Ministerial Question Period: Nuclear Energy Development

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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Red tulips, Ottawa

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Hello minister, I’m to your right. I don’t know if that’s politically or not, but —

Thank you for being here and answering our questions. I do appreciate the comments you made with regard to just transition, which is awfully important. I have a comment with regard to the program called carbon tax. As I see it, it is a carbon tax and rebate, and people tend to talk about it as the tax only and not the rebate.

My suggestion is that you call it that. You call it “carbon tax and rebate” or “price on pollution and rebate,” but use that word “rebate” more often.

I don’t say this so much as PR for your government but PR for this projet de société, which I think is the largest thing we’re doing in terms of the environment. It perhaps needs to be better explained to Canadians so people have a better sense of it.

Lastly, I wonder if you could just make a comment on the future of nuclear power and the energy mix going forward.

Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, P.C., M.P., Minister of Natural Resources: I will take your suggestion away. I don’t disagree with you. I do think it’s important that it’s more visible for Canadians.

In terms of nuclear power, I would say that we’re moving toward a future that must be much lower-carbon, and that, from my perspective, means that all non-emitting forms of energy have to be very much on the table. There are some provinces in this country that are in the very beneficial situation that they have large amounts of hydro. That would include Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia. You have a big storage battery, which enables you to potentially use more intermittent sources of power like wind and solar and to be able to balance that out.

But in provinces like Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the baseload power is provided primarily by coal and to a certain extent by gas, the choices are more challenging with respect to baseload perspective. I would say that at the present time, it would probably be nuclear energy or natural gas with a good carbon abatement and, potentially, in the future, hydrogen. The choices are not inexhaustible, and the idea that you can build a grid solely using wind and solar with some kind of storage is, certainly technologically, not there. Cost-wise, it is probably not there.

In that context, I think nuclear is a real option from a non‑emitting perspective. It is a technology that I think people would say is very safe. There clearly is an issue with waste. We have to get Canadians comfortable about how we’re going to manage the existence of nuclear waste. I think we have to have an adult conversation with Canadians about how we’re going to do that. Let’s be clear. A significant part of the electricity for the province of Ontario comes from nuclear power.

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