House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was communities.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Vancouver Island North (B.C.)

Lost her last election, in 2008, with 41% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I referred to the bill as a sad case of trying to introduce carbon offsets for our greenhouse gases in the oil sands. The Conservative government seems to think nuclear is clean energy and it is sadly mistaken.

Because my time is so short, does my hon. colleague think the $650 million, this small amount of money attributed to operators of nuclear facilities, is basically a devaluing of Canadian communities? So many communities that have nuclear facilities are populated areas with businesses, families and homes and these assets are worth a lot more, collectively, than $650 million. Is it a sellout to our Canadian communities to not go with an unlimited liability?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster understands what this bill means and why we tried to amend it but, sadly, could not get it amended in committee and could not get it amended in the House at report stage. We want our voices to be heard loud and clear, which is what he has done, about the problems in the bill and why it should not go forward.

One of the biggest issues is the amount of the liability. I want to ask a similar question to the one I asked my Bloc colleague. Does he think the government is devaluing Canadian communities that have nuclear facilities where there could be an incident? When we say that a community is only worth $650 million and we know it is worth a lot more, does he think the government is devaluing Canadian communities by having such a low liability?

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, if there were a nuclear facility in Montreal and there were an accident at that facility, how much does my colleague think Montreal would be worth? Would it be worth $650 million or would it be more? I just want to get an idea as to whether he thinks $650 million would be enough liability or if he thinks it should be more in the case of a nuclear incident.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, this is another good question from my colleague. I go back to what my colleague from the Bloc also asked. The nuclear safety commissioner was basically fired in the dead of night for doing her job of protecting Canadians. This has again shaken the trust of Canadians.

We know that the NRU unit is 50 years old. It is starting to deteriorate. Increased safety measures are having to be put in place and yet, there is nothing coming forward for the replacement of this facility which makes, primarily, medical isotopes. Unfortunately, this is something that we have to get our heads around.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. I know that the member is very concerned about nuclear safety as because that came up in the discussions at committee and she put forward questions in a very forthright manner. I have to congratulate her on her interventions there.

Yes, it is an issue of trust for many Canadians and something that was shaken very severely back in November when we had the incident at the NRU reactor in Chalk River. Canadians are very concerned.

I have received many calls and many letters from my constituents and we do not even have nuclear facilities in our area, but they are worried about what might happen across this country.

This is an issue of national trust and we must do everything we can to ensure that Canadians are protected in every way.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I only have 10 minutes on debate, but I could speak for 20 or 30 minutes on this subject.

As I mentioned in some of my questions to my colleagues, this bill was put forward by the government to amend the Nuclear Liability Act. Unfortunately the bill as put forward was not acceptable to the NDP. We felt it needed to be amended quite substantially, so we proposed many amendments at committee. Unfortunately, they were not supported by my colleagues at committee.

We are quite concerned because we feel the bill is being put forward in this fashion in an effort to aid the government to use nuclear energy in this country basically as a carbon offset. This is the biggest offset plan that anybody could have imagined.

Unfortunately, seeing nuclear energy as a clean source of energy is also misguided. The production of nuclear energy causes waste and that waste has to be dealt with. We have never been able to find an acceptable solution for dealing with the waste. It is still there. It will last for millions of years. It is highly toxic and dangerous. At any point in time an incident could result.

With all these things in mind, we felt it was incumbent upon us at committee and in the House to put forward our recommendations and amendments to try to make the bill better so that we could support it.

We also agree that as it stands now, nuclear liability in this country is far too low at $75 million. That is not nearly enough to cover any kind of disaster in any community. It needs to be increased, but to increase it to the minimum international standard is also not the right way to go. That is why we put forward amendments to increase it to an unlimited liability on the part of the nuclear operator. We feel very strongly that Canadians, including Quebeckers, should not be put on the hook by having their tax dollars used to pay the potential billions of dollars that would be needed to cover the cost of a nuclear incident in this country.

We do have some facilities near our borders. If a nuclear incident were to occur near our borders, what would be the impact from other countries? What would we be on the hook for there?

This is a serious issue and we take it very seriously. We are not here to try to hold up the bill just to play games. We are very concerned about this issue. We want to make the bill better and something we could support.

Right now there is an issue with AECL, the company that operates under the government. The taxpayers basically own this company. If there were to be an accident or an incident, the taxpayers would be on the hook for that company. We would never want to see that.

Earlier today my colleague from Winnipeg referenced a book, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer, by Helen Caldicott. I found some interesting passages in this book, which I want to share with the House and with Canadians. It talks about accidental, and unfortunately, terrorist induced nuclear meltdowns, and says:

Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to many events that could lead to meltdowns, including human and mechanical errors; impacts from climate change, global warming, and earthquakes; and, we now know, terrorist attacks.

I would like to read a couple of excerpts to give people a sense of what could happen and why it is important that we have unlimited liability on our facilities so that Canadian taxpayers are not on the hook.

We know also that in this country the reactors are aging. The NRU reactor at Chalk River is around 50 years old. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is looking at having to allow that unit to operate longer. It is only supposed to operate until 2011 but we are looking now to 2016. It is going to continue to operate because there is no replacement for that.

The aging nuclear facilities in this country will have more and more problems as time goes by. Metal fatigue, rust and all kinds of things can happen as things age. We have to ensure that we have the safety and protection of Canadian people in mind when we are talking about nuclear liability.

In her book, Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer, which is an American publication, Dr. Caldicott says that even though today's reactors were designed for a 40 year life span, the NRC, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, acceding to industry pressure, is currently approving 20 year extensions to the original 40 year licences for nuclear power plants.

That is a concern. Although that refers to the U.S., the same kinds of things are happening in Canada. I am concerned about these aging facilities, that we do not have replacement power. They do not have to be nuclear facilities. They could be cleaner energy alternatives such as solar and wind. We could look at doing an east-west grid across this country.

We could have alternatives to nuclear power. We would not have to worry about pressure being put on our Nuclear Safety Commission to prolong the licences for these facilities if we had alternatives to that energy source. It is quite a concern. If the aging facilities called on the Nuclear Safety Commission to extend their licences for longer periods, we would have to start worrying about the near misses that might happen in continuing the use of those aging facilities.

Another thing that Dr. Caldicott talks about is global warming. Who would have thought that global warming would have impacted nuclear facilities. She says in her book that there are many facilities that are built on coastlines which could possibly be impacted by tsunamis or earthquakes in places around the world such as India. They could be impacted by global warming.

She talks about terrorist attacks, which we are quite concerned about as well. According to this book, the necessary steps have not been taken to increase security around nuclear facilities in case of a terrorist attack. We have seen increased security measures at airports and other border security measures, but we have not had an increase in security around nuclear facilities.

We need to make sure that the steps are in place to protect Canadians in the event of a nuclear accident. We must make sure that the liability on the part of the operator is a lot higher than $650 million, because we know that if there were an accident, the liability costs would be in the billions of dollars.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my hon. colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry and I take exception to several things she said but one in particular. It is not irresponsible to put forward amendments to try to make a bill better.

I will not apologize for putting forward amendments. It may take a bit of time but it is our due diligence, which is something we must do in the House. It is our job as members of Parliament, as people who represent our communities and our country, to make the best of a bill.

Yes, the NDP put forward amendments. She mentioned that we did not put forward any at committee but that is absolutely wrong. The NDP introduced 30 amendments in committee but, unfortunately, they were not supported. These amendments would have made the bill better and stronger.

My colleague from Western Arctic introduced those same amendments in the House at report stage. They were ruled in order by the Speaker and we debated them. We were hoping the broader House might take an interest in them because, unfortunately, in committee the Bloc, the Liberals and the Conservatives did not.

The other thing my colleague said was that if there were an incident or accident at this moment, Canadians would not be on the hook. AECL is owned by the Government of Canada and if there were to be any kind of situation, especially involving the NRU reactor at Chalk River, Canadians would be on the hook for that.

I want to ask my colleague if she understands any of what I said.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the member's speech on the NDP's energy plan. I think it was very interesting. The other hon. member also talked about the oil sands.

I sit on the natural resources committee. We visited and did a study on the oil sands. The Minister of Natural Resources, at one point, said that nuclear might be a way to go because it is a clean source of energy, as he calls it.

My concern is that we are going to be looking at more and more nuclear facilities across this country, especially in Alberta, where we can use that energy to melt the tar to make the bitumen that we are going to ship, unfortunately, straight to the U.S. We are building new pipelines and this is going to further increase our greenhouse gas emissions coming from the tar sands.

The government sees nuclear as a way to get us out of these emissions because it sees it as clean energy. However, there are a lot of problems with nuclear. It is extremely expensive. It always has cost overruns and it can be seen as dangerous.

Notwithstanding the fact that we have nuclear facilities in this country that are aging, there are more and more problems with them, and some of the licences are running out. I think we are going to see in the very near future the possibility that we could be using this nuclear liability act more and more. I wonder if my hon. colleague could comment on any of those things.

Petitions June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is from approximately 130 of my constituents who are concerned about the environment. They know that the impacts of climate change will be catastrophic and that we must act to reduce our greenhouse gases immediately.

The petitioners call on the government, which has no plans to do so, to reduce our greenhouse gases, to honour our legal commitments to the Kyoto treaty and to further reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

Petitions June 19th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from constituents from all over British Columbia. They are concerned about the use of terminator technology, which is genetic engineering designed to render seeds sterile at harvest and prevent farmers from saving and replanting the seeds. The use of these genetically engineered seeds will impact farmers' livelihoods, food security and crop genetic diversity.

The petitioners call on Parliament to legislate a permanent ban on terminator technology to ensure that these seeds are never planted, field tested, patented or commercialized in Canada.