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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Bloc MP for Abitibi (Québec)

Won his last election, in 1993, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Nuclear Safety And Control Act February 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I see that I get to speak again rather quickly.

Group No. 4 contains two motions, Motions Nos. 7 and 8, which are designed to respond to the witnesses that appeared before the natural resources committee. They once again pointed to the lack of transparency, which should no longer exist 50 years after the creation of the Atomic Energy Control Board. To ensure transparency, these people have suggested that the number of members sitting on the commission should not increase from 3 to 5, as in the bill before us, but rather from 5 to 7.

Why? So that a representative of the environmental community and a representative of the industry can sit on the commission to express the views of those who are concerned by our environment and of the industry, which is considered one of the economic development tools of Canada.

Of course, these two new appointments could be voted upon here, in the House of Commons. Basically, these two members could among other things really tell the people or the industry whether regulations are justified or not. Right now, the commission is made of 3 to 5 members. These people, I am sure, would protect the interests of the people or industry, but their main task would be mostly to protect the interest of the commission itself.

We will see later on in another motion that the industry is concerned about unilateral decisions by the commission forcing the industry to bear the costs related to nuclear energy. I think the industry as a whole must be responsible and pay for these costs. However, if the industry had a representative on the commission who were in a position to take part in the decision making process, I believe it could accept these decisions or regulations even more easily.

Having a representative from the environmental community on the commission would also make it easier to explain to the public at large that the commission's decision is justified and in the public interest.

It is essential in the interest of all Canadians that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission established under this bill give this image of transparency, which will be easier to develop if a member of the public sits on the commission.

The government knows that all the necessary tools are in place for the very purpose of ensuring that transparency. But ask the average Canadian, ask those who live near a nuclear facility, and I am sure the vast majority of them will tell you they are worried because they are not sure that everything is being done.

On this subject, during the sittings of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, I proposed an amendment to change the notion of danger in the acceptable standards and in the minimal standards. My amendment was negatived on division because the government thought that it would be difficult to reach a minimal level from an environmental point of view.

If the government is sure that the commission can respect the desire of Canadians to live in safety, all the more reason to have somebody who will act as a watchdog and who will even have the opportunity to endorse certain decisions in order to prove that the decisions made by the Atomic Energy Control Board are good for Canadians.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act February 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words on the two NDP motions. Motion No. 4 proposes that a specific policy apply to foreign vessels, in that they should comply with Canadian laws as regards atomic energy.

It is very difficult to have such laws apply to foreign vessels, particularly when these vessels are invited to Canada for purposes of representations or for commercial operations.

Therefore, I have to disagree with the NDP member. His motion seeks to have only one law apply in Canada but, unfortunately, we cannot enforce our laws in other countries.

In fact, this is precisely what the Helms-Burton bill sought to do regarding international trade. We must keep an open mind and hope that foreign visitors will comply with basic legislation.

As for Motion No. 5, I am in partial disagreement with my colleagues. It is in the public interest to have some flexibility when dealing with specific situations, for example smoke detectors that contain only minute amounts of radioactive material. While it may seem ridiculous to try to regulate everything, there are circumstances where regulations may be necessary.

It would be inappropriate to let the commission make these decisions alone. As I said earlier, even in the new bill, the commission does not have the transparency required to make all Canadians believe that, regardless of the situation, the commission's decision would be, if not impartial, at least as informed as possible.

We will support the amendment proposed by the NDP, because it should be up to the minister and the House of Commons to pass general regulations. I am not talking about specific cases, such as smoke detectors, but since atomic energy is a very important aspect of public safety we should be responsible for this issue. Any exemption should be subject to a vote in this House, so as to have a framework in which all Canadian stakeholders can have a say.


Nuclear Safety And Control Act February 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my opening remarks, the importance of this bill is in promoting greater transparency in Canada's nuclear energy sector. Mon hon. colleague from the Liberal Party suggested that providing information and education to Canadians in that respect would amount to propaganda or promotion of some sort. I completely disagree with her because, in my opinion, it is extremely important that Canadians make their own choice regarding nuclear energy.

If we want them to be able to make a choice, they need information. How can one be expected to decide whether there should be more or fewer nuclear plants in Canada without appropriate information on their impact on the environment, including the human environment?

The committee heard from stakeholders. People living in the vicinity of the Pickering plant came before us saying that they are excluded from the decision-making process. They said that surveys and polls are conducted but that, when the time comes to make a decision, the board ignores the views of the Pickering area citizens' committee.

I support all the motions moved by our colleague from the Reform Party and, therefore, think one of the purposes of this bill should be to inform and educate, because there is a difference between information and education.

Who do you think would be in a position to provide this information and education, if not the atomic energy board? This is not the kind of information you can get through the education system. The board being the primary nuclear energy regulatory authority in Canada, it is up to its members, who are familiar with the various studies on the public impact of atomic energy, to provide clear information to the public, depending on what their objective is, so that Canadians can make an informed decision.

For these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois will support these two motions, which, in my opinion, improve the bill.

Nuclear Safety And Control Act February 4th, 1997

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak at the report stage of Bill C-23.

First of all, to appreciate the amendments the Bloc Quebecois wished to propose, we must understand the purpose of Bill C-23.

In fact, Bill C-23, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, was introduced in this House to replace existing legislation that goes back more than 50 years. As a member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, I engaged in debate and listened to many submissions on the changes that should be made in the existing legislation, to adapt it for the next millennium.

Most of the testimony by witnesses appearing before the Natural Resources Committee fell into one of two categories. Basically, some said it was necessary to change the existing legislation, which was really obsolete, and that the bill as introduced was not a bad substitute.

There was another group which agreed the legislation was obsolete and had to be changed, but since the old legislation had been around for 50 years, we could have taken a few more months to make changes in the present bill that would have made it even better.

We should realize that the initial legislation was drafted after World War II, when, people will recall, atomic energy was associated with the nuclear bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When the Parliament of Canada discussed the matter, it was felt it would be useful to have legislation to control this energy which was, of course, synonymous with destruction.

After 1950, and especially between 1960 and 1970, nuclear energy was touted as a safe and cheap source of energy to which all Canadians would have ready access. However, after 1970, after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and the many problems, even with the Candu systems in Europe, one may well wonder how safe our nuclear facilities are.

That is why the new bill should reflect the public's concern for greater transparency. They want a bill that would give them some say, the right to oversee actions of the atomic commission such as giving powers to a business or an agency or other actions that might put the safety or health of Canadians and Quebecers at risk.

The Bloc's first amendment to the bill in Motion No. 1 proposes that the Department of the Environment and not the Department of Natural Resources oversee the legislation.

Why? Canadians feel much safer under the umbrella of the Department of the Environment than under that of the Department of Natural Resources. Clearly, the Department of Natural Resources wants natural resources to be developed to their fullest for Canadians, whether it be uranium mines or energy. At the same time, however, we are told that nuclear energy is hard to control, that it takes a lot of research and monitoring. The Department of the Environment would be much more capable of giving Canadians transparency. To this end, amendment No. 1 would be a fine addition to the bill.

Therefore, I recommend that all my colleagues vote for this amendment, which would permit greater transparency and give Canadians even more reasons to trust their institutions.

Atlanta Olympic Games December 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, since the Quebec minister made a commitment to pay the first half of the costs, will the federal minister recognize that athletes who reach such a high level of performance and who represent us in the Olympic Games should not have been subjected to this kind of affront?

Atlanta Olympic Games December 13th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the heritage minister.

During a reception to honour the athletes who participated in the Atlanta Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Quebec Minister of Municipal Affairs, who is responsible for recreation and sports, learned that the Canadian Paralympic Committee did not pay all the costs associated with the participation of our athletes in the Atlanta games. So he made the commitment to give the athletes, or their sports associations, grants in the amount of $16,485 to cover half of the unpaid expenses.

Will the minister respond to the letter dated December 2 from her Quebec counterpart asking her to do her share and to reimburse the other half of the costs incurred by the athletes to participate in the Atlanta Paralympic Games?

Radioactive Waste Importation Act December 11th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity today to express my views on Bill C-236, standing in the name of the hon. member for Fraser Valley-East, which would prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada.

The hon. member is to be commended on his initiative, and I want to say that I support his proposal, because this is a very serious matter, involving future generations for which we are responsible.

Much has already been said by my colleagues who support this bill and who spoke earlier in this debate. After the events of Chernobyl, none of us can afford to ignore the terrible impact such dangerous materials have had on the local population. Ukraine, with thousands of people dead, people who are sick and children who have become invalids, knows the consequences.

We have no right to put humans at risk nor, for that matter, the animal and vegetable species of this planet. We must not expose our country to potential disaster for financial considerations.

That is why legislation is needed to ensure that commercial interests do not look to the market in radioactive waste as a golden opportunity to make a quick buck, at the expense of the health and safety of the public.

Let me explain. Certain groups see attempts being made by countries to get rid of their own radioactive waste as an opportunity to make a huge profit. We must have the courage to speak out, again and again, because the huge amounts of money they can charge for burying radioactive waste are the only reason why they are prepared to ignore the very real risks involved.

It is surprising that despite the potential risk, there is no legislation to control the importation of radioactive waste. Because of our vast uninhabited areas, Canada is the ideal destination for industrialized countries that are incapable of dealing with the disposal of their radioactive waste.

I cannot imagine my riding, Abitibi, most of which is covered by the Canadian shield, being selected for this purpose. I might as well say right away that the people of Abitibi, like Canadians generally, do not want radioactive waste in their backyard, especially if it comes from a foreign country.

The people in my riding held a major debate some ten years ago, when there was a possibility of excess PCB material being stored in our region. I expect that the debate would be stormy if the subject were nuclear waste.

It is, of course, our responsibility to get rid of our own nuclear waste, but other countries must make the same commitment. We have no responsibility in the problems currently faced by the United States, for example. The United States is no doubt a country of excess, in economic and other terms, but surely in terms of its radioactive waste as well.

For example, the Hanford site, 300 kilometres south of the British Columbia border is a huge radioactive waste disposal site. To give you an idea of the size of it, it is some 26 times the size of a football field and a metre thick. You can imagine the cost.

The American government estimates the cost to be approximately $57 billion, only to convert the site. As I mentioned earlier, you can imagine that certain groups see this as an opportunity to make huge profits by importing waste and burying it here. They figure the profits will be good. The cost of cleaning up all of the States is estimated at $230 billion. With a net profit of 1 per cent, these companies could make a tidy sum eliminating these products, but at what risk and to whose advantage?

Are we prepared to become the nuclear graveyard of the U.S. or any other country in exchange for financial compensation? I think the people of Canada would say no.

Why do countries trying to get rid of their waste by selling it not keep that money and invest it in research to find a solution to the problem they have created for themselves? Because, however advanced the technology may be today, it cannot be denied that there are still risks involved.

I digress for a moment to say that Canada is not necessarily better than any other country, as it is not considering the use of other technologies to eliminate large amounts of nuclear waste.

For example, the Tokamak nuclear fusion project in Varennes offers unique high technology facility for research on clean energy, because unlike fission, fusion produces energy without radioactive waste. If it could be commercially developed, this process would allow atomic energy to be produced without any waste.

The federal government refused to finance half of the $14 million project by investing $7 million into it, arguing that it could not afford to spend that kind of money, when it has spent $23 million on the flag project. The way of the future may be to manage our own nuclear waste, but it would certainly be brighter if very little or no waste was produced.

I would like to remind the federal government that Canada is party to the convention signed in Switzerland on March 22, 1989, that came into force on May 5, 1992. The terms of this agreement were clear. They provided among other things that no country will import dangerous waste that poses a threat to the environment. Everyone will readily agree that there is a very serious threat to the environment involved. This is an indisputable risk, given that nuclear material can have effects that last for thousands of years.

However, under the convention, the export of waste is allowed if the exporting country does not have the necessary facilities to dispose of the waste, and if the importing country can recycle and manage that waste. One can see the danger for companies trying to

prove that they can manage and bury their hazardous waste, in order to make a profit.

The fact is that we have not found a solution to stock our own waste. We have been searching for a solution for 10 years and we have invested several millions of dollars without being sure of finding a solution. The Canadian shield may be a solution to deeply bury our own radioactive waste, but that solution cannot apply to all the countries in the world.

Daily newscasts remind us that the issue of atomic waste must be taken very seriously. We must not confuse the recycling of plutonium from nuclear warheads, as part of the disarmament process in the United States and in Russia, with other requests. Canada can indeed do its share to promote nuclear disarmament in the world, but some would probably take this opportunity to get rid of other dangerous radioactive material in their country.

As member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, I discussed Bill C-23, which seeks to replace the old Atomic Energy Control Act. Bill C-23 will still allow the commission to import radioactive material, but does not specify the nature of this material. The bill of my colleague, the hon. member for Fraser Valley East, Bill C-236, is intended as a complement to this to prevent any legal possibility of importing radioactive waste.

In closing, I should like to return to the speech made by my Liberal colleague, who said this was not necessarily the right time to introduce this bill. On the contrary, I believe that, given the present turn of events, this is the ideal time to introduce a bill on this matter, so as to protect Canadians and Quebecers.

She also said that the public is sure that current waste processing operations are safe. This is not true. At the present time, regardless of the studies, there is no certainty that this is a risk-free undertaking, even if the Canadian shield, a very good location, is used.

She also said that there were no plans for importing waste at this time, while in the same speech she referred to Nordion, which was taking back the waste from its sales. I also believe that the purpose of a law is prevention, and there must be prevention before we have to face the consequences.

You will conclude that the Bloc Quebecois and myself are in agreement with legislation in this area. If the Liberal government thinks this is not totally justified, it will have the option of tabling a bill which might not be totally airtight, perhaps, but it absolutely must see that a bill on the importation of radioactive waste is necessary. And we shall be voting in favour of the bill.

Petitions December 3rd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present a petition signed by 473 people in the riding of Abitibi.

The petitioners draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Senate consists of unelected members who are not accountable for their actions, that its annual operating budget is $43 million, and that it refuses to account for its expenditures to committees of the House of Commons. Moreover, the Senate does not fulfil its mandate to represent the regions and duplicates the work done by members of the House of Commons.

Therefore, the petitioners ask that Parliament take the necessary steps to abolish the Senate.

Father Alfred Couturier November 22nd, 1996

Mr. Speaker, in every community across Canada, groups and individuals work to alleviate the ill effects of alcohol and drugs. The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse created a merit medallion to underline the great achievements of these dedicated volunteers and professionals who work with drug abusers.

This merit medallion has just been awarded to Father Alfred Couturier, of the religious order of Trinitarians, from Amos, in Abitibi. This is a very good choice, since Father Couturier, affectionately known as Alfred, back home, is very well loved by the people of Abitibi and the Amos area. This truly dedicated man works unstintingly for so many causes that we sometimes feel that he is a volunteer for all organizations.

Today, in this House, I want to pay tribute to Father Couturier for the mission he has chosen to carry out among drug abusers and transients. I want to sincerely congratulate him for what he has done for them, for giving a new meaning to their lives. I thank him for his solidarity towards our community.

Mining Industry November 20th, 1996

Mr. Speaker, earlier this week, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources tabled a report supported by the Liberal majority, which calls for the elimination of overlap in mining regulations.

What is the minister waiting for to implement the recommendations of her own Liberal colleagues and meet her government's commitment to the mining industry?