House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Chair, the minister spoke about Canada being a natural resources powerhouse. It is clear that natural resources have been a cornerstone of Canada's economy since before Confederation.

Could he tell us more about the contribution natural resources sector makes to a Canadian economy of today and a little about its potential for the future?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, as I said in my remarks, our natural resources sector employs some 775,000 Canadians. In 2009 the sector contributed up to $70 billion to our trade balance and accounted for 11% of Canada's GDP.

Moreover, resource-related projects have generated considerable investment in the neighbourhood of $400 billion in potential capital investments expected over the coming decade.

Canada is a leader in energy production. For example, it is the world's largest uranium producer. Canada is also the world's seventh largest crude oil producer with the second largest proven reserves.

The forestry sector has gone through tough times recently, but there are signs of recovery. The prices of softwood lumber and pulpwood have gone up by 71% and 50%, respectively, since last year.

In 2010, we expect to see plants reopen or production ramp up to meet demand. The minerals and metals sector produced 3.3% of our GDP in 2008, and mineral production was estimated to be worth $43.5 billion.

While all of these figures point to the importance of natural resources sectors to today's economy, we must also look to the future. This is why I said in my remarks that we wanted the contribution of natural resources to our economy and quality of life to grow. The government will do that by working with the sector to make Canada a leader in clean energy and sustainable resource development around the world.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Madam Chair, I rise on a point of order. Numerous times, when the minister was speaking, the translation was tar sands when in fact it was the oil sands. It is very important that be made clear, that translation properly translate as oil sands and not tar sands.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Chair NDP Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. member for the correction.

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Généreux Conservative Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Madam Chair, I would like to ask the minister a question so that we can review the measures we already have in place together with the National Energy Board to ensure that what is going on in the United States in the Gulf of Mexico can never happen in Canada.

I gather that the National Energy Board has already implemented strict measures. I would like the minister to provide more information about that.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, first of all, as I explained, we have a regulatory board here, the National Energy Board. It is a quasi-judicial, independent organization that has existed for 50 years. It is in charge of regulating and managing all gas and oil drilling and production projects in Canada.

We have regulations, known as the Canada Oil and Gas Drilling and Production Regulations, which state that the board requires the operators to provide information on contingency plans, resources, deadlines and emergency response procedures. The board can also require the operators to provide moneys up front as a guarantee.

It is a very strict system. However, given what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico, the board has also launched an extensive consultation that will be open to the public. It will be open and transparent. Those interested can contact the board with their concerns. The goal is to better understand what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico in order to advance our understanding and improve the regulations we already have in place here in Canada.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, a number of people have pointed out that Atomic Energy of Canada Limited has cost taxpayers more than $20 billion since it was established in the 1950s. That is a lot of money when we think of how it could have been used to develop real green energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal energy.

Bill C-9, the reason we are here tonight, simply hands over the keys to AECL to the Minister of Natural Resources. He could decide the future of the crown corporation without even being accountable to Parliament. He could keep transactions secret for a period of 15 days under the pretext of commercial confidentiality.

In view of the money invested in AECL, should the government not be more transparent with regard to the future of the crown corporation?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, one thing is clear. Everyone agrees that AECL should be reorganized, and that is what we are currently doing with the CANDU reactor division. We want to ensure that the industry is viable and that it can position itself to create and maintain high-level jobs here in Canada. At the same time, we want to reduce the burden on Canadian taxpayers, and that is why we are looking for a strategic investment.

We know that nuclear energy does not produce greenhouse gases. It is part of a robust mix of energy sources in Canada. The purpose of Bill C-9 is to ensure that we can move forward with diligence. Everyone agrees that we must move forward.

Bill C-9 has been before Parliament for three months, and I hope that the opposition will support it. Naturally, the final decision about AECL's restructuring will be approved by cabinet.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, the Minister just said it: nuclear technology is a cutting-edge industry that has been developed with the financial support of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers.

Nonetheless, the intellectual property and Canadian nuclear technology belong to all of us. What Canadian companies could acquire AECL? What will become of AECL if only foreign companies want to acquire it? What will become of the employees, who are very worried?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, this restructuring is unavoidable. We are seeking strategic investments to achieve the purposes I mentioned. Of course, conditions and intellectual property are issues we are taking into account. This is a Canadian asset, but there are also collective agreements in place. We expect the entity that emerges following the restructuring to comply with the obligations in those agreements.

Naturally, we cannot disclose the names of the companies themselves right now because of the sensitive and commercial nature of the restructuring process.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, at the very least, can the minister tell us whether any Canadian companies are in a position to buy AECL?

My second question is about the minister's commitments concerning isotope supply. We know that Bill C-9 does not provide any supply guarantees whatsoever. People, sick people in particular, are worried.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, there can be no doubt that the outcome of the restructuring process will benefit Canada in all of the ways I just mentioned.

With respect to isotope supply, we are not talking about the research sector or about the Chalk River labs. I made it clear that the CANDU division, the commercial division, is the one up for restructuring.

Our plan and our top priority in terms of isotopes is to bring the reactor on line as quickly as possible. That is what we have always told AECL, which is making this a priority. I am personally monitoring this file week by week. That is why we are making strategic medium- and long-term investments. We want to find alternative sources, such as technetium-99m produced by linear accelerators or cyclotrons. This is a great solution that costs less and does not produce waste.

I encourage my colleague to support our budget because it may even have an impact on Quebec. We are leaders in this field.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, is the minister saying that isotope production will remain in the hands of the federal government or one of its corporations and will not be affected by privatization?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, I was talking about the restructuring of CANDU Inc. I said that some strategic investments were being considered. There are several options. The Chalk River laboratory is a second part to be considered later, but currently we are dealing with CANDU Inc. Our immediate priority is to get the NRU reactor working again as quickly as possible to ensure our supply of isotopes. That is AECL’s priority, and it is the priority of this government.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, the medical isotope crisis has been going on for more than a year now and has cost the provinces a considerable amount of money because they have had to purchase their supplies abroad.

Can the minister tell us whether he intends to compensate the provinces for the costs they have incurred as a result of the inept handling of the isotope crisis? Have any commitments been obtained from a future partner to supply isotopes and give priority to Canadian needs?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, there is a global crisis that requires a global solution. The world supply comes from five old reactors. That is why we want to get our reactor working again as quickly as possible. That is AECL’s priority, and it is the priority of this government.

In the meantime, a high-level group has been constituted under Canadian leadership. It consists of researchers and scientists and will coordinate activities on a global level, which was not done before. Companies such as Covidien and Lantheus Medical Imaging were not in the habit of talking to each other. Now they want to collaborate more, and that is being done on the provincial level as well. My colleague the Minister of Health sat down with medical people and the relevant provincial representatives to ensure everyone was working together. That is what we need to do. That is also why we need to make targeted strategic investments and find alternate solutions in the future.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, MDS Nordion, a company with which the government has signed a contract to supply medical isotopes for more than 40 years, is currently involved in a dispute with the government.

How will the government settle its dispute with this company?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, the case referred to by the member is currently before the courts. We have a case based on contracts we signed. Given that this case is before the courts, I will make no further comments. I will let the courts decide this matter.

However, I would like to repeat that the main priority of the Canadian government and AECL is to get the NRU reactor back on line as quickly as possible to ensure the short-term supply of isotopes. Furthermore, we have a vision, we have a plan. My colleague should be pleased because we have not seen this for a long time. We are looking for alternative resources, which means a $35 million investment in research on linear accelerators and cyclotrons, which do not produce waste and are much less expensive. They show great promise for the future.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Exactly, Madam Chair. In that regard, the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke, in cooperation with the Molecular Imaging Centre of Sherbrooke, is developing a new alternative by using a cyclotron to provide isotopes.

Can the minister confirm that he will make the project of this centre—which hopes to become a leading research centre—a priority and that this centre will receive its share of the $35 million envelope contained in the last federal budget?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, I am aware of the project mentioned by my colleague and other projects here in Canada. What is important is having a viable solution for the future. I trust that the people of Sherbrooke, as well as others working on different projects, will bring forward their solutions and show how they could be useful in the future.

Before my colleague asks me to back a specific project, I would ask her to support our budget so that the $35 million can be made available to move forward with projects such as the one she mentioned as well as other promising projects in Canada.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, I would like to talk to the minister about the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. In 2009, the Bloc Québécois participated in public consultations at the invitation of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. I was there. We had the opportunity to present a unanimous motion from the Quebec National Assembly, which called on the government to prohibit the burial, on Quebec territory, of waste and spent fuel from outside Quebec.

I would like to tell the minister that last week, at an information session given by that organization, I was very surprised to hear one of its representatives confirm that the organization planned on moving forward with a municipality in Quebec if it showed an interest in receiving the deep geologic repository, despite the motion from the National Assembly and despite the fact that the Government of Quebec is responsible for municipalities. That is one of its jurisdictions.

How can the minister explain that despite the will of the Quebec National Assembly, the province is still being considered as a potential burial site?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, the Government of Canada supports the safe and responsible use of nuclear energy. It is committed to ensuring that an appropriate solution will be in place for the long-term management of nuclear waste. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization was created by Canadian nuclear reactor owners. It was decided that we needed to develop and implement a plan for the long-term management of nuclear fuel in Canada.

Our government supports the efforts of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization to involve Canadians as it develops a safe and secure plan for the long-term management of nuclear waste and fuel. The creation of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization is an important step in the development of a long-term solution. The projects my colleague mentioned are always carried out on a voluntary basis.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, I would like the minister to promise today to remove Quebec from the list of potential sites.

Can he make that promise here in this House this evening?

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

Christian Paradis Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Chair, as I was explaining earlier, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization has started its site selection process to find a community with an appropriate location that would agree to having a deep geologic repository for the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste in Canada.

A process will be established through this organization on a voluntary basis. The municipalities that agree to this will work with the organization. It is the organization's responsibility.

My colleague should be asking the Nuclear Waste Management Organization these questions.

Natural Resources--Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 31st, 2010 / 7:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Chair, it seems to me that the minister cannot shirk his responsibility for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization. He is the minister after all.

I would like to talk to him about the energy efficiency program with regard to home renovations. The Standing Committee on Natural Resources had two sessions on the ecoenergy home retrofit program. The witnesses all agreed that this program produced nothing but positive results.

This begs the question: why discontinue the program so soon? Does the minister see a future for this program? How can he even question a program that is so very popular?