(for the Minister of Natural Resources)
moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words on Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
It gives me great pleasure to stand before the House today in support of amending subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. This is a one clause bill. The amendment would clarify the wording in subsection 46(3) of the act.
According to the present wording of subsection 46(3), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission can order the owner or occupant “or any other person with a right to or interest in the land” to take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
This wording is an anomaly that must be corrected. Its consequence, unintended of course, is to require lenders to also assume responsibility for decontamination of the site, the same way as the owners and administrators.
As a result then, this subsection has discouraged the private sector interest from lending to the nuclear industry. Obviously no one ever wanted to create a condition that would deprive the industry from funding to continue to do its work.
The industry is a vital component of the Canadian economy. It includes electrical power plants, uranium mines, refineries, laboratories, universities and hospitals that use nuclear material to diagnose and to treat disease.
The proposed amendment clarifies subsection 46(3) by deleting the words I have just mentioned, which I shall repeat, “or any other person with a right to or interest in the land” and replacing them with “who has the management and control of the affected land”.
It also defines the risk for lending institutions. A lender that assumed management and control of a nuclear facility would be subject to this subsection.
No other industrial or power generation sector is encumbered by a federal provision of this nature that discourages its access to bank lending of any kind. The nuclear industry must have access to commercial credit to finance its needs like any other sector. This amendment would allow the nuclear industry to attract capital markets and equity. At the same time we have all the mechanisms in place to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
Since governments encourage the private sector to get more involved in the acquisition and administration of facilities in all sectors of energy, companies operating nuclear facilities must have access to the same sources of financing as do others.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that companies need banks and other financial institutions in order to attract the capital they will need to finance present and future operations.
“Other financial institutions” can sometimes refer to union funds, pension or other funds. These are all capital that might be used for this purpose.
Therefore we must then be fair and consistent. We must ensure that all companies have an equal opportunity to conduct their business and to better position themselves in the marketplace. At the same time we must ensure that these companies are fully responsible for environmental stewardship.
This approach maintains the authority of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to take the necessary measures for site remediation against those who have management and control. That is not removed. I say this so that all hon. members will be aware.
It will also not weaken Canada's stringent licensing and control system, which has been designed to protect Canadians' health, safety and security, as well as the environment.
All parties stand to benefit from this bill. The nuclear industry will be on an equal footing with the other industrial and energy production sectors. In parallel, the responsibility for cleaning up a site will be clearly assigned to the owner or those who assume management or control of the site.
Clearly this is a good governance bill and with that in mind I would ask all hon. members to join me in supporting the bill's immediate passing.
If later today members would agree, it would be highly appropriate, given the popularity of this measure for the industry, if we could do more than one stage today. Perhaps we could even entertain to do all stages. I am not proposing that by formal resolution right now in the House. I understand that some hon. members have not yet agreed to this proposal but perhaps upon reflection we could do that later this day. If not, then I hope the bill passes swiftly and after review in committee that we could pass the report stage and third reading, send it to the other place and hopefully have the legislation assented to before the recess, which is likely to come sometime soon.
I thank hon. members in advance for the support they will give to this measure.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-57. I am disappointed but not surprised that the bill had to come to the House at all. It should not have been necessary. After all the Liberals have a long tradition of failing to deliver the goods when it comes to the needs of Canadians. We have seen this over and over again. The truth is Canadians deserve better.
Although there are many changes occurring within the ranks of the government and weekly cabinet shuffles, we cannot expect the Liberals to make progress too quickly. Surely it would be simply unheard of for a bill that is as badly needed as this one is to get to the House in a timely fashion, ensuring the due diligence of the legislation has sufficient time.
The government and the industry have been aware of what I will refer to as a mistake for two years now. The government has had two years to correct it. Why the government waited until now to bring it to the House and then ask the House to consider all stages in one day is beyond me. It was not necessary and it should not have happened.
As we have seen with past practices of the government, we are rushing through the legislation at the end of the session, within days or weeks of adjournment for the summer. That puts the opposition in a very difficult position as a result of the government's actions. Either we rush the bill through to ensure its passage before the summer break or we do not comply and the nuclear industry will be unable to achieve the financing it so desperately needs.
The nuclear industry has been waiting two years for a seven word amendment. We find ourselves ignoring the needs for a measured and accountable debate because either the government is embarrassed, as it should be, by this obvious misstep or the government is in a hurry to close business for the summer. Canadians deserve better.
The truly sad thing about this exercise is that in reality the amendment should never have been required. All sorts of justifications have been offered as to why the original legislation includes a problem that could make lenders liable for the clean up of a nuclear spill. The truth is that it was a foolish oversight by the bureaucrats who drafted the bill, a foolish expensive oversight that has cost the nuclear industry millions in delays and/or potential loss of domestic and international financing.
I have long advocated a simple change in this place that would have avoided this. I have referred to this over and over again for the last nine years. We in this place have a committee process that allows all party committees of the House to examine issues and, if necessary, to call the best expert witnesses from all over the world to testify. After hearing all the expert witnesses and having access to that knowledge and understanding of the issues, the government could have the committee draft the amendment or bill before it comes to this House, with the backup of that expertise and the involvement of the justice department and the bureaucracy of government as well at the committee. If it did that, we would not get into these situations.
Instead committees spend days, weeks, months and sometimes years examining issues. The endangered species legislation and human reproductive technologies are just a couple that come to mind. We spent months examining and listening to the best people who came to committee to talk to us. Then the bills went somewhere into the nameless, faceless bureaucracy where they were drafted, ignoring all that testimony and expertise that was brought to committee.
That should not be. It should not happen that way. It would not need to happen that way if the government was serious about doing the best job it could in this place on behalf of Canadians. I hope somewhere down the road a change takes place and it is done that way. However the way things work around here it will probably be long after all of us are gone. I will come back to the issue a little later in my presentation, but from what I have seen in my nine years here the expression “The more things change, the more they stay the same” is appropriate. It seems to be the only way this place operates.
The current embarrassment is the result of another humiliating embarrassment to the nuclear regulating bodies. There were serious safety problems in Ontario Hydro's nuclear reactors, problems the Canadian nuclear regulator should have known about and taken action to correct. Instead, an American consultant hired by Ontario Hydro identified the problem and has since shut down a number of Ontario Hydro's reactors.
In an effort to rectify the deficiencies in the existing regulatory regime we went through a process two years ago of restructuring the Canadian nuclear safety and control bureaucracy. Bill C-57 is an amendment to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act that would fix the problem with subsection 46(3) of the current act, a problem which should have been recognized by the drafters of the bill at the time.
Subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act prevents owners and operators of Canadian nuclear facilities from obtaining debt financing. It represents a significant barrier to any form of domestic or foreign investment in the nuclear industry in Canada. It puts the Canadian nuclear industry at a substantial competitive disadvantage internationally. This is because it provides that where the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission believes a site may be contaminated in excess of prescribed limits, the commission may conduct a public hearing. After the hearing, if the commission concludes that contamination exists it may take action to:
||--order that the owner or occupant of, or any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
The subsection means there is unlimited liability for the cleanup of environmental contamination for anyone with a legal right to or interest in the contaminated land or facilities. This includes mortgage lenders and other security holders. The provision is unique to the nuclear industry. It does not appear in any other federal or provincial environmental legislation.
Subsection 46(3) goes so far as to make passive investors such as mutual fund holders, pension fund holders, private shareholders, and lenders such as banks liable for the costs of cleanup. It is obvious why the nuclear industry has been having such a terrible time arranging for financing since the bringing into force of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act two years ago.
Subsection 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act goes far beyond the common law principle of liability and the provisions of provincial and federal legislation. In all other such environmental legislation, lenders and other security holders are not exposed to such levels of liability unless they exercise their security and assume management and control of the secured assets.
I find it difficult to believe that the individuals who drafted the original legislation could not foresee this complication in the form of the current act. The problems inherent in the legislation are obvious. The argument has been made that the original wording may have been intended to address the issue of orphaned sites; that is, when companies operating facilities, usually mining, have gone bankrupt and walked away from remediation thus leaving the federal and provincial governments with the cleanup responsibilities.
It strikes me as odd. If this kind of situation is almost exclusively found in the mining industry, why would the government hamstring the nuclear industry with this provision? As we have seen, sometimes the most obvious problems escape the notice of the Liberal government until the problems become so significant it finally is forced into action.
The way to protect the public purse from companies declaring bankruptcy or disappearing and abdicating responsibility for reclamation is to require as part of the licensing process adequate bonding of the company to cover the costs of cleanup in the event the company becomes insolvent.
When we consider the ramifications of subsection 46(3) it is easy to understand why banks and potential investors have been running in the opposite direction at the thought of investing in the Canadian nuclear industry. After all, what bank or lending institution would impose that kind of liability on its shareholders?
The change to the wording of the subsection as proposed in the amendment would bring the Nuclear Safety Control Act in line with other environmental legislation. Changing the phrase “a right to or interest in” to “management and control of” would ensure liability for the cleanup of nuclear spills remained with the owners and producers of nuclear facilities rather than saddling private sector investments and their clients with the uncertainty and potential huge costs of cleanup.
The Canadian Alliance supports private sector involvement in the financing of the nuclear industry to keep government involvement and public funding of such projects to a minimum. I have long had a problem with the conflict situation in which the Canadian government is both the sales agency for Canada's nuclear technology such as the Candu reactor and the sole regulator of the nuclear industry and nuclear research in the country. The situation makes us vulnerable to compromises in the safety and regulatory body in favour of the commercial side of the industry. In the past I sponsored a private member's bill to split responsibility between different ministers and departments.
The Canadian Alliance also supports reducing barriers that impede private sector competitiveness at a time when all forms of cleaner fuel must be considered. If the nuclear industry is to be part of the energy mix of the country it is imperative that it is kept on the same playing field as other energy industries in Canada. I am not convinced nuclear energy is the answer to Canada's clean air challenges but that is a debate for another day.
I support allowing the nuclear industry to attract investors and thereby make investment decisions and plans for the future development of the industry on both the domestic and international fronts. Like many energy industries, the nuclear industry requires a huge amount of funding to remain viable. It must be able to make accurate long term plans to remain stable and attract private sector investment. Continuing uncertainty regarding the availability of financing could jeopardize not only the substantial economic spinoff benefits of such investment for Canadian nuclear manufacturers but also the jobs of thousands of Canadian workers.
Passage of the amendment is critical to the revitalization of Ontario's electrical industry. As the amendment falls in line with Canadian Alliance policy we will be supporting passage of the bill. However although we support the bill we do not support the government's hijacking technique to ensure speedy passage of it. There is no reason the amendment could not have been tabled a month ago, gone through all the appropriate stages of consideration and been passed by session's end.
The government must be embarrassed to feel the need to delay such an important amendment to one of its own acts. Perhaps it is afraid Canadians will notice yet another Liberal attempt to cover up misguided incompetence. Canadians deserve better.
Madam Speaker, Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, was introduced at first reading on Friday of last week. Today is Tuesday; this is only two working days. This is not much.
We have not been informed of all the government's intentions, but the bill might seem fairly straightforward, given its brevity.
It seems fairly straightforward but, on reflection, more information is needed to be able to consider it further. Fortunately, the Internet is available 24 hours a day so I did some research into nuclear issues yesterday evening and part of the night. I do not have a written text but I will take one step at a time.
The bill is only one page long and it consists of one short paragraph. Paragraph 46(3) of the previous legislation reads as follows:
|Where, after conducting a hearing, the Commission is satisfied that there is contamination referred to in subsection (1), the Commission may, in addition to filing a notice under subsection (2), order that the owner or occupant of, or any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
“With a right to or interest in” has become “who has the management and control of”. This limits the responsibility of financiers a good deal in this connection.
There is already a bill and normally it would be a straightforward matter. This puts me in mind of Cyrano de Bergerac whose reactions would run something like this:
“Oh no, young man, that is a bit brief. One could convey much to the gods just by varying one's tone of voice.
There is curious: But what does this apparently inoffensive simplicity conceal?
Timorous: There are therefore risks if financiers do not wish to commit themselves.
Cavalier: Ah, that is a private matter. We should not concern ourselves with it.
Interrogative: Can we do without nuclear energy?
Affirmative: Nuclear energy is not a greenhouse gas solution.
Provident and considerate: Invest in renewable energy; it will be to your advantage”.
In fact, the arguments of the minister and the backer are fairly simple as well, relying solely on the financial aspects. As an accountant I have often had to assess financial risk. Often such risk was limited to the money invested in or loaned to a company.
The nuclear issue goes beyond nuclear plants, and private sector ownership and investment in nuclear plants. But it seems this is the first time we are debating this provision. I am told they have been working on this for two years. That is rather long for a single section of an act, but when the initial bill was first introduced in its entirety, what was the point of clause 46(3)?
The question begs to be asked. I am told nobody made any comments on this clause, but it is being suggested that the intent was not to move toward the privatization of the nuclear industry. This is the most relevant question that should be asked.
The main user and owner of nuclear plants in Canada is the province of Ontario, with 20 plants. Ontario Power Generation, formerly Hydro Ontario, was the owner of the plants and its was experiencing significant losses. It had to invest enormous amounts just to keep the system working. There had been many disruptions and serious problems were looming. The situation remains unchanged, nuclear energy being nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is said to be the solution to the greenhouse gas emissions problem but I do not share that view.
It is clear that the minister would like the private sector to invest more in the nuclear industry. Here is a quote from his backgrounder:
|With governments encouraging more private sector participation in the ownership and management of facilities in all energy sectors--
Presumably he also favoured the nuclear industry as far as the private sector goes. Obviously this is a matter for the natural resources minister. He has answered many of our questions so that we might readily accept his conclusions.
However, there are also the backers. The backers are the ones making the request and pushing for this because funds were not made available by the lending institutions. The aspects of government policy that backers take into consideration are the following. They say that the current provisions of section 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act prevent nuclear power plant owners and operators from having access to financial markets and from obtaining financing. The big Canadian banks have refused to finance power plants and have officially told the Minister of Natural Resources that section 46(3) was the reason behind the refusal.
Once again, for those interested, the current legislation is said to have a negative impact on the ability of private enterprises to invest in nuclear power plants, to the detriment of the development of Canada's nuclear industry.
This is an important element. We are being told that it is to the detriment of the future development of Canada's nuclear industry. What of this? Do we really want to push the development of Canada's nuclear industry even more?
It is worth asking whether or not this is the best way to proceed. We know quite well that this is not the best way to proceed when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. Obviously, I could come back to this later.
We have also been told that this is unusual, that there are no other similar provisions in other federal or provincial environmental legislation. In other statutes on the environment, the responsibility for compensating for damages caused to the environment is up to the owners, occupants or those who manage or supervise the contaminated site. Lenders and title holders are not exposed to environmental responsibility, unless they have not exercised their rights on the title and are not ensuring that the asset is being managed or monitored.
If at some time possession of the site occurs due to a loan, obviously, then there is responsibility involved. When it comes to this responsibility, the dangers involved in the nuclear industry are far greater than with other energy sources, as far as I am concerned. We know that in oil and gas, contaminants are shamelessly released into the atmosphere. We are told that nuclear energy is clean. However, we know that there is a great deal of waste and risk involved in operating and managing these facilities, and automatically, a great deal of risk in terms of contamination. We also know that when it comes to the management of waste, we recently had the nuclear waste disposal act.
As members know, we were still not in agreement with how this was done. Now, we figure there never was any debate on the advisability of continuing to develop the nuclear industry in Canada and in Quebec. In Quebec, it is not a real issue, because we have hydroelectricity and it is likely that, in the relatively close future, we will not even rely on nuclear energy anymore.
It is also said that the proposed legislative amendments will not reduce the power of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to require owners and operators of nuclear plants to post an adequate guarantee to protect the environment, since the commission will continue to deliver licences to nuclear plants.
Of course, this is not quite the same thing. Amounts of money or guarantees can be provided. However, we can see that, increasingly, the government wants to promote nuclear development through the private sector.
The government's main argument is that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will still be omnipresent and have control over everything. If a place is contaminated, the commission will force its owners or operators to fix the problem.
We all remember that the former Atomic Energy Control Board was created in 1946, shortly after the Hiroshima tragedy. Back then, there were already some serious concerns which triggered a will to promote effective monitoring of atomic energy and, of course, nuclear plants.
The commission's role is to regulate nuclear industry in Canada, so that the development and use of nuclear energy do not pose an unacceptable risk to health, safety and the environment. The commission must also control imports and exports of regulated nuclear substances, equipment and technologies, and help Canada fulfill its domestic and international obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
In this regard, we are told that the plutonium used to make atomic weapons comes primarily from nuclear plants operated by the private sector.
We know that, for a significant number of Canadians, the Candu reactors operated by electric utilities are the most obvious example of nuclear plants. So, when we talk about funding of nuclear facilities by financial institutions, we are not just talking about reactors, as we know, but the public believes that this is what we are primarily talking about.
For sure there are many fields of research. They are varied. There is uranium processing, naturally; there are also research reactors; nuclear research and test establishments; big irradiators; and, at the end of the spectrum, nuclear weapons of course. Everybody knows we have to strive for nuclear non-proliferation. However, fear may always remain in people's minds regarding all this.
We learned from a former head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that it was not up to the commission to make decisions on whether to use nuclear power in Canada. She added “However, once such a decision has been made, our role begins—and it does not end until the facility has been successfully decommissioned according the regulatory requirements”.
We know the government wants to proceed swiftly, as witnessed by the fact that first reading took place on Friday, second reading today, and that the bill will probably go through committee very quickly and third reading stage before the end of the session.
There has been no update on whether or not to go forward with nuclear energy, which would be very worthwhile, I believe. We are not just trying to prolong proceedings or interfere with financial interests. What is in place today will probably have to stay in place for a while yet. The laws of finance require that equipment be amortized, but we know that if we do amortize our equipment, we produce dangerous nuclear waste in increasingly large quantities. The government is ignoring this fact, it is not paying attention to it, but it is the Damocles sword that hangs over every one of us.
While doing my research, I looked into why private companies are and will be getting increasingly more involved in the nuclear sector. It is the result of deregulating the electricity sector. A case in point is Ontario Hydro and the decision by the provincial government to deregulate the electricity market. It has been very much in the news lately, and Ontario is not the only place where this is happening.
Deregulation of electricity markets is occurring all over the western world. However, Ontario was the first province in Canada to legislate in this area when it passed the Energy Competition Act in 1998. The purpose of this act is to restructure the electricity market and electric power utility. Ontario owns 20 nuclear power stations and is beginning to dispose of them. I think that four of them have gone to Bruce Power.
I also read the Ontario Power Generation reports. There were significant losses. For the first quarter of 2002, losses totalled $217 million. It is significant.
One has to wonder why an organization that is experiencing losses would want to dispose of some of its assets—it is a form of lease, of course—or to transfer the management or control of these assets to the private sector. First of all, there are substantial sums of money involved, as one can see in the financial statements. Ontario Power Generation is receiving substantial payments.
However, one can question the viability of the private company that will run this nuclear power station. We know all about the maintenance and management of such stations, emergency procedures and control. If there is any decontamination involved, it is even worse. In situations where businesses are struggling, how will they make a profit? For a business that is not making a profit, the risks can be huge.
I will spare you another report that I have read. It is clear that promoters are very good with the rhetoric. They were promoting Ontario Power Generation for the transfer of various facilities so they could manage these facilities themselves. In fact, I think that one or two stations are not operating right now because they do not comply with the commission's regulations.
Earlier, I asked this question: can we do without nuclear energy? This is the fundamental question we should be asking. By amending this section, we are, in effect, handing over to the private increased management of nuclear plants. Therefore, in contributing to the development of nuclear plants and getting the private sector to invest more and more, will we, at some point in time, be building nuclear plants to produce electricity to be sold tor the United States, which is increasingly starved for energy? If nuclear plants owned by the private sector in Canada are allowed to proliferate, of more and more nuclear waste will also be produced.
I asked if we could do without nuclear energy. I believe that we can. It all boils down to how we look at the issue. The only question that must be asked is this: is nuclear energy acceptable or not? If it is, then I would be in favour of it. However, like all the people who have seriously examined the issue, I believe that nuclear energy is unacceptable, principally because of the risk of major accidents.
Of course, in our modern societies, we must accept a certain degree of risk. We will not stop travelling by plane because a plane crashed. People do take risks. However, in this case, the banks are not willing to take risks. One must conclude, therefore, that there enormous risks associated with nuclear plants.
The nuclear risk is without parallel. It is completely out of proportion. After a nuclear accident, a whole area would have to be evacuated for centuries, and, for generations, children would be born with all kinds of deformities.
I spoke earlier about the other problem with the burial of radioactive waste. If it is really that safe, why bother to bury it in practically unpopulated areas? Why not closer to big cities? We would like Canadians to know enough about that to wonder about this. Is nuclear energy acceptable or not? As far as I am concerned, it is not. For the population, I think the answer would also be no.
I was also asking a little earlier if nuclear power could be a solution to greenhouse gas emissions. We often hear that nuclear energy is one of the best solutions, if not the only reliable solution to greenhouse gas emissions. The nuclear industry is working very hard to be included in the post-Kyoto negotiations. Nuclear reactors are presented as an alternative that should be taken into consideration in the development of flexibility arrangements, as for emission permit trading or the joint implementation of clean development mechanisms such as wind energy, solar energy and hydroelectricity.
This attempt is seen by these backers as a last chance to revitalize the nuclear industry, which has never reached the level of expansion announced by the pioneers and has even started to show the first signs of decline.
In 1974, the International Atomic Energy Agency was forecasting a worldwide nuclear capacity of 4,450 one thousand megawatt reactors by the end of the century. At the end of 1999, the same agency had only 433 nuclear reactors listed around the world, or only 8% of what had been forecasted.
Nuclear energy is being used in 32 only countries around the world. In 1999, it provided only 7.5% of the commercial primary energy in the world, way behind the fossil fuels, like oil, gas or natural gas, which produced 40%, 25% and 25% respectively. It represents 17% of commercially rpoduced electricity, but only 2.5% of final energy demand.
In 2000, no reactor was under construction, on order or even in the planning stages in North America or in western Europe. The last order that was not cancelled later on was made in 1973, in the United States, and in 1980, in Europe, except in France, where construction of the last plant began in 1993.
The decline is starting to be seen worldwide. The nuclear park has lost seven units, from its all time record of 440 operating reactors in 1997. And the chances of recovery are slim. Most of the 38 reactors listed by the IAEA as being under construction at the end of 1999 are located in eastern Europe, in the former U.S.S.R.
This record has not prevented nuclear proponents from developing very optimistic scenarios for the recovery of the nuclear industry, and climate change is being given a crucial role in influencing decision makers.
Thus, in early 1999, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency developed three scenarios for the period extending from 2000 to 2050. While the first one would be the demise of nuclear energy in 2045, both of the others forecast either continued development or a decline, followed by a recovery, which would lead to the same worldwide installed capacity of 1,120 megawatts in 2050. In contradiction with short term outlook, these scenarios would imply an unprecedented building campaign.
The argument generally used by the nuclear lobby is the direct comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from a reactor with those from a coal fired power plant. The very favourable figures that are misleading. In particular, the comparison must cover all the alternatives: gas, which now represents most of the new capacity installed in Europe and which produces 1.5 to 2 times less greenhouse gas emissions than coal, but also alternative energy sources and energy efficiency.
Nuclear plants and nuclear energy are in a decline. This is obvious. Now, there are things that we, in the Bloc Quebecois, would still like to point out. Since there has to be a debate on the appropriateness of Canada's continuing to invest and to work at producing energy from nuclear sources, we say that there are major alternatives.
Looking at investments made in the past by the Canadian government in other sources of energy, we realize that direct grants from the federal government into the oil industry since 1970 amount to $66 billion, compared to $6 billion in nuclear energy and only $329 million in renewable energy.
Just imagine what $66 billion would have done for wind power and solar energy. Most likely this would not even be an issue today. We know that, together, nuclear plants in Canada generate between 16,000 and 17,000 megawatts of energy. However, wind power is also creating a great many jobs. I could get back on this later.
The wind power industry is expanding around the world. Over the last six years the average annual growth of this industry was 30%. With 40 times the installed power capacity of Canada, Germany is the biggest user of this form of energy. Europe alone owns close to 75% of all wind generators in the world.
At the present time the total wind power generated in the countries using this kind of energy is 24,471 megawatts. Canada's contribution is currently 207 megawatts.
I revert to the job creation aspect. According to the U.S. department of energy, wind power creates more jobs by invested dollar than any other technology. It creates over five times more than thermal power produced from coal and nuclear energy.
Let us take a look at the number of jobs created by the wind power industry in Europe: in 1996, for the production of 3,500 megawatts, 72,000 person years of employment were created. Could the same kind of investment in nuclear power have the same impact? I doubt it very much.
In the year 2000, for an installed production capacity of 8,000 megawatts, 512,000 person years of employment were created. According to forecasts for 2020, with 100,000 megawatts installed, 2.4 million jobs directly related to wind power would be created.
As members know, the federal program is very skimpy. The December 2001 federal budget introduced a production incentive for electricity generated from wind energy projects: 1.2 ¢ per kilowatt hour of production from projects commissioned as early as 2002; 1.1 ¢ per kilowatt hour in 2003, and so on, down to 0.8 ¢ per kilowatt hour in 2007. The federal government is far from the 2.7 cents per kilowatt-hour assistance provided in the U.S. Moreover, this program only has an overall budget of $260 million, spread over 15 years. That is $17 million a year. That is not even enough to build 15 wind turbines a year.
Instead of asking ourselves questions, trying to encourage the private sector to invest in nuclear energy, when the government has invested close to $66 billion in the oil industry and a minimum of $6 billion in nuclear energy since 1970, in other words in the past 30 or so years, imagine what could be done, especially with a large budgetary surplus. Taking Quebec as an example, the Gaspé would be one appropriate place for the development of wind energy. If Quebec were not hampered by the fiscal imbalance, it too might be able to invest in these energy sources, given the federal government's lukewarm interest in investing in wind energy.
Quebec is proposing the creation of a federal program to invest $700 million in the wind industry over five years. This is the equivalent, on a per capita basis, of federal assistance to Newfoundland for the Hibernia project. The federal government has the means, as witness its $9.8 billion surplus for the 2001-02 budgetary year.
The goal is to create wind capacity of at least 1,000 megawatts in Quebec, primarily in the Gaspé region. To accomplish this, a strong wind industry must be developed. Such a capacity would have the potential to create 15,000 jobs at the very least. That is why the program will be used to set up plants to manufacture wind turbine components.
We can certainly see the potential for private investment in the nuclear industry. Let us also put some money into renewable energies so that in the future we rely less and less on nuclear energy, and future generations never have to deal with disasters that could strike at any time.
I will repeat, and with no one in particular in mind, what I said at the beginning of my speech. Plutonium used to make atomic bombs mainly originates with civilian nuclear plants that have financial backers. This is strictly a cautionary remark. Let us try to imagine what will happen if the program is continued.
This is why it should focus on the manufacture of wind generators. The project should absolutely include local content and an aspect to encourage the development of regional industry. The region has definitely been affected from the economic point of view. In terms of energy and job creation, there are huge possibilities.
Returning now to my first and most basic ideas, I believe that if financial backers find this too risky an investment, there is no reason for society to react differently.
We believe that the hazards relating to nuclear energy require tighter regulations than for any other type of energy. We also believe that the government should focus its efforts on developing clean energy such as wind power. Where energy is concerned, the Bloc Quebecois also demands, first and foremost, ratification of Kyoto.
Why change a section that in my estimation was mainly aimed at blocking private investment in the nuclear energy field? With regard to nuclear energy, we know that the risk increases as use increases. If the government wants to enlist private enterprise in order to increase the production of nuclear energy, I do not see this as the ideal solution as far as the greenhouse effect is concerned. It is erroneous to think that the nuclear approach is the only one with positive effects on greenhouse gases. Wind energy might very well takes its place and would have far more significant economic impact than investments in nuclear energy where the risks are too great to warrant any such considerable investment.
Madam Speaker, I listened closely to the comments of my colleague on the particular change to the act proposed by Bill C-57.
My colleagues from Athabasca, Sherbrooke, and although he did not speak yet, my colleague from Windsor--St. Clair, have spoken at length on a number of government nuclear policies and the importance of various pieces of legislation affecting the nuclear industry. We have agreed with many of the policies. I take no exception to the thoughtful comments made by my colleague from Sherbrooke although I expect that at the end of the day on this vote we will probably not be in complete agreement. That does not take away from the importance of what my colleague from Sherbrooke said.
Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, is almost a piece of housekeeping legislation. The difficulty, as has been mentioned already, with housekeeping legislation introduced by the government is that one has to go back and check the entire bill again because there is always something hidden.
In this case I do not think there is anything hidden. It is a pretty straightforward, uncomplicated change contained in a few words in subsection 46(3) of the bill.
The government House leader rose earlier and asked that we pass all stages of the bill. The Progressive Conservative Party is in agreement with that. However, it has been said, and needs to be said again, that this is not timely. The government had an opportunity to bring it forward and did not bring it forward. All of a sudden we have a bill on the table in the dying days of this sitting of the House.
Once again there is an unprecedented urgency that all stages of the bill be passed in unison. Because of the subject matter, I agree, but the point needs to be made that it is not the way legislation or changes to legislation should be brought to the House. We should be more thorough in the original legislation. Part of the problem is the absolute sloppiness of the legislation the government has been passing, and its absolute refusal to make amendments to poorly worded legislation.
Under proposed subsection 46(3) in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, that measure can be interpreted to extend liability for nuclear site remediation, as it is worded now, to an owner, operator or any other person with a right to, or an interest in, the affected land or place.
Obviously that was a mistake in the original act that should have been picked up. Unfortunately it was not picked up and as a result of that clause banks or other financial institutions are reluctant to lend money to nuclear operators because of potential liability. The cost of the liability could exceed the initial financing to the operator and negatively affect the financial situation of the lending institution. This is unprecedented in any other section of Canadian law or legislation.
Even with the changes it is conceivable that a lending institution could still be liable if it owns the property. If for some reason the original owner forecloses then the lending institution could be held liable. That is a different situation and it is not unforeseen with the changes.
Under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which is the nuclear control agency, is authorized to conduct investigations to see if nuclear contamination exists onsite if and when any site has been decommissioned. Under subsection 46(3) the commission can order that measures be taken to minimize or eliminate the contamination and that those measures be carried out in a prompt manner, as it should be. However, who is liable for the cost of that clean up?
It was mentioned earlier by my colleague from Athabasca that subsection 46(3) in the original legislation was a section carried over from the mining sector. It was not really meant to affect the operation and control of nuclear reactors. It was meant to deal with mine site reclamation, acid mine drainage and possible tailing ponds contamination to any area surrounding a mine or a smelter. There are ways to deal with that. It was not meant to hinder or control financiers of the nuclear sector.
This is not about whether one supports nuclear energy or not. This is not about all of the correct things said earlier about our responsibility as legislators to seek more avenues and opportunities for green power, hydroelectricity, wind energy, solar energy and thermal energy. That is not what this is about.
This is about taking away the liability of a lending institution from the responsibility for nuclear onsite contamination. That does not exist if, for example a lending institution suddenly became a service station with onsite gas or diesel contamination which needed to be cleaned up. The lending institution is not responsible for that, nor should it be. This change that has been asked for is not a complicated change.
The amendment to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act addresses a number of issues. The possibility of liability for lending institutions for site remediation impedes nuclear facilities from accessing debt financing. Barriers to financing place nuclear operators at a competitive disadvantage compared to non-nuclear operators where barriers do not exist. The amendment also addresses nuclear facilities able to produce electricity with minimal greenhouse gas emissions.
This is not about whether we are supporters or non-supporters of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is a fact of life. Nuclear energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The government is trying to get public opinion on its side to sign Kyoto. There are good reasons to look at the agreements under Kyoto and it is the government's responsibility to look at those agreements. As Canada attempts to meet its commitments under Kyoto there is no question that we will have to turn to alternative sources of energy, namely nuclear energy.
It is not the job of government to stifle the nuclear sector or to prevent it from being a supplier of clean energy. Nuclear waste is still problematic and has not been dealt with. All opposition parties in the House voted against Bill C-27, an act respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste, because it was a poorly worded, poorly crafted and sloppy piece of legislation. The government has not dealt with the long term storage problems inherent in the nuclear energy sector. However, that does not mean that we should not approve a small change to the legislation which would allow nuclear operators to access debt financing.
It is not apparent to me that there is the legislative intent in the original wording of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to extend site remediation liability to parties without management or control of operations. I certainly believe that statement. What has happened here is exactly what happened with regard to the storage of nuclear waste in Bill C-27. What happened was that a piece of legislation that was supposed to be housekeeping legislation, just a matter of tying a few loose ends together, became legislation because the government has a huge majority and a huge ego. It could not bear the fact that well-meaning amendments were needed to make that piece of legislation better and to make this piece of legislation better. The government simply voted down the amendments.
It is not about whether the amendments are good or bad, quite frankly. It is about whether or not the Liberals put their majority in place in the committee and vote down amendments because they come from an opposition party. I have made amendments to Liberal government legislation which were voted down at committee and then the government brought back to the House the exact same amendments with the exact same wording and passed them. This is not about passing good legislation. It is all about the ego of a huge majority government that has not done its job.
The next government to come to power will have to go back through all the legislation that the government has passed and improve it. It will not have to change every detail and every word of it but it will have to improve it.
The amendment to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act which we are dealing with today will change the wording of subsection 46(3) to limit liability to those with “management and control” of the affected sites. This will replace the reference to anyone “with a right to or an interest in”, which clearly puts the liability of any nuclear contamination upon the person with management or control of that site. There has been some opposition to the idea: that somehow we are helping out the big banks or the big financiers of the world. It does not exclude them from responsibility if in fact they have management or control of that site.
If there were a private nuclear institution, nuclear producers who actually found themselves in financial difficulty and went bankrupt, and the financiers loaning the money to that institution suddenly became the owners or were in management of or control of that institution, they would assume the liability, which they should. That is a different situation and that situation is covered.
However, for a regular institution loaning money, why should the government hamper and burden the nuclear sector under what is really a very strange clause that never should have been there to begin with and is there only because the government side of the House has not passed clear, consistent, well thought out legislation in this piece of legislation or in any other piece of legislation?
The PC Party will support this change to the legislation because it will provide operators of nuclear facilities with the opportunity to access debt financing from private investors. Clearly that is needed. It is important for a number of reasons. It is important to allow nuclear operators to compete equally with other electricity generators and operators and it is important to be consistent with other environmental legislation. We should not be singling out the nuclear sector as one that is somehow different from other sectors. We have a certain amount of and, I think, a very clear environmental responsibility, which should sit evenly on all sectors. The amendment clarifies the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and limits the liability of banks and other financial institutions providing funding to nuclear facilities, as I believe it should.
In closing, let me say again that this is not about nuclear energy or non-nuclear energy. This is about an amendment that should have been made in the original act, a change that should have taken place in the wording of the original act and never did. It is not about supporting or not supporting alternative sectors. I believe everyone in the House supports more clean energy, more green energy, wherever that green energy is from, including ways of improving the so-called dirty energy sectors, the oil generation, certainly even any hydrocarbon electricity generating stations and coal-fired electricity generating stations. There are many areas where we can do a better job and where we have a responsibility to do a better job. There are all kinds of tidal, wind and deep sea current energy that has yet to be harnessed or utilized in Canada. We can spend $66 billion, as has been mentioned earlier, to improve our capacity to burn oil. We spent somewhere around $296 million, which I think was the quote, on types of alternative energy. Something is seriously wrong. It is a completely lopsided agenda that the government has.
Let us take a look at the alternatives, but let us not stifle the nuclear energy sector while we are doing that. This does not take away the government's responsibility to deal with nuclear waste, which it has not done. This does not take away the responsibility of the nuclear sector to be a very good guardian of the planet, to prevent nuclear contamination and to prevent any form of radioactive contamination. However, for the purposes of the bill, for a very simple change in the wording, we support the piece of legislation. It is not timely, being brought in at the end of the session, but it is needed and the PC Party will support it.
Madam Speaker, this is an interesting bill because it is being camouflaged as just a minor amendment to protect financiers. However it is really about the Liberal government getting in bed with the Ontario Conservative government to cover up a huge mistake it made when it moved to privatize Bruce Power and British Energy about a year and a half ago. It missed a little section.
However the bill is about the future of the nuclear industry as far as generating power for the country.
Those are the two issues and both are very important issues in the short term and may be more important for the long term environmental health of the country. Therefore, to suggest, as the government has, that we just need to slide this through to deal with a little technical problem is really a sham.
Let us look at what happened around the whole issue of privatization. We had a very right wing Conservative government elected in the province of Ontario and one of its mandates as it interpreted it was to downsize government. It looked at a number of areas to do that and one of them was in the field of production of hydroelectric power and energy more generally.
We have heard some of the recent boondoggles around the Ontario government trying to sell off Hydro One that in effect was stopped by the courts. There is a real analogy here. The Ontario government thought it had the ability to do it. What really happened was that it had not looked at the legislation. There was no empowerment legislation in Ontario that would allow that government to sell off Hydro One.
Now the courts have told the Ontario government that it does not have the authority to sell Hydro One. The Conservative government recently introduced a bill in the house to allow it to go ahead with the sale although it is obvious that the new premier of Ontario is getting cold feet because of all the opposition from Ontario to privatize. It looks like he may be backing off.
It is clear that the Ontario government did not know what it was doing. It is also clear, as more and more analysis falls on the deal that was made by the Ontario government with British Energy to let it manage and control Bruce Power, that it was a very favourable deal to British Energy. Much like this legislation, it was drafted in such a way that ultimately, if things do not go so well for British Energy, the Ontario government and obviously the Ontario taxpayer will be left to pay the tab. That is such a consistent pattern with the nuclear industry, not just in Canada but across the globe.
Over the last few months, as British Energy looked to expand and re-open part of Bruce Power, it was being told by its financiers about this section in the act. In spite of some of the allegations we have heard in the House that somehow we were just going to treat those financiers of nuclear power the same as we treat everybody else, the opposite is true.
I am not clear whether this is true in Quebec but as it sits in the common law in the rest of Canada, if an operation is financed, whether it be a mortgage or some other security against land, buildings, equipment, and the company defaults on its payment, the lender is responsible for the cleanup.
I will bring this down to a basic level. If I were to purchase a home only to find out later that there was a problem with toxic waste on the site, I, as the subsequent purchaser of that home, and my mortgage company would be responsible for the cleanup. That is the law in Canada with, as I say, perhaps the exception of Quebec, because I do not know that.
We are not rectifying some discrimination here against lenders who want to lend to the nuclear industry. The law, as it sits now, treats them no differently than they are treated in every other aspect of their lending.
What is really offensive, other than this attempt to cover up the mistake made by the Ontario government, which the Liberals seem to be willing to help out with, is that we have favoured the nuclear industry for a long time. Our Prime Minister runs around the globe as a salesperson for it. He is its biggest booster. We give it all sorts of breaks, and by that I mean royalties, tax breaks, any number of things. It is also subsidized at the provincial government level.
If the Ontario government privatizes Ontario Hydro a huge debt will be left behind. The vast majority of that debt, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 75% to 80%, was accumulated through its overspending when it first opened some of the nuclear plants in Ontario. Cost estimates ran 200%, 300% and, in some cases, almost 400% over what the original estimates were. We in Ontario will be paying for that.
What we are now doing is saying that we will give the industry another break. We cannot do that. This is an opportunity for the government and the country to say that we have been wrong about nuclear power all along. We need to face the fact that this is not a sustainable industry and, as have a number of other countries, we have to look at phasing out the industry.
We are sitting with a huge bill that we will need to pay somewhere down the road. How will we deal with the existing waste, which we are continuing to produce, and then the decommissioning of the nuclear power plants in the country?
In the fall and early winter we went through a review of the nuclear waste disposal bill. In spite of the fact that there are some trust funds being established to deal with that, they are grossly inadequate.
What we are doing here today as we look at this bill is burying our heads in the sand and pretending that we can let the financiers of this industry off the hook. We can pretend that the government does not have to assess this industry with the same type of risk assessment it uses for every other industry.
Before I was elected I sat as a member on a credit union board. We gave out fairly substantial commercial loans. We had to do risk assessments. Certainly one of the risk assessments we had to do was environmental. We needed to know if we were taking on a piece of property as security for a loan that could potentially end up back in our laps. We were no different about this. Every credit union and financial institution in the country does the same thing. Therefore we now regularly do an environmental assessment of the site.
If we do not impose the same standard, we again are pretending that the nuclear industry is risk free from an environmental standpoint. That is what we are saying to the financiers and the financial community. We are saying that it is okay, that they do not have to treat this industry like they treat every other sector of the economy when they are considering advancing funds, either by way of investment or loans. That is what the amendment to the act would do and it is wrong. That is not what we should be about as a country. We should not be facilitating either the privatization or the expansion of this industry, which this amendment would allow.
Again, to suggest that there are no particular major issues here is an attempt on the part of the government to grossly mislead the House. It is really about going back and covering up the mistake that was made. It is pretending on an ongoing basis that the nuclear industry does not have these costs associated with it. That is in fact how we have conducted public business in Canada for the better part of five decades. It is time for that to stop. We cannot allow ourselves to continue on in this way. We talk a lot about sustainable development. This industry is not sustainable.
We have heard where we will go with this. I just want to say one more thing about privatization. If we allow the amendment to go through, it would open the door to privatization. By that I mean turning over either ownership and control or control of every nuclear plant to the private sector because the private sector would not have to worry about its liability and it would not have to do that risk assessment.
I want to be very clear about this. We could say that maybe to be fair to the financiers we should not impose this on them. We should think about it from the other angle. We are private sector persons. We have entered into an arrangement where we have taken over either ownership or management of a plant. We know now that we can go out into the financial community, because this amendment has been passed, and say to the financiers that they should not worry about liability because it all rests with us.
There is no accountability. There are no standards for operators. The operators do not have to worry about it. They would have their financing from the financiers because they did not have to worry about any liability. They could expand plants without doing all the safety things. They could cut some corners here and there to save some money and make greater profits. At the end of the day they could shut down the plants and walk away.
Before anybody tells me I am crazy and says that this does not happen, we should think about how many mining industry sites, including uranium mines, have been abandoned and sitting with tailings. I just came from committee this morning. We heard about tailings that had been dumped from uranium mining and how they were now leaching into waterways in Saskatchewan and up in the territories. It has happened specifically in this industry and we know it has happened in a number of others. We should think about all the brown sites in our cities, toxic sites from which people have walked away. It does happen and the costs with regard to nuclear are so phenomenal. We should be doing absolutely nothing that would make it easier for those operators.
Quite frankly, if we look at the specific operator at Bruce go back and look at its history in England, we will see that it is not a very good one. There have been some monumental problems. Major fines have been levied against it because of the its operation of some of the plants.
I just want to deal with costs for a minute and what we will be looking at if that type of scenario develops. I will use as an example a project that has just been funded by the U.S. congress with taxpayer dollars to the tune of $7.5 billion because the site is contaminated. The engineering firm that developed the methodology to clean it up just won an international award. The end result is that the site will be cleaned up and it will no longer be radioactive. However that waste will be run through another nuclear plant in South Carolina. At the end of the day there will still be nuclear waste. That one site will cost the American taxpayer $7.5 billion.
Right now we are on a curve to produce more nuclear waste by 2010 than will be produced at that time in the United States. We will have by that time more waste than in the United States. That is what we are talking about in terms of this industry.
As my friend from the Bloc, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, has pointed out, we have alternatives. If someone asked he and I if our proposal was that we not do this and that the nuclear industry should be phased out, we both would say yes. If someone then said to us that we did not have an alternative, our answer would be that we did have alternatives. The hon. member enunciated a number of them such as wind.
Canada has the ability and potential to create more wind energy than any other country in the world. That would be wind energy drawn from onshore and offshore turbines. It is interesting that I know this and it is not because of any work done by the government. It is through analyses that have been done by companies and countries in Europe.
One of the great sacrileges is because the government has dawdled on this for so long, we are now at least a decade behind Europe in technology for offshore development of wind power. The British Columbia government has entered into a short term and potentially long term contract with Germany. It bought the technology from Germany to provide one of the first offshore wind generated power plants in the country.
A small country like Ireland, with a population of 3.5 million to 5 million people, opened the largest offshore wind generating plant in the world last fall. England is about to open one in the next 12 months that will be even larger. We do not have that technology. We will have to buy it, which will cost us cost us more money.
We should be moving into that area as rapidly as we can. If we are going to subsidize any industry with regard to energy, it should be renewable energy sources, not these industries that are dead or dying. The bill simply contributes to that.
There are alternative sources. Let us take a look at ethanol and using it as a power source. We have the potential to do great things in that area. Some very interesting experiments are going on right now and they are ready to be used. Again, there has been a lack of government policy either to provide subsidies or to provide the economic infrastructure that would facilitate, encourage and enhance these industries.
The government announced a week ago, 10 years too late, substantial funding and methodology. However it is way behind and it is not enough. We have to move faster and more extensively than that proposal allows.
We have the ability to develop solar energy. We heard from my friend from the Conservative Party who comes from the maritimes about our ability to develop energy from wave power and underwater currents. The indications we have at this point are that we can do that without causing environmental damage while at the same time create substantial sources of new renewable energy.
It is in fact possible to phase out the nuclear industry. It will not be done tomorrow or probably for a long time. However we have to plan for the decommissioning of the plants and how we will deal with the waste produced by that time, including what will be left over from the decommissioning. By that I mean we will have to consider how we will treat the people who work in those plants and that industry.
I want to acknowledge the work done by the Canadian Labour Congress and a number of the other individual unions to develop some standards and methodologies, which is generally referred to as just transitions, and how we will deal with that.
If we continue to hide our heads in the sand and ignore the reality that these plants will have to be shut down and phased out at some point, the real risk is that workers and communities will be very negatively impacted. We have to plan for that now. That concept of just transitions has to be applied to both the employees within that sector and the communities that rely on this industry so that over a period of time they can find new employment in other sectors within the economy and communities can be provided stability.
Members heard my friend from the Bloc, the member for Sherbrooke, talk about the experience of Denmark and Germany with the development of wind power in those countries. It shows very clearly that we can also do that. We can produce a lot of jobs for a new sector of the economy.
I could go on for another 20 minutes on this topic, but I will conclude by saying this is not a simple amendment. It has very severe complications to it.
Mr. Speaker, members must have noticed that the exchange in the last few minutes between the members for Windsor--St. Clair and Athabasca puts the focus on the crux of the question behind the bill.
The question behind the bill is: Should a private investor in the nuclear industry be exempted from responsibility should there be a contamination if that private investor has invested in a nuclear plant? That is the crux and the difficulty of the question.
It seems to me that an investment in a nuclear industry cannot be compared to an investment in a water bottle plant or in a plant that produces clothing or shoes or most other articles which do not imply in their production any dangerous activity to human health. We are talking about an industry which not only has been heavily subsidized by the government over the years, as everyone probably knows, but an industry that is engaged in the production of a type of electricity that has potential dangers involved in its activity.
It is not only implicit but actually explicit because the explanatory note in the bill itself refers to the fact that there may be situations where the level of contamination might have to be reduced. It would aim at exempting investors from this type of responsibility.
Upon reflection it becomes clear that this type of exemption is not desirable, quite frankly. We are dealing with an industry that has played quite a role in the development of energy and electricity in Canada. There are good reasons why the bill has been drafted in the manner that it has.
The legislation as it is presently drafted has merits over the proposed amendment. I would suggest that an amendment of this kind would draw away investments from other forms of energy investments, particularly the ones that have been referred to by my other colleagues in the field of renewable energy, for instance, where the returns may be slow in coming but an industry that requires a strong injection of investments if we are to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
A measure of this kind, as the member for Athabasca pointed out, is a narrow one and should only be taken in its limited scope. A measure of this kind in the long run would actually not be a desirable one if we consider the fact that we are increasingly receiving representations at our environment committee, for instance, by groups of citizens who are extremely disturbed by the fact that the establishment of nuclear waste at the Bruce plant in recent years has not received the proper in depth environmental assessment that should have been given to it. In addition to that, the organization that appeared before our committee went so far as to establish serious epidemiological links between the plant and its nuclear waste storage facility and the health of children, particularly those now affected by leukemia.
Bill C-57 should therefore be seen in a much broader context than merely as a measure to facilitate investment in a certain industry, an industry which, as I mentioned earlier, has enjoyed phenomenally high levels of investment over the decades. A few points need to be made with respect to the bill. First, the legislation as it is worded is not bad at all and should be retained.
Second, if the bill were passed it would encourage investment in the nuclear industry and draw away potential investment from renewable energy alternatives.
Third, we have already had a warning by the auditor general. A few years ago the auditor general made repeated references to the necessity of including the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants in the price of electricity. The fact that we seem to exclude from the cost of energy certain aspects and steps required by the nuclear industry needs to be addressed.
I would submit, as the former auditor general did so well in his report, that the cost of decommissioning plants is becoming a reality as existing plants become older. In addition to that there is the cost of short term storage which, in the language of the people at the commission, means something up to 50 years.
The costs of storage and decommissioning do not seem to make their way into the cost of electricity in the marketplace. These are two serious shortcomings from an economic point of view. It is true that the cost of energy should reflect exactly the cost of producing it. However because of its unique character nuclear energy should include the cost of materials which are used, stored for a while and then put away permanently, probably underground, at considerable expense. The issue has not yet been resolved despite the fine work of the Seaborn commission. Finally, there is the cost of decommissioning plants.
We are talking about much more than a little amendment. We are talking about a complex process that deserves the attention of parliament if the industry is to attract further investment.
The issue of temporary and safe storage is still with us, as has been registered forcefully by witnesses at committee in recent weeks. The issue of alternate storage is unresolved despite the efforts of the Seaborn commission. The costs of decommissioning and storage are not yet clear. It has not been clearly established whether they are included in the cost of a kilowatt hour. It is therefore inevitable that an amendment of this kind would trigger all these interventions by members concerned with the larger picture.
The larger picture leads to the issue of energy because we are talking about human requirements for energy and whether we need a new energy policy in Canada. I would submit, and I am sure many members in the House think the same way, that we badly need a new approach to energy policy because energy policy and the Kyoto agreement are intimately related.
The need for a new energy policy should force us to think about our consumption levels, our demand and our supply. It should force us to ask ourselves difficult questions: Should we not be more careful in our use of energy? Should we not be more innovative? Should we not, as other members have said so eloquently, intensify and accelerate the shift from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy? Should we not redesign our taxation system to achieve the goals of our energy policy?
A wide range of measures need to be contemplated for this type of major undertaking, an undertaking which is being resisted because of the energy policy of the early 1980s and the fear that a new policy may have negative political repercussions. However I am convinced that an honest and thorough effort on the part of the government to launch a new energy policy would be extremely well received by Canadians. It would involve all sectors of society and facilitate efforts to reach the objectives of the Kyoto protocol which we hope will be ratified soon.
Coming back to Bill C-57, we should not be too bold in commenting on it beyond what has already been said. If there is a prorogation this summer and we go into a new session perhaps the best thing to hope for is that it dies on the order paper. We may then see a much broader approach to the nuclear question.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that the bill brings to mind the question of nuclear liability. If I remember correctly, we are still suffering from a nuclear liability rate or insurance limit that is set at $75 million. In other words, in the case of a major disaster the liability would be set only at that amount. As members are probably aware, the Vienna convention and another convention, I do not remember which, set the minimum liability many years ago at $600 million in case of a disaster. We are now at $75 million. An amendment to the act, not the Nuclear Safety and Control Act but the Nuclear Liability Act, is therefore urgent and necessary if we are to have preventive measures in place should, perish the thought, something happen.
The debate on Bill C-57 is forcing us to think about the broader issue of nuclear energy production and the various issues related to it. These include the cost of electricity, appropriate liability levels, the importance of drawing investment to the renewable sector, the need to reorganize our taxation system, and a host of other measures I am sure members have already covered or will cover in the course of the debate.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-57. As you know, nuclear energy is a very important issue to me.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to see, during more that a month, how the Canadian nuclear industry completely ignored the people of the Saguenay on the issue of the importation of MOX.
I can only approach this issue with a very critical mind, particularly since Quebec has only one plant, the one in Gentilly. It is for this reason and for many others that I am so interested in this debate on Bill C-57, an act to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, in order to change the category of people whom the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission can order to decontaminate a site.
As it now stands, the act says that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission may, and I quote “...order that the owner or occupant of, or any other person with a right to or interest in the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.
The phrase “any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place” is quite broad. It means that any person with an interest may be made to pay in case of a spill or any other kind of problem.
A bank that would loan money to a plant could thus be sued and incur what would inevitably be very high costs. It is mainly to spare third parties, especially those able to finance the nuclear sector, that the bill was put forward.
The purpose of the bill is to replace “any other person with right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination” by “any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.
This amendment spares a whole group the obligation to decontaminate. It is not just a simple administrative amendment, as the minister would have us believe.
We must therefore ask ourselves: Why is the Minister of Natural Resources putting forward this bill? In fact, as he indicated in his press release of last Friday, “Companies that own and operate nuclear facilities must have access to commercial credit to finance their needs, like any other enterprise”.
“This amendment will allow the nuclear industry to attract market capital and equity. At the same time, we can continue to ensure that nuclear facilities are managed in a safe environmentally-sound manner”.
Two elements caught my eye when I read this document, namely “finance their needs” and “environmentally-sound”.
It is a well-known fact that the current government, led in that by the Prime Minister, has always considered nuclear energy as an incredible economic development tool. Moreover, in terms of respecting its Kyoto commitments, the government is very favourable to this kind of energy.
Here is an example. Two or three years ago, the current Minister of Energy was taking part in a meeting in Bonn, Germany, on Kyoto. At that time, he suggested that Canada should be granted greenhouse gas emission credits because it exported CANDU reactors. Everybody laughed at him, and rightly so.
As we know, nuclear energy is not clean. It produces so much radioactive waste that we do not know what to do with it anymore.
Yet, the Canadian government thinks differently. This is very serious. Indeed, the following can be read on AECL's Internet site:
|Nuclear energy has many benefits, particularly in the area of environment. Nuclear energy emits no combustion by-products, no acid gases and no greenhouse gases. It is a clean, safe, and economical energy source that does not contribute to air pollution, global warming or acid rain.
This is quite the propaganda tool, albeit an incomplete one. What AECL does not say is that we are stuck with over 20,000 tons of nuclear waste in Canada and that it will cost close to $13 billion to get rid of it. This waste is currently located on the sites of nuclear plants. Again, this government agency is really not telling all the truth to the public, and it would have us believe incomplete and biased information.
Moreover, we must ask ourselves if nuclear energy is safe. Of course, the Chernobyl tragedy occurred because of the blatant lack of security measures in the former Soviet Union. The government claims that the Candu technology is the best in the world, as are its engineers. But what is the reality?
Here is an excerpt from a report that was broadcast by Radio-Canada on August 11, 2000:
|The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is concerned about the quality of the maintenance of the main reactor at the Chalk River plant, close to Ottawa. The commission fears that the departure of several experts and engineers in recent years may jeopardize the safety of the plant's operations.
|These concerns are in addition to the controversy surrounding the use of the Chalk River reactor to test MOX imported from the United States and Russia.
|Samples of MOX, which is a radioactive fuel, have already been sent from the United States to the Chalk River nuclear plant. Atomic Energy of Canada is waiting for more samples from Russia before undertaking a series of tests.
It was then that we people from the Saguenay led an all out battle to ensure that MOX imports would not travel through our region, because we know that it is not safe. The report goes on to say:
|This project continues to generate controversy, but now the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is expressing concerns of its own. This time, it is not the movement of MOX that is the source of these concerns but, rather, the quality of the maintenance of Chalk River's main research reactor, the oldest one in Canada.
I am still reading from this Radio-Canada report.
|The problem is that, in 1999, a great number of very well trained people have left the plant. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has made an assessment and concluded that Atomic Energy Canada does not invest all the resources needed in replacement personnel training.
Paul Lafrenière, who is the head of the nuclear facilities at the Chalk River plant, has stated:
|Since 1957, we have been relying on a system of on the job training. The CNSC would like us to move to a new customized training.
We can see that what is going on right now in nuclear plants makes no sense whatsoever. The Bloc Quebecois has suggested to the government a number of different courses of acation with respect to the nuclear industry.
Recently, the Bloc made public an investment plan of $700 million over five years to promote the emergence of a wind energy industry in Quebec. It could contribute to the creation of 15,000 jobs in Quebec, most of them in the Gaspé peninsula.
We should not forget that in 1997, in Kyoto, Canada made a commitment to reduce, by 2008 or 2010, its greenhouse gas emissions to 6% below the 1990 level.
Reversing the tendency of increasing greenhouse gas emissions will limit the extreme weather occurrences like the ice storm and other environmental impacts like the low water level in the St. Lawrence River.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we should strive for greater energy efficiency and produce more with less. This is a great opportunity to encourage technological innovation and develop new structuring industries.
It is in that context that the Bloc Quebecois is proposing a vast federal program for wind energy in the Gaspé Peninsula. For the federal government, the only alternative to clean and green energy is oil and nuclear energy. It has put $6 billion in the atomic energy program alone.
As for financial assistance to the fossil energy industry, since 1970, the federal government has paid $66 billion in direct subsidies to the oil and gas industry. By comparison, businesses in the renewable energy sector received 200 times less from the federal government, which gave absolutely nothing for the development of hydroelectric power, a type of really clean energy that produces no greenhouse gases and no radioactive material. Quebec has been developing this type of energy for more than 40 years.
That is why we believe that Canada should abandon the development of nuclear energy and follow the lead of countries such as Germany, which will permanently give up nuclear energy in 2025 in favour of green energies such as wind energy.
I should point out that, over the last six years, the wind energy industry has experienced an average annual growth of 30%. Germany is the country that favours this kind of energy the most. The wind energy that it manages is 40 times greater than the total for Canada. Europe has almost 75% of the world's aerogenerators. The European Union wants to reach a target of 22% of its electricity from renewable energies, including a large part of it from wind energy.
Canada lags far behind the leaders, with a production of only 207 megawatts. Even the United States has significant incentives, such as a subsidy of 2.7 ¢ per kilowatt hour, to reach a capacity of more than 5,000 kilowatts hour.
Quebec accounts for 50% of this production, which is minimal considering its potential. According to experts, Quebec's wind energy potential, concentrated in the Gaspe Peninsula and the North Shore, ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 kilowatts-hour, which is about 60% of the total for Canada.
The U.S. department of energy says that wind energy creates more jobs for each dollar that is invested than any other technology, five times more than in the case of coal or nuclear energy.
The European Wind Energy Association has estimated that each megawatt of installed wind energy potential creates about 60 person-years of employment, or between 15 and 19 direct and indirect jobs. Therefore, in 1996, the newly installed 3,500 megawatts in Europe would have created 72,000 jobs.
As a confirmation of the association's statements, in 2001, the wind industry was providing employment to more than 30,000 people. In California, where over $5 billion have been invested in the wind power industry since 1991, 5,200 jobs depend on that industry.
That is why the Bloc Quebecois has always said that environment is important. Why is it important? The environment has been abused enough. We have caused enough damage to the environment and we must take immediate measures to protect the environment for future generations. Something has to be done; we have to go the way of renewable energy. Fossil fuels and nuclear energy must be abandoned.
That is why, from today onward, we must invest in energies that create jobs. Let us not forget that the goal is to create wind potential of at least 1,000 megawatts in Quebec, mainly in the Gaspé area. As we know, the Gaspé area has been hit headlong by major job losses, specially with the closure of the mining operation in Murdochville.
They have the expertise in wind energy. It would be important to create industries making wind turbine components. They have a huge potential to make Canada one of the three best wind energy producers in the world. At present, this government is stubbornly staying the course of nuclear energy.
The Bloc proposal would cost $700 million. This is not much compared to all the money that the government has invested in nuclear energy. Let us just compare this with what happened in Newfoundland, when the Canadian government invested money in the Hibernia project. The federal government invested a lot of money in this project.
Today, it tells us that it has no money. It has a budget surplus of $9.8 million for the fiscal year that just ended alone. It has the money; what is missing is the will.
The government tells us that it wants to help the regions. As you know, I am responsible for the regional development issue for the Bloc Quebecois. The government wants to help the regions but is not using the means that reflect the realities of the regions to provide them with the potential to develop. A huge number of jobs would be created in the Gaspé peninsula. This new approach would also allow this government to come out a winner.
Other aspects of the program could also be used. Bill C-57, as tabled by the natural resources minister, is more than an administrative amendment. It will bring about the further development of nuclear energy. It must stop. The government must stop going in all directions at the same time. It is always introducing small bills. It does not ask itself what the effects of its legislation will be. It seems that it is working in a vacuum when it introduces bills.
This bill affects many sectors, including the storing and treatment of nuclear waste that is presently stored in nuclear plants. The Seaborn panel proposed different approaches. Experiments were conducted in the Canadian Shield; there is nothing conclusive yet.
The legislation allows for the investment of more funds in the development of nuclear energy. Enough is enough. The government must stop. I am asking it to withdraw Bill C-57. This legislation does not address the nuclear problem, it allows for its development.
Consequently, we must understand that this bill is a lot more than the administrative change the natural resources minister referred to. The bill will allow for maximal development of nuclear energy. I cannot approve such a philosophy.
That is why, as the member for Jonquière representing people who are very concerned about nuclear energy, I am asking the government to withdraw its bill. If it does not do so, I will vote against it.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-57, which was introduced at first reading on May 31, 2002.
It is fair to say that in this House we have seen more comprehensive bills amending a number of acts. However, the bill before us today amends a single section of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. According to the sponsor of the bill, the Minister of Natural Resources, the bill is designed to amend the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. He calls it an administrative amendment or bill, meaning that it is not a complete overhaul of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
However, this amendment, even though this is not obvious yet, will have a serious impact on the way the nuclear industry operates here in Canada. It is significant that the minister has decided to introduce the bill we are debating today. The bill amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act.
Of course, I will speak about Bill C-57 and the amendments at issue, but I would also like to talk about the long term management of nuclear waste.
Members will recall that there has already been a debate in the House on the disposal of nuclear waste. This debate took place in the context of Bill C-27. This was an interesting bill, as it was introduced and considered in committee. It was also interesting because Canada studied the issue of nuclear waste management for a ten year period with the Seaborn commission, which I will speak about later.
Of course, I will speak to Bill C-57, and I will also refer to Bill C-27 and the whole issue of nuclear waste disposal. I will also speak to the issue of the importance of public consultations in cases where the disposal of such waste is being considered in locations and regions in Quebec and Canada.
As an example, there is a case we asked questions about to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission just this morning in the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. There was even a ruling on this case by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. It is the case of the Bruce complex in Ontario. This is a site where radioactive waste will be stored on the shores of Lake Huron, and the residents would have liked a commission to have been set up, through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, to consult with residents and to study the projects.
The Bruce complex is located on the shores of Lake Huron and has been designated, first, as a high level complex. Second, it is one of the biggest disposal sites in the world. The residents would therefore have liked to have been consulted.
Finally, I would like to close by outlining to Canadians and Quebecers the impact that nuclear waste and nuclear energy can have on human health. A number of reports have been published on this. These reports conclude that nuclear waste and nuclear energy are significant in the development of certain diseases when workers, residents and more specifically children are near this waste.
So, Bill C-57 amends the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. Clause 1 would replace a paragraph in the current legislation, which reads as follows: “--any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.
Bill C-57 would amend paragraph 46(3) of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act to read as follows: “--any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination”.
In fact, only a few words will be changed if this bill is passed. But the impact will be considerable.
In his press release, the minister tells us that these amendments are purely administrative. That may be so from a cosmetic point of view, but the impact will be considerable.
What are the government's true intentions in introducing this amendment? It is good to ask ourselves this question. If the amendment is purely administrative, there should not be any impact. But this bill amends the act significantly and will have a considerable impact on the development of the nuclear industry here in Canada.
Basically, the government wants this amendment to exempt one group from decontamination obligations. Third parties should no longer be responsible for decontamination.
In this connection, we know what the government's intentions are. Its true intentions are to ensure, for example, that a bank making a loan to a nuclear plant could—under the existing legislation, if we succeed in defeating this bill—be taken to court and would inevitably incur very high costs.
It is primarily to exempt these third parties, the banks, those able to finance the nuclear industry, that this bill was introduced.
The government wants to arrange it so that those parties—be they banks or other interests—who have helped developed the nuclear industry in Canada are exempt from their decontamination obligation.
This runs counter to a fundamental principle recognized in Quebec which is that the polluter pays. Anyone who contributed to the contamination of a site must share the costs of decontamination.
We on this side of the House are of the opinion that to the extent that a citizen, a third party, but more importantly a citizen, whether a corporate entity or not, has contributed to contamination by nuclear wastes, he must assume the costs thereof. This is what the government is trying to take away with this bill and this is basically what we are opposed to.
There have been some significant debates on this in the past. As my colleague from Sherbrooke has indicated, a commission was set up here in Canada because the storage of nuclear waste needed to be given some thought. There are 20,000 metric tonnes of waste—or 18,000 to be more precise—in Canada at the present time.
This represents 1.3 million bundles, as we know, and we also know that there are three types of waste: nuclear fuel waste, low level radioactive waste and uranium mine and mill tailings.
It is worthwhile taking the time to look at the nuclear waste situation in Canada. It must be pointed out that, of these 20,000 tonnes of waste, the bulk of it comes from spent nuclear fuel bundles. We are talking here of the 22 Candu reactors, most of which date back to the 1970s. Ontario Power Generation Inc. is currently operating 20 reactors. At the present time, 90% of the nuclear waste is in Ontario.
Hydro Québec produces some at its Gentilly plant, of course, but the nuclear waste produced in Quebec accounts for only 3% of the total of 20,000 tonnes currently available, if I may use such a term.
An energy company in New Brunswick accounts for another 5%. Atomic Energy of Canada' experimental reactors produce 2%, of the total of 1.3 million bundles.
We have trouble understanding how certain obligations can be taken away, how steps can be taken so that third parties will no longer be responsible for decontamination, when we can see what the problem is like in Canada at this time as far as the management of nuclear waste storage is concerned. How can bills get passed in this House that will facilitate the development of the Canadian nuclear industry while we are having such trouble managing the present 18,000 tonnes? This makes no sense whatsoever.
Why, as a matter of public policy, are we not focusing on the development of clean renewable energies, as my colleague from Jonquière suggested about ten minutes ago? How can we adopt measures like the one in front of us, which benefits this industry, while we are still waiting for financial incentives to develop renewable energies?
I am glad to see that the Minister of Environment is present to hear what I have to say. How can he feel comfortable in a debate on this issue? How can we reject that proposal and apply the polluter pay principle? This bill raises some questions.
I will summarize the Seaborn commission findings. For one thing, what we are expecting from the government in terms of a nuclear fuel waste management plan is that the technical aspects of the storage program be taken into consideration at the planning stage.
Public consultation has to be at the basis of the Canadian policy on waste management. Canadians livre right beside the waste storage complexes. The best solution cannot be only technical. It has to include a sociological approach to management. We would have liked to see the government focus on green energy instead of making social choices that favour the Canadian nuclear industry.
The government is again being called to account for its refusal to hold public consultations, which were called for by the Seaborn commission.
On May 30, 2002, Normand de la Chevrotière appeared as a witness before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development, on the issue of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Bill C-19. He told us that his group, which includes 300 families, had asked the government to establish an environmental assessment board to examine the Bruce complex, which is designed to store radioactive nuclear waste near his community.
This complex on the shore of Huron Lake and the waste storage site are considered among the biggest in the world and are termed high level facilities, and experts will understand what I mean. People from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission told us this morning that they are certainly the biggest in North America.
I was reading some papers this morning, particularly an article from the September 1996 issue of Québec Science. Six years ago, the possibility of storing weapons grade plutonium from Russia and the U.S. at the Bruce complex was being examined . Six years ago, papers in the scientific community were considering this possibility.
The Department of Environment deemed that it was not appropriate to consult the public. It does not matter that 300 families will be living close to this site.
I want to go back to what I was saying two minutes ago when I was referring to the conclusions of the Seaborn panel. Sure, it is necessary to evaluate storage techniques but, more importantly, the public must be consulted.
I am under the impression that this bill is providing oxygen to the Canadian nuclear industry. The government is promoting the establishment in Canada of places to store nuclear waste, while ensuring that third parties, who may not necessarily have the responsibility to manage these sites, cannot be required to decontaminate them.
If a bank decides to fund the Bruce complex storage project, will it be responsible for decontaminating the site if this bill is passed? The answer is no. Those who will have provided the necessary funding to establish this complex on the shores of Lake Huron will have no environmental responsibility.
We want this government to send to the nuclear industry a clear message that its members must behave like good corporate citizens. The legislation already provides for the funding of storage projects by banks. However, it is totally unacceptable on the part of the government to remove the banks' responsibilities by condoning this.
So, this bill must be examined from a different perspective, not from the perspective of the government, which is trying to fool us with mere administrative and cosmetic arguments, because it wants to ram this legislation through the House. This shows how, sometimes, bills that amend only one section may have a major impact.
This is why we are opposed to the bill's only clause. It will have a major impact on the development of Canada's nuclear industry.
Mr. Speaker, it brings me great pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-57. I would like to thank my learned colleagues, the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie and the member for Sherbrooke, who so clearly outlined the position of the Bloc Quebecois on this matter and the fact that Canada is again sitting on the fence and continues to use traditional energy sources, when there are some wonderful developments around the world in all kinds of new energies that are far greener.
The purpose of my speech today is to focus on this legislative amendment, which appears to be simple, as certain Liberal members opposite have said, but which illustrates quite well this government's Liberal philosophy. This is what I am critical of.
The current legislation regarding the responsibility of those who do not respect their responsibility to decontaminate a nuclear site says that the occupants are:
||—any other person with a right to or interest in, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
Today, this text would be replaced by:
||—any other person who has the management and control of, the affected land or place take the prescribed measures to reduce the level of contamination.
The government's objective is clear. It wants to get the banks off the hook and it has said as much. They want to keep the bankers, who would support investment, from being held responsible in any way for the decontamination of a site, or for related costs that could be incurred. However, it goes even further. The words “a right to or interest in”, could even include the federal government, which, through subsidies to industry, might have been seen to have a legal right or responsibility. Obviously, this is the objective of this government. This Liberal philosophy is about ridding itself of any responsibility.
Once again today, we are getting its friends and bankers, who are often great friends of the Liberal Party, off the hook. Inevitably, this leads to getting ourselves off the hook. This bill gets the government off the hook and frees it of any responsibility for contamination that could occur at a nuclear plant site. This is terrible for Quebecers and even more so for Canadians, since most nuclear sites are located in the rest of Canada.
It is a terrible thing not to bring out the fact that the government is not taking this opportunity to show the public what its philosophy is. The government does not take any responsiblities anymore. It is leaving the private sector to make out as best it can. When bankruptcies occur, no one is held responsible. This happens all the time.
While governments tend more and more to take responsibility for contamination, this government is walking away from its responsibilities and getting its friends, the bankers, off the hook. This shows what the Liberal philosophy is. To me, this is probably the most difficult. Since my election in the fall of 2000, I have seen how, in keeping with this philosophy, the federal government has simply decided to no longer get involved in any community problems.
Here are a few vivid reminders of this. During the terrible events of September 11, Canadians and Americans witnessed a unique and unprecedented situation in North America. An industry suffered in the aftermath, and several airline companies were among the casualties. Believe it or not, the federal government did not invest a cent, except for closing down the Canadian airspace for six days and compensating air carriers for the increase in insurance premiums. Nothing more.
It has let several air carriers fold. Men and women who had a lot of experience in air travel lost their jobs. The government allowed this human capital to be lost, taking for granted that the market would pick up and preferring to let it decide all things. This is what the Liberal philosophy is all about.
The government did the same thing in the automobile industry. My riding of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel borders Boisbriand, where the GM plant is located. The current Minister of Justice, who was responsible for regional development in Quebec, made the announcement: there was nothing that could be done anymore; the Boisbriand plant was going to shut down. He had just attended a meeting with GM officials in Canada and it so happened that he was the one giving the bad news that the plant would shut down.
These days, GM workers are engaged in very important discussions. On the table is a proposal whereby GM is offering to protect union members aged 50 or more. Under the orphan clause, the younger workers will practically lose everything with the closing of this plant. This never bothered the Liberal members of this House for one moment. We had a debate during an opposition day and Liberal members never even spoke. This is the reality.
They are letting the free market dictate things and even though Quebecers buy 26% of all automobiles in Canada, the federal government finds it perfectly normal not to have an auto manufacturing industry in Quebec. On the other hand, they centralize: everything is concentrated in Ontario and they find this very normal.
Again, this shows the Liberal philosophy of letting the free market dictate things, regardless of the consequences of the closing of GM's plant in Boisbriand. I am talking about human capital, about men and women who had a lot of experience. These people will lose their jobs but, more importantly, this human capital will no longer be available for Canada's automobile industry.
It was the same thing in the airline industry. After September 11, the government let the airlines down. Recently, it was the softwood lumber issue. We had long debates and extensive discussions during which the government stated its position.
We are very upset that the Americans imposed a 27% countervailing duty. The minister responsible for this issue told us in the House “We did everything that we could”. The result is that thousands of men and women are losing their jobs, a huge human capital will be lost, because plants are closing everywhere.
The only thing the government saw fit to do was to put forward a $75 million aid package for research and development, to benefit its friends of course. Once again, the mighty big is going to swallow up the small. With a $75 million aid package for research and development, major companies will once again take advantage of the bankruptcy of weaker companies. Bigger monopolies will be created. Often, this is where the major contributors to the Liberal Party are found.
Today, again, we have a fourth revelation through a bill the Liberal Party seems to have introduced in a rather inconspicuous way. In the nuclear industry, it wants only those in management to be responsible for taking measures to reduce the level of contamination in nuclear sites, mainly to exempt bankers.
The government wants to exempt bankers; it wants to let the markets decide. What it is hiding behind all this is the desire to exempt itself from any responsibility regarding contamination of such sites.
This affects the safety of citizens throughout Canada, slightly less in Quebec, but it is very difficult. We are not wishing any disaster on anybody, in Canada or anywhere else.
As we know, the Liberal Party has been going through rough times these past few weeks, and yet the government found a way to introduce a bill that is very important for the safety of people in Canada and Quebec.
This important bill is aimed at no longer holding accountable people who may have a right to or interest in the affected place; only those managing such a place will be held accountable.
Bankers are now exempt and so is the federal government, which could have been held accountable by law for having provided grants to renovate a plant. It will no longer have any responsibilities for such places.
Once again, as I have said, this is a Liberal philosophy that seems to leave everything up to private enterprise as far as responsibilities are concerned. Yet, with regard to safety and nuclear pollution, the damage cannot be assessed in financial terms. If there is a catastrophe, the damage will be terrible.
Today, this party ever so charmingly is introducing this bill, once again with the support of the Canadian Alliance, which is no better than the people opposite. Obviously, whenever the government enacts measures aimed at decentralization in favour of private enterprise or assigning responsibility to private enterprise, it always has the backing of the Canadian Alliance. In my estimation, they are worse than the Liberal government.
So there we have the Canada of today. There is no protection for the weak and the oppressed. There is no protection for those who are so in need everywhere in Canada. As far as the nuclear issue is concerned, there could of course be catastrophes that would totally devastate families.
No problem, though. The federal government wants no responsibility, particularly no responsibility for its buddies, the bankers, who might be the ones bankrolling projects. The federal government will not, of course, want to put its money into businesses.
What they want is for private enterprise to be able to get involved in lending to it without any responsibility except for getting its money back if ever any profit is generated.
Once again, we need to update the Liberal philosophy which is increasingly sloughing off responsibility and placing a lot of it on the private sector. As we know, private enterprise often exists solely on the paper that creates it. This has been seen in all the scandals that have been going on, companies behind other companies, numbered companies and the like.
There is the sponsorship scandal. Even for a single funding of any activity, regardless of how praiseworthy that activity might be, two or three companies will be skimming off some 12% or so, and then contributing to the Liberal Party subsequently. That is the way things are.
They really want to be able to do business with the private sector. When private enterprise has too many responsibilities, as is the case here with nuclear waste, steps are being taken to absolve their little banker friends of any responsibility, for otherwise none of their funds will be forthcoming.
The obvious solution is for the government, if it really does believe in nuclear energy to that extent, to give sufficient resources to those involved in this sector for the industry and its equipment to be safe.
It is therefore digging into its coffers and its marvellous surplus in order to be able to help the industry, rather than requiring the private sector and the banks to finance nuclear energy. It tells them “In any case, if you provide financing, you will no longer be liable. If anything happens, it will just be an unfortunate event”.
It is an unfortunate event for a banker, but a tragedy for all the people living in the vicinity of these plants.
Once again, our Liberal friends across the way have no social conscience. Their social conscience continues to shrink. The more time passes, the more we see that not only do they lack an economic conscience, but their social conscience is shrinking as well. This becomes clear with a bill such as Bill C-57.
As I said, I found it hard to accept this lack of responsibility toward communities. I gave four examples.
There was September 11 with the airline industry. There was the example in the auto industry, with the closing of the GM plant in Boisbriand. The government never stepped in to support employees or come up with reprimands or try to negotiate with GM to keep the auto industry in Quebec.
It is the same with the softwood lumber industry. There is no support there either. Once again, there is no concern about social support for men and women who often represent—in the auto, airline or softwood lumber industries—significant human potential with unprecedented skills. By not supporting these industries, all the government is doing is favouring its friends, who are the most powerful and the biggest in the industry, so that they can take over other companies.
In the process, thousands of jobs are being lost. That is the hard reality of it. In the case of the nuclear industry, people will be exempt from liability. Bankers, who have provided the financing for projects, will be allowed not to check. Without any liability, they will obviously be much less rigorous in their environmental checks.
When this bill uses the wording “any other person who has the management and control of”, it is so that the federal government will not have any liability in the nuclear sector.
In this regard, I agree with my colleagues from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie and Sherbrooke. While the use of such nice renewable and non polluting energies as wind energy is expanding worldwide, and great projects could be available in Quebec, including the Gaspé peninsula, this bill provides nothing to support the industry or wind energy. There is absolutely nothing, let alone a major program to replace nuclear energy with wind energy, so that bills do not have to be introduced in the House to try to take responsibilities away from almost everyone who could be affected by nuclear energy, including our friends the bankers, as the Liberals are doing. The federal government is washing its hands of responsibility, if ever it had to invest any money through a grant or otherwise. Otherwise, it would have been bound automatically, like a banker. This is the reality.
If we want to take away the responsibilities of bankers and if, as a government, we think that we did not have any responsibility, think again. When a bank invests in a business, it has responsibilities. When a government invests money through grants in a business, it has responsibilities.
With this bill, decontamination becomes the responsibility of those who manage the business. The federal government is already having trouble managing its own affairs. It certainly will not try to manage the private sector. People who are listening to us certainly understand that. Bankers manage their banks on behalf of their shareholders. What is most important to them is the dividends they pay to the shareholders every three months, not what may be happening in the field or the problems that a community may be experiencing because of nuclear pollution.
This is not an easy end of session for the Liberal government. It introduced Bill C-57 practically in a panic, to try to keep the members of this House busy. Again, and I will never repeat it often enough, the Liberal philosophy prevails. The government does not want to take responsibility for anything, especially not social and community problems.
It washes its hands of all that. What is worse, the Liberal government even divests its banker friends of any responsibility. In this regard, the bill clearly says that those who do not manage a company and could have some responsibility for the decontamination of nuclear sites will have no such responsibility.
Numbered companies will be allowed to continue to operate nuclear sites and, if there are damages, the people will suffer the consequences. Nobody will want to help these communities. Help will only come after the fact. They will never get help before a problem occurs or while a problem is occurring. A responsible banker and a responsible government see to it that the industry always complies with environmental standards. With this bill, bankers and the government will no longer be responsible.
Such a business will then be left to itself. When financial difficulties occur, businessmen do not focus on environmental problems. They rather try to resolve short term problems like paying the employees salary and others. In the last years of operation of a business, it tends to worry very little about the environment. This is the harsh reality of this bill: the bad managers will be left to themselves, and we will have to pick up the pieces after. But above all, nobody will ever be accountable. They will all be able to say that they co-operated to the project. The banker and the government, having given a subsidy, may say “It is not our fault. It is the fault of those who were there, if things went wrong”. What matters is being able to say “It is not our fault”. In the case of a nuclear pollution disaster, they will all say “It is not our fault, it is the managers' fault”.
This Liberal philosophy of divesting oneself of responsibilities and not having any social or community consciousness is reflected in Bill C-57. It was also present in all the problems that the airline industry experienced after September 11. It is also reflected in the problems faced by the automobile industry, with the closing of GM's plant in Boisbriand for example. It is reflected in the problems faced by the softwood lumber industry since the failure of the negotiations between Canada and the United States. It comes from the desire to skirt any responsibility, and to try and save friends, particularly banker friends in this case, and the government that could have had a certain responsibility. However, when it comes to the airline companies, the automobile industry and the softwood lumber industry, it is a matter of encouraging cronies whose greater might will enable them to gobble up smaller ones, even if it means that thousands of jobs will be lost.