October 3, 1996

REF

John Duncan

Reform

Mr. John Duncan (North Island-Powell River, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, before us today is Bill C-55. The purpose of the bill is to address those offenders who present a high risk of violently reoffending. As well, we have a new designation of long term offender with a provision of supervision for up to 10 years in the community. That is in addition to the sentence for the offence.

At the outset let me say that the Reform Party will not stand in the way of Bill C-55.

The bill is composed of three components: a new and expanded dangerous offender provision; a new long term offender provision; and a new judicial restraint clause.

The Reform Party supports adding a new definition to the Criminal Code which will deem any person who on two or more separate occasions commits an offence causing serious personal injury to be a dangerous offender and subject to an indeterminate period of imprisonment.

The new dangerous offender provision in Bill C-55 recognizes that the current process by which certain criminals are assigned dangerous offender status and therefore required to serve an indefinite penitentiary sentence is not sufficiently strong to protect Canadian communities against violent criminals. Therefore, Reformers applaud those new provisions in Bill C-55 which expand the criteria for designating violent criminals as dangerous offenders.

Who in the House could find fault in designating a person as a dangerous offender who has been sentenced for armed robbery,

unlawful confinement and shooting at a police officer and who, during a jail sentence, commits a further 40 offences including a stabbing?

Sadly, this was not the case when career criminal Paul Butler was granted day parole in September 1993 in Prince George and then went on to murder Dennis Fichtenberg, the son of a constituent of mine, Marjean Fichtenberg. Despite Mr. Butler's criminal record and an arrest weeks before the murder was committed, the parole board agreed that Mr. Butler posed no risk to society and was not dangerous. Tell that to Marjean Fichtenberg and her family who suffer their loss and whose only satisfaction has been some recommendations made by a coroner's request initiated last year by the attorney general for B.C.

The government had an opportunity in this new dangerous offender provision as contained in Bill C-55 to let the Marjean Fichtenbergs of this world know that she and her family, the victims, have rights too. However as usual, the proposed changes for designating certain criminals as dangerous offenders once again do not go far enough.

Specifically the proposed changes in Bill C-55 would allow the crown up to six months after conviction to bring about a dangerous offender application. Even under the proposed changes this provision would apply only if the crown gives notice at the time of conviction of the possibility of a delayed dangerous offender application and where relevant information also emerges to support the application.

What Reformers want, what the Marjean Fichtenbergs want, and what all level headed Canadians want is for dangerous offender findings to be made at any time after sentencing. To be precise, the crown should be given the right to seek dangerous offender status for persons convicted of crimes causing serious personal injury at any time during that offender's penitentiary sentence. Would 40 offences while in a correctional institution including a stabbing be good enough for the Minister of Justice?

Reformers also propose that Bill C-55 require the courts to automatically place a dangerous offender finding upon any person who commits on two or more separate occasions an offence constituting a serious personal injury offence. This proposal would also include that the dangerous offender be subject to an indeterminate period of imprisonment.

If we are going to begin to address the agony, loss and frustration of the type Marjean Fichtenberg and her family feel, our amendments are essential. We propose a further essential change to Bill C-55 and that is to expand the list of Criminal Code offences upon which a dangerous offender application may be brought about to include pedophiles and sexual predators.

A basic tenet of Reform policy is for violent offenders to serve their full sentence. Once released, some violent offenders and all

repeat offenders should be under parole supervision, and I do not mean unsupervised parole which was applied to Paul Butler and under which he committed murder.

My colleagues have spoken to the long term offender provision. It is incumbent that we broaden the range of offences committed to include sexual predators or pedophiles so that they cannot only be designated long term but can also be designated as dangerous offenders, because many of them are.

The judicial restraint provision proposed in clause 9 of the bill contributes a broad indiscriminate infringement of personal liberty which unduly violates the civil rights of individuals. The judicial remedies proposed in this clause should only be contemplated in matters where individuals have been convicted of offences under the Criminal Code and according to due process of law. We propose striking this clause in its totality.

On the one hand we do not go far enough in the dangerous offender clauses by excluding sexual predators or pedophiles. On the other hand we have the potential of allowing the attorney general to lay information against anyone he believes will commit a future offence, even though the individual may have been acquitted of any charge or never even charged with a criminal offence.

I will now turn to clause 15 of Bill C-55 concerning long term offenders, specifically the provision regarding aboriginal communities. Clause 15 allows that for long term offenders who express an interest in being supervised in an aboriginal community, the aboriginal community must first receive notice of the supervision and have the opportunity to propose a plan for the release and integration into the community.

In other words, aboriginal communities have the right to become involved in planning for the release of a high risk offender into their community and the right to become involved in the planning for that release. Other Canadians do not share this proposed right and consequently receive no such notice. We think they should. Why is the government doing the right thing for aboriginal communities and not for other Canadian communities?

The government should be uniting Canadians with a standard of behaviour. Canadian citizens everywhere deserve the same notice and planning provisions as those proposed for the aboriginal communities.

Besides all that, the minister of defence should resign.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB

John Maloney

Liberal

Mr. John Maloney (Erie, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has suggested that an application for dangerous offender designation could be made at any time during the period the individual is incarcerated. He used the example of an individual who committed

40 offences during the period of his incarceration and one of those being a stabbing.

My concern is that in our rules of law we can only really be tried for an offence once. The fact that you are incarcerated does not mean that you have carte blanche to commit crimes willy-nilly and go unprosecuted. Surely these 40 offences, especially the stabbing, are of themselves offences deserving of charges being laid, being brought to trial and sentencing again. Would that not be an appropriate time then to bring this dangerous offender application?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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REF

John Duncan

Reform

Mr. Duncan

Mr. Speaker, that is an option but of course that adds complexity to the arrangement. One of the concerns that I have about a lot of the legislation is the way the parole boards operate, the way the courts operate and so on. We have so much complexity now into the system that there are too many avenues of things falling between chairs.

If you look at the Paul Butler case I was describing, I have only described the tip of the iceberg. What we had here was an incredible set of complex circumstances. When you talk to someone like Marjean Fichtenberg who has lived and breathed this case since the murder of her son, you hear descriptions of all of the rules, the guidelines, the terms of reference, the different bodies involved in terms of applying or trying to interpret policy, all the various ways things cannot happen that are supposed to happen. The more straightforward the legislation is, the less likely that is going to happen.

If it involves having to go back to court, the likelihood is that the authorities will not pursue it in many cases because there is once again an opportunity for too many things to happen. I think that is one way to respond to the question.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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LIB

John Maloney

Liberal

Mr. John Maloney (Erie, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, watching a repeat child molester walk out of a prison, unrepentant and unreformed, understandably drives people crazy with anger and betrayal.

Many Canadians want the justice system to do more with chronic pedophiles and rapists than simply wait for them to strike again. I agree.

My colleagues, the Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada, have responded to this genuine concern and recently announced new measures to deal with high risk offenders. Bill C-55 will toughen the sentencing and correction regime for those who pose a high risk of committing another crime. This is good legislation. This is responsive legislation.

These tough new restrictions on high risk, violent offenders will make Canadian homes and streets safer. The measures fulfil commitments made the red book as well as in the speech from the throne. The 1996 speech from the throne pledged that the government will focus resources on high risk offenders while developing innovative alternatives to incarceration for low risk offenders.

The following initiatives will strengthen the sentencing and correctional regime for those who present a high risk of violent reoffending, particularly sex offenders: a new long term offender designation that targets sex offenders and adds a period of supervision of up to 10 years following release from prison; strengthening the dangerous offender provisions in the Criminal Code and a new judicial restraint provision to permit controls, including electronic monitoring to be applied to individuals who pose a high risk of committing a serious personal injury offence.

Bill C-55 positively amends the Criminal Code and these changes have been welcomed by the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, a very sound endorsement.

The government is also committed to developing alternatives to incarceration for low risk offenders. This set of initiatives includes amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to allow for earlier parole for offenders convicted of crimes which did not involve violence to support rehabilitation and return to the community.

Let us review some of these provisions in more detail, first the long term offender provisions. Under the proposed changes a new sentencing category to be called long term offender will be added to the Criminal Code. Long term offenders will be those convicted of sexual assault, sexual touching, sexual exploitation, indecent exposure, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm.

This is a useful designation and is not necessarily the same designation as dangerous offender which is applied to those who have been convicted of repeatedly committing crimes of violence. It will target sex offenders who may be less violent and brutal than those designated dangerous offenders but are found to pose a considerable risk of reoffending.

The category will also include those offenders convicted of another crime such a break and enter with clear intent to commit sexual assault.

To better protect the community, offenders in this category will be subject to an additional period of supervision for up to 10 years after they have completed their parole and prison sentences.

This designation could be applied to first time offenders with psychological histories or other factors that indicate a possibility that they will likely repeat their crime; again, such as a pedophile convicted of assaulting a child. The long arm of the law will not miss such perpetrators.

The long term offender process will be similar to the existing dangerous offender application. Upon conviction the crown can ask for a thorough assessment of the offender's criminality and the risk he or she presents. On the basis of the assessment report the crown can then bring a dangerous offender or long term offender application.

If a long term offender finding is made, the judge will impose a prison sentence that suits the offence and add a period of long term supervision of up to 10 years to start when the incarceration period, including any parole, expires.

An effective program for rehabilitation is to gradually integrate offenders back into the community under controlled conditions. The long term offender designation by imposing on the offender an additional period of supervision in the community after the end of the regular sentence gives the offender a real opportunity to reintegrate without putting the community at risk, and that is very important.

Public safety is improved because Correctional Service Canada and the parole board can set stringent conditions on the offender, monitor the offender closely and pull the offender back in for any breach. An offender who breaches these conditions can be prosecuted and reincarcerated.

These safeguards address the fear that potentially dangerous criminals do the crime, finish their time and then are free to disappear back into the community without any monitoring.

I will also address the issue of dangerous offenders. The dangerous offender category will be improved by keeping such an individual in prison indefinitely. A judge will no longer have the discretion to sentence a dangerous offender to a fixed term. It will be an indeterminate term.

Currently a dangerous offender application must be made at trial. The crown will now have a window of six months after conviction to bring a dangerous offender application based on newly received information that may not have arisen at trial.

The process has also been streamlined. The number of psychiatrists required to testify at a hearing has been reduced from two to one. These are very positive and effective developments.

I would like to briefly touch on judicial restraint orders. The judicial restraint provision will be added to the Criminal Code and is another measure for the protection of the public. This procedure will focus on people who pose a risk of committing a serious personal injury offence. It can be applied to people who are not under a sentence as well as those who have completed their sentences.

Under this provision the attorney general would apply for a special hearing before a provincial court judge where there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual is at high risk of committing a serious personal injury offence.

A judge will be able to impose general conditions such as keeping the peace and specific conditions appropriate to the kind of threat that could be posed by the individual. Two examples are staying away from places where children might congregate and staying away from an estranged spouse. As one of the conditions, the judge could order electronic monitoring in provinces where such programs exist. The judicial restraint would last for up to one year and could be renewed. A breach of conditions would constitute a separate criminal offence which could result in a jail sentence.

The judicial restraining order has been a topic of much conversation on the basis of its constitutionality, especially when it involves individuals who have no criminal record or charges pending. I well understand that this is an option to deal with stalkers and others who are difficult to convict.

As a member on the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, I look forward to examining this provision further. On one hand, it may be no different than court orders now being granted that restrict known sex offenders from hanging around schools and playgrounds. These orders are granted rarely and officials must prove the person constitutes a serious threat. While I have my concerns about this section I reserve judgment on this provision until further study is completed.

The low risk non-violent offender is also addressed. In tandem with these tough new controls on high risk violent offenders, the Liberal government has introduced initiatives to deal with low risk non-violent offenders.

The first priority of the government's justice agenda is the safety of Canadians. The Liberal approach balances tougher penalties and restrictions with necessary community based efforts at rehabilitation and prevention. In co-operation with other levels of government, the federal government will promote measures which include sentencing reforms and community diversion programs as alternatives for imprisonment of first time non-violent offenders at a low risk of reoffending.

The route this government has taken is to get tough on repeat violent offenders while finding alternative sentencing for low risk offenders. There is no doubt this is a move in the right direction.

The Liberal government's safe home, safe streets agenda draws a clear distinction between low risk and high risk offenders. This balanced approach will help to ensure an effective criminal justice system with the penalties appropriate to the gravity of the crimes.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
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REF

Art Hanger

Reform

Mr. Art Hanger (Calgary Northeast, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's reflections on Bill C-55. He has certain

reservations about the portion of the bill which deals with judicial restraint. The Reform Party also has reservations about that point.

I need a good clear explanation from the member, given that I was a police officer for 22 years prior to this past election, how electronic monitoring would apply to stalkers. I have had to personally answer a number of complaints in that regard as a police officer, and time is quite factor.

I would like to know how it would be applied and how it would be able to save a victim like an individual in my riding, Kelly Howe. Recently a trial was completed where an individual was convicted of the first degree murder of Kelly Howe. How would it save a person like Kelly Howe who was killed by her ex-boyfriend?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

John Maloney

Liberal

Mr. Maloney

Mr. Speaker, I am not familiar with the circumstances of Kelly Howe's death, but as was indicated earlier, the electronic monitoring which is called the GPS system can pinpoint an individual within yards of his or her position.

One of the Reform members was concerned about this having application in rural areas. I believe it would be easier to pinpoint someone in a rural area. If an offender is living in a major centre like Calgary, where the member comes from, and it is found through the system that he is now 30 miles away where his estranged spouse lives, we know darn well that he is not in a place where he should be. It is certainly easier to pinpoint him than it would be perhaps within a block or two of the city.

How would it work? The wisdom and benefit of the technology today can do these things. That is where I am coming from in answering the member's question.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

Bob Speller

Liberal

Mr. Bob Speller (Haldimand-Norfolk, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his concern on this issue.

I have in the gallery today a member of the OPP who comes from my riding, Mr. Alex Williamson. I wonder if the hon. member would be confident in telling Mr. Williamson, who is a long term member of the OPP, given the opposition says this motion is weak and ineffective, that we are making a strong case against dangerous offenders.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
LIB

John Maloney

Liberal

Mr. Maloney

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member's question. To be honest, I thought he was getting up to speak on another matter. Could he just quickly rephrase that question?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
?

The Deputy Speaker

Time has expired. I cannot let the member ask the question again even though he has a friend in the gallery.

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   The Criminal Code
Permalink
REF

Chuck Strahl

Reform

Mr. Chuck Strahl (Fraser Valley East, Ref.)

moved that Bill C-236, an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a special privilege to stand in the House and talk about a subject that I have taken some time to develop, study and put forward and to see if perhaps I can get the concurrence of the House on this concept that I have developed.

Bill C-236 is called an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste. As members know, there are over 400 commercial nuclear reactors worldwide and an untold number of small research reactors at universities, on ships, submarines and what have you, which all generate a certain amount of radioactive waste. That waste needs to be dealt with.

Over the years these reactors have generated and will continue to generate enormous amounts of toxic nuclear waste that will have some toxicity depending on when one would be in contact with it, but it will last for thousands of years.

Canadians in general do not want radioactive waste in their backyards. I realize there has always been the nimby syndrome where people do not want any kind of garbage in their backyards. In this case, people in Canada have a very strong feeling that we will look after our own radioactive waste but they do not want to import radioactive wastes from other countries for disposal here.

As an example, it took eight years and over $20 million for the siting task force struck by the former Minister of Natural Resources to even find a place for our low level radioactive waste alone, not including the high level radioactive waste for which it has yet to find a spot. I will say right up front in deference to my learned colleague behind me that a lot of this is because of ignorance. People have so much fear of radioactive waste, even low radioactive waste that is relatively harmless, they are afraid to have it in their neighbourhood.

That is why, in the entire country, only the town of Deep River finally said yes in September 1995 to accepting low level radioactive waste. In all of Ontario, only two communities even considered the question.

There is widespread opposition to handling or storage or anything regarding radioactive waste, some of it because of ignorance. The truth is that we will not be able to find communities that will be willing to handle this waste. That is the truth. People in Canada

do not want it. They feel they should not have to have it in their back yards. It will have to be dealt with, but there is this problem.

At the start, I should also mention that just because people do not want to handle it, do not want to talk about the subject, the truth is we need to discuss what is going to happen and how we will handle radioactive waste in Canada.

It is like an intergenerational transfer of wealth or intergenerational transfer of responsibility to say: "We are going to generate this waste from our nuclear production facilities and we will leave it to some other generation to look after". The truth is we have to say in our generation and for generations, that we are benefiting from nuclear power, that we are benefiting from nuclear research and that we will look after the waste too. We will look after it in the generation that got the benefits.

We do not want to dump this multibillion dollar problem on future generations. When talking to young people, they say that too much has been dumped on their plate already. The least we can do is look after our own garbage.

It is an absolute truism that the importation of nuclear waste from other countries for disposal in Canada is not acceptable to Canadians. As I will explain, there are some very good reasons that I ask that this law be set in stone.

From the outset, I want to make clear that this bill would not ban the importation of plutonium from the U.S. and Russian warheads. One of the proposals is to burn it in our Candu reactors. It is important to note that all the current proposals-there are several being tossed around-in the deactivation of the warheads call for the plutonium to be reworked and fabricated in the United States and then shipped to Canada to be burned as fuel.

That is not waste. We can still do that. I think Canadians are willing to consider that option because they feel it is part of what we can do. If we can get rid of the number of nuclear weapons around the world, we certainly are prepared to do our part.

We will burn that fuel. Candu reactors can handle it with modifications. I think Canadians will consider that option, depending on how many dollars are involved. Nothing in this bill would prohibit that. We can import fuel. Fuel is not waste. Fuel is a product that we can use. The measures in the bill would not ban the importation of plutonium to be burned. We can do our part for world peace and for nuclear disarmament, if it comes to that.

There will be some retooling necessary at our plants in order to use this plutonium. One of the proposals calls for the Bruce reactor to burn it. While Canadians are willing to consider that, we want to see how many dollars are involved. It will be a very costly process to upgrade our reactors to handle that product. We need to see all the dollars and cents laid on the table before we agree to any of it. That is obvious and that is in the future.

Let me address what this will mean to Canada, if we accept this plutonium. It looks like the amount they are talking about from Russia is about 50 tonnes over the next 25 years. That sounds like a small amount if we are thinking in terms of wheat, but in terms of plutonium it is a lot for Canada to handle. That is how much plutonium will be generated from the dismantling of approximately 40,000 nuclear warheads. It is a huge proposal and if we could take part in it that would be useful.

By way of comparison, at the moment we already have 22,145 tonnes of high level waste in Canada stored at nuclear reactor sites. It includes 78 tonnes of plutonium. By the year 2025 there will be 58,000 tonnes, which will include 206 tonnes of plutonium.

Another 100 tonnes of plutonium from the U.S. and Russia would increase that portion of the plutonium waste by a third. It is a significant amount if we were to accept it. It is a significant factor in our handling of nuclear waste. The price which Canadians would have to pay would be in the handling of the waste. I believe we would be prepared to do that because we could burn it. Once it is ours it is our waste and we would have to deal with it as we would other by-products.

This bill does not affect the possible plutonium deal. We can still do that. Canadians will want to debate the matter but we can still press ahead with it if Canadians so desire.

Why do we need this bill? There may be people who will try to profit from burying high level radioactive waste. There are profit oriented groups which may want to import waste for money. In other words, dispose of it in Canada for a buck.

America alone has an enormous amount of highly radioactive waste. There is enough to fill 86 football fields a metre deep. That may not be too astounding, however, under current proposals it would cost about $57 billion to dispose of it. It would be a huge expense to dispose of it.

The total clean-up costs in the U.S. alone are projected to approach $230 billion. It is a huge project. The U.S. has 77,000 tonnes of this waste to bury and more is being produced all the time. Initially, the Americans wanted to bury it in Nevada, but they found 32 fault lines running through the burial site. In fact in 1992 there was an earthquake on the site. Now they do not know what it will do with the waste.

It is not that I believe the Americans are our best friends, but they will be looking for another place to bury it. They will look north. That is what this bill is meant to address.

There are 413 commercial reactors worldwide. There are 26 countries with nuclear reactors. Pressure all over the world is growing to bury this waste.

Canada has a lot of vacant land. The Canadian shield is an ideal location to bury nuclear waste. In fact, in 1981 the Geological Survey of Canada identified over 1,300 potential suitable locations for burying radioactive waste in Ontario alone. Many countries around the world are looking to Canada as a possible place to dispose of their waste.

Why worry about it? Who would want to bury this waste anyway? Nobody wants this kind of stuff. It is too politically sensitive. It is too environmentally uncertain. All kinds of problems could arise, including the transportation of the waste.

There is a proposal or two in the works. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council, which represents nine Indian communities in northern Saskatchewan, was reported in February of last year to be considering offering their land, which lies over the Canadian shield, to be used for disposal for a price. That is part of their 20-year economic development plan. As a matter of fact, a major environmental assessment of the deep rock disposal concept is currently ongoing. If the Meadow Lake group or any other group or company met the standards of environmental assessment, what would prohibit them from demanding and receiving a licence to import waste? There is no law against it.

Now they might even be able to go to the courts to obtain it. Aboriginal self-governments in Canada in this example have much wider powers than ordinary groups or companies to take part in and direct environmental assessments.

Just as an example, in my own area, in western British Columbia, if the Nisga'a agreement in principle passes, and it looks as if it will pass both by the NDP government and the Liberal government in power here, the Nisga'a government will have the power to take part in any environmental assessment on its land. I will read from the relevant section of that agreement:

Nisga'a Central Government may make laws in relation to the environmental assessment of projects which are on Nisga'a Lands-where a Nisga'a Central Government law and the law of another Party requires an environmental assessment of a project on Nisga'a Lands, the project will be assessed under the process prescribed by Nisga'a law-

It is unclear in the agreement in principle if the federal government could step in and overrule that. I am just using that as an example.

Even handling the process of how environmental assessment takes place is a very powerful tool, as we know. The process of environmental assessment in essence will give us the result we are looking for. Some of my colleagues will be talking about that aspect in more detail. Again, we being the Canadian people in general, could lose this by default.

The Nisga'a agreement in principle is considered to be a template for 60 other aboriginal self-government agreements in British Columbia. It is being used as a template for many groups across the country.

There is also another group. That is the Whiteshell task force which was struck this spring to investigate alternative uses for AECL's Whiteshell Laboratory in Pinawa. They may have considered using the underground research laboratory site as a disposal area. I have been down in that deep dark hole a long way under the earth and they have some very interesting and exciting ideas for disposing of radioactive waste.

If this site were used for Canadian waste, I think Canadians should consider that. It is something to consider and the debate will be entered into as to whether it should be used for Canadian waste. It is not Canadian waste that I am worried about. We should look after our own waste, our own problem. It is the international waste that I do not want to have trucked up to Pinawa or any other site and that is what this bill is meant to address.

In June the motion came before the regional municipality in Manitoba to change AECL's lease to allow it to bury high level waste at the Pinawa site and it was turned down by one vote. In other words, we are one vote away from pushing this idea that perhaps we could accept waste from around the world for burial at that site.

Over the past 15 years Atomic Energy of Canada has spent nearly half a billion dollars studying the concept of deep rocks disposal. The site at Pinawa has been specifically dedicated to that study. AECL, like every other government department, has become stressed because of the cutbacks and budgetary problems. Whether it is at the Chalk River research plant and the cyclotron there, at the Pinawa site or wherever, more and more it is looking for ways to make money and profit.

I hope it proceeds and pushes this idea of disposal of Canadian waste in that method. I cannot see another method. I think it is a viable one. Again, that is for Canadian waste. It is a Canadian problem, made in Canada, disposed in Canada. Let us do what we have to do. But I do not want to have 413 other nuclear reactors around the world giving up and saying to ship it all to Canada. That is what this bill is meant to prevent.

The temptation to go the disposal route increases in proportion to the closeness of our relationship with the United States. I mentioned this earlier. We are closer geographically to the U.S. than to any other country. We are also under their economic influence because of our special trade arrangements.

I want to address the question raised by environmentalists who say that under chapter 9 of the NAFTA, Canada does not have the

power to legislate the ban or to ban the importation of toxic substances. We do have the power, at least in theory, because it is hard to say how the Americans will argue with us, in that article 904 of NAFTA states:

Each party may, in accordance with this agreement, adopt, maintain or apply any standard-related measure, including any such measure relating to safety, the protection of human, animal or plant life or health, the environment or consumers, and any measure to ensure its enforcement or implementation. Such measures include those to prohibit the importation of a good of another party-

We do have the power, at least theoretically, to follow through on this bill. I want to read another clause from that same article:

-each party may, in pursuing its legitimate objectives of safety or the protection of human, animal or plant life or health, the environment or consumers, establish the levels of protection that it considers appropriate-

Under NAFTA we can theoretically ban the importation of any kind of waste and we can establish any levels of protection we want. Of course the United States may choose to challenge our high environmental standards under NAFTA. They have a dispute resolution process where they can say our standards are too high, but I think it is going to be pretty hard to say that our standards are too high when we are dealing with one of the most toxic substances on the planet.

There is a little bit of a wrinkle in the works in that cabinet has already decided to export PCBs southward across the border. That may establish a precedent the U.S. could use in our NAFTA challenge. If we are willing to export our highly toxic PCBs, why could the U.S. not export its own highly toxic nuclear waste to Canada? That argument may come up. It is not impossible that we will be challenged on this, but I think it is therefore doubly important for the House of Commons and the Canadian people to take a stand now before it becomes a critical issue.

I think there will be a profit seeking group within Canada accompanied by a NAFTA challenge sometime in the future that will make a proposal that Canadian soil be used for these purposes.

Currently Bill C-23, the nuclear safety and control act, is before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources. It was introduced the week after I introduced my bill. Clause 26 of the bill allows the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to "possess, transfer, import, export, use or abandon a nuclear substance". All the commission has to do is grant any group a licence to do any of those things. The commission should not have that discretionary power. I do not believe the people of Canada want to give that to the commission.

The fact that Bill C-236 is votable is important. This will affect the passage of the nuclear safety and control act by highlighting this important aspect of this bill. Perhaps if this House voted to send my bill to committee the principle in it could be incorporated into the nuclear safety and control act. The House would have spoken here and given its express opinion on this subject, having sent it to committee and instructed the committee to incorporate it.

I appeal to the members of the natural resources committee to listen carefully to what I have had to say, and reconsider the clause in Bill C-23 that allows for the importation of radioactive waste into Canada.

I have gone through the reasons but I will give a quick summary. It has negative implications for international trade. It has negative implications for aboriginal self-government. It has negative implications for the safety of future generations of Canadians. It may be our only golden chance to send a message to the United States and to profit seeking groups within Canada. It is an opportunity to affirm the desire of the people of Canada that importation of substances harmful to Canadians, such as radioactive waste, will not be allowed by this government and by Parliament.

Topic:   Private Members' Business
Subtopic:   Radioactive Waste Importation Act
Permalink
BQ

René Canuel

Bloc Québécois

Mr. René Canuel (Matapédia-Matane, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague from the Reform Party. He presented a very strong argument, that I think may get many people thinking.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-236, an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada. In order to fully understand this bill, you need to know that the federal government divides radioactive waste into three broad administrative categories: high level waste, HLW; low level waste, LLW; and uranium tailings.

HLW remains highly radioactive for at least 500 years and its handling requires appropriate measures to ensure the protection of human beings and, obviously, the environment.

What my Reform Party colleague was saying earlier is true. People say this waste must be got rid of, somehow eliminated, but not in their back yard, of course. I can understand people's fear. I have seen children in my riding from East Bloc countries and, after so many years, probably because certain nuclear power plants lacked protective controls, these children are handicapped for the rest of their lives.

We took in several in our riding, and we will host others this summer, and we can see that there can never be enough precautions to protect the environment, and especially the health of human beings.

There are two kinds of LLW: historic waste and operational waste. The bulk of LLW consists of historic waste. Unfortunately, Canada does not have, at this time, any permanent storage facility for radioactive waste, either HLW or LLW.

Since 1978, the Government of Canada has been trying to find a solution to the disposal of HLW through a research and development program, but I think that the people doing this research are taking an awfully long time to find safe and effective solutions.

In May 1995, the Auditor General of Canada tabled an entire chapter on the management of radioactive waste by the federal government. He said that "Natural Resources Canada should work toward establishing an agreement among the major stakeholders on their respective roles and responsibilities and the approaches and plans for implementing solutions".

The federal government has jurisdiction over and regulatory authority for nuclear energy, including radioactive waste. Yesterday, the natural resources committee heard from some very specialized people from Ontario Hydro, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick Power. I asked them the following question: "Is there some way, on the international level, of having some sort of regulation?" As we are well aware, there are nuclear plants just about everywhere in the world, and Canada is proud of ours, but some countries that have built plants do not necessarily have the same environmental standards. A rather cavalier neglect of these plants sometimes ensues in certain countries, because environmental protection is not a concern.

Questions would therefore have to be asked, and I would propose that this be the occasion for creating international regulations which would govern all countries.

We also know that Ontario produces the most waste. As at December 31, 1992, the total number of spent fuel bundles was estimated at 900,000. One bundle is about the size of a fire log, and the 900,000 would fit into one and one-half Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Approximately 87 per cent of this fuel came from Ontario Hydro, 6 per cent from NB Power, 4 per cent from Hydro-Quebec, and 3 per cent from Atomic Energy Canada Limited.

By the year 2033, the volume of spent fuel would be the equivalent of 17 Olympic pools-full, or four million bundles. An enormous figure, and a potentially very scary one as well.

Recently, Canada lifted its ban on shipping PCBs to the United States. The purpose of doing so was to have them destroyed in the U.S., not stored. Why then would Canada import radioactive waste for storage? If we woke up tomorrow to find metric tons of radioactive waste lined up at our borders ready for storage, there would be some questions asked. If this waste entered Quebec freely, there would be still more questions. We would not be thrilled in the least. I trust that we do not wish Canada and Quebec to become a giant dump site.

This bill is a very worthwhile one, and I congratulate my colleague for introducing it, thus giving us the opportunity to ask ourselves some very serious questions. Shortly, we shall be making additions to the bill which will increase its value.

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Subtopic:   Radioactive Waste Importation Act
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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Mr. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Public Works and Government Services, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate in the debate on Bill C-236, an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada. Although I shall not be supporting it, I am glad that the member for Fraser Valley East has introduced this bill. He has provided us with an opportunity to discuss a topic of great importance to the government, the sustainable development of nuclear energy within Canada's supply mix of energy resources.

It is recognized that all energy sources present some advantages and some disadvantages. The mix adopted by governments necessarily takes into account the specific conditions in each country and the advantages and disadvantages for each energy source.

Nuclear energy is seen as an environmentally sound energy option that does not contribute to any greenhouse or acid gas emissions. Many countries have recognized the significant advantages of nuclear energy for the production of electricity. Others are considering the use of such energy for the undertaking of future development activities.

Members of the House will recall that the government has introduced Bill C-23, an act to replace the current Atomic Energy Control Act with more modern legislation entitled the nuclear safety and control act. This act will ensure the federal government continues to exercise fully its responsibilities for the control of nuclear energy in Canada.

Bill C-23 received second reading by the House of Commons in June and is before a parliamentary committee for a review as we speak. Members of the House are well aware of the government's position on the entire matter of Canada's domestic and international approach to nuclear safety.

Bill C-23 goes on in 127 clauses to define a comprehensive regime that is designed to regulate practically, thoroughly and strictly all aspects of nuclear activity in Canada. The Canadian nuclear industry is already one of the most strictly regulated in the world. As for the radioactive waste specifically, the Government of Canada takes the proper management of this material very seriously.

On July 10 the Minister of Natural Resources announced the government's policy framework for radioactive waste which will guide Canada's approach for radioactive waste disposal into the next century. This framework, which reflects consultations with

waste producers and owners, incorporates three principles that will ensure the sound and effective management of radioactive waste in Canada.

The first principle is that the federal government will ensure that radioactive waste disposal is carried out in a safe, environmentally sound, comprehensive, cost effective and integrated manner.

The second principle is that the federal government has the responsibility to develop policy, to regulate and to oversee producers and owners, ensuring they comply with legal requirements and meet their funding and operational responsibilities in accordance with approved waste disposal plans.

The third principle is that waste producers and owners are responsible in accordance with the principle of polluter pays for the funding, organization, management and operation of disposal and other facilities required for their wastes.

These principles highlight the roles of the federal government and the waste producers and owners for the management of radioactive waste while recognizing that the management may be different for the three types of radioactive waste encountered in Canada, nuclear fuel waste, low level radioactive waste, and uranium mine tailings.

Regardless of the type of radioactive waste, the primary concern of the government is to ensure that no undue risks are posed to workers, the public and the environment. Much work has been done to date to establish national directives regulating the management and transportation of waste, whether classified as hazardous or radioactive.

Any proposed projected associated with the management of such waste, which has a component falling under federal responsibility, would be subject to all relevant legislation and regulations. Most prominently, even before the project could proceed, it would have to undergo a thorough environment assessment review process under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Currently other legislative instruments include the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1992, with its regulations for the exportation and importation of hazardous waste; the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and Regulations, 1992; the 1946 Atomic Energy Control Act and its proposed replacement, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, which is currently under review by Parliament.

Internationally, considerable effort has been spent recently by countries to come to an agreement on the proper management of hazardous and radioactive waste, including the trans-boundary movement of this material, implying that the practice of importing and exporting radioactive waste is not in itself detrimental if it is managed appropriately.

Examples include the regulations for the safe transport of radioactive materials published by the International Atomic Energy Agency; the International Atomic Energy Agency code of practice on the trans-boundary movement of radioactive waste; the decision of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development concerning the trans-frontier movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal; the Basel convention on the control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal; the safety standards on radioactive waste now under development by the International Atomic Energy Agency; the international convention on the safety of radioactive waste management now under development by the same agency.

Officials from the Department of Natural Resources and the Atomic Energy Control Board continue to participate actively in these international efforts. Canada has over the years acquired an enviable reputation. Canadian officials are often called on to mediate disputes during international discussions.

For instance, Canada has been asked to chair several international working groups associated with the ongoing development of the international convention on the safety of radioactive waste management.

I have in the last few minutes endeavoured to list initiatives to clearly show that this Parliament, this government, other governments and international organizations have already devoted a great deal of attention to the vital issues of the management of radioactive waste. The work by people with international as well as national experience is continuing.

We can see that there is ample evidence of continuing, comprehensive, close attention by national and international organizations to the management of radioactive waste, including the importation and exportation of this material.

Bill C-236, which purports to be necessary for the protection of the health and environment of Canadians, is essentially unnecessary given the extensive regulations already existing or under development in this area. It is important to understand that we do have existing regulations and other regulations are under consideration and under development.

I use my last few seconds to simply recommend to all members of the House on this side and on that side that they not support Bill C-236, an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste into Canada.

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Subtopic:   Radioactive Waste Importation Act
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REF

Dave Chatters

Reform

Mr. David Chatters (Athabasca, Ref.)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on this subject, probably more from my perspective as the natural resources critic for our party.

This has has been an ongoing debate in this country for many years, going back to the creation of the first nuclear power plant in Canada when the question of what to do with the waste was asked. I found the reaction from the government side interesting. I really have to wonder about the wisdom of approving and licensing an energy source in Canada before dealing with the whole question of the disposal of radioactive wastes in Canada.

Certainly energy from nuclear materials does not create the problems some of the other energy sources do but some of the other energy sources do not have the potential for the human disaster this energy source does. I think the disaster at Chernobyl brought home very quickly to people all around the world the potential disaster that the creation of powerful nuclear energy does have. The destruction in Ukraine and the rendering unproductive of a huge area of some of the most productive agricultural land in the world and the human suffering and disaster that it created and even the effects that it had around the globe should scare Canadians and everyone in the world when they start talking about this source of energy.

This bill my colleague introduced does go a long way to meeting the fears of Canadians about the disposal of the world's nuclear waste in our own backyard and I think that is important. However, the question which also needs to be debated and needs to be continually debated is the continuing production of nuclear waste in Canada before we tackle this question of what we are doing with it. I believe that is a very important question we have to deal with.

When we look at Canada and at the debate going on in every metropolitan area about what to do with landfill sites, what to do with the mountains of garbage produced every year and the great difficulty in even locating landfill sites, it certainly makes the possibility of finding an acceptable site for high level nuclear waste disposal pretty remote.

In my province very close to my residence, we have had a similar debate going on for some years about a hazardous waste disposal site in the Swan Hills area of Alberta. It began with all the same promises that we heard from across the way about safety and the promise to not become a site for the disposal of anyone else's hazardous waste. Because of the monetary considerations, the money to be made or lost in the destruction of hazardous waste, quite quickly that plant has become a site for the importation of hazardous waste from all over Canada and proposals have been made for importing hazardous waste from the United States for disposal at this site.

Residents who live around that site, including me, have great concerns about the impact that would have on our air and water

quality. We were never in favour of the importation of hazardous waste to that site and we remain opposed to it today, in spite of the fact that it is happening.

The assurances that the Government of Canada will always dispose of nuclear waste in a safe and responsible manner do not give me a lot of comfort. I would like to know where the disposal site will be and what it will cost.

There has been research done about the safety of burying the waste deep in the Canadian Shield. When the minister appeared before the committee she assured me that the cost of disposal has been built into the rate which the utilities charge for the energy. I wonder how that is possible when nobody has established what the cost will be.

If we are going to talk anybody, be it First Nations people or anybody else, into burying the waste in their backyard, it will not be done cheaply. There will have to be a major incentive involved. I do not believe that anybody has determined what the cost will be.

The natural resources committee is dealing with Bill C-23. It is very unfortunate that it does not deal with some of these issues.

As my colleague pointed out, the body which regulates nuclear waste and nuclear production in the country allows companies to import and export and do virtually whatever they want with nuclear waste in Canada. Most Canadians would not accept that group's having that responsibility without some controls being placed on it by Parliament.

It is unfortunate that the government did not incorporate this bill into the provisions of that bill and take a stand for the protection of Canadians and the environment. There is a huge stockpile of this waste which is growing every day all over the world which will need to be disposed of.

I support the bill. I would encourage other members of the standing committee to consider amendments which would incorporate this bill into Bill C-23. It would be a giant step in protecting Canadians and their environment.

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Subtopic:   Radioactive Waste Importation Act
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LIB

Jerry Pickard

Liberal

Mr. Jerry Pickard (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is a fortunate opportunity that I have to join the debate today. The hon. member for Fraser Valley East has brought up a subject which is of concern to all Canadians and indeed to the government.

I agree with my hon. friend that the management of radioactive waste brings up policy matters of vital interest to thoughtful Canadians.

This issue by its nature is an international one and of considerable importance. Governments must respect the wishes of other

national governments to decide whether they wish to provide management services for the waste originating in other countries. For example, many African countries, recognizing that they may lack the necessary legal, administrative or technical capabilities, have officially banned the importation of hazardous and radioactive waste. However, when an authority has been established that does indeed have the proper legal, administrative and technical capabilities it is a necessity to consider that position.

There are significant volumes of various types of radioactive waste in Canada. They include low level radioactive waste, nuclear fuel waste and uranium mine tailings. Canada has acquired much experience in the safe management of these wastes. Included in the management are handling, treatment, transportation, storage and disposal. The element of transportation is particularly important when considering the importation or exportation of radioactive waste.

Developing expertise and safe transportation have always been important to Canada. In view of the large land mass of our country, they are extremely important. The expertise acquired by Canada over the years is recognized by many countries. In recognition of this, Canada plays an important role in the development of transportation regulations by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As mentioned previously, the government confirmed on July 10, 1996 that it continues to take seriously the proper management of radioactive waste by establishing a radioactive waste policy framework. The elements of this framework consist of sets of principles governing the institutional and financial arrangements for disposal of radioactive waste by waste producers and owners.

The principles would guide the implementation of radioactive waste disposal in Canada in a safe, comprehensive, cost effective and integrated manner. The federal policy role continues determining the broad financial institutional arrangements that would be acceptable as well as developing a cost effective integrated approach to radioactive waste management. In parallel, the federal regulatory role continues to ensure that management of radioactive waste is carried out in a safe and environmentally sound manner and that adequate financial guarantees are in place.

In keeping with the government's environmental agenda, the policy framework adds to Canada's efforts and expertise in radioactive waste management. The bill that we consider today is a proposal of blanket legislation to prevent the importation of any and all radioactive waste into Canada.

First of all, let me make it clear that there are no plans to import any nuclear fuel waste into Canada. In fact, eight years ago in 1988 the Government of Canada responded to the report of the standing committee on environment and forestry, "High Level Radioactive Waste in Canada: The Eleventh Hour". In its response the government indicated that it agreed with the committee's recommendation that a public review process be launched if the then department of energy, mines and resources should envisage the possibility of accepting nuclear waste from any country.

It bears repeating that today such a review would be considered under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. At the same time, the minister of EMR indicated to the committee that it was not the government's policy to accept used nuclear fuel from other countries.

The disposal concept of nuclear waste is currently undergoing a federal environmental assessment review. As I mentioned earlier, radioactive waste also includes low level radioactive waste. Many countries around the world routinely export and import low level radioactive waste resulting from certain uses, for example, the use of radionuclides for environmental, agricultural health purposes. For instance, hospitals in developing countries may wish to profit from considerable advances in the use of radionuclides for diagnostic and therapeutic uses in treatments.

Use of this material necessarily produces a certain amount of low level radioactive waste. Exporting this waste to countries that can be responsibly managed and make material advantage for those countries is the only option. Developing countries may also wish to use radiation and radionuclides to produce the nuclear energy for development of methodologies that enhance environmental protection, agricultural production and public community health.

To do so they may have to depend on the waste management services of developed countries. Those developed countries that agree to import low level radioactive waste do so for many reasons which include honouring international conventions and agreements, assisting in the development of responsible management of nuclear activities on a global scale, participating in global developments in environmental technology vital to the future of sustainable development of several nations around the world, and solving potential world environment and health problems in the area of radioactive waste management. Canada has not been one of these developed countries.

In conclusion, the bill proposed as a blanket to act to prevent the importation of any and all radioactive waste into Canada is not needed, desirable, appropriate or effective. Moreover, I believe the member for Fraser Valley East did not fully appreciate that this bill would not provide any added benefit to the health and environment of Canadians.

Therefore I recommend to the members of the House that they cannot support Bill C-236, an act to prevent the importation of radioactive waste material into Canada.

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Subtopic:   Radioactive Waste Importation Act
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BQ

André Caron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. André Caron (Jonquière, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying that I am somewhat surprised to hear what members opposite have to say about from the Liberal government's position on the management of radioactive waste.

According to the hon. member for Winnipeg-St. James, who brilliantly defended the government's position, and according to the hon. member who just spoke, there is no problem, the existing regulations are effective and future legislation will settle the whole issue of the importation of radioactive waste. However, there is also that surprising comment by the auditor general in his May 1995 report, in which he said that Natural Resources Canada should concentrate on reaching an agreement with the major stakeholders on their respective roles and responsibilities and on approaches to and a plan for the implementation of solutions. He was referring to the management of radioactive waste.

According to the auditor general, radioactive waste management is not entirely satisfactory in this country. So it is somewhat easier to understand why the hon. member for Fraser Valley-East presented his bill to prohibit the importation of radioactive waste into Canada.

It is clear that, when there are no policies, no clear cut regulations and no legislation on the whole issue of radioactive waste management, it would be immoral for a country to allow its importation. For the same reasons as my colleague from Matapédia-Matane, I am inclined to approve the bill presented by the hon. member for Fraser Valley-East.

However, when we consider the tenor of the bill, a number of questions arise. The hon. member who presented the bill mentioned that what we have here is the famous not in my backyard syndrome. However, the fact remains that waste is being produced, whether industrial or radioactive, in all countries. We see it in our own regions where we often have problems.

If I look at my own riding of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, discussions have been going on for ten years in an effort to find a landfill site. For some reason, every community designated by the appropriate authorities to have a waste treatment site often manages by means of petitions and protests to ensure the site is not located in that community. Although today, things are starting to change.

Nevertheless, there comes a time when Canadian and Quebec citizens will have to realize that the industrial society in which we live has produced waste and that steps will have to be taken initially to prevent all this waste from damaging the environment and subsequently to treat the waste.

If we look at the whole issue of radioactive waste, I think it is disturbing to see what is happening throughout the world, not just in Canada. I am quite willing to admit we have been negligent in Canada, but look at what has happened in Russia and the Ukraine. I probably know the situation a bit better because of my role as a parliamentarian. I had an opportunity to look at the situation and to visit the country and I realized there was a problem. There was a problem worldwide with radioactive waste management.

I realize that I do not have much time left, but I want to say that like the hon. member for Matapédia-Matane, I certainly agree with the bill because in Canada we cannot afford to receive radioactive waste. We are not even able to handle what we have. Nonetheless, I think that Canada has a responsibility, as an advanced industrial society, to look for ways of helping other societies that are perhaps having a little more trouble right now, such as Russia, such as the Ukraine, to find ways of treating the nuclear waste produced, because it is a question of survival not only for Canada and for Quebec, but for all of humanity.

So that is the appeal I wish to make. At some point, we must quit saying "not in my back yard", seek information, and take the necessary measures in terms of research and development so that we can find a solution to the situation we are now facing.

My colleague said it, with what is now going on in Canada, looking at the waste produced in Ontario alone, and in thirty years, it will have increased fivefold, so if we do nothing, if we are content with temporary solutions, if we do not take the measures necessary and if we simply look for holes in which to bury the waste, I think that then we will not have found a solution.

It is high time that Canadians and Quebecers realized that this is a problem that must be solved, and we are going to support the bill presented by the member for Fraser Valley East. This does not change the fact that much remains to be done in Canada and in Quebec in this regard.

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Subtopic:   Radioactive Waste Importation Act
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?

The Deputy Speaker

The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' business is now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

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Subtopic:   Radioactive Waste Importation Act
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NDP

Chris Axworthy

New Democratic Party

Mr. Chris Axworthy (Saskatoon-Clark's Crossing, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, a while ago I asked the finance minister to explain to Canadians why the government had broken its promise to create jobs and how did he feel about the government telling Canadians that they will have to accept and get used to high employment? The government does not have any long term vision of how to deal with Canada's unemployment.

Canadians know why we have high levels of unemployment. It is because federal economic and social policies continue to create unemployment not only through significant numbers of layoffs of federal civil servants, but there is no commitment to full employment. That has been made clear by this government.

There is no long term economic or industrial strategy, no vision of how to address the very real challenges posed by continue globalization of trade, no strategy for the economic advancement of less developed regions, no rejection of failed policies of privatization and deregulation, no long term vision.

Quite plainly the federal government has its priorities wrong. It has abandoned middle class and working Canadians and instead has listened to and responded to the concerns of its wealthy corporate friends.

Recently there have been numerous reports of record corporate and bank profits at a time of continued and unacceptably high unemployment. The heads of major corporations are being paid at a rate 212 times that of the pay of average workers. The gap between the executive suite and the shop floor has increased fivefold in the last 30 years.

Something is wrong when a bank president or a large corporation president can announce record profits one day, cash a six figure paycheque the next, lay off a thousand workers on day three, on day four hold a news conference to demand that the government force middle class families to get by with less, and on day five attend a $1,000 per plate Liberal Party fundraising gala.

Something is tragically wrong when the Prime Minister and the federal finance minister support all this and wash their hands of their electoral commitment to get Canadians working again. It is dead wrong in terms of the direction for Canada.

The government is irredeemably short term in its economic policy. The Liberals, Conservatives and Reformers are obsessed with the market even when the market fails. The government runs things for the few at the top, not the many.

We can begin to seriously address Canada's high unemployment levels only when we have a national reconciliation on the economy. There needs to be a co-ordinated approach in which all the major stakeholders play a role in generating a vision for the Canadian economy. A critical part of this must be the full blown pursuit of full employment and a commitment to full employment.

The ability of high tech and knowledge based industries of the economy of the future to provide jobs needed by Canadians must be seriously addressed as competition from newly industrializing countries continues to undermine traditional industrial sectors.

Measures to encourage industrial and business innovation and a financial sector committed to job creation must be developed. Our educational systems and our commitment to education must be revamped to address these challenges, and the federal government has a major role to play in all this.

Only when Canada knows where it is going as a country can Canadians design and implement the effective measures needed to ensure we get there. The federal government should show leadership in this regard, not just wash its hands of the problems faced by the millions of unemployed Canadians and their families across this country.

Needless to say an important part of this strategy is for Canada to work with other countries to make full employment the goal of global economic development. The presence of unprecedented numbers of unemployed across developed nations and in Canada indicates how far away that goal is.

I challenge the federal government to look beyond the status quo and toward proposals that promote real and effective change. Canadians are demanding it and it is time for the government to take a lead in meeting those demands. After all, in the red book it promised it would.

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LIB

Maria Minna

Liberal

Ms. Maria Minna (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, jobs are and continue to be the Government of Canada's highest priority.

Since the government took power it has worked very hard to create the climate necessary for job creation and economic growth. A number of measures have been taken to stimulate employment growth in Canada, including the $6 billion infrastructure program, a national tourism promotion program and the reform of the Small Business Loans Act to improve access to capital for small businesses.

In the speech from the throne and the 1996 budget, the government re-emphasized its commitment to increasing job opportunities for Canadians. For example, it doubled its contribution to student summer job creation this year and it launched Technology Partnerships Canada, a $250 million fund to support technology development and job creation in the aerospace, environmental and biotechnology sectors.

The government also launched the expansion of the Community Access and SchoolNet programs to improve access to the information highway.

The results so far show that the job strategy of the government is working. Since October 1993 over 639,000 additional new jobs have been created across the country, and these jobs are mainly full time jobs. In the meantime, the unemployment rate declined by almost two full percentage points from 11.1 per cent in October of 1993 to 9.4 per cent in August of 1996.

Since the government came into office, helping young Canadians make the transition into the workforce has been our particular priority. Three hundred and fifty million dollars was allocated to youth employment initiatives over a three-year period, sixty million of which was allocated to summer employment programs this past summer creating more than 60,000 summer jobs for young Canadians.

In addition, the findings and recommendations of last spring's ministerial task force on youth and of the recent youth conference will help in the development of a new youth strategy. The strategy is expected to be announced later this fall.

The government has a job creation record to be proud of. It will continue in its effort to help Canadians find and keep jobs, working in collaboration with provinces and the private sector.

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NDP

Len Taylor

New Democratic Party

Mr. Len Taylor (The Battlefords-Meadow Lake, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, this summer I watched as the prairies produced one of the best crops I have ever seen or ever heard about. Wheat, oats, barley, canola, peas, lentils and even the hay crops were good.

Prior to the harvest the sun came out and baked the fields for several days.

These were marvellous pre-harvest conditions. Farmers across the prairies began their harvest in earnest. Then the rain hit. For almost three weeks during the time when the combines should have been running full out, very little harvesting took place.

According to official records, about 50 per cent of the crop came off the fields and got put in the bins before the rain came. Just as the rain stopped and the weather forecasters predicted clearing and warming, the frost hit and then it snowed.

As members have seen on TV, more than an inch of heavy snow hit my part of Saskatchewan on the last weekend in September, a time that is a traditional prime harvest period. Now, during the past two days, more than a foot of heavy snow has hit standing crops in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.

Farmers are beginning to worry. The summer had produced a lot of optimism at a time when optimism was sorely needed but hardly deserved. Farmers know they had just come off 10 very bad years. Incomes had dropped substantially, crops had been poor, interest rates were high, prices were depressed and bankruptcies were occurring too frequently.

More recently, Tory governments in Saskatchewan and Ottawa had changed the way agricultural emergencies were financed. In other words, what used to be a federal responsibility became a shared responsibility. The province had less of an ability to finance agricultural emergencies than did the federal government.

Therefore a new safety net program, the GRIP, came and went in a flash as a result. When the government changed, the Liberal government in Ottawa maintained the cost sharing principles and is currently negotiating with the provinces to establish a new crop insurance program.

The changes to be made to the crop insurance have not yet been agreed to, let alone implemented. At the same time, the new Liberal government did away with the Crow benefit, a program designed to share the cost of transporting grain from the farm gate on the prairies to the ports on the coast with all Canadian taxpayers. This move immediately increases the costs of operating the farm.

Other input costs have increased. As a result, a lot more money than usual has been put into the ground or paid to railways this year in preparation for the year's harvest.

A good crop this year was necessary not only to pay the bills but to make up for the debts created from past years. Let us face it, everyone was looking forward to a good crop and is still hoping that little damage has been done by the weather.

Yes, we may take in a good crop but we cannot ignore the fact that farming depends on the weather. If the weather does not co-operate, we as a nation cannot afford to just let farmers go. We cannot afford to lose our capacity to produce food for the world and to generate the revenues necessary to maintain rural populations.

Therefore even in good times it is important for governments to ensure that contingency plans are in place just in case there is a crop failure or something happens to reduce the incomes necessary to produce the next year's crops.

I ask the minister if these contingency plans are indeed in place so that we can reduce the stress already being felt in the farming community.

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LIB

Jerry Pickard

Liberal

Mr. Jerry Pickard (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the federal and provincial governments assist producers across Canada with significant financial protection against weather related problems. Crop losses, through government safety nets, are covered.

The federal-provincial crop insurance program is specifically designed to protect producers against crop losses such as those associated with current weather conditions on the prairies.

In the event of poor harvesting conditions, it provides direct compensation to insured producers for yield and quality losses which can result in reduced revenues.

In 1996 about 80 per cent of the grain and oilseed crop acres in Manitoba, 55 per cent of the acres in Saskatchewan and 45 per cent of the acres in Alberta are insured.

Recent reports indicate that harvesting is well advanced and that the percentage of harvesting completed are as follows: Manitoba, 75 to 80 per cent; Saskatchewan, 50 to 55 per cent; and Alberta, 65 to 75 per cent.

In addition to crop insurance, most producers participate in net income stabilization account program, or NISA. NISA encourages producers to build up funds for use in periods of difficulty by matching producer contributions on a dollar-dollar basis and by providing a 3 per cent bonus each year of the producer contributions held on account.

The funds in a producer's NISA account can be drawn on if revenues, due to weather related and other losses, fall below the five year average. Currently, prairie producers have about $1 billion in their NISA accounts.

In addition to the above measures, the minister may authorize the Canadian Wheat Board to make advance payments to ensure producers of grain to better finance the drying of damp or tough grain.

While we hope the weather will improve so farmers can harvest their crops, if it does not, existing safety net programs are in place to assist with the losses which can result.

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Subtopic:   Radioactive Waste Importation Act
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October 3, 1996