning up at Charles' environment committee without a starting point of a clue what committee was about.

Charles took me through the steps, always exhibiting the highest sense of respect and patience. He encouraged my participation in parliamentary associations. He emphasized the importance and the significance of members of Parliament attending on the world stage.

Charles Caccia was a man who proudly marched to his own drummer frequently leading the way where others had not gone. Although he and I had little in common politically or philosophically, it is an honour for me to have this opportunity to pay him tribute.

Charles Caccia was a man who made this Chamber a better place in his 36 years and into the future through those of us who remain. In that respect, Charles Caccia lives on in our Parliament today.