Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Speaker for the ruling on the amendments earlier this afternoon.
We are talking about a nuclear liability act that needs to be updated. The amount of $75 million in nuclear liability compensation is far too low and needs to be increased. However, increasing it to the minimum that was recommended is also not the way to go.
I am pleased that my colleague made many amendments to this bill. In the case of a nuclear disaster the consequences could be disastrous both economically and health-wise. It could be extremely expensive and could cost billions of dollars. Our amendments taken as a whole would mean unlimited liability for the industry. That is what we put forward today. We do not want there to be a cap that would let industry off the hook at $650 million when we know full well the consequences could cost billions of dollars.
By making these amendments, we would bring our country into line with countries like Germany that have unlimited liability on the industry. These amendments are important because they would encourage safety in the industry. They would make the nuclear industry more accountable. The industry would be on the hook. It would want to make sure that it is a very safe industry. It would inspire public confidence in the nuclear industry, something which is important.
We have heard the minister and other parties say that nuclear power is safe, that it is clean energy. I know the minister believes this because he said again today at committee that it was a safe and clean energy source for this country.
I know that those parties want to use nuclear energy to get us out of our greenhouse gas problems, but there are some problems with that, mainly in the mining of uranium for the nuclear industry and what is done with the waste. The public does not have confidence in those aspects of the industry.
Also, because of the fact that there have been incidents over the years and the potential for another incident is still there, Canadians know that in the event of an incident, the costs could be quite high.
Some of our nuclear reactors are located quite near residential and business areas. If there were to be an accident, the cost to business, because it would be seen to be unsafe for many years to come, could be quite catastrophic, not only for that business, but economically for the community.That is where many of the costs lie when we think about compensation. We would have to ensure that the other businesses that would be impacted by an incident would be compensated fairly. When we look at future lost revenues to those industries or businesses, the costs again would be very high.
There was the recent incident with regard to Chalk River, the shortage of medical isotopes and the firing of the nuclear safety commissioner in such a way that Canadians were quite shocked. They wondered why the government would take such drastic measures and take the steps in the way that it did, which did not inspire confidence in the Minister of Natural Resources or in the government's ability to handle this situation in a fair-handed fashion. I think that has led many Canadians to wonder about safety. When a commissioner who is charged with looking after public safety is fired in the dead of night and without any notice and for no just cause, it sends a signal that the government will do what it has to do to take control of this industry.
I would like to go back to the amendments that would make sure that the industry was responsible and held accountable in the event of an accident or a nuclear incident. If we were left with only a $650 million cap for industry, then taxpayers would ultimately be on the hook for the rest of the compensation. If there were billions of dollars in damages, as has been investigated, studied and put forward by independent bodies as the amount of money that could be required to cover the damages, Canadian taxpayers would be on the hook for that liability. That is one reason this bill should not go forward in its present form and needs to be amended.
There is also a clause that says that the industry is off the hook for life and limb after 10 years in some cases and up to 30 years. We have asked that that clause be deleted.
Military personnel were called in to clean up a disaster at Chalk River in the 1950s. Even 40 years later some people have experienced many different kinds of cancers. Compensation has been denied over many years. We have to wonder if in some cases the insurers were not waiting until the people simply died off. Sadly, we know there is the potential for waiting them out and then the insurers do not have to pay.
Sometimes problems do not manifest themselves until many years later. If we are looking at it taking 15 to 20 years for the cancers to manifest themselves and a few more years before people actually go through the process of getting compensation, people could well end up not receiving compensation. We think that clause needs to be deleted as well.
There are many issues regarding toxic waste in this country. There are many tonnes of toxic material still present at Elliot Lake. People are still being exposed to contaminants. We are concerned about the toxic waste in this country. The problem has never been dealt with satisfactorily. Now the government wants to bury that toxic waste. I do not think that is necessarily the way to go.
The industry has come a long way. There is more and better technology in place to use the spent fuel rods. There are ongoing innovations in the industry. I would certainly support those innovations, but there is still a lot of waste out there that has not been dealt with and people are still being exposed to it. It is a problem that we have not quite addressed.
We want these amendments in the bill. Taken as a whole, they would make sure that the industry was liable for all damages in the event of an accident.
Canadians are very concerned about safety. They would like to know that the industry would be held accountable in the event of any kind of accident or disaster.