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-