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House of Commons Hansard #59 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was insurance.

Topics

Sri LankaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition from over 125 residents of greater Vancouver, including many from the city of Burnaby, who are very concerned about the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka, and in particular the urgent situation of the Tamil population.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to use all possible diplomatic means at its disposal to end the violence in Sri Lanka. They also call for respect for human rights throughout Sri Lanka. They want to ensure that food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are able to reach the combat zone, and they want Canada to work toward a lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present. The first is from constituents in the Fraser Valley.

The petitioners say there is a number of severe, potentially life threatening conditions that do not qualify for disability programs because they are not necessarily permanent.

Residents find themselves losing their homes and livelihoods while trying to fight these severe medical conditions.

The petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to enact legislation to provide additional medical EI benefits equal to maternity EI benefits.

Identity TheftPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

The second petition, Mr. Speaker, is from my constituents in beautiful Langley, British Columbia.

It says it has been estimated that identity theft costs Canadian consumers, banks and credit card firms, stores and other businesses more than $2 billion annually.

The petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to support and pass government legislation that will create three new offences directly targeting aspects of the identity theft problem, all subject to a five-year maximum sentence.

Income TrustsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, and as certified by the Clerk of Petitions, I am pleased to present yet another income trust broken promise petition on behalf of my constituent, Mr. Neville Schepmyer.

The petitioners remember the Prime Minister boasting about his apparent commitment to accountability when he said “the greatest fraud is a promise not kept”.

The petitioners want to remind the Prime Minister that he promised never to tax income trusts. He recklessly broke that promise. He imposed a 31.5% punitive tax, which permanently wiped out over $25 billion of the hard-earned retirement savings of over 2 million Canadians, particularly seniors.

The petitioners call upon the Conservative minority government, first, to admit that the decision to tax income trust was based on flawed methodology and incorrect assumptions; secondly, to apologize to those who were unfairly harmed by this broken promise, this tax increase; and finally, to repeal the 31.5% tax on income trusts.

Protection of Human LifePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a second petition.

I had the opportunity to address several hundred students who were here for the march for life. It is on the subject matter of legislation for the protection of human life from the time of conception until natural death.

The petitioners would like to remind us that Canada is a country that respects human rights and includes in its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that everyone has the right to life. They also point out that it has been 40 years, since May 14, 1969, when Parliament changed the law to permit abortion, and also that since January 28, 1988, Canada has not had a law to protect the lives of the unborn child.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to pass legislation for the protection of human life from the time of conception until natural death.

Canada-Colombia Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, my first petition has approximately 100 signatures, and it is with regard to the Canada-Colombia trade deal.

The petitioners recite a number of reasons, mostly around the lack of safe protection for labour rights in this trade deal. They call on the government to reject the trade deal until the human rights impact assessment can be done and that the trade deal be rewritten to take into account both environmental and labour standards that would be reflected in that assessment.

Sri LankaPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition, which has approximately 150 to 175 signatures, is with regard to the tragedy in Sri Lanka

I was in Sri Lanka several years ago, and I met with a number of the various political parties. The tragedy that is going on there is reflected in this petition. It is demanding that the Canadian government take a more active role at the international level to bring some sanity to that situation, both around the current bombing by the government and the attack by the Tamil insurgency against the civilians.

The petition is drawing attention to the tragedy that is going on with regard to the civilian population to this Chamber, and it is calling on the government to take a much more aggressive role at the international level to try to bring a halt to the fighting.

Canada-Colombia Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition from approximately 200 people. It is a petition to stop the Canada-Colombia trade deal.

There is continuing, ongoing violence against workers by paramilitary forces in Colombia. It has been ongoing for some time. More than 2,200 trade unionists have been murdered since 1991, and there has been violence against indigenous people. There have been murders of human rights activists, which increased in 2008.

The trade deal does not provide effective protection and lacks enforcement mechanisms. All trade agreements must be built on principles of fair trade with respect to social justice, human rights, labour rights and environmental stewardship as prerequisites to trade.

The petitioners want this Parliament to reject the Canada-Colombia trade deal until an independent human rights impact assessment is carried out.

Canada-Colombia Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present yet another petition, from more than 100 Canadians, who are raising concerns about the same Canada-Colombia free trade deal. This is a result, in large part, of some of the efforts of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who some say is the hardest working MP in this place, to bring attention to this dramatically serious issue.

The petitioners are asking the government to put words into actions in this trade deal, to have an independent observation of the human rights impacts of such a deal and to understand the implications toward the environment, both of which have been ignored by the trade deal that has been presented.

There are well over 100 Canadians raising their voices in the effort to stop this failed plan and this failed trade deal.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:25 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 ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

When question period started, 10 minutes were available for questions and comments for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

I see the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valleyis rising.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the criticisms of this bill when it was introduced in the previous Parliament is that there was no clear demonstration of the public consultation that was required in the act. The government had previously talked about speaking to communities that were affected, that were either near a nuclear facility or that had some connection to these facilities.

I can recall that in the previous Parliament we called upon the government to produce the list of consultations that had gone on, indicating the dates, the places, the names of those who had shown up and the groups that were represented. We never received that from the government.

The reason I raised this question to my colleague is that around such a critical issue as nuclear safety and nuclear liability, and I am not sure there is a more dramatic consultation required because the effects on a community or on the environment if something happened would be enormous, it is absolutely incumbent upon the government to actually speak to Canadians and to present these public forums.

That list was requested from the previous Parliament. It was never brought forward. I am requesting it again. That consultation has always been a hallmark. It has been spoken of, but often we suspect that only a few from industry are actually contacted and that the communities at large are never brought to bear on the issue and cannot bring their concerns to the government. This is absolutely critical. We are talking about the liability connected to a nuclear facility.

I wonder whether the parliamentary secretary has that list available for us today, and would he tell us the dates, the places, those contacted, and the groups and organizations that were involved? Without this list, it is very difficult for New Democrats, millions of Canadians who support us and those who are affected by this issue to feel confident in the government and feel confident that the liability scheme imagined in this bill would actually get the job done. I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could produce that list for us today.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member understands the process we went through. This bill is actually in its third reincarnation. It came in as Bill C-63. It was Bill C-5 in the last Parliament, and now it is Bill C-20.

He was not at committee last time, but we did have extensive consultations. We had open committee meetings. We had the communities come in. We had the interested parties come to speak to us. Obviously, we have talked to the industry as well. There have been broad consultations at least twice on this bill. We bring it forward with the support of the communities, the support of the industry, and we believe with the support of Canadians as well. The NDP members were the only ones who were opposing this bill last time, and we understand they will likely do that again.

However, the reality is that this bill has been put together. It has been crafted with input from a lot of different Canadians and with the industry as well. We certainly look forward to support from the other parties in this House, because this bill is long overdue. We need to raise the liability limits. It is something that everyone acknowledges. Certainly we hope the NDP members will not stand in the way of protecting Canadians, as they did last time.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker the parliamentary secretary talked about bringing the insurance level in line with other jurisdictions. He also talked about our CANDU reactors in Canada, the tremendous safety record they have and the tremendous redundancies they have built into their technologies to ensure we do not have an accident.

We did hear a lot of testimony in the last Parliament on this bill. People commented about the potential loss with regard to some of these accidents that could happen.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could take a bit of time to comment with respect to how raising the level from $75 million to $650 million compares to other jurisdictions and how the safety record of our existing facilities in this country makes the $650 million more than adequate for what is required.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian nuclear industry has an outstanding safety record. The member for Tobique—Mactaquac has worked with me and the government side on this issue for some time now. He was on the natural resources committee last time and did an outstanding job as we tried to bring Bill C-5 through the legislative process. He is working on that same committee this time on Bill C-20. We rely on him for his memory and contributions and we appreciate them.

Our industry in Canada has been safe and has had a tremendous record in that matter. When we came to put this new legislation together, we needed to decide how high the level of insurance needed to be. There needs to be a level of insurance that is adequate in the case of an incident but it also needs to protect Canadian citizens and it cannot be so high that it is impossible for the operators to even get insurance.

The limit they came up with was $650 million and we feel it really fits the public's need for adequate compensation in the event of any foreseeable incident at a Canadian nuclear facility. As I mentioned, we need to balance the need to ensure adequate victim compensation without burdening operators with costs that are completely unrealistic. We could have taken a number of different avenues but we made this choice for a number of reasons.

As I need to wrap up, maybe I can get into the reasons as to why we chose $650 million on my next answer. Others will speak to that as well.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two specific questions as a follow up to what was discussed earlier.

The parliamentary secretary talked about the liability cap of $650 million. I just want to know specifically if that meets the demands and requests made by the various stakeholders. Is that a sufficient level? If he was about to explain how he developed that amount and how they came to that amount, that would be greatly appreciated.

Second, does the legislation allow the industry to shop for insurance outside of Canada? If the parliamentary secretary could answer those questions, it would be greatly appreciated.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that there is one insurance provider within Canada that will be providing that insurance.

I just want to talk a little bit about the comparison with some of the other venues as well before I get into the details of the $650 million. This compares favourably with what is happening in other countries that have nuclear facilities. There are a number of different ways that countries approach this but what we are doing here is in line with what most of the other countries do and it is line with the limits that other countries have on their liability requirements.

I just want to run through a couple of reasons why we have done this. The $650 million liability limit exceeds what we believe is the public's need for adequate compensation in the event of an foreseeable incident. It balances the need for victim compensation with the requirement for the operator to provide insurance. It responds to the recommendations of the Senate committee on energy, the environment and natural resources from a number of years ago that felt that this was an adequate limit.

It reflects insurance capacity, which is also important. If insurance is required to be carried, the industry must find a capacity where the insurance industry is able to carry that. There are some other areas that are moving to limits that are a little higher and some that are at lower limits. For example, the Americans require a little bit less on each of their individual facilities. However, we believe this is appropriate here.

I think it is important that we recognize that the amounts can be raised by regulation. There will be a review regularly and if it is found not be adequate, it can be increased. That has not been done in the present legislation.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the parliamentary secretary who knows a great deal about this. I want to follow up on the question asked by my colleague from the Liberals. The liability limit in the U.S. is somewhere in the range of $10 billion for such insurance accidents. As proposed in this bill, Canada comes in at $650 million.

The Americans have an upper limit of liability 1500% higher than what our government is proposing. Could the member clarify why the Americans' liability on their facilities, which have the very same scope and scale of nuclear facilities, not that much bigger and not affecting that many more people, is so much more restricted under his bill rather than matching what the Americans have done.

The fact that insurance companies will not insure these facilities is of some note. No other industry enjoys such favourable dealings with the government.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we can already see the NDP's enthusiasm for one more government initiative.

The reality in the United States is that individual operators are required to carry $370 million in primary insurance and another $135 million in secondary insurance. They also pool their resources. The industry in the United States is much bigger than it is here in Canada.

In order to deal with this issue fairly, as well as with the operators, the Canadian taxpayers and the industry itself, we believe the $650 million is more than adequate to deal with any of the incidents that we may be able to foresee.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-20, which deals with the important issue of civil liability and compensation in the event of a nuclear accident at a Canadian facility.

The Liberal Party supports this bill in principle but will use the natural resources committee to give it careful consideration in assessing whether it should be a mandate. We believe this legislation seeks to replace the outdated Nuclear Liability Act of 1976.

The bill has had a long history, the result of a decade of discussions that I am proud to say began under previous Liberal governments.These issues are complex, which is why we will be studying this bill and listening to expert testimony of individuals who understand these very complex issues. This bill deals with the fundamental aspect of Canadian nuclear safety by seeking to establish a clear regime in the event of a nuclear accident. It lays out rules for compensation and civil liability in the event of a radioactive release from a Canadian nuclear installation.

The bill retains the basic principles of the 1976 act by ensuring that nuclear operators remain absolutely and exclusively liable for damage. It requires that they carry insurance but limits the liability in time and money. The bill also ensures that suppliers and contractors are effectively indemnified.

The key aspect of this bill is that it increases the operator liability limit from $75 million to $650 million. That is the core issue. I would like to talk more about that and then ask some questions.

The Department of Natural Resources tells us that the increase reflects a balance of considerations. What we have heard from it so far is that it addresses foreseeable rather than catastrophic risks, that it reflects the insurance capacity that is available in the market at a reasonable cost and that it would put Canada on par with liability limits of many other countries. However, there are still some exceptions and we want to know why.

By putting this legislation forward, the government is responding to the explicit recommendations of the Senate committee on energy, the environment and natural resources that require this type of revision. These issues do not get a lot of media attention. They are not headlines that we see in the newspaper but they are, nevertheless, critical to the safety and security of Canadian nuclear facilities.

The need for a specific regime governing civil liability in compensation in case of a nuclear incident is based on the fact that private insurers have systematically and consistently refused to provide coverage for damage resulting from nuclear incidents. Over time, technology and innovation, coupled with a changing understanding of nuclear science, has meant that the current legislation no longer reflects the needs of Canadians. This threatens the security of the nuclear industry.

In the age of climate change, nuclear technology is critically important to our efforts to build a stable supply of clean energy. Also in a time of recession, the nuclear industry provides high-paying, high tech jobs to thousands of Canadians across the country.

The bill addresses two key aspects. First, it helps us in terms of dealing with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and also the preservation and creation of jobs in the high tech industry.

In fact, a number of my constituents in Mississauga—Brampton South depend on this industry for their livelihoods. They work at the head offices of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, which is in the riding of my very well respected colleague from Mississauga South. That organization alone has provided jobs to thousands of Canadians and has shared its unique expertise and knowledge in 14 offices spread across seven different countries.

Intelligent Canadians going abroad, sharing our expertise and making a name for their country in the process makes us proud of what we as Canadians can achieve abroad. It is in sharp contrast, and I digress a bit, to the silly, unnecessary, unwarranted attacks by the Conservatives on the leader of the official opposition simply because he has taken Canadian experiences abroad. Many Canadians have worked abroad and have returned to Canada and it is unfortunate that those people are viewed negatively by the government.

These are the types of highly-skilled, well-paying jobs that the Conservatives are supposed to be creating for Canadians, jobs that will help us to maintain our global competitive advantage and our high standard of living.

Therefore, one would expect that a bill dealing with such an important issue for such an important industry would rate as a priority for a Conservative government that claims to have the best interests of Canadians at heart. I am sorry to say that the government has failed to act time and time again and, in some cases, actually worked against itself on this issue.

Various other versions of the bill have sprung up under the Conservatives but were shamefully allowed to lapse. In fact, Bill C-5, the bill's immediate predecessor, was being debated at third reading when the Prime Minister broke his own promise for fixed election dates and dissolved the House, killing the bill in the process.

This legislation has not been a priority, which speaks to the lack of trust that I and many others have regarding the Conservative record on nuclear safety.

The Canadian nuclear industry is at a critical crossroads. Its future is uncertain and yet the government continues to delay this important work. What kind of message does that send to nuclear workers and the industry? I suppose I should not be surprised. This is, after all, the government that fired Linda Keen from her position at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, blaming the regulator when it was the minister who should have taken the responsibility.

Before this firing, the Office of the Auditor General submitted a special examination report to the AECL board of directors, pinpointing serious funding deficiencies that were holding back the necessary expansion and upgrading. It would be nice to know where the government stands on this matter but the minister and her government refuse to share their future plans for the crown corporation.

We know, through committee testimony, that the National Bank report, looking at the future of AECL, is in the hands of the minister. The problem is that the last we heard the minister has not even had an opportunity to read it. It is somehow in her department, maybe with some staff, but she does not have the time in her busy schedule to really look at this very important issue.

Again, this an important industry with thousands of Canadian jobs and yet the minister and the government refuse to show any leadership. They prefer to allow uncertainty and mystery to continue and wear the industry down through their inaction.

AECL is banking its future on a bid currently before the Ontario government to sell its next generation of Candu reactors. Candu technology is currently in use at over 40 plants around the world and the future expansion of that business depends on this.

I invite the minister to table the National Bank report today in the House and come clean on her plans for the future of AECL. Too many jobs and the industry depend on it.

Worse than endangering jobs are the lives that we put at risk because the government has not sought to find a way to a stable, long-term supply of medical isotopes, a direct result of the Conservative record on nuclear safety. This year alone there has been three radioactive leaks on the Chalk River site. How can Canadians possibly have trust in a government that refuses to take responsibility for upgrading and ensuring the security of our nuclear facilities?

We need to do what we can to ensure that we have a safe, stable and prosperous nuclear industry. In committee, we will take up that responsibility as we begin and conduct our studies.

A number of vital questions need to be answered before the bill is passed into law. I had the opportunity just a few moments ago to ask questions of the parliamentary secretary and I hope these questions are addressed in committee. Should this legislation allow the industry to shop for insurance outside of Canada? Will they allow for such openness and flexibility? Does the operator liability of $650 million address the needs of all stakeholders? Is it a sufficient level and how was that amount determined? Is that amount comparable to other jurisdictions around the world? What, if any, terms exist for qualification for appointment to the nuclear claims tribunal? What is that criteria? Is that criteria sufficient? In addition, I would seek witness testimony on the definition of nuclear damage laid out in the bill, and whether it is too narrow.

Those are the kinds of questions that need to be addressed but, most important, my colleagues and I will seek to examine in committee powers given to the Minister of Natural Resources to review the liability amount. It is absolutely critical that proper checks and balances are in place.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in committee to tackle these very important issues.

I ask the government to change its approach to the nuclear industry. We need the minister to fight for the health, safety and economic security of all Canadians. If we continue down the same path, the future of the Canadian nuclear industry looks very dim.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments, aside from some of the partisan ones that he threw in.

He was talking about Chalk River and he is well aware from the testimony that was provided in the committee that there was a situation with the reactors and he knows full well that it was contained. That is the evidence that was given. There was no health risk to the public. In any event, we will get past that and we will get on to the bill.

I appreciate in the last Parliament the tremendous support we received from the Liberals to get the bill through. I would like the member to comment on the importance of bringing the legislation up to date and in raising the amount to $650 million. I would also like him to comment on the safety records of the nuclear facilities in Canada and how that will help us, as Canadians, to mitigate the potential insurance that needs to be carried on these units.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by my colleague specifically with respect to nuclear safety.

This is a very important issue. The legislation essentially needs an overhaul. It came into force in 1976. The provisions in the legislation were sufficient to deal with the industry at that time. However, there has been an enormous amount of advancement in technology and innovation, and concerns have been raised over nuclear safety in the past year, as I indicated in my remarks with respect to Chalk River.

It may be a separate debate and I do not want to get into the details of that debate, but in essence, I believe the bill deals with the important issue of civil liability and compensation in the event of a nuclear accident at a Canadian facility.

In my opinion we need to look at the limit. We need to have a serious discussion. Is the $650 million limit sufficient? Does it meet the requirements of the stakeholders? Is it a sufficient amount to deal with the recommendations put forward by the natural resources committee and the Senate committee? Does it reflect the ongoing dialogue, debate and discussion in the industry?

That is one key aspect and there are many others which I believe need to be discussed in committee. That is why we are supporting sending the bill to committee. We want to make sure we are able to capture expert testimony from people who understand the issues and complexities. We want people who have the expertise to provide us with their insight and recommendations.

I hope the member opposite is open to looking at amendments, if necessary, based on the testimony that we get in committee.