Bill C-47 (Historical)
Excise Act, 2001
An Act respecting the taxation of spirits, wine and tobacco and the treatment of ships' stores
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.
Martin Cauchon Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Pest Control Products Act
The Royal Assent
June 13th, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.
I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber, the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
Bill C-43, an act to amend certain acts and instruments and to repeal the Fisheries Prices Support Act—Chapter 17.
Bill C-10, an act respecting the national marine conservation areas of Canada—Chapter 18.
Bill C-50, an act to amend certain acts as a result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization—Chapter 19.
Bill S-41, an act to re-enact legislative instruments enacted in only one official language—Chapter 20.
Bill C-27, an act respecting the long-term management of nuclear fuel waste—Chapter 22.
Bill C-47, an act respecting the taxation of spirits, wine and tobacco and the treatment of ships' stores—Chapter 22.
Bill C-59, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2003—Chapter 21.
Assisted Human Reproduction Act
May 27th, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.
Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to speak to the previous amendment, which the House voted on a few minutes ago, but I would like to take this opportunity to speak in the debate at second reading in order to clarify certain notions I raised in that speech and to set them out now in greater detail.
Back then to the bill on assisted reproduction. We are now at the second reading stage, which addresses mainly the use of embryonic stem cells.
I repeat, stem cells are cells that have not attained maturity and therefore have the capacity to either specialize and form a variety of human tissues or organs or to renew themselves.
According to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, they offer an enormous potential for a better understanding of human development and treatment of degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and MS. These stem cells can come from a variety of sources: embryos at a very early stage, fetal reproductive organs and pluripotent cells, that is, those with a number of possibilities for development.
As far as this bill is concerned, the Bloc Quebecois has focussed its energies on getting this issue put into legislation. We still feel that it should, despite the great complexity of this subject. In my opinion, it involves the personal values of each member, which is why I believe there ought to be a free vote.
Since June 1996, the Bloc Quebecois has devoted a great deal of energy to developing the necessary legislation. In October 1997, the member for Drummond introduced a bill to make human cloning illegal. That bill was identical to the clause concerning cloning in government Bill C-47. Unfortunately, it died on the order paper when the election was called. This has not prevented ideas from continuing to evolve since then, and today we find ourselves with this bill.
As I have already said, I will be carrying out consultations on this within my riding. I feel it is important for all elements of this society who may wish to share their point of view with us on as sensitive a subject as assisted reproduction to have the opportunity to do so.
So, I will consult with, among others, church people, women's groups and scientists, who can help me, as a member of parliament, understand the impact of the terms used and the need to legislate. It is often in the details that we see whether the spirit of a bill was respected or not. I will also consult my fellow citizens, who can give me their opinion like anyone else, because this is an issue that concerns us all. People who are my age read, in the so-called literature of the future written at the beginning of century, about things that have now become reality. The same kind of progress will continue in the future.
Along with these individual consultations, I also intend to hold a roundtable to allow these people to exchange ideas, on a voluntary basis of course, to see if positions which, at first glance, may seem irreconcilable can be brought together, to explain the bill to all these people without getting into too many details, to provide an opportunity to my fellow citizens to express their views and help me in my consideration of this issue, so that when we vote at the various stages of the process, my position will be based on the input provided by my constituents.
This is not an ordinary bill involving party lines or partisan positions that have been developed over the years. Assisted human reproduction is an area that does not in any way relate to partisan notions, but to choices that will have to be made on scientific progress in the coming years, on how we will be able to make these choices and on the legislation that will govern this area. This is probably the main issue at second reading.
Whether or not anyone supports this bill, for me there is only position which is not acceptable and that is not wanting legislation. I think that there must be legislation. We can take the time to get it right. We can take the time to hold public hearings. We must ensure that we have all the information necessary, and that members of the public can express their views.
It is a challenge to get ordinary citizens to express their opinions on these matters, in their words, using their own vocabulary, so that we will have a bill reflecting what our society wants. Such a bill would set out the broad outline of what we wanted as a society with respect to these things. Health comes up daily in our debates. The progress made in the treatment of certain diseases, particularly those which are age-related, is a very important factor.
We must ask ourselves the following. What support do we want in order to fight these diseases? How do we want to develop the tools? How can we be sure of developing the necessary tools? How can we be sure that this will not become an opportunity for unacceptable business transactions? Are there moral behaviours which would be unacceptable? We must ask ourselves all these questions and ensure that the legislation answers them.
Once the bill has gone through second reading, the committee will be able to study it in detail, to see the different elements that we have spoken about and all of the inherent complexity. This deals with the use of embryos for research and how that would be done. These are important and very complex elements. They also represent a vision of the future.
We are leaving our children with a legacy of considering these issues in terms of morals vis-à-vis the evolution of science. We must learn from the past and consider the debate that took place then, whether it be in the 18th century, the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century. Ideas were put forward that might have appeared to be heresy at the time when they were proposed. However, some years later, we may have realized that some very good or very bad choices were made to allow this to develop. When it comes to this issue, it would be best if we knew all of the facts when making decisions. The repercussions will not only be scientific in nature. There will also be repercussions on how people will act in the future and on the importance of assisted reproduction and the impact it will can have on our society.
Given all of these situations, I hope that the consultations I will be holding will allow me to vote according to my conscience, but also knowing the opinions of those who want to share with me their perceptions of this situation. I may be able to contribute something, by making amendments and suggestions regarding the regulations, by ensuring that the guidelines included in the bill by lawmakers cannot be interpreted differently by those who enforce the law, so that we can achieve the desired results.
These are the consultations that I want to have so that the legislation, once passed, will serve as a solid cornerstone of the direction that we want research and assisted reproduction to take.
Assisted Human Reproduction Act
May 24th, 2002 / 10 a.m.
Dick Proctor Palliser, SK
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the speech that I began a couple of days ago on Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction.
This is legislation of great import to couples who want to have children and particularly to women who, as it is obvious, are always on the frontline when it comes to human reproduction.
The objects of Bill C-56 are threefold: to protect Canadians who are using assisted human reproduction to help them build their families; second, to prohibit certain practices such as human cloning; and third, to open the door to research provided within what the government deems a regulated environment.
As my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre said in the House earlier this week when the bill was first up, New Democrats have been calling on the government for years to provide legislation giving women access to safe and non-commercial reproductive health services. Canada is the last major industrialized country in the world without legislation in this area.
In 1993 a royal commission reported on assisted human reproductive technology and urged the federal government to act quickly.
It is an exploding area of science, as we all know, and much has happened since that 1993 Dr. Baird royal commission report. We know about Dolly the sheep. We now hear talk about designer babies. Nine years ago the commission said that it was only a matter of time and that it was urgent that government laws and regulations catch up to this burgeoning science.
Despite this caution, here we are some nine years after that royal commission reported and five years after Bill C-47 died on the order paper.
As is becoming habitual with this government, we have waited until just a few weeks before the House is scheduled to stand down for the summer to introduce such a momentous piece of legislation.
True to form, the government has mostly ignored many of the excellent recommendations made by the health committee regarding the topic of human reproduction. Yet it has ignored other good recommendations made by the New Democratic Party in a minority report attached to the health committee's report.
Allow me to provide one example of the good advice ignored by the government. Bill C-56 would establish the assisted human reproduction agency of Canada to administer and enforce the acts and regulations. Among other things, the agency can authorize embryonic research but this is a contentious area. In our caucus we have serious concerns with the government's off loading of many policy issues, such as stem cell research, to this agency. We were and remain opposed to the responsibility on fundamental areas of policy being sent to such an agency when members of parliament are elected, we maintain, to make these decisions.
Bill C-56 prohibits human cloning for either reproductive or therapeutic purposes. It prohibits creating embryos for research or other non-reproductive purposes. It prohibits maintaining active embryos outside a woman's body past 14 days' development. It prohibits gender selection procedures. It also prohibits the altering of genetic material to affect subsequent generations and it prohibits the mixing of human genetic material with non-human life forms for reproductive purposes.
The list of what must be prohibited is lengthy and it must be in an area where science, if unregulated, could easily overrun ethical considerations.
Let me talk about some of the areas in the legislation that trouble us. In any legislation regarding questions of human reproduction, our primary concern must be of the health and well-being of women because it is, after all, women who are responsible for reproduction in our society and it is women who too often have been in the past the guinea pigs for experiments in ways to deal with reproductive problems.
We are also talking about couples who want to have children and they have to deal with these new technologies. Our caucus insists that we must never lose sight of the fact that women's health and well-being must be first and foremost, and fundamental to the legislation. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that reproductive technologies are proven safe before they are made available.The government must ensure that the risks and benefits of any treatment for women are disclosed fully and that the moneys needed to achieve these objectives are made available
What we are really talking about is that the precautionary principle must be explicitly set out in the legislation. In its final report the health committee urged such an approach but it was, unfortunately, rejected.
Also rejected was any direction or move in the area of patent protection. The health committee called on the government to prohibit human patenting but the government has chosen to ignore this important advice, putting its emphasis instead on corporate property rights.
For example, companies are already lined up to benefit from the stem cell research that holds such promise for Canadians suffering from various diseases. New Democrats believe that the federal government should be playing a leading role to keep trade agreements from overriding the health interests of Canadians.
In summary, it is noteworthy that we have finally introduced a bill respecting assisted human reproduction. It is well past time. However it is deficient legislation for the reasons that my colleague, our health critic, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, mentioned previously and which I have stated this morning; most notably, the lack of protection around women's health and our concerns about commercialization.
We are also concerned about key elements that parliament will not be asked to debate because the government has chosen to leave those to regulation or to foist them on to the new regulatory agency for a decision.
In conclusion, it will be difficult for me and other members of our caucus to support the bill unless significant changes are made to it.
Excise Act, 2001
May 21st, 2002 / 6 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-47.
Assisted Human Reproduction Act
May 21st, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on this issue.
As a member of the Standing Committee on Health, I identify with the comments of the hon. member from Winnipeg who just spoke. Members of the committee wrestled with many of the issues surrounding human reproductive technology and came up with the proposals for the draft legislation which has come back in the form of Bill C-56.
Bill C-56 states it may be cited as the assisted human reproduction act. I would like to state for the record that I believe we need much more research on the causes of infertility, particularly in the western world on delayed child bearing. We need more scrutiny on the various practices that defer pregnancy including the birth control pill; the use of abortion and the effect it has on fertility; the accumulation of pesticides in the environment and the effect it may have on human reproduction; and recently, concerns about estrogens accumulating in the water supply which are affecting human fertility.
A lot more research is needed on what is actually causing this epidemic of infertility. Rather than trying to find other ways to produce babies, we should be looking at how we can accommodate successful human fertility in a natural way.
Looking at the bill, the opposition has been calling for legislation since 1993 when the royal commission on new reproductive technologies reported. The government introduced Bill C-47 eventually in June 1996 and it died on the order paper.
This subject has been debated for a long time. In this the 37th parliament the Standing Committee on Health received draft legislation on May 3, 2001, a little more than a year ago. We spent months deliberating and hearing from witnesses from all aspects of Canadian society who are concerned about the complex and varied issues associated with the bill. Finally the committee submitted its report in December to the minister. It is one year later and the bill has finally come to the House for consideration. It has been a long time coming.
There are many controversial aspects and complex issues related to the bill. Probably the most significant one is the issue of stem cell research. To enter into that subject, it was stressed at committee that we need to think of ourselves as cellular beings. An adult human being is some 80 trillion to 100 trillion cells; we are cellular beings.
We are talking about embryonic stem cells versus adult stem cells. We hear in discussions that embryonic stem cells are better because they can produce the entire array of tissue found in an adult human being, which is true. The early cells in an embryo are on their way to producing an 80 trillion to 100 trillion cell adult which will take some 20 years to accomplish. The embryonic cells can produce a whole human being; that is their destiny in the ordinary sense.
Recent research has found what early researchers used to suggest, that adult cells are no longer able to do that. However in the last year and a half we have seen tremendous breakthroughs in adult stem cell research.
It should not have been such a surprise to us. The blueprint for each one of us, including all of the 200 cell types that we have in our body, is found in each and every cell of the human body, except for the red blood cells which do not have a nucleus. Each of us has in each of our 80 trillion to 100 trillion cells a complete set of chromosomes with a complete blueprint to reproduce a whole human being.
Therefore the dialogue saying that the embryonic cells are better for this reason simply does not hold up with the current research. We are finding tremendous breakthroughs some of which have been cited already today.
We heard from researchers in committee, and even in the months since we concluded our report there has been further research reporting results with Parkinson's disease using adult stem cells. Also with multiple sclerosis, adult stem cells from the donor's body were introduced back into the same body with tremendous results.
From what we heard in the standing committee and in the past year, there have been tremendous gains in adult stem cell research in humans. We heard that after many years of embryo stem cell research with animal models the results have not provided the expected advances. Therefore, it was the conclusion of the standing committee to encourage research funding in the area of adult stem cells.
There are many problems with trying to introduce embryonic cells into another human being not the least of which is each one of our cells has a blueprint, our own genetic marker. An intact immune system checks licence plates. The immune system will reject foreign cells. If embryonic cells are used to produce a new cell source for a human being to try to solve a health problem those cells will be subject to rejection by the immune system of the receiving body unless the patient takes anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his or her life. That is a very significant problem in trying to use embryonic stem cells in another human being. It is a problem that is avoided entirely by the use of autologous cells, or cells from one's own body.
To quote a couple of other advances, recently University of Minnesota Stem Cell Institute researchers showed that adult bone marrow stem cells can become blood vessels. Duke University Medical Center researchers turned adult stem cells from knee fat into cartilage, bone and fat cells. When the research of Dr. Freda Miller from our own McGill University was announced just a few months ago, the newspaper article said that the researchers had found gold with skin cells able to turn into neurons or muscle cells.
We should have known there were stem cells found in bone marrow because bone marrow regenerates itself. The average human being is replacing 25% of his or her blood every month. Skin cells replace themselves regularly. Therefore stem cells are found. Also we are finding that skin cells not only produce skin but they can be coaxed into forming other tissues, as Dr. Miller found, such as neurons or muscle cells.
If adult cells have the promise to produce tissue, why are researchers reluctant to go there? I posed that question to Dr. Alan Bernstein, the head of the CIHR, when he was at committee and I pose the question again to my colleagues in the House. If we can produce cells from our own bodies that would replace tissue, avoiding the need for anti-rejection drugs for life, if we could take stem cells from our own bodies, grow them in a Petri dish and reintroduce them to our bodies to repair damaged tissue, would that not in fact be superior? That is autologous.
Assisted Human Reproduction Act
May 21st, 2002 / 11:45 a.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, it is with a mixture of relief and apprehension that I stand today to join the debate on Bill C-56, an act respecting assisted human reproduction. As others have mentioned, this is truly a day that many of us have been waiting for since the royal commission on assisted human reproductive technology, in a 1993 report, recommended urgent federal government action to regulate this burgeoning new area. It is a day we have been awaiting since the government let its first effort, Bill C-47, die on the order paper with its 1997 election call, and here we are today, five years after parliament saw that piece of government legislation on this area that is of vital concern to women, to families and to many people in our society who are dependent on the discoveries and developments occurring daily in this area.
We listened very carefully to the health minister's speech as she introduced the bill and it is certainly clear that she has been more than generous in her self-congratulatory words in introducing the bill. New Democrats, who for years have been calling on the government to introduce legislation to give women access to safe, non-commercial reproductive health services, should be forgiven if we are reluctant to join in what is at best a celebration of Liberal indifference or at worst the latest chapter in the government's history of neglect. After all, we are far from having an act in place. Indeed, Canada is the last major industrialized country in the world without legislation in this area.
Reproductive technology is not a static field of science, far from it. While the government has been inactive on this legislative file for all these years, the nature or the bio-nature of reproductive technology has been changing rapidly. Let us go through some of those developments. Dolly the sheep and animal cloning are not new news. An Italian doctor claims to be well on the way to producing a cloned human being. The term “designer babies” is now in common usage as parents begin selecting the biological traits of their children. Internet sites compete in the trade of celebrity reproductive materials while countless others profit from those Canadians who are more than willing to buy access to any healthy eggs or sperm that might assist in their drive to have children. Gender selection has become topical, with all sorts of new rationales being put forward in its defence.
As well, we have witnessed the development of human stem cell research. Eugenics has assumed increased acceptability as scientific capabilities have expanded even though we have had no public debate. So too the patenting of higher life forms, including human genetic material, has become part of our daily lives without public discussion or input. The list goes on.
One can see why we are relieved that finally, as New Democrats have been urging for years, the government has deigned to bring this piece of legislation before parliament. Our initial relief, though, was rather short-lived as we became familiar with the bill's contents or lack of contents. I now want to focus on some of our apprehensions, and they are considerable.
I begin by registering our disappointment that the government has chosen in several instances to override the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health set out in its “Building Families” report of last December.
It was a rare moment in the life of this parliament, moments which are few and far between. Committee members from all political parties took the government's request to review its draft proposal on assisted reproductive technologies very seriously. We devoted months of committee time to studying submissions and hearing witnesses from the full spectrum of views on this whole area, and a very controversial topic it is.
Instead of shying away from contentious areas we debated them and in many cases reached sustainable positions that we offered in our report. We presented the government with 36 recommendations in the main report as well as additional recommendations in the NDP's minority report.
In what is quickly becoming the norm for the government, it has chosen yet again in Bill C-56 to override several of the committee's recommendations with no consultation or explanation to the committee. We have seen over and over again parliamentary committees that run the danger of becoming mere window dressings for the government's legislative agenda instead of the dynamic honing tools to enhance legislation as it proceeds through parliament. Many of us in the House feel that this results in legislation that is less reflective of the will of Canadians and which will be less effective in the long run as a result.
I also have serious concerns with the government's decision to offload many policy issues, some of them very contentious, like stem cell research, to the regulations or to the soon to be created assisted human reproductive agency.
Canadians elected us to the House to deal with tough issues. They elected us to be accountable for how we deal with them, not to pass them on to an unelected, unaccountable organization or group of officials to determine. That is a concern and we will continue to raise our opposition to the off loading of responsibility in fundamental areas of policy that should be decided by this place, by members of parliament elected to do just that.
I will turn now to the substance of the legislation we have before us. The primary consideration for all of us in dealing with the bill or dealing with any legislation governing reproduction must surely be the health and well-being of women. That is a matter which should be self-evident yet it is a matter that has to be said.
After the bill was introduced I was in a debate with members of the other parties. The health critic for the Alliance Party actually said that the bill was not a woman's issue. The last time I checked, women were responsible for reproduction in our society today. Women are often the guinea pigs for experiments in terms of ways to deal with reproductive problems. It is women who in fact are on the front lines in terms of developments in this area.
Let us be clear, this is a woman's issue and the bill must at least address the fundamental issues of protecting and ensuring the health and well-being of women. Of course we are talking about families and their need to deal with new technologies in the desire to have children, but let us make sure we do not miss the fundamental issue of women's health and well-being which is so central to the bill and so much a part of the history of the bill.
The federal government should ensure that reproductive technologies are proven to be safe before being permitted, that the risks and benefits of any treatment for women are disclosed fully and that the funds needed to achieve these objectives are made available. The bill we are debating should be the means for accomplishing these ends but it is not.
The most effective way of dealing with the legislation is to ensure that the precautionary principle is entrenched in any bill dealing with assisted reproductive technology. That is why in our minority report New Democrats recommended that the precautionary principle be explicitly set out in legislation as a prerequisite for the approval of all standards and procedures. In its final report, the health committee agreed that a precautionary approach was needed.
Instead of finding the precautionary principle among the governing provisions of the bill, it is nowhere to be found. The precautionary principle, which is really putting safety first, can put a damper on the unfettered pursuit of profitable new products and procedures. The choice not to include the precautionary principle reflects the government's affection for the biotech industry, an industry that has benefited tremendously from being able to establish itself in assisted reproductive technology unencumbered by regulation during these many years without an act.
Bill C-56 is also missing a strong mandate to ensure that the most up to date safety information is available to women through counselling. Back in 1990, the New Democrat women's critic, Dawn Black, called for the inclusion of counselling as part of every reproductive technology program. It was her number one recommendation to the Baird commission.
It was said then and is still said today that the quality of the counselling and information must be high and it must be mandated to be readily available. Women also need information on infertility prevention to help them avoid the intrusive and painful procedures that may be part of an infertility treatment.
In response to the draft bill, the NDP minority report recommended that prevention be a central aspect of any reproductive technology policy and a key part of any new regulatory authority.
However Bill C-56 is soft on prevention. The government has failed to provide the type of proactive prevention mandate that is necessary to make real inroads into reducing the factors that lead to infertility.
One way the government could have addressed this important area and ensured that women's concerns remained a high priority, at least with respect to the make-up of the new agency to be called the assisted human reproductive agency, would have been to require gender parity. To give credit to the health committee that was recognized.
It was assumed that because we were dealing with women's health and with reproduction, with a bill that would have a significant impact on women, that the agency would be made up of at least 50% women. Does that appear anywhere in the draft bill or did we hear any of that in the commentary made by the minister? No. A fundamental issue, which would have made a significant difference for outcomes when the bill is finally implemented and up and running, is missing.
That is not something new to us on this side of the House. We have tried many times to get the government to understand the basic notion of gender parity on all boards and commissions. We thought there was a case to be made when the government established the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Since we are dealing with a new research body that would set the stage for innovative research for years to come one would think it would at least have gender parity. We know that women's health concerns and their interests in research and development are critical and important. The government refused to address that fundamental issue at that time.
We felt that when it came to reproductive technology it would be a given that women would be involved. How could the government not do that? Once again not only has the government decided to ignore this fundamental recommendation but it has backed off its own stated principles and policies around achieving gender parity and ensuring a gender based analysis of all government bills and programs.
The government has chosen to let the chips fall where they may instead of clearly supporting women whose health rides on the agency as the enforcer of the act.
By the same token, the bill does not require the agency to establish any formal mechanism for direct input from experts in the field, from the centres of excellence for women's health or even its own women's health bureau within Health Canada, both of which could contribute substantially to the agency's worth in the interests of women through the work they perform.
While I am on the bill's shortcomings in relation to the agency's board, let me add that there is no protection against conflict of interest to prevent the agency being unduly influenced by the biotechnology industry or private clinics. This is an important omission that we believe must be addressed.
Another issue that is very important to many of us in the House is the bill's unacceptable weakness in terms of focusing on the commercialization potential and developments in this whole area of assisted reproductive technologies. Nowhere is it more apparent than when it comes to addressing the fundamental issue of patenting of life forms, a topic of great concern today as the supreme court begins its deliberations on the patenting of the Harvard mouse.
We had thought, given the words from the government around stopping the commercialization in this area, that it would at least act in terms of stating its objective to prohibit the patenting of human genetic material. That was part of the health committee's report. It was a consensus position. The health minister did not say a word about that when she introduced Bill C-56. She made no mention of the government's intentions to move quickly and forcefully with respect to patent protection. It is very important because knowledge of the genetic building blocks of life forms part of our common human legacy and the public good. It cannot be forfeited to the private reserve of giant life science and drug corporations.
We have called on the government to amend the Patent Act to prohibit human patenting. As I said, so has the health committee. However the government chose to ignore the consensus and instead has put its emphasis on corporate property rights before our access to health care. It could have stipulated a consequent amendment to the Patent Act had it so desired but it chose not to do so.
The implications of the patenting of life forms for our health care system are already becoming apparent. Women's access to a genetically developed test for breast cancer has been impeded by the patent process. Now the same company is applying for a patent on a prostate cancer gene.
A line is already forming at the patent office to slap patents on the beginnings of the stem cell research that holds such promise for Canadians suffering from debilitating diseases. Instead of bending over backward to respond to the wishes of the biotechnology industry, New Democrats believe that the federal government should be playing a leading role internationally to advocate keeping trade agreements from overriding the health interests of Canadians.
We believe all Canadians should benefit equally from improvements in this area. All Canadians should benefit equally from improvements to infertility treatment. This is far from the case now where public coverage of infertility conditions is practically non-existent and private insurance often excludes fertility drugs or imposes severe limits on reimbursement.
We have called on the federal government to work in conjunction with the provincial l and territorial governments to bring reproductive technology within the public non-profit sector. We have offered the model of the Manitoba provincial government that recently and successfully reclaimed a for profit clinic to the public health care system and gives a perfect example to the government about how it can act in the best interests of Canadians according to Canadians' deep desire for a non-profit system to ensure that basic health services are not up for grabs in the marketplace.
There are many more issues of concern that I wanted to raise and I will have a chance to pursue those points in further debates and in questions that follow.
For example, we have to look at the whole issue of genetic testing and the absence in the bill of any reference to people with disabilities. With the potential for eugenics cleansing, we are creating enormous problems for our society today. We are putting a cloud over those who live daily with disabilities. Because of developments in this field and the lack of action from the federal government, they now feel their lives are worth less. Our society is not enriched as we all assume it to be.
We have before us a bill that has serious gaps in women's health protection. It fails to effectively take on the commercial side of assisted reproductive technologies. It has ignored basic issues such as genetic testing and has overridden health committee recommendations in several areas.
The government has come to us after all this time asking for approval for a very important bill. However it misses several significant policy proposals and has relegated regulations to an agency yet to be defined.
We are left in the frustrating position of being--
Excise Act, 2001
May 9th, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.
Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC
Mr. Speaker, before getting into the heart of the matter, let me congratulate those who won during random draw this morning.
I also want to thank the member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot for the excellent work he did on Bill C-47, a bill about taxation and particularly the excise tax. The member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot and I are friends. Over the years, we have worked together, mutually respecting each other's jurisdiction.
The member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot is an enlightened person. He knows that if he had not been quite alert at committee, they would have pulled a fast one on us. For our visitors in the gallery and for the people watching us, I would like to explain precisely the purpose of this debate.
I learned about the excise tax in my economics classes in cegep. I think you and I belong to the same generation, Mr. Speaker, except that you may be a couple of years older than I am. In cegep, the member for Joliette was one of my teachers. He taught me that the excise tax is paid by the consumer on a number of products.
In the early 1980s, the member for Joliette used a metaphor for his students. He used to say that the excise tax was a tax on sin because it dealt with alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, which are all associated in one way or another with luxury.
The member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot, who has been on the Standing Committee on Finance for about 10 years, is an experienced member of parliament in spite of his youth. On several occasions he explained in committee that we are not against a general review of taxation. We understand that processing has changed in industry. We realize that the reality of import-export has evolved.
I would like to digress for a moment to say that Quebecers are genuine free traders who believe in international and interprovincial trade. As a matter of fact, the premier of Quebec, the member for Verchères, who, as everyone knows, will remain premier of Quebec because he is giving Quebecers a very good government, was the creator of the department of international trade in Quebec. He also gave Quebec its first international trade policy.
He pointed out that Premier Lévesque had invited him to his office and told him, “You will be responsible for international trade”. He had a very small budget then. Unless I am mistaken, it was about $9 million. This was not much to put Quebec on the map in terms of international trade.
When we had the free trade debate in Canada and Quebec in the early 1980s, Quebecers were genuine free traders. They believed that increasing trade was a sure way to promote economic growth. Even if one believes in the virtues of trade, even if one is convinced that taxation has to be reviewed and that trade is an inescapable fact of life for all nations--the member for Kamouraska--Rivière-du-Loup--Témiscouata--Les Basques, who is a fervent advocate of regional development, knows this--mechanisms to protect culture are needed.
As far as protection of culture is concerned, we understand each other, Mr. Speaker. You were on the heritage committee for a long time. You are well aware that nations must protect their culture.
Globalization is unavoidable, but sovereignty is essential. Sovereignty allows trade on an equal footing, and allows specific mechanisms to protect culture.
Do not think that there is no link between the excise tax and culture, because you would be wrong. I will explain this link.
It is a known fact that the excise tax is a tax on consumer products, which the consumer pays on a certain number of goods, such as, of course, tobacco, spirits, wine and beer.
I repeat that the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot was absolutely in favour of a general review of the act. We were surprised—and when I say surprised, I mean appalled, and when I say appalled, I mean outraged, and when I say outraged, it is because, deep down, we were hurt—to see what the government did. Why did the government want to exclude the microbrewery sector from this general review?
Mr. Speaker, you will allow me to stay within the limits of parliamentary language, but I think I am beginning to smell patronage here.
We understand that members who sit on a parliamentary committee have the right to be married, to have a marital relations, to have privacy. Privacy is a right protected in major charters, both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec charter.
However when someone is the chair of the finance committee, it is quite different. Indeed, it seems that the chair of the finance committee was elected after a hard fought battle and has foiled Liberal strategists. This chair, who is quite a very nice person—no one questions this—is married to an influential director of one of the biggest breweries in Canada, who himself sits on the Brewers Association of Canada.
One might wonder about this. I thank the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for his vigilance. I would like to make a link with regional development. Of course we understand that my colleague and friend, the hon. member for Jonquière, has defended regional development here on several occasions, every time she has had the opportunity to do so.
This is the situation. Of course we recognize that the big breweries, like Molson and the others, represent a relatively concentrated market. Some of them dominate the market and are trying to sink the microbreweries. If I am not mistaken, there have been more than 40 such cases already. Some of the microbreweries had to close down because of the unfair tax system and because of the rate that is applicable in the United States.
However, we have to understand that a number of microbreweries are located in regions and that they create employment. The location of an industry is an important factor. When a brewery or a microbrewery decides to set up in a region, it contributes to the development of the economic fabric of the region.
I regret to have to inform the House and all our viewers that in the area of regional development, the government's record is abysmal. I do not know how a Liberal can actually say the words regional development.
Let me give members an example. During the last election campaign—I could give members the example of the member for Beauharnois--Salaberry—the Liberal Party promised to spend $1.9 billion on the highway system. This is not peanuts. It is, however, rather unbelievable that the strategic highway improvement program only amounts to $108 million over a four year period.
It is therefore obvious that the issues of microbreweries, of culture, of regional development and of privileges in the House are all related.
In conclusion, on all these issues, Quebecers can count on the Bloc Quebecois to be looking out for the interests of Quebec to the best of its knowledge and energy.
Excise Act, 2001
May 9th, 2002 / 3:45 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part today in this debate on Bill C-47. As it has been often mentioned, the purpose of the bill is to modernize the Excise Act. We are in a situation where all the provisions contained in the Excise Act, which Bill C-47 is supposed to replace, are included in this bill, except anything that has to do with beer.
This is important for what I will call the microbrewery industry. Microbreweries are the pride of several regions in Quebec. As my colleagues pointed out, these beers often have a different taste that has a regional character. These industries employ men and women from every region in Canada, but also from every region in Quebec.
Microbreweries are often symbols of the regions of Quebec. They are employers, they are a driving force for economic development and they are the symbol of a region. They offer consumers a product that is different from those offered by the big Canadian brewers.
The situation in which we find ourselves leads us to the conclusion that a market is developing, resulting in these microbreweries being subjected to unfair competition by other brewers. I will explain.
The beer produced by microbreweries often has to compete against so-called imported beers. Under the current taxation system, the big breweries, like Labatt, enjoy preferential treatment, a preferential tax rate, compared to the microbreweries.
The preferential rate is based on the tax rate. In Canada, there is a charge of 28¢ on Canadian beer. The rate in the U.S. is about the same, except that they have a preferential rate for microbreweries. They consider that a small business does not have the same organizational or financial structure as the big breweries. So, the preferential rate in the U.S. is only 9¢ a bottle, compared to 28¢ in Canada.
Since the tax rate for microbreweries in the U.S. is 19¢ lower than it is in Canada, it is clear that our microbreweries are the victims of unfair competition. Not only is the difference between the tax rate unfair, but microbreweries are far from being defined the same way in Canada and in the U.S.
For instance, to be considered as microbreweries, Canadian breweries have to produce 300,000 hectolitres, compared to almost 1 million hectolitres for U.S. breweries. So, the definition in itself paves the way for the unfair competition Quebec and Canadian microbreweries are victims of.
I have just mentioned the tax rate on one bottle of beer, but if we do the math, we see that for 24 bottles sold in a grocery store, the Canadian government gets $4.09, and the U.S. get $1.12, for a huge difference of $2.90 on a case of 24, which would explain why several of our microbreweries had to close their doors in the last few months and years.
Several regions in Quebec have been hurt by the loss of these small companies that can be competitive if they are given a bit of a tax break, something this bill is not doing.
In the riding of the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot alone, two microbreweries have had to shut down since 1997. We have also lost microbreweries in Saint-Eustache, Baie-Saint-Paul, Montreal and Cap-Chat. Microbreweries, which have, in recent years, become ambassadors abroad for various regions of Quebec and Canada, promote regional development, in terms of growth and symbol. Therefore, these closures were major losses.
We are speaking on behalf of microbrewers, but I want to stress that the Bloc Quebecois did not fight this battle in recent weeks and months only for Quebec microbrewers. We were pleased to see that, just last week, the Canadian Alliance joined forces with the Bloc Quebecois to condemn the current federal preferential system.
We saw Canadian Alliance members ask questions in the House of Commons. It is not because the situation necessarily affects Quebec microbrewers; it is because they realized that microbreweries were in trouble in other Canadian provinces.
Here are some figures. Seven microbreweries have shut down in British Columbia, five in Alberta, one in Manitoba and one in Nova Scotia, for a grand total of more than 38 microbreweries that had to stop operating in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, in part because of the current system.
This means there are only some 40 microbreweries left in Canada. Close to half of the microbrewers had to shut down in recent years, thus leaving the market to the big breweries, such as Labatt. The result is that Quebec and Canadian consumers have only two choices: they can either drink Canadian beer brewed by a big brewery, or imported beer.
Knowing consumers, they will often choose beer from a microbrewery over imported beer, because they like local products.
We hope that the government will listen and will propose provisions to boost these driving forces of the Quebec and Canadian economy.
Excise Act, 2001
May 9th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.
Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC
Mr. Speaker, it is now my turn to speak to Bill C-47, the Excise Act, 2001 respecting the taxation of spirits, wine and tobacco.
What is rather surprising about that bill is that for the first time, brewery products were completely excluded from it. My colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe--Bagot moved amendments which were rejected. These amendments concerned microbreweries. More and more, in Quebec as elsewhere in Canada, brewery products are becoming regional products, products with a regional colour and flavour. As I said, these are products reflecting regional culture.
In the last number of years, microbreweries have enjoyed rapid growth, and several regions have developed beers of better quality, with a regional colour and flavour. Besides, those initiatives have generated jobs in the regions.
These small breweries should be encouraged and have a great future. They help develop our regions in terms of culture of flavours. However, they have started to compete with large breweries like Molson and Labatt in particular. Why are breweries excluded from the bill? Because it became obvious that small breweries held a market share that large breweries want to take over. There was intense lobbying, and representations were made to the chair of the committee looking into the issue. The result was the exclusion of breweries from the bill. In the long run, they will disappear.
Microbreweries give regional colour and they create jobs in the regions. Some want to eliminate them. With 4% of the market share, microbreweries automatically deprive the larger breweries of profits. I find it appalling that the government caved in to the lobby, arguing that we will come back to the issue later. We will, once all the microbreweries have disappeared.
For example, in 1997, there were more than 90 microbreweries in Canada. Today, because of these policies, there are only 30 left. In the riding of Portneuf, which is next to mine, there was a fine microbrewery that was a delight for the region and was putting the region on the map, so to speak. It is among those that have disappeared. Having known the owners personally, I found it hard to see it go, as it was creating jobs, especially as this worked out to the advantage of the biggest breweries.
Why did the government not want to deal with the taxes collected from microbreweries? It is simple. It is because it wants to replace them with American microbreweries.
For example, in the United States, the tax on microbrewery products is 9 cents a hectolitre, while it is 28 cents a hectolitre in Canada. Thus, the big breweries, Molson and Labatt, acquire the American finished product and compete on the Quebec and Canadian market, using American microbrewery products and kill our microbreweries.
It is an aberration when the government caves in to the big business lobby, which leads to the elimination of our small businesses. It is a known fact that every time microbreweries lose 1% of the market to the big breweries, the big breweries gain a further $17 million in profits.
Members will understand that, when microbreweries have 4% or 5% of the market, big breweries are worried. So they have found a way to swallow the small ones by ensuring they are no longer competitive.
This means that the 4% of the beer market that belongs to microbreweries is worth about $68 million in profits. This represents many jobs on the regional market, which is, once again, being taken over by Molson or Labatt.
We are here to make laws that will ensure greater justice. We are also here to make laws that will give regions a chance to develop. The Liberal Party, which is in power, is using its majority to crush the opposition and to pursue its agenda by having legislation passed. This is the same party that claims it represents the regions. If it were really representing the regions, it would have understood that the big breweries' lobbying was a threat to some very promising businesses at the regional level.
Not only did the government not see what was happening, but if it did, it did not care. If it realized what was happening, it helped to destroy the market for microbreweries. It excluded beer from the Excise Act and the Excise Tax Act under pressure from Labatt, which had free access to the government, in spite of our irepresentations and of the importance of this issue at the regional level.
Responding to the pressure, the government saw to it that more and more microbreweries would disappear. We have already gone from 90 breweries to 30. It is expected that with the competition by the big breweries, which are selling American products taxed at one quarter of the rate here, the beers produced in the regions by the microbreweries in Quebec and in Canada, will disappear.
It is rather depressing to see how little the government cares about small businesses. It is depressing to see the big businesses, major contributors to the Liberal Party's campaign fund, getting their greedy hands on the market share of the microbreweries in Quebec and in Canada.
We will of course be voting against this bill, but we want to condemn it with the utmost vigour.
Business of the House
Oral Question Period
May 9th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
Ralph Goodale Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate the House on the progress that was made earlier today with respect to one very important piece of legislation, Bill C-55. I hope that progress can continue through all stages of that legislation when the House returns to it.
Next week is a scheduled constituency week and I am sure the Leader of the Opposition knows the rather elaborate procedure that must be gone through to change that process. It is not an easy thing to do. However next week members will be at work in their constituencies.
When we return on May 21, I would expect then to return to Bill C-47, if it is not already completed. We then would turn our consideration to the very important legislation introduced earlier today with respect to reproductive technologies, that bill introduced by the Minister of Health. I would also in that week that we are back hope to make further and better progress on Bill C-5 concerning species at risk.
I would confirm the earlier commitment that I made to the Leader of the Opposition that Thursday, May 23 will be an allotted day.