House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.


Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Vancouver East and the member of Parliament for Western Arctic for doing such an exceptional job in talking about nuclear liability and why it is that we feel so strongly about needing to oppose this bill.

As she so eloquently pointed out, the $650 million cap is an international minimum and is completely inadequate for protecting the interests of Canadians. I think she covered that area extremely well and frankly passionately on behalf of Canadians who want us here in the House to protect public interests.

I know the member could have talked about this for hours. I wonder if I could take her into that other area of the bill which deals directly with nuclear safety. We are in the dying days of the session and suddenly we are in this rush to get through a number of pieces of legislation, this is not the only one, that in a very real way undermine the safety of hard-working Canadian families.

The other example is Bill C-7, where we are talking about safety in the airline industry. The government is very eager to throw caution to the wind in favour of protecting its friends in the industry. I think we are doing the same thing here when it comes to the nuclear industry.

Let me remind folks who are watching today what the bill is about. The bill will shortchange ordinary Canadians who would become sick and/or die from a nuclear accident, or who would lose all they owned because of contamination, or who would lose a family member who would die from cancer or radiation sickness. These are the people we need to protect and we have that opportunity by opening up this legislation.

Our critic from the Western Arctic put amendments in place that would have protected Canadians' safety. I wonder, with whatever little time the member for Vancouver East has remaining in this debate, if she could focus on the safety aspect of this legislation.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for rising to speak on her concerns about the bill and I am sure she will be speaking later on it as well at greater length. She echoes my concerns and those of the NDP. I would point out that Gordon Edwards, who is the president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, has said that any vote for this bill would be taken as an approval of nuclear power. It is a concern about the safety standards and the fact that the bill, as part of a larger privatization agenda that the government is so eager to rush forward on, is something that damages the public interest.

I am very glad that the member mentioned Bill C-7 which is the next bill behind that because it is exactly the same kind of track. It is a track of privatization. It is a track of deregulation. It is a track of putting the public interest below private interests and that is exactly what we do not want to see. A majority of Canadians believe we are here in this place to protect their interests, particularly when it comes to questions of significant liability around a nuclear incident and accident.

As the member has pointed out, people may be impacted by an accident and they may receive significant health concerns as a result, or that may manifest itself in a future generation if it were something that was very serious. People want to know that they have legal protection.

Yet, it seems to me the protection that is provided in the bill is really shortsighted. It is minimal. It is at the bottom of the international standings of what these protections are all about. Why would Canada, as is commonly phrased, be racing to the bottom? Why would we not be ensuring that we are leading the way with standards, whether it is on the environment, labour rights, or social standards?

This is part of a huge agenda that is taking place globally where we see a stranglehold of multinational corporations who want to advance the capacity for greater profitable gains at the expense of environmental degradation and a loss of standards for people who work in an industry. This bill is very much a part of that kind of agenda. Another reason we should say no to it.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for this opportunity to continue on the same vein as my colleague from Vancouver East with our concerns and reservations about Bill C-5, the nuclear liability and compensation act.

I actually asked for permission to join in this debate. I came sprinting to the Commons from my office in West Block hoping for the opportunity to rise and speak to this bill. I noticed there was another debate going on the last time I tuned in on my television and that seems to have collapsed. When this bill came on, I said to myself, “Self, this is a bill that you want to be involved in. You want to be on the record”.

I said that to myself, partly because one of the most important books to come across my desk in recent memory is one that a colleague sent to me. It is written by Dr. Helen Caldicott, a name that many of us remember well, a well-respected, internationally acclaimed scientist. The title of her book is, Nuclear Power is not the Answer.

Dr. Caldicott felt compelled to write this book because, as the world grapples with the obvious risks to the environment by greenhouse gas emissions, it is tempting, seductive almost, to revisit nuclear power as perhaps the source of energy that might not contribute to global warming. In the temptation to be lured in that direction, we fear, and she fears in her book, the world is overlooking the potential risk and the gaps in the technology that cannot give assurance to the world's citizens that this is the right way to go.

We in the NDP were alarmed in that sense when Bill C-5 was introduced. We spoke against it immediately, saying that the last thing we want to do at this point in time, when the world is being attracted to revisit nuclear energy as a viable option, is in any way diminish, undermine or deregulate the safety regime associated with the nuclear energy system as we know it. It is a shocking idea. As I said, I want to build off the comments of my colleague from Vancouver East. It seems to be a worrisome motif, a hallmark almost of the corporate sector today, that it is trying to further deregulate and undermine the environmental standards and reviews that are necessary.

As the world becomes more aware, we become more insistent on developers and industries to be more compliant and to be more sensitive to environmental issues. That is a nuisance to them. They have been forced by the general public to go in a direction they do not want to go. The only way they can maintain the status quo or even diminish the status quo in terms of safety is by regulation. Bill C-7, which was before the House earlier this week, is along the same vein. It would dismantle or certainly diminish a safety regime.

I asked a page to go to the Library of Parliament, that wonderful resource, and bring me a copy of Dr. Helen Caldicott's book, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer. To her credit she found it in jig time. I strongly recommend it to all of my colleagues in the House of Commons, in the context of debating this bill. They should pick up this book and go through some of the important points that this internationally well-respected scientist cautions us about. I am just going to read some of the titles of the chapters. I am not going to read from the book at any great length.

Dr. Caldicott goes through the whole costing of nuclear energy. As seductive as nuclear energy is, even on the face value, it is extremely expensive. She spends one chapter chronicling the whole cost of nuclear energy when we contemplate the insurance, never mind the cost of cleanup if there was in fact, God forbid, an accident, and the pollution, et cetera. I will come back to Dr. Caldicott in a minute.

I think we are better than this. I think we are better than expanding our nuclear system in the context of meeting our energy demands and needs. Let me explain what I mean by that.

I used to be the head of the carpenters union, the head of the building trades union in the province of Manitoba. The government of Manitoba lost a major power deal with the province of Ontario. The hydroelectric power sale somehow fell apart which resulted in the cancellation of a hydroelectric dam. That would have employed 1,500 of my members for five years. I was running the carpenters union at the time. It was devastating. It forced us to take stock, to do some research as to how we might cope with the loss of the job creation opportunities associated with building a hydro generating station.

I commissioned some research. We published a report called, “A Brighter Future--Job Creation through Energy Conservation”. We compared the job creation opportunities in a large megaproject such as the Darlington nuclear power station, which it has just been announced they intend to double in size. Let me backtrack. The original bill for Darlington was going to be $4 billion. By the time the dust settled, it was turned on and it generated its first unit of energy, the bill was $15 billion and I do not think they have finished spending yet.

What we learned in the comprehensive study, and I raise this in the context of Bill C-5, is that demand side management of our precious energy resources is far smarter than the supply side management in a number of significant ways.

A unit of energy harvested from the existing system by energy conservation measures is indistinguishable from a unit of energy produced at a generating station, except for a number of key important things. First, it is available at one-third the cost. The unit of energy that we harvested from the existing system by eliminating waste and by energy conservation measures is available at one-third the cost of generating a new unit of energy at a hydroelectric dam or nuclear power station.

The second great advantage is that the new unit of energy is online and available immediately. In other words, the second we turn off a light switch in a room, that unit of energy conserved is available to be used at the house next door or to be sold offshore internationally. We sell a lot of power from Manitoba to Minnesota and the states directly south of us.

If we had an east-west grid for electricity, we could in fact close down every coal-fired plant in Ontario by selling them clean hydroelectricity from Manitoba. I think most Ontarians would be happier to get cheap clean power from Manitoba instead of expensive dirty power from coal-fired generating stations or, God forbid, risky electricity from nuclear power stations.

Another advantage between demand side management units of energy, or units of energy harvested from the existing system and ones produced at a generation station, is the lag time where one does not have to borrow money to do it. In fact, many energy retrofits can be done through a process where the upfront cost is paid for, free of charge to the property owner, and the financier is paid back out of the energy savings over the next three, five or seven years. That is a great system. It is sweeping the Building Owners and Managers Association, those property owners that own skyscrapers and large institutional, commercial and industrial buildings because their energy costs are going through the ceiling. They can have off balance sheet financing to renovate and energy retrofit those buildings for which they do not pay a single penny. They pay it out of the energy savings over the next three to five years until that renovation is complete.

The federal government would be a perfect place for that. You would be surprised to learn, Mr. Speaker, or maybe you would not be surprised to learn because, being in charge of the parliamentary precinct, you do supervise a great number of publicly owned buildings, there are 68,000 federally owned buildings in Canada, many of which were built during a period of time when we were wasteful in our design and usage of energy. They are energy hogs, really. They are wasteful. There have been some legitimate efforts to try to upgrade and modernize those buildings to make them less wasteful, but there has never been a comprehensive plan to deal with a significant number of these buildings.

Imagine what a demonstration project that would be, if the federal government of the day actually engaged in energy retrofitting thousands of these buildings that are owned by the-

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac is rising on a point of order.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I believe the topic that we are talking about here is Bill C-5, nuclear liability.

We have had a number of discussions at our natural resources committee about the greening of electricity in Canada, and I was beginning to think that the member was a member of our natural resources committee and was talking about the greening of electricity in Canada.

I would suggest we get back to the topic of third reading debate on Bill C-5, nuclear liability.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre, I know, was going to make his remarks relevant to the bill. I assumed he was talking about other forms of energy having to do with nuclear liability and I was waiting for him to get to that point, but I am sure he will take note of the point of order and respond accordingly.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

That is right, Mr. Speaker. I think you will agree that patience is a virtue. If the member would be more patient, he would see me developing this line of reasoning, hopefully coming to the logical conclusion that we should vote against Bill C-5. It is a circuitous route, I will confess.

I was trying to illustrate that Bill C-5 actually strips away some of the safety regime associated with nuclear energy. We believe that is harmful. We believe that Canada is better than this.

We do not need to be dealing with Bill C-5 at all, because we have alternatives. We have the technology. We have the luxury of being a wealthy developed nation. We should be leading the world in alternative energy, not embracing an outdated technology.

I put it to the House that nuclear power is an outdated technology. It was a detour on the road to a sustainable world and it took us in a direction that we will regret as a people, not just as a nation.

A number of bad ideas are associated with trying to meet our energy demands and a number of bad ideas are associated with trying to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. One of them, I believe, is the expansion of nuclear energy.

Another one is what was just tabled today by the Liberal Party of Canada, this carbon tax notion, which is a distinctly bad idea. When we are talking about energy, we would be negligent if we did not speak about the consequences of production of energy, and that is the greenhouse gases that we now know are strangling our planet.

I was putting forward the notion that we should be seized of the issue of the demand side management of our energy resources more than we are seized of the issue of the supply side management of our energy resources. Nuclear power is not the answer.

Do not take it from me, I say for members, but take it from Dr. Helen Caldicott, one of the world's leading authorities on the general health of the world and the impact of technological advances. There is a fallacious and misleading advertising campaign put forward by the nuclear energy industry.

I have one advertisement with me here that is being used by the nuclear power industry in trying to convince Canadians and people around the world that it is the answer to harmful greenhouse gas emissions. It tries to convince us that if we are worried about greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide, we should “go nuke” or go nuclear.

What is really worrisome is when industries like this use children to try to convince people that all is well and all is safe for our next generation. As for this particular advertisement, I will not read from it. I am not using it as a prop so much as I am to explain.

There are three pictures, one of very happy children in bathing suits jumping into a lake and clearly enjoying themselves. It is probably a clean lake that they are swimming in. Another is a picture of group of children lying on the grass, which presumably is pesticide free and free of any kind of nuclear contamination. They are clearly enjoying playing some kind of a video game, I presume, on their laptop. The other one is the affirmative action part. Two children of colour are playing on an old tire hung by a rope from a tree. They are swinging back and forth on that tire. They are clearly enjoying themselves and living a carefree life in the shadow of the nuclear power plant in the distant horizon.

The message is that these children are not affected by the effluent from that nuclear power plant, which dominates the horizon of the neighbourhood they live in. They still play in the lakes, so the water is fresh. They still lie on the grass, so the grass has not mutated in any form. Presumably the fish in the lake do not have three eyes like Blinky in the Homer Simpson show. The children swinging from the swing are not concerned about the quality of the air they are breathing as they play so adventurously.

This advertisement makes the point that already in America one in every five homes and businesses is electrified by nuclear energy. That worries me, because when I was young, the number was not nearly that high. In fact, it is within my lifetime in the post-war era that nuclear energy has expanded and spread and is seeking to gain mainstream acceptance by the population. The industry has sought, in a very deliberate public relations marketing attempt, to convince the world that there is absolutely nothing wrong, that nothing can happen. “Trust us,” it says.

A lot of these plants are privately owned. Not all nuclear power plants are operated by states. A lot of these laboratories that have the nuclear accidents are privately owned.

I have a list here of some of the hiccups that have occurred on the road to a nuclear future. It is quite an extensive list. I do not think time will permit me to share all of these hiccups with members, but they are not limited to underdeveloped nations that do not have the technology to deal with or supervise the operation of nuclear power plants.

There was a partial core meltdown in Monroe, Michigan. The sodium cooling system malfunction caused a partial meltdown on October 5, 1966. My parents were marching around outside nuclear power plants saying “no nukes” in 1966. They had that written on signs. At the time, they were worried that nuclear energy was leading to nuclear warfare.

In Wood River, Rhode Island, there was a critical accident with the handling of uranium solution. The tank containing 93% uranium-235 was being agitated by a stirrer. The worker, intending to add a bottle of trichloroethane to remove organics, erroneously added a bottle of uranium solution to the tank.

Accidents happen, as we know. In my field, we might chop off a finger when an accident happens, and it is a tragedy. When we are dealing with a nuclear power station, we can cause serious problems for the planet.

In Galloway, Scotland, there was a partial core meltdown when graphite debris partially blocked a fuel channel, causing the fuel element to melt.

These are fairly innocent, innocuous things. There is no great oversight involved here. There are finely tuned, technical things that can happen. If Bill C-5 in any way diminishes the safety enforcement or regime associated with the nuclear industry, we are against it.

Based on this pile of statistics alone, this should be enough to compel most Canadians to say, “We do not want to go down this road if that is where it is leading”.

At the Mayak Enterprise in Russia, there was a criticality accident with plutonium solution. In Obninsk, Russia, there was a terrible radiation accident at a nuclear power plant involving the manipulation of the fuel rods.

The potential for accidents is overwhelming at almost every step of the process, never mind the storage. I live in Manitoba where there is now the bright idea that spent nuclear rods will be stored in a deep underground storage plant in and around the eastern part of the province, in the deep granite of the Precambrian Shield.

The industry really does not have a satisfactory way of or idea about how to store spent power rods, which still have enormously long half-lives, other than to keep them in great swimming pools full of water. We cannot find a swimming pool in the inner city of Winnipeg for children to swim in, yet the countryside is littered with Olympic-sized swimming pools full of spent nuclear power rods.

Again, these accidents do not always occur just in underdeveloped nations that do not have the technology to supervise nuclear facilities properly. The Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois had a critical accident with uranium particles in plastic. It turned out that was a bad idea, because the doses to four individuals were 136 rads. That level of exposure is fatal. Workers in the nuclear industry were being deceived as to the hazard.

I am no stranger to that. It makes me furious when industries that know full well certain things are hazardous do not inform their employees. I worked in the asbestos industry for many years. They were lying to us about the health hazards of asbestos then, just as they are lying to us today about the health hazards of asbestos. But the asbestos cartel is so powerful that it has even the Conservative Government of Canada kowtowing to it today. Canada is still the second largest exporter of asbestos in the world, even though we now know full well that asbestos is a killer and there is no safe level of asbestos anywhere--

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. member for Tobique--Mactaquac is rising on another point of order.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I know the member said that we were taking what he called a rather circuitous route to get there, but I am still trying to find the relevance to Bill C-5, nuclear liability, in the comments the hon. member is making. I am sure he has some great things to say about the bill. I just wish he would talk about the bill.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I am sure the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has been taking circuitous routes here and there and then hitting on subjects that have to do with the bill after explaining why he has done it, perhaps being a little far away from the principle of the bill from time to time. I am glad the hon. member for Tobique—Mactaquac is paying such close attention and is able to remind the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre of the necessity for addressing the bill before the House at all times in his speech.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was quite innocently trying to illustrate that a lot of industries and the corporate sector are negligent in warning workers in their industry about the potential hazards, the nuclear industry being one of them.

I was using the asbestos industry as another example of how the asbestos industry and the nuclear industry have successfully duped the general public into believing that their product and their industry are safer than they really are. Let me put it that way.

They do so, as I illustrated earlier, by spending hundreds of millions of dollars in marketing and PR campaigns to try to convince the public that there is really nothing to be afraid of and that we can dismantle our safety regime, such as Bill C-5 does, because, they say, “trust us” and they will take care of us.

This book by Dr. Helen Caldicott should be mandatory reading for anyone who intends to vote on Bill C-5. I urge everyone to read this book tonight, tomorrow or whenever they can before they vote on Bill C-5. I guarantee that it will turn people around on a dime. If they intended to support this bill, they will not any more after they read the cautionary tale associated with this book. Bill C-5 is designed to protect corporations more than citizens.

I know I am getting short on time, so I am coming to a conclusion. The point I was making about demand side management is that Canada is better than reverting to nuclear as a solution to our greenhouse gas emissions problems. We are smarter than that. We have the technology.

We should be leading the world in demand side management measures. We should be a centre of excellence for all the world to see in energy retrofitting, doing our public buildings first, our institutional buildings second, our private buildings third, and then every home in the country.

I remember the residents of a small town, Espanola, Ontario, who made up their minds about this when the member for Toronto Centre was the premier of Ontario in the early 1990s. They decided to see how far they could go. They decided to see how much energy they could save if they energy retrofitted, even to a small degree, every home, business, gas station, hospital and school in all of Espanola, Ontario.

The results were staggering. Even without comprehensive retrofitting, even with minor retrofitting, they harvested units of energy out of Espanola that they sold to the rest of the province, and they precluded the need for building any more nuclear power plants for quite some time.

If only we would expand that reasoning across the whole province. We have not even scratched the surface in harvesting units of energy out of the existing system. It is like mining for gold. Energy is gold these days. There is gold going up the smokestacks or leaking out of the leaky windows of every building in the country.

I began my speech by saying that a unit of energy harvested out of the existing system by demand side management measures is indistinguishable from a unit of energy produced at a generating station, except for a number of important differences.

First, it is available at one-third the cost.

Second, it is online and available for resale immediately. The moment we turn off that light switch in a room, that unit of energy is available for the light switch next door to be turned on.

Third, it precludes the need to borrow billions of dollars to build a generating station.

Fourth, it creates seven times the person-years of employment. If we are concerned about employing another generation as our manufacturing sector goes down the tubes and every job in the country is given to China, this give us employment as we energy retrofit our building stock. We can develop a technology and an expertise that we can export around the world. We will become known as champions of energy retrofit technology and energy conservation measures. That is an export technology I can be proud of.

I do not approve of giving loans so that countries can buy CANDU reactors from us, set up CANDU reactors in their countries and create bombs. We created the nuclear risk between India and Pakistan because we gave them both nuclear capabilities. We paid for it with loans that were never repaid. We did the same in Romania.

We are so desperate to sell our bloody reactors that we give countries the money to buy the reactors from us and we do not even ask them to repay the loans. I would rather be exporting energy retrofit technology. The best and most energy efficient windows in the world should come from Canada. The best energy efficient furnaces should come from Canada.

We should be proud to lead the world in this because we have the intelligence, the technology and the educational background. If we only had the political will.

It makes me want to cry when the only idea that we see debated in this country on energy and greenhouse gas emissions is a carbon tax on home heating fuel that will make some poor senior citizen living in northern Canada, who is already paying $800 a month for home heating fuel, pay more. However, the guy who drives a Hummer will not pay any penalty. He will enjoy the tax cut that is supposed to come from this poor little old lady who is paying astronomical home heating bills.

If that is the level of debate we are having, we are wasting our time, our God given talent and the gift of technology in this country. We are completely blowing it in terms of an opportunity to develop the technology of energy retrofitting and demand-side management.

Before the member for Tobique—Mactaquac interrupted me, I was saying that 68,000 buildings in this country are owned by the federal government. What a brilliant place to start as a demonstration project, first to show the private sector and then to show the world how it can be done. Copenhagen has just declared that it will be the most energy efficient city in the world in the next 10 years and it has set about a cooperative public-private partnership to make that so.

We could do that on a national scale if there was any kind of vision. If we had a national dream to become that country, we would be that country. Instead, we are tinkering with rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic by adding a carbon tax in all the wrong places. It is a complete diversion that will waste the time, energy and intellectual capacity of the nation when that energy and capacity should be applied to something transformative and meaningful as we wean ourselves off dirty energy and embrace clean energy.

Yes, hydroelectricity is good and I am proud that the province of Manitoba will meet its Kyoto targets. It already is because of all the hydroelectricity it produces. I wish the Minister of the Environment was here. If it could sell that clean hydroelectricity east-west instead of just north-south, it could help Ontario wean itself off of its dirty energy and nuclear energy. Saskatchewan would benefit enormously, God bless it. However, there are three or four important key elements that need to fall into place before we can go down that road.

As we contemplate nuclear energy as an alternative, we would be negligent and irresponsible if we ignored the actual empirical evidence associated with the use of nuclear, such as in Kiev, Ukraine on February 4, 1970. We do not hear about these things in the national news, partly because, I would not call it a conspiracy, there is an unwillingness to share all of the facts. We have the Voronezh nuclear power plant in Russia in 1971. Bhopal is another liability and the costs associated with cleaning it up.

Bill C-5 would limit that liability. We are almost doing the industry's dirty work for it. Rather than the industry ensuring it does not happen any more, we are limiting its liability to $650 million. That does not pay for the cleanup of a great deal of contamination in a major nuclear incident. What if we had something on the scale of Bhopal, my colleague from Western Arctic asks. There was a chemical spill at that time and 3,000 people were killed and 10,000 people were affected.

We could have thousands of people affected by a nuclear incident and the total liability would be $650 million. I say that one individual being affected for a lifetime could be eligible for a settlement of millions of dollars. This liability would only pay for perhaps a couple of hundred people. It is wrong-headed and it should be defeated.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the member touched on a number of significant issues and some of them deal with the directions the government is taking on energy.

What have we seen so far? We have seen a $2.2 billion investment in ethanol, in biofuels, which, in many respects, internationally is not considered to be a very good investment at all. If it does not have conditions attached to it, we may end up importing corn ethanol from the United States at a higher greenhouse gas emission rate than if we had just left gasoline in the tank. That is one of the things that the Conservative government has done.

The second is that it just put a quarter of a billion dollars into clean coal technology in Saskatchewan. The Conservative government in Saskatchewan is throwing in three-quarters of a billion dollars and industry is topping it up with $300 million. They are creating a 100-megawatt plant for $1.3 billion. This will never be cost effective.

The budget has $300 million in it for nuclear, once again subsidizing an industry that has been around for 50 years, to keep it on its feet and to try to make it work. We see the same thing with the MAPLE reactors. Big dollars have gone into it, with no results.

Perhaps my colleague could speak to this a bit. What is it about the Conservatives, supported, in most cases, by the Liberals, in their inability to look at energy in terms of all the options and really come up with answers for Canadians that will work?

Instead, we see this “I'll fund this project in your riding if you fund this project in my riding” approach that is going on right now in Parliament, with no cohesive plan. It is not being done on the best advice of our scientists. As BIOCAP Canada quite clearly said in its reports to us with regard to biofuels, that we are taking these actions without thinking them through.

Does my hon. colleague know why do the Conservatives and Liberals continue to do things in such an ad hoc, piecemeal fashion?

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Western Arctic quite rightly points out that it is the absence of a cohesive plan, an overall central strategy that is worrisome, because often these piecemeal bits and pieces are at the whim or the will of an aggressive corporate lobby. They are individual incidents but they create a motif or a theme.

We recently dealt with Bill C-7 where the government is dismantling the safety associated with the air transportation system. Now we are dealing with the nuclear industry where the government is dismantling the safety provisions in the nuclear industry. I would suggest that not one person in this House should vote on this bill until they have read Dr. Helen Caldicott's book, Nuclear Power is Not the Answer. I implore members to get the book out of the library and read it. I will put it back today because I have read it.

I want to point out that the nuclear safety record in the world when compiled is a staggering and horrifying list. We have the explosion and combustion of the graphite reactor core in Pripyat, Ukraine that spread radioactive material over much of Europe. That was not in 1956 at the advent of the nuclear age. That was in 1986. Some 300,000 people had to be evacuated from the fallout areas.

We would think that would have ground the nuclear industry to a halt and that it would have regrouped to ensure that could never, ever happen again. However, in 1989, in Greifswald, Germany, fuel damage operators disabled three of the six cooling pumps. However, instead of the automatic shutdown, the fourth pump failed causing excessive heating which damaged and exposed 10 fuel rods. Workers again were hurt.

Earlier that year, at Hamm/Uentrop power station in Germany, fuel damaged spherical fuel pebbles became lodged in a pipe used to deliver fuel elements.

The technology is so complex that every step of the way is fraught with potential failures. I am a tradesman. I am a carpenter by nature and I have been in installations of hydroelectric dams. I have never worked on a nuclear power plant but I know the complexity associated with generating energy and the room for failure in a hydroelectric dam when it stops producing energy for a while.

The possibility for failure in an incident associated with a nuclear power plant is that it can devastate whole communities, whole regions and contaminate them for generations to come. However, the government is trying to pass a bill today that would put the maximum liability on any nuclear company that has this kind of a nuclear incident, for Monty Burns, $650 million, which is peanuts. A couple of hundred people alone who were affected by some of these accidents would easily burn that up in the liability lawsuits that are bound to follow.

Somewhere out there Homer Simpson is running a nuclear power plant. Somewhere out there Monty Burns is lobbying the Conservative Government of Canada today to ensure the safety regulations are not too onerous because “How am I supposed to make a buck cranking out nuclear energy if you make me pay for my mistakes?”.

I put it to the government that if we are looking to nuclear power to meet our energy needs in the coming decades, we are not trying hard enough. In fact, we have ignored the obvious and we have embraced the outdated technology.

The post-war era was tragic in many respects. The petrochemical industry, the asbestos industry and the nuclear industry ran amok. We are just beginning to realize that we have soiled our own nest to the point where we can hardly live here any more if we do not change our ways.

We do not want to see the Darlington nuclear power plant doubled in size. We want to see it shut down. We want to see clean energy from demand-side management, from energy retrofitting, from solar and wind energy. We do not want to see the industry contemplating the next generation of nuclear power.

Some of us believe it was a mistake. We believe that a government with some vision and leadership would have done more than expand or compound the problem. We also believe that an opposition party with some leadership would come up with something better than the carbon tax that it is flogging today, because it will not tax the guy who drives the Hummer. The people who are trying to heat their home in the western Arctic at $800 a month for home heating fuel will to pay the carbon tax. The guy driving the Hummer will pay nothing because it is excluded.

The government will take money from the person in the western Arctic heating their home but give a tax break to the guy driving the Hummer. That is the most convoluted, pretzel logic I have ever heard in terms of meeting a well-defined environmental problem.

We have been let down by both sides of the House today, with the exception of this little end where the NDP lives, where people are hearing some reasoned debate. The Conservatives have let us down with Bill C-5, hobnobbing with nuclear lobbyists again. I believe they have fallen victim to a bunch of clever lobbyists again. We have been let down by the official opposition as well because those members have come up with something that will suck all the life out of the debate about reducing carbon emissions.

We only get one shot to capture the public's imagination, if we are to talk about limiting carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the debate is going to be about defeating this bad idea instead of being about solutions. We are going to have to waste our energy defeating the government's bad idea first before the genuine debate can begin.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's presentation and most of it was just over the top rhetoric, causing completely unnecessary concern among Canadians when it comes to nuclear power.

However, one thing I really have a concern about is the way he portrayed people who worked at nuclear power plants, and that is completely unacceptable. He portrayed them as Homer Simpsons running the plant. He may think it is funny, but people who operate our power plants are extremely well trained, capable people. The member should apologize for that portrayal of workers at nuclear power plants.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I only point out the empirical evidence of the nuclear accidents in recent history that give great cause for concern.

If I spoke frivolously about the people who work at nuclear power plants, it is out of sympathy not out of any malice. Just like when I worked in the asbestos industry and it lied to me about the health hazards of asbestos, people who work in the nuclear industry on the front line are at risk and I believe they have been lied to about those risks. Most of these incidents do not talk about the community being contaminated. Most of these incidents resulted in the workers being contaminated and, in many cases, being killed by the nuclear risk associated with their job.

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, once again it is my pleasure to appear before a full House to speak to Bill C-5. I notice my friend, the hon. member for Prince Albert, who knew I was speaking, decided to listen to my speech today, and I thank him for that.

First, I want to zero in on Bill C-5, speak a little about it and try to put it the context of what we are dealing with when we look at energy.

In an overview of Bill C-5, the Conservative government is taking what some would say a cavalier toward nuclear safety, and this recklessness is being supported by the other two opposition parties.

The bill will shortchange ordinary Canadians who get sick and die from a nuclear accident, or may lose all they own because of contamination or lose a family member who dies from cancer or radiation sickness.

The $650 million cap on compensation is not sufficient. The United States has a limit of $10 billion. Germany has an unlimited amount. Many countries are moving toward unlimited amounts. No private insurance is available, and it has been estimated that a nuclear accident would cost billions of dollars in damage, personal injury and death.

Let us look at nuclear safety. Despite assurances from the nuclear industry, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Windscale all show that the potential for a nuclear accident is real. Later on, if I have some time, I will once again give an account of some of the accidents that have happened in this industry.

The safety of nuclear installations must be paramount. We have already seen the government willing to put the lives and property of Canadians at risk to keep unsafe nuclear reactors running.

The nuclear industry is not really a green choice, as opposed to what some people might want us to believe. Nuclear waste remains deadly for thousands of years.

A few weeks ago I gave a brief statement on depleted uranium and the effects it had on those who used weapons containing depleted uranium, not only the soldiers of those armies who use these weapons, but civilian populations in countries such as Iraq.

Canada exports uranium to the United States with supposed assurances that it will never be used for weapons. However, experts say that some of it actually creeps into depleted uranium weapons, which then endangers the lives of people in those areas.

The last time I spoke with regard to depleted uranium, I mentioned a film which graphically illustrated the damaging effects. I have asked the government to ensure that we become a leader in banning and abolishing all the depleted uranium weapons in the world.

A person exposed to a used nuclear fuel bundle will be dead within an hour. There is no long term storage solution that has been found for the waste. The processing of fuel and waste has resulted in widespread contamination requiring expensive cleanups, and I cite the example of Fort Hope, Ontario and Rayrock Mine in the Northwest Territories.

Before moving on, I will mention that some people on this continent and in the world are tracking nuclear power reactors and the effects they have on surrounding populations. It would be very wise for our government to explore the possibility of doing a comprehensive study, at least in our country, and perhaps coordinating it with our neighbours to the south, to see what effects there are on the health of people who live in the surrounding areas of nuclear reactors.

Approximately a month ago I met with Dr. Leuren Moret from the United States. She has been quite heavily involved in the nuclear industry and is one of the leaders in the world exposing the danger of depleted uranium. She has been coordinating and looking at studies that link the effects on health with nuclear reactors. In addition to cancer, there is some evidence pointing to the correlation between high rates of diabetes and the proximity to nuclear reactors. Whether this is in fact the case, whether this is science, I am not sure, but these concerns warrant an investigation.

Our country should take the lead on this and say that we will challenge the world to investigate the fact that some people may suffer and die from the effects of living too close to nuclear reactors. As we move on in this debate, this is one of the things at which we could look.

The answer is not in building more nuclear reactors. In the budget the government has been investing in nuclear energy. It seems there is quite a lot of money for nuclear energy, but very little for green alternatives, such as solar power, wind power, wave generation, geothermal and all kinds of things that truly are green clean sources of energy, which have very little impact and leave a much smaller footprint on our planet. The government should be supporting more of these sources of energy in our country.

If the passage of the bill allows the expansion of nuclear power in our country, it will be a big step backward for us in our quest to have a greener and cleaner energy source in many ways. We need to ensure that it not only does not create greenhouse gases, which it does not in that respect, but we need to look at if for other things, such as the waste, the mining that takes place and the tragedy, human and otherwise, to which I just alluded, that it could inflict if there were to be an accident.

It is not the green source of energy we should invest in so heavily. We should be thinking of much cleaner greener ways to go. I will outline a few points from our NDP plan for the environment in a few minutes.

Bill C-5 limits the total liability of a nuclear operator to $650 million, which is the bottom of the international average. This is not enough.

Before outlining some of the tragic instances of nuclear accidents that have happened, it is important for us to realize there is another way of conserving energy and making our planet much more conducive to the environment. One way is what our party has proposed, and that is a cap and trade system. This is a mechanism at the heart of the Kyoto protocol. In fact, both candidates for the president of the United States have embraced cap and trade, making it a key tool in the continental fight against climate change. Cap and trade has already been tested in Europe and the NDP's plan builds on the lessons learned there.

My colleague, the hon. member for Outremont. was at an OECD conference in Europe. He said that the Europeans were embracing cap and trade as the way to conserve energy and fight climate change. They were not holding on to the fallacy of trying to put a tax on carbon so ordinary people would suffer, as my colleague from Winnipeg Centre pointed out.

When we called on other parties to reject the Conservative's dead on arrival clean air act and work together to build better legislation, the resulting legislation was deemed a breakthrough bill by environmental groups. The centrepiece of the bill was a carbon pricing regime. However, that is not enough. In addition to this method, which works, we need to create jobs in the green environment sector.

We would propose a green collar jobs fund be established that would allocate $1 billion per year to train workers, displaced workers and new entrants to the job market, so they could be provided with the skills that would be necessary to power Canada into the new energy economy.

The green collar jobs fund would be used to leverage training apprenticeships and investment partnerships from provincial and territorial governments, from first nations, Métis and Inuit communities, and from the private sector. For my hon. Conservative friends I repeat, from the private sector.

High skills training would be needed for such areas as installing and maintaining energy efficient and renewable energy technology for alternative cars and fuels, manufacturing parts for wind turbines and other new energy technologies, and energy efficiency auditing expertise.

It is a shame that a Canadian solar power private enterprise has to go to Germany to set up business because there is not enough incentive available in our country. Parallel to this, tax breaks are being given to the big oil companies that are reaping billions of dollars in profits. Something in this equation is not right.

At the same time, as we see with this bill, we are limiting the amount of liability in a nuclear accident. As my hon. colleague who spoke before said, there is something wrong in this equation.

In the province of British Columbia, where I come from, we had BC Hydro in control of our public water and our power system. The current government in British Columbia is slowly dismantling the public trust of our waters and our energy and creating what it calls public-private companies to damn the creeks, create energy and sell it on the open market.

I want to emphasize the importance for senior levels of government to take the lead and the initiative. The time is gone when we could just sit back and say that we would let the market take over and let private enterprise run our energy system. It is up to each and every one of us to--

Nuclear Liability and compensation ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I hesitate to interrupt the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior, but it is time to move on to statements by members. I assure him he will have seven and a half minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks when debate on this subject is resumed.

Statements by members. The hon. member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

Carbon Tax ProposalStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, earlier this morning the Liberal leader revealed the details of his carbon tax on everything.

Besides their show of solidarity, many Liberal MPs are on record opposing a carbon tax. The member for Wascana previously said, “A carbon tax is not a part of our planning or our thinking”. The member for Kings—Hants said, “I am strongly against energy taxes”. The member for Vaughan said, “It is certainly not an option for me”. Only a few short months ago, the member for Ottawa South insisted his leader opposed a carbon tax. He said, “Our leader's position on carbon tax remains the same. He is not in favour of a carbon tax at this time”. The Liberal leader himself said, “There will be no carbon tax”.

Why did the Liberal leader and his followers mislead Canadians? Why do they want to bother seniors, fixed income Canadians, struggling small business owners, air travellers and all Canadians with a massive carbon tax on everything?

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, this Saturday Canada will celebrate National Aboriginal Day.

National Aboriginal Day was first proclaimed by a Liberal government 12 years ago in recognition of the contributions first nations, Métis and Inuit have made to Canada.

It is important to note that last week's apology to residential school survivors was made possible by many. They include: residential school survivor Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine; Willie Blackwater and other survivors like him who have the courage to speak out and pursue justice; former first nations member of Parliament Gary Merasty, whose motion calling on the government to apologize to survivors was unanimously adopted by members of Parliament in May 2007; my colleagues from LaSalle—Émard, Fredericton and Mount Royal; and former deputy prime minister Anne McLellan.

Their courage, commitment and dedication in seeing this apology through to fruition is something of which all Canadians should be proud.

On National Aboriginal Day we will celebrate these Canadians and thank them for their perseverance and their resolve.

Drummond Association for the DisabledStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, in 1986, people with reduced mobility wanted to appear before the Drummondville city council to oppose a development project, but they had to turn back, because city hall was not accessible for them. This turn of events led to the creation of the Association des personnes handicapées de Drummond 20 years ago.

To mark this anniversary, the association is launching its website “Drummond accessible”, which lists some 3,000 businesses, buildings and public areas in Drummondville, and identifies each location's level of accessibility and any specific problems that might be encountered. Each location has been visited and the facilities assessed, providing an opportunity to speak directly with business owners about accessibility.

I would like to congratulate Daniel Mailhot, the association's director, as well as everyone who works to integrate persons with disabilities into all of society's spheres of activity.

HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, Statistics Canada says an estimated 4.1 million Canadians aged 12 or older are without a family doctor. Almost 40,000 of them are in Hamilton.

Amazingly, Hamilton is not considered an underserviced area because McMaster University has a medical school. Incredibly, the provincial Liberals are using taxpayer dollars to pay graduates to move away from Hamilton.

This chronic shortage of doctors and nurses puts the health of seniors and hard-working families at risk.

The federal government has to step up to the plate and it has to do it now. After 13 years of Liberal neglect and cutbacks, both wait times and doctor shortages exploded.

Despite the Conservatives' election promise of a wait times guarantee, the shortage of health care professionals is continuing to worsen under the Conservative government. Ontarians probably will not be surprised by this. After all, the federal health minister was mentored by his former boss, Ontario premier Mike Harris, who fired hundreds of nurses and likened the profession to outdated hula hoops.

We need a serious federal contribution to recruit and retain health care professionals and to promote careers in the health sciences.

The health and well-being of hard-working families in Hamilton and right across Canada depend on it.

Carbon Tax ProposalStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, today the Liberal leader is desperately trying to spin that his regressive carbon tax plan would be revenue neutral. This is completely unbelievable.

Environmentalists do not believe his tax trick would be revenue neutral. David Coon, policy director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said, “This is not an emissions reducing tax. It's a revenue generating tax to finance objectives that are definitely not of the environmental kind”.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said, “We do not believe that carbon taxes can be truly revenue neutral. will certainly not be revenue neutral for consumers.”

The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association executive director said, “Transportation costs would rise with increased fuel costs as a result of carbon taxes, prices of consumer goods and food would rise.... The bottom line is that adding taxes only adds to transportation costs which add to increased costs for consumers”.

Don Drummond, chief economist for the TD Bank, said after analyzing the plan, “It's never going to be revenue neutral”.

When will the leader--

Carbon Tax ProposalStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Fredericton.

HeroismStatements By Members

June 19th, 2008 / 2:05 p.m.


Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to pay tribute to the bravery of three heroes from my riding: Evan Green, Nick Lannigan and Ryan Atwin.

Concerned after spotting smoke coming from the back of a building, these three teenagers rescued a 60-year-old gentleman after seeing him lie helplessly on the floor through a window. Their heroism continued when they alerted sleeping tenants of the danger and assisted in the evacuation of the building.

These three young men were recently honoured as heroes and given life-saving awards at the St. John Ambulance's annual awards ceremony.

I invite my fellow members to join with me in thanking these fine young citizens for their courage and inspiring their community.

Carbon Tax ProposalStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians will not be tricked by the Liberals' plan to tax an extra $15 billion with their new carbon tax and they surely will not be tricked by the Liberals' claim that this is going to somehow be revenue neutral. History is littered with attempts by previous governments to bring in taxes cloaking them as revenue neutral.

Canadians know better. They have seen this movie before. They remember the dawn of the gun registry and the GST. Canadians will not be tricked. Even the leader himself said this carbon tax was simply bad policy.

This plan for a carbon tax just reconfirms what we already knew about the Liberals. They never met a tax they did not like. They never met a tax they would not hike.