Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in opposition to the bill the government has put forward. I suppose it is actually not a surprise to many, because this bill was in front of the House before prorogation and it has come back again. Sadly, we cannot seem to shake it. The bill's problems are many and my colleagues have outlined some of them.
I would like to situate the beginning of my comments on where we are with regard to the whole nuclear question globally. Talks are taking place right now in the NPT review, the review of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and many are looking to Canada to see if it is going to put its words into action with regard to non-proliferation.
There is a consensus that if we are going to deal with what is a very dangerous situation with nuclear proliferation, we have to look at all sources and the transfer of technologies and materials and we have to make sure the materials are locked down and secure, so they do not get into the hands of those who would proliferate nuclear weapons.
I say that because we know the history of Canada's involvement in selling nuclear materials and technologies abroad. It continues to be a concern for many. I am of course speaking of the sale of technologies in the past to India, which were used to help proliferate nuclear weapons.
We have to look at what the real costs are of nuclear power. They are not just the costs involved in terms of materials used in nuclear technology but also the real costs embedded in this kind of technology. As has been mentioned by many speakers, the notion that we can look at nuclear power in isolation is naive at best, but truly just ignorant.
Looking at what happens to waste materials, we have to find some place for them to be situated forever and we still have not figured that out. When we look at the technologies, there are still risks. Some would say there have been improvements in terms of safety and oversight, but nothing is 100%.
I would note that those who were looking to do offshore drilling recently said that the chances of having the kind of situation we see now in the gulf were near to impossible. The same kinds arguments have been made when it comes to nuclear power. I do not have to state the number of times the notion that nuclear power is 100% safe has been proven wrong, and the costs for cleanup and health care are massive.
Here in Ottawa there is a wonderful initiative by the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. It is working with children who suffered from the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl. The immediate effects of Chernobyl were known, but they languished. CHEO partnered with people who were not able to get the health care they needed.
We know what happened to the former Soviet Union as it fragmented into different countries. It did not have the capacity to deal with the kinds of latent illnesses that happened because of Chernobyl. It was a proud moment certainly for me in this community but also as a Canadian to see people help those who were affected.
I say that because some people believe, and we hear it time and time again from industry, that was the past and everything is fine now. One does not have to go very far or look too far back in history to see that concerns still exist. If people go the Ottawa River, they will see that, when there are concerns with Chalk River and worries about leaks, the way they are dealt with is rather interesting. The system is flushed and guess what happens to the water?
Unlike Pickering, where they contain the heavy water, the water that is just outside the doors of Parliament is flushed. That water goes into the system. It is not isolated or put aside. That is right here in the nation's capital, just upstream.
I say that because we still have not figured out Chalk River and the reactor there. That has been around since before I was born. It is something that we still have not figured out how to deal with. Many are rightly concerned about the nuclear materials and the effects of nuclear power that are going into the river here.
Where is the consensus? I think the consensus is that we have not been able to figure out a safe way of using nuclear power. We have people who will say we mitigate. We have people who say that we have changed the manner in which we deal with the waste materials and that we have made technology improvements around the operations in general. However, no one can say they are 100% secure.
When we put it together, if we are looking at non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the lockdown and security of nuclear materials, every piece of the rubric that is nuclear power and nuclear weapons have to do with safety and the 100% assurance of the ability of all regulators and all countries to track and ensure that there are not going to be leaks or inappropriate transfers of technologies and materials. We have not reached that point.
I have heard the government say many times that it is the polluter-pay principle. We have a bill that says we are going to put a liability cap of $650 million. Where is the evidence for that? Why is it that threshold? Look at all of our partners in this business. They are pretty clear that this does not match that risk assessment I was mentioning before. In other words, when one looks at the amount of money that is being suggested in this bill versus what the real costs would be in case of potential accidents, this does not work.
Some go as far as to say that we should not have a cap at all. It is a strong argument, in fact. That would put the real costs on those who are involved in the industry. I think it is a fair comment, but we should at least fall in line with the group of countries that has been mentioned before. The international standards list has been read before, but I will read it again. We should at least align ourselves with Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Norway and the United Kingdom.
Many would say that we share company with these countries in the OECD. The OECD countries that I just mentioned all get it. They understand that coefficient between liability or risk and what is an appropriate cost. They find it laughable that Canada would be so naive as to think that $650 million is going to do it.
If we look at who we associate ourselves with, we get into countries with which I normally would not situate Canada: Moldova, Cameroon, former Yugoslavian countries and Uruguay. It is nothing against them. They have a capacity challenge. That is who we are associating ourselves with. I would ask the government if that is the best we can do. Why is there this limitation? That is what Canadians need to know. We need to know that we are doing the best we can when it comes to nuclear power.
Look at the real costs. It is not just a liability question. It is also the materials and the development, the front-end load costs of nuclear power. We saw the disaster here in Ontario in the 1970s and 1980s. The costs are runaway costs to this day.
It makes the Olympic stadium look like a tea party, and an affordable one at that, when we look at the real costs we continue pay in this province for a technology that really has nothing but question marks around it. This is, by way of legislation, giving the signals to industry and to those who engage in nuclear power to not worry about the liability piece because we will take care of it.
When we look at the costs embedded and what is going to be on the tab for taxpayers, it makes little sense. Take a look at what the comparison of international liability regimes says. I know my colleagues have talked about this. The Paris conventions on nuclear compensation were amended just a couple of years ago, because essentially the protocols were out of date. That is a common thing to do for international conventions. The amendments allow for an extension of the indemnity limit from 10 to 30 years. Many would say that we should be going beyond that, and I would be one of those.
They also eliminate the previous maximum limit of €75 million, which was in the old conventions, and instead impose a minimum liability of at least €700 million. That amounts to $1 billion Canadian. So we have the Paris convention, one that is recognized as the standard for liability regimes, and it is indicating a price point much higher than what the government is offering here.
Further to the convention, it says that the amendments raise the total financial security provided to €1,500 million for operator liability. The breakdown is €700 million for operator liability and €500 million of public funds. The countries that have signed on to this agreement are included but not limited to Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K. Sadly, what is glaringly omitted from that list is Canada. I could also put the blame here on the previous government. That could have been something that was signed off in 2004, but it wasn't.
We have to look at where Canada is on the issue. We are involved and implicated not only in the industry, but also in how we are seen in terms of the specific issue of liability. That matters, because if we are looking to be seen as a player on the international stage when it comes to energy security, we have to look at what the supports are and what the conditions are for the energy that we are using.
We know that there have been plans to use this technology in the development of the tar sands. We know that there has been talk of expansion in other provinces. The opportunity cost is vast when we decide to go nuclear and we have to consider the cost to the taxpayer if it goes wrong. There is a lack of money available for investment in things such as the east-west grid, but I cannot encourage the government more. I know that the member for Winnipeg, the Minister of State for Democratic Reform, understands and I hope that the Minister of the Environment supports the idea that we must get behind the east-west grid.
Before we get into shovelling money over to the nuclear industry, we should be investing in conservation. We should be looking at investing heavily in the east-west grid. If we are going to kick the carbon habit as much as we should, then clearly we need to look at an east-west grid. We are leaking green energy right now. It is going south. It is going to the United States. Look at Quebec. Look at Manitoba. Where are those grid lines going with the surplus hydroelectric energy? They are going south.
Sir John A. Macdonald would be flipping in his grave right now if he saw what has happened. He built the spine of this country. He was a great man, a Progressive Conservative, a good guy, a member of the grand old party. Now look at what has happened. Now he would see this government and the others not looking west or east, but looking south and saying, “There, take our green energy”.
Imagine if Sir John A. himself, instead of building a railway from coast to coast in this country, had said, “We can make a buck off the Grand Trunk and send it south. We won't bother with that”.
That is what is happening right now. It is not because provinces do not want it. In fact, Manitoba, and I am sure Quebec, want to see us invest in an east-west grid so that we do not have to rely on expensive and dodgy energy sources like nukes. Not one single nuclear project in this country has been revenue neutral. There has not been one. They have all had massive subsidies.
I have to say when members, who I hear from time to time putting on the vestments of being very prudent with the dollar, get behind a proposition like this and get behind nukes, I am sorry, but their credibility is shot.
I challenge anyone on the other side or my friends in the Liberal Party who support the bill to show me a nuclear project that actually did not cost taxpayers a bundle.
We cannot just dress it up under liability laws and think that people will not get it. The day we have a problem is the day taxpayers will have to pay the largest portion of it.
When we consider the bill, we must consider in the opportunity-cost argument here the fact that we are not investing appropriately in wind, in solar, in creating that infrastructure that I mentioned, the east-west grid across this country. Right down the street here, there is a new housing development. It is doing geothermal. It is not getting the subsidies that it should, but it is getting some.
However, if it were in Sweden, for example, it would actually be getting subsidies at the front end to pay off and be revenue neutral and would actually put energy on the grid in the future, instead of putting taxpayers at risk and putting us in a situation that this bill certainly will as it exposes citizens to the risk of this technology.
If this technology is so safe and so great, then why do we not just take the cap off it and let it be unlimited?
Through the bill, the government has clearly acknowledged that there is a problem with this technology, that this technology is not stable, that it is vulnerable, and so we are going to be exposed. That will happen in legislation, and that cap of $650 million, that pittance that puts us outside of the club A of all those countries that see the equation between risk and benefit and exposure, will put Canada beyond that risk.
I urge members to take another look at this. I think the government has drunk the heavy water on this. When we look at it, the question is this. Are we going to align ourselves with those in Latvia, Moldova, Cameroon, and Belarus who have capacity problems? I am not blaming them. Or are we going to align ourselves with Belgium, Denmark, the U.K., the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and France? Whose side are we going to choose? Will it be the one that is the club for those who are basically saying let it rip and let taxpayers pay the price, or are we going to go with the responsible, sensible legislation through which we will not put taxpayers at risk, we will acknowledge the real cost of nuclear energy, and make sure that Canadians get a stable investment in energy and look at things like the east-west grid? Or are we just going to throw this up as a fig leaf over a reactor and say that all is fine and we will be okay?
We will rue the day, as will the government, when there is an accident, because it will come back to haunt them, and it will be this piece of legislation.