Mr. Speaker, I listened intently as various members raised the implications of Bill C-9. I particularly want to thank the member for Davenport for his wise adjudication of the whole process of Bill C-9. In addition to the points that were made last week, there are some points that I am pleased to address.
Those points primarily fall into three categories: the bill as it relates to crown corporations; the bill as it relates to the immensely implicating concerns with respect to nuclear storage, and the Bruce nuclear dry storage issue was mentioned; and the issues with respect to federal-provincial harmonization. I would like to address those three issues this morning as well as additional points that have been made during the course of debate.
With respect to crown corporations, the bill provides that after three years crown corporations would come under the provisions of Bill C-9, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Some members have asked why.
There are crown corporations that have and immense impact on particular parts of our constituencies. For example, the Farm Credit Corporation receives literally thousands of applications for farm credit. If the strictest letter of Bill C-9 were addressed to the Farm Credit Corporation, it would result in the applications for credit being held back. All members would agree that is not the intent of Bill C-9. The Farm Credit Corporation addresses Bill C-9 in a special way in its intent, but in a very different way in terms of implementation.
It is important to look at different corporations such as the Export Development Corporation, which is exempt from the requirements, because it has a separate process for environmental review of projects that it funds. Those processes have been separately established through the Export Development Act. To bring congruency to that act, which is not companion legislation at all because it is its own separate legislation, would require some time.
Another example of that is the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board which is also exempt because it is not a federal authority as it has a unique federal-provincial nature.
My colleague from Davenport raised the matter of CP Rail. I have been able to extract the information with respect to those points. CP Rail is not a crown corporation, but any permit or licence that it needs to construct a project would trigger the act through the Canadian Transportation Agency. This is another conduit for that particular crown corporations to work through. It will take a little time to bring these two different jurisdictions into congruency. For those who are interested in the rail sector, VIA Rail is a crown corporation and the new provisions of Bill C-9 would also apply to it.
With respect to the Bruce used fuel dry storage facility, I would not want it to be perceived as being simply a quick and dirty, and nasty process in regard to the dismissal of the concerns that were raised with respect to nuclear storage because that was not the case. The matter that was being adjudicated upon was for the onsite storage of existing nuclear fuel. It was not to bring in nuclear fuel from other operations.
In addition, the project was required to continue its operations. That was something that had to be considered at the time. The project underwent a thorough review as a comprehensive study from 1997 to 1999 and the comprehensive study included a 60 day public comment period. It was concluded that the project would not likely result in significant adverse environmental effects. This conclusion, as has been pointed out, was upheld by both the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, which concluded also that the federal authority could not delegate away its responsibility and accountability with respect to that issue.
I would suggest that the cycle has come full circle in that Bill C-9 closes the accountability gap, if it ever existed in the first place. We also know that there has been separate legislation under the Nuclear Safety Act which, at this particular time through the Nuclear Safety Commission, is engaged in looking at this whole question of onsite nuclear storage.
There has been considerable concern and interest raised with respect to federal-provincial relations. As I have indicated before, when I was speaking on this issue, the matter of jurisdictional cooperation is dealt with up front with respect to Bill C-9 because it is absolutely clear that there must be a high level of provincial-federal cooperation in order to address and get around the kind of duplication and obfuscation that occurs when we have two important desires which should come together, and that is to protect the environment in a sustainable manner.
In 1998, all provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec, signed the Canada-wide accord on environmental harmonization. It is hoped that the kinds of issue that have been addressed within the context and spirit of that particular companion document will find us perhaps discovering a new day in provincial-federal relations where the nature of duplication and conflict can be resolved. I would beg that the new government in the province of Quebec would review Bill C-9 against the opportunity to develop new mechanisms so that it too would sign the harmonization accord.
The legislation mentions the creation of a new position: federal-environment assessment coordinator. The coordinator would have powers to set timelines and would be accountable for ensuring that federal authorities fulfill their obligations under the act in a timely manner, since justice delayed is justice denied in terms of holding back unnecessarily the information that is provided through the public registry, and the scoping and recommendations that are entrenched in Bill C-9.
Aboriginal peoples have a unique role to play in environmental assessments and Bill C-9 would ensure that special provisions would apply with respect to the value and use of traditional knowledge that is very much part of aboriginal background. The legislation would enable band councils to undertake assessments on reserve lands.
Martha Kostuch, from The Friends of the Oldman River, appeared before the standing committee and welcomed new requirements that established an Internet based registry of project information. However, she cautioned that electronic information alone is not sufficient because there are still people who require paper information. Those provisions have been included. Under circumstances that are specific to a proponent's application for environment assessment, all information will be provided in a manner that is best utilized by the public.
There are other positive changes. As hon. members know, the environment is a dynamic area of public policy. In terms of its dynamics it is extremely sensitive to advances in science and technology. It is in that manner of update of information, in particular as it is available to special interest groups which have a huge opportunity and a wisdom and an information base to be part of the environmental process, that they will have even additional opportunities to do so.
As members of Parliament we must be certain that the positive evolution of environmental assessment set in motion by the minister's review of the Act and Parliament's consideration of Bill C-9 will continue. The answer to the question of whether the act will fulfil its obligations probably lies in the fact that not only is there a companion piece with respect to beyond Bill C-9 but that the quality assurance program requires that there is an ongoing response and monitoring under the quality assurance program that will keep the agency vigilant. It will make recommendations as policy issues arise that require change. It is not just at the end of the seven years that the review will to take place, it will be an ongoing review.
New requirements that make follow-up programs mandatory for larger and more complex projects are a second way that Bill C-9 will promote continuous improvement. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act follow-up programs examine whether the predictions made by an environmental assessment are accurate and whether the mitigation measures intended to prevent environmental harm are actually working. By making these programs mandatory for projects assessed by a comprehensive study, mediation or a review panel, we are guaranteed a constant flow of follow-up information.
In support of these legislative changes the minister has committed the agency to act as a central electronic repository of follow-up information allowing others to use the results of past assessments to improve their ability to predict effects and design mitigation measures.
I am confident that Bill C-9 will significantly strengthen the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. I am also certain that the positive momentum created by the bill will continue. As as a matter of fact, the provisions beyond Bill C-9 start to relate environmental assessment to sustainable development in order that the process facilitates a meaningful change, not only in attitudes toward sustainable development and the stewardship of our environment but invite new positive ways that it can be done as well.
We look forward to a continuation of that spirit as we gain experience from Bill C-9. In this way we will have an environmental assessment process that retains the confidence of Canadians, a process that supports on a project by project basis our environmental priorities, including action on climate, endangered species, clean water and clean air. In other words, we will take those steps that will provide for a legacy for future generations that is in keeping with the sense of responsibility that we feel at this present time.