Bill C-51 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
Tony Clement Conservative
Not active, as of April 8, 2008
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the Food and Drugs Act to modernize the regulatory system for foods and therapeutic products, to strengthen the oversight of the benefits and risks of therapeutic products throughout their life cycle, to support effective compliance and enforcement actions and to enable a greater transparency and openness of the regulatory system.
It also amends other Acts in consequence and includes transitional provisions and coordinating amendments.
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
April 30th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, in fairness, my first-blush reaction would be that the member may have gone beyond the scope of the current bill and it would gut the bill.
Having said that, I want to reiterate one point. In that last Parliament, Bill C-51 dealt with natural health products. That bill was in the middle of second reading. It came out that the minister had written to the chair of the health committee indicating there were going to be some changes proposed to address the concerns of the natural health products industry.
My argument at the time, which remains today, is that at committee substantive changes cannot be made to legislation that has received passage at second reading. If there is anything like that being contemplated right now, I would ask the chair of the health committee that if such a letter is written with regard to this or any other bill, that the chair send it back to the minister with instructions to withdraw the bill and reissue it, or indicate another manner in which to amend or correct the bill, because it cannot be done at committee.
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
April 30th, 2009 / 11 a.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I would refer the hon. members to subclause 36(1) of the bill, entitled “Regulations”. Much of my speech will relate to my concerns about this item. This subclause says that the cabinet, the government, can exempt, “with or without conditions, a consumer product or class of consumer products from the application of this Act”, and it goes on.
Think about it. The government can, through cabinet decision, exempt or not exempt, with or without conditions, any product or class. That is a concern to me because it is so broad and so fundamental. How would anyone understand the scope or intent of this bill unless they knew what was covered? To me, this is a serious flaw in the bill and I hope the committee is going to look at it.
However, let me put on the record some of my thoughts with regard to the bill overall. First, as we know, Bill C-6 is the latest effort with regard to a bill from the last Parliament: Bill C-52. Bill C-52 had a companion bill, Bill C-51, which had to do with natural health products. I know hon. members learned an awful lot about that from the lobby and their constituents, because there are millions of people who rely on the availability of natural health products. Their argument is not whether there are proven health benefits; the fact is that they want the choice, they are comfortable with it, and as long as those products are safe they should be available.
So I am rising to remind all the nice people who have written to me over the last months and in the last Parliament and asked me to help in doing something about this that I am going to stay involved in this bill. I will support it to go to committee. However, I do want to make it crystal clear to all Canadians that there will be no implications with regard to natural health products in regard to Bill C-6. I expect there is going to be another bill coming to deal with natural health products, to the extent that there were two companion bills in the last Parliament. I certainly do expect that to happen and we will have to be very vigilant at that time.
Bill C-6, respecting the safety of consumer products, is referred to as the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. Thus, members will often be referring to it as the CCPSA. It is very similar to Bill C-52 from the last Parliament. Bill C-52 did pass at second reading and was referred to committee. However, it died on the order paper because of the dissolution of Parliament and the call of the 40th general election.
To remind members of what Bill C-6 is doing, it is repealing and replacing part I of the current Hazardous Products Act. It is creating a new system to regulate consumer products that pose or might reasonably be expected to pose a danger to human health and safety. I do not think anybody is going to argue about the necessity.
Specifically, the bill has a number of key impacts. First, it prohibits the sale, manufacture, import and advertising of certain listed products and provides for testing and evaluation of consumer products. Second, it makes it mandatory for manufacturers, importers and sellers of consumer products to report dangerous incidents associated with these products to the Minister of Health. It also obliges manufacturers, importers and sellers of consumer products to report product or labelling defects that result, might result, or are reasonably expected to result in death or serious adverse health impacts, including serious injury, and report that to the Minister of Health.
It requires the same group to report recalls of consumer products initiated by governments and government institutions in Canada or elsewhere to the Minister of Health. It provides for the inspection and seizure of consumer products for the purpose of verifying compliance or non-compliance with the bill's provisions.
It empowers the federal government to institute interim and permanent recalls of products that pose or might reasonably be expected to pose a danger to human health and safety, and it establishes both criminal and administrative penalties for those who violate the CCPSA or orders made under it.
Under the current act, the Hazardous Products Act, if a consumer product that is not regulated or prohibited poses a health or safety risk, it is up to the industry to voluntarily issue and manage a product recall. So it is a voluntary system of sorts. It is not as robust, obviously, as Bill C-6 is proposing to be. The federal government is limited to issuing only a public warning in that regard under the current legislation.
Obviously this is a very serious step, given the changes in the way that products move, the technology, and their production and distribution. This is basically a bill to modernize our approach to product safety.
To give members an idea in terms of these voluntary product recalls, in 2006, there were 32 product recalls; and in 2007, there were 90. The number went up to 165 recalls in 2008, and 27 recalls already in 2009.
So the number of product recalls by even the manufacturers or distributors of these has been going up. Clearly it is urgent that the bill be dealt with expeditiously. There are problems out there. There is a risk posed to Canadians, and I know all hon. members will want to work diligently to make sure that Bill C-6 gets urgent attention at the rest of its stages.
This bill and the former bill, Bill C-51, was described as having a three-pronged approach to food, health and consumer safety. I do not have any specific comments to make on the approach. I think the approach is sound.
That said, I do have some concerns with regard to the regulations. For a long time I have been a member of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, between the House of Commons and the Senate. By way of background, the committee has a mandate to ensure that regulations made to statutes after they are passed by Parliament have been properly enabled in the legislation.
The reason we want to review that is that there is a history of where governments, and they refer to order in council but that is basically cabinet, where cabinet makes regulations that do much more than was contemplated in the bill or requested or required by the bill. It is referred to often as being backdoor legislation. It is where we do not see it.
In the bill that is before us, members will see in clause 36, the clause that I referred to concerning the regulations, 16 paragraphs listed that require regulations to be made.
When we have a bill to deal with, we know the areas in which regulations may be promulgated by the government, drafted, gazetted and issued. In our case, we operate under the presumption that the full intent of the bill is transparent in the bill itself and that nothing happening after that will change our understanding of what the bill really wanted to do.
We have to rely on that because at the end of second reading, we are going to have a vote to approve this bill in principle, which will pretty well lock in what the bill is intended to do. At committee, members may fix some errors and fine-tune the bill here and there, and perhaps do a few other things. We will be able to move report stage motions later, but at second reading, we are going to approve it in principle. The bill will go to committee and we will do some fine tuning and hear from the experts to see if there is a problem. As long as there is no major fundamental problem in the understanding of the bill or no errors have occurred, the bill is going to pass at committee. It is going to pass at report stage. It is going to pass at third reading. It is going to go to the other place where it will go through a very similar process. Then the bill is going to get royal assent, but it is not going to be proclaimed until the regulations are drafted, gazetted and promulgated. We will not even see the regulations until after the bill gets royal assent and we will not be able to do anything with it.
That is why the Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations exists. There has to be a mechanism in which we can look at the regulations once they come out to ensure they are properly enabled in the legislation and that they are not doing things beyond what would reasonably be contemplated in the bill.
I started off my speech and read clause 36(1)(a), which basically says that the government, the cabinet, may make regulations exempting, with or without conditions, a consumer product or class of consumer products from the application of this act. It gives extraordinary power to the cabinet about what is in and what is not. It poses an extraordinary risk because now it is cabinet members, who may be lobbied not to put an item in there, who can say they are out.
I would much prefer, and I know there are precedents in other legislation, that it state that these are the things that are there and these are the things that are not there. We have seen it, for instance, in the reproductive technologies legislation. There was a royal commission on reproductive technologies I think 15 years ago. We passed a bill at all stages in 2004 I think it was. We were told at the time it was going to take about two years to draft the regulations and for them to be put in place, gazetted and promulgated.
I said earlier that it is extremely important, given the product recalls, that there be some velocity to this bill. I do not see that there is a sense of urgency. I do see there are 16 areas in which regulations have to be drafted. These will not be drafted probably until after the bill goes through all stages. Even then there is no obligation for any scrutiny before those regulations are done and issued. That concerns me because another important act, the reproductive technologies act, also had many regulations to be made. We were told it was going to take two years. On top of that, the health committee got the concession that all of those regulations must be passed by the health committee. It was important to ensure there was not any backdoor legislation being made, that the intent of the bill was not modified substantively through regulations which would not be caught by the scrutiny regulations committee until after there was a complaint or we did a review of them which may be too late.
I am very concerned about the velocity of the bill. I am concerned about the fact that there are so many regulations here. I am concerned that even the first one tells me there maybe is going to be too much discretion by order in council or by the cabinet, i.e. the government, unilaterally to say what is not included. It puts a lot of risk and onus there and I do not know whether or not that can be dealt with.
People have been asking me about the health products aspect and, because there is no companion bill, whether there is something in this bill. In fact, there is.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health responded to a question expressing that concern. I might as well read the response into the record. This was at the beginning of second reading. He said:
In the original writing of the bill and in the past version, Bill C-52, there was some confusion in the language and stakeholders from the natural health products community required some clarification of it. The minister has written--
I want to emphasize this. The parliamentary secretary said:
The minister has written to the chair of the health committee. We will be putting forward an amendment to clarify that exactly so that the stakeholders from the natural health products community know that this bill excludes natural health products and food and drugs under the Food and Drugs Act.
It basically says that the Minister of Health has written to the chair of the health committee to give notice that a little change is going to be made to say that natural health products are excluded from the bill. That is wonderful, but we have a regulation. The regulation says that the governor in council may exempt, and I stress the word “may”.
What kind of amendment is the parliamentary secretary referring to? Are we going to say that now the bill is going to include some sort of a clause providing a specific amendment for natural health products and then everything else is going to be subject to a cabinet decision about exemptions? Some classes are obvious on their face. It should be in the bill. If the case is that they are going to say that regulation 36(1)(a) is where we will give the exemption, but it is not specifically in the bill, we will never know. How long is this going to take? How long is it going to take before those regulations are drafted? How long is it going to take before they are gazetted and promulgated and they become part of the law and the provisions in the bill become law?
If the reproductive technologies legislation is any indication, it could be months or maybe years. We are already four years past the drafting stage of regulations on the reproductive technologies legislation.
This causes me concern. I have seen this time and time again from Health Canada. Health Canada has a track record of patterning these bills in the way it wants to handle them, in a way which allows it a lot of latitude to change things or to move forward with things, or in fact to delay things.
I can say right now that the fact that those 200 regulations on reproductive technologies have not been drafted and presented to the health committee yet, a bill which received royal assent back in 2004, means that all of those provisions, all of the work and all of the things that we were doing in the areas that require regulations are not in force right now. They are not the law. In other words, all of the things that we approved and we accepted in Parliament to be the law of Canada are not the law of Canada today, four or five years later, because the regulations have not been done. What does that mean? It reverts to the law and continues as it was.
In that particular case, it is the Canadian Institutes of Health Research that unilaterally decides what is going to happen on reproductive technologies, about sperm donations, about the buying and selling of gametes and the like. What is even worse is that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is not even subject to parliamentary review. It is the largest organization of the Government of Canada that provides funding for research. It is the one that decides and it is not even subject to any review by the Parliament of Canada.
I know this because I put forward a report stage motion to put in the bill that created the CIHR that it be subject to a three year review so that parliamentarians knew what the CIHR was doing and could ask its officials questions about how they were doing it and make sure they did not have pet projects, which is the reason the CIHR was created in the first place. The body it was replacing was found to have some problems. There was too much bias within the system. It is going to happen again.
I hope I have raised some questions. I want to encourage members of the committee certainly not to just listen. I do not know why the health minister is writing to the chair of a committee before second reading is over. I am not sure why the government did not anticipate that the health product industry was going to have some problems with the legislation. We have some things to correct but I want those things to be corrected quickly. I want the bill to be dealt with quickly because the health and safety of Canadians is at stake.
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
April 30th, 2009 / 10:55 a.m.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity to work with the hon. member on the health committee in a number of areas.
My question has to do with the natural health products issue and former Bill C-51. In the last Parliament there were companion bills, Bill C-51 and Bill C-52. Bill C-6 is the replacement for Bill C-52, but there were companion bills in the last Parliament, and now the natural health products industry and the users of natural health products are expressing some concern.
It would appear there are some implications with regard to natural health products in the current bill or they will be coming forward. I am a little confused. The member may have some insight as to whether another bill will be coming along, which would make it a little difficult to fit into the regime set up under former Bill C-52. I would have thought there would be some clarity with regard to the applicability of Bill C-6 to Bill C-52 on the natural health products issue.
I wonder if the member has some concerns or if her constituents have expressed concerns about the regulatory framework being proposed with regard to health products.
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
April 30th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his attention to safe products. I totally agree that Canadians are quite worried about that, especially in light of recent events. I certainly would not agree with moves to decrease inspectors' presence on the floor, such as with listeriosis or in proposals related to grain.
In the last iteration of this bill, which was Bill C-51, there were some concerns from natural food producers and retailers. I wonder if the member believes that those concerns have been taken care of or if those concerns have been moved forward into this bill.
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
April 29th, 2009 / 5:15 p.m.
Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.
This enactment modernizes the regulatory regime for consumer products in Canada. It creates prohibitions with respect to the manufacturing, and especially the advertising, selling, importing, packaging and labelling of consumer products that are a danger to human health or safety.
The purpose of this bill is to make it easier to identify a consumer product that may be a danger and to more effectively prevent or address the danger.
The Liberal Party has always had a commitment to improving the health and safety of Canadians. We will continue to support measures which reinforce the regulatory process in order to be sure that Canadians are consuming healthy products.
The purpose of Bill C-6 is to protect the public by addressing or preventing dangers posed to human health or safety by consumer products that are circulated within Canada and those that are imported.
The bill was first introduced as Bill C-52 in the 39th Parliament and was part of the package that also included Bill C-51, which dealt specifically with natural health products. While Bill C-51 was considered contentious legislation, Bill C-52, now Bill C-6, was generally more accepted by stakeholders, but I do not have to tell the government that this is still hugely problematic to many stakeholders.
An analysis of the bill makes evident that the current consumer products safety system functions on a voluntary basis. If a product is dangerous or poses a health threat, the corporations can issue a recall. The new would bill prohibit the sale, import, manufacturing, packaging, labelling and advertising of consumer products that might pose a risk to consumers. While voluntary recalls will continue to happen, inspectors named under the act or by the minister will now be able to order the recall of a consumer product.
The proposed bill will give substantial regulating powers to the minister. It will be necessary to further study these powers to ensure transparency, effectiveness and accountability. It also requires further study to ensure that it can be implemented effectively.
Increased numbers of inspectors will have to be named by the minister and we need to ensure that the human resources and funding are available to do the job properly.
As with Bill C-11, I will be proposing an amendment at the committee stage, instructing the Minister of Health to consult with an expert advisory committee with a mandate to give public advice before the minister can restrict access to a product.
We have been hearing from many stakeholders who are concerned that C-6 will negatively affect access to natural health products.
The Liberal Party has a deep conviction that Canadians have a fundamental right to make their own choices as far as looking after themselves and remaining in good health are concerned, and that we must guarantee them access to those choices. We have no intention of limiting the consumption, sale and distribution of safe natural products. On the contrary, we wish to promote and protect the health and safety of Canadians and improve our regulations so that they may have access to the foods, remedies and consumer products that are the healthiest and most effective.
That is why we asked the minister to submit Bill C-6 to the appropriate committee of the House of Commons before second reading. This would have provided answers to most of the questions raised in your letter. Unfortunately, the minister refused to do so.
I am concerned, yet again, that the proper stakeholder consultations did not take place with regard to Bill C-6 as with Bill C-11. It was clear during the Bill C-11 hearings that the key stakeholders were not consulted properly during the drafting of the bill. As we know information sessions are very different to meaningful consultations.
We have already heard concerns from key stakeholders that Bill C-6 needs an amendment to deal with tobacco manufacturers and another amendment regarding hazardous substances and toxic chemicals, as the member for Etobicoke North so eloquently put forward.
We have been transparent with the Department of Health and provided it with copies of these proposed amendments and will insist that they are included in a future bill.
If this was to be a repeat of Bill C-11, where information sessions were substituted for meaningful consultation, I hope the government has learned its lesson and will make the appropriate government amendments and bring back the witnesses with the most serious concerns and ensure the bill, as amended, would be acceptable to them.
In any bill we need to ensure that Parliament is able to do its job to develop the best pieces of legislation possible, which requires thorough stakeholder dialogue and input.
As I said, the Liberal caucus has asked that the bill be brought to the committee before second reading so it would be possible to make substantial changes as asked for by the stakeholders. We will reluctantly support the bill going to committee after second reading, but we want Canadians to be assured that we will be continuing to be vigilant in the study of Bill C-6 as it enters the health committee, as we had successful changes with Bill C-11.
It is very important that politicians do the politics, that scientists do the science and that the transmission of information from the scientists to the politician is done in a way in which citizens of Canada are included in the decision.
Motions in Amendment
Human Pathogens and Toxins Act
April 22nd, 2009 / 5:35 p.m.
Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to make comments on Bill C-11, having been part of the committee and the process of reviewing the bill, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of it and taking action, as my Liberal colleagues and other committee members did, in what was, in the end, a very co-operative process.
Everyone in the committee was in accord about the importance of ensuring that the handling of pathogens and toxins in laboratory work and transportation of these goods protect the individual safety and public safety.
We did ascertain that there were risks with some of those products, greater risks with some than with others, and that the public good was best served by laws addressing that. Therefore, there was a common view that this was the right thing and a good thing to do.
My experience as a legislator tells me that the public good is sometimes served by laws addressing a problem, but government always needs to be very aware that there are risks arising from possible unintended consequences of the legislation being proposed.
Pretty classic risks of unintended consequences include things as: stepping into the jurisdiction of another level of government; duplicating existing work and licensing and processes already in place to protect the public; placing a regulatory burden that would be onerous given the benefits; the impacts on the delivery of a public good that we are trying to promote may reduce the delivery of that public good; stepping into information privacy terrain and risking the disclosure of personal and private information that is inappropriate or against the law; or even using, in effect, a sledgehammer to crush a flea by having very onerous provisions and penalties in situations where they are simply not warranted.
Those are classic potential downsides or pitfalls to making laws. I think all legislators would agree that we need to be mindful that we are not over-regulating and we are not creating more problems than we are solving just for the pure joy of addressing problems and making laws.
When the bill was first presented to the committee, there were very severe concerns and, in fact, those concerns fit into that whole range of unintended negative consequences, which I outlined as theoretical ones. They were in fact present in Bill C-11.
Why was a bill, which had so many problems, being pushed through for fast approval at committee? What was clear was the consultation the government should have done with respect to writing the bill to address the risks around the handling of toxins and pathogens had been completely inadequate. Although the committee members were assured that there had been extensive and adequate consultation, when the list of those activities was reviewed, it was clear that there was minimal consultation with the decision-makers in the province of British Columbia. I know some of the other provincial health officers had the same concerns.
A letter from the minister of healthy living and sport in British Columbia, for example, had very strong language of concern about Bill C-11 as it was first presented to the committee, words such as, “The schedules are over-reaching”, “The administrative burden of regulation is felt to be onerous”, and “it is our strong preference that a new bill be considered which is collaboratively developed through consultations with the provinces and territories”.
This is a strong indication that adequate consultation did not occur. The absolute foundation of good legislation, legislation that previews and corrects unintended consequences, is to talk to the very organizations and individuals affected by it. This has been consistent problem with the Conservative government.
I was very involved when Bill C-51 on natural products was brought forward last year. It infuriated organizations because they had been completely left out of the consultation process. Had they been involved, they would have made very constructive representations as to how to improve the bill. The bill was killed when the House, when the Conservative government called an election last September. We will see whether the necessary improvements have been made.
With Bill C-11, several provincial governments felt it was completely inappropriate to step into their jurisdiction, clearly duplicating activities that were already taking place in many of the provincially regulated laboratories, which are already under a very constructive and thorough system of regulation and licensing.
On the regulatory burden, the committee heard from some of the university labs and others. They said that this regulatory burden would be very costly and that there were no provisions to assist with those costs. In fact, we heard that similar legislation in the United States had caused research to stop at some university research facilities. This is an unintended consequence that we do not want in Canada. We know how important primary basic research is. We know the important research these laboratories do on pathogens and toxins. Shutting down a source of research is definitely counterproductive to the goals of the bill.
Concerns were expressed by information and privacy commissioners. There were major concerns with the penalties and the criminalization of what could be an inadvertent misstep on the part of a laboratory staff person, resulting in an action that under that bill could have called for criminal penalties. There were serious concerns about the bill. Opposition members argued very vigorously that the government should take the bill back and redo it, make the necessary amendments and bring it back to the committee with the key concerns solved. At first we were being asked to accept a “trust us” message, that these things would be corrected in committee later in the process. We were not willing to do that, notwithstanding the importance of the issues and the risk that the bill was attempting to address.
After having given that context to the situation, I am pleased to say the committee members from all parties worked very constructively together. The government and the agency that was the author of the bill had the wisdom to make amendments to address some of the grave concerns raised, and those amendments were outlined in some detail by the previous speaker.
The bill that came back to the committee addressed some of those concerns, but not all of them. That is why further amendments were proposed to ensure the regulations would go to Parliament and that an advisory committee would be brought into the process of regulation making. Those were absolutely necessary amendments. I am pleased to say they are part of the bill as it goes forward. This was an occasion where the unintended consequences were serious, but they were addressed. The committee did its work. I want to congratulate all the committee members for the work on this occasion. I look forward to seeing the bill in its next iteration.
Natural Health Products
February 11th, 2009 / 3:25 p.m.
Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC
Mr. Speaker, the next petition deals with former Bill C-51. The petitioners are calling on Parliament to vote against this bill if it comes up again, in order to protect their rights as consumers of natural health products. Given that 70% of the Canadian population already uses natural health products, the petitioners do not wish to have natural health products in the same category as pharmaceuticals.
Natural Health Products
February 2nd, 2009 / 3:15 p.m.
John Cummins Delta—Richmond East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition signed by some of my constituents regarding what was Bill C-51, the natural health products bill. They express concern that if the bill goes ahead, 60% to 70% of natural health products may be taken from Canadian stores. They call on the government to stop the bill.
Food and Drugs Act
January 27th, 2009 / 3:35 p.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, I already presented dozens of petitions regarding Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Today I have a petition on the same theme signed by 1,650 Canadians who are very concerned about the government's intentions to reintroduce legislation, supposedly in the name of protecting consumers from unsafe drugs and products, while in fact decreasing accessibility to natural health products.
The petitioners call on the government to reassess this legislation in light of serious flaws identified with this bill, particularly when it comes to natural health products, but also considering the fact that the bill may not do the job that is required with respect to pharmaceuticals that are now on the market or being considered for the marketplace. There are serious concerns by the petitioners that the bill may actually reintroduce a system of progressive licensing which may deny serious surveillance at the post-market end of the process.
The petitioners urge the government to prevent anyone in the government from reintroducing Bill C-51 and bringing forward a much more sensible package that will protect consumers.
November 27th, 2008 / 3 p.m.
Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC
Mr. Speaker, natural health products are under attack. The Conservatives have made a mess of the approval process with unreachable deadlines to regulate a massive number of critical health products.
Canada has over 10,000 natural health stores, with over 25,000 people employed directly. Countless families rely on these products. The approval process is hopelessly backlogged and there is fear Bill C-51 is coming back. Small businesses will fail and consumers will suffer.
When will the government work with, and not against, the natural health community?
November 26th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by a good number of Canadians. This petition follows on the heels of other petitions tabled in the House pertaining to the direction of the government with respect to health protection.
The petitioners call upon the government to think twice before reintroducing the legislation formerly numbered Bill C-51 which dealt with health protection in areas of food and drugs.
The petitioners are very concerned that the present direction of the government will actually hamper access to natural health products and will not do the kind of job that is necessary when it comes to protecting Canadians from adverse reactions when it comes to drugs, medical devices and food.
The petitioners call upon the government to think twice before going down this path. They call on the government to do something that is right and fair for all Canadians.
RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY
Speech From The Throne
November 24th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC
Madam Speaker, since you are presiding this evening, let me offer my congratulations to you on joining the Speaker's team and being appointed to assist members of the House not just in this important debate but in managing our House affairs. It is great to see members from Vancouver Island playing a bigger role in the House.
It is a great privilege to take part in the debate in response to the Speech from the Throne, the first debate in Canada's 40th Parliament.
I begin by thanking the voters of the great riding of Nanaimo—Alberni for returning me as their MP for the fourth consecutive term. I am very mindful of the great honour and of the great responsibility that I have to them and so I would begin by thanking them.
I would like to acknowledge my supporters and campaign team who put a lot of effort into our re-election effort. I acknowledge the leadership of my campaign manager, Paula Peterson, who co-ordinated a great effort and ensured that we had a great time working together, and my financial agent, John Ward, who ensured we not only got the job done but given the complexities of financial obligations, that we did it right.
I know the families of every member here make a sacrifice so that we can come from our ridings across this great diverse country to participate in this House. I certainly have to acknowledge the great encouragement, and constant never ending support above and beyond the call that my wife Helen makes in order to make it possible for me to serve as the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.
The Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands, has done a remarkable job of not only being re-elected but for the fourth time being elected as the Speaker of the House. I certainly want to extend my congratulations to him. I think one of our members made reference to this today. It is certainly a historic event, being elected as Speaker for the fourth time and with the different sides of the House it is quite a remarkable achievement that is worthy of recognition.
It falls to each and every member, to our respective parties, to our leaders, to participate in this 40th Parliament at a time when our country is facing the challenges of a very troubled world economy and uncertainties unprecedented in modern times.
My riding is one of the most beautiful in the country. It covers both the east and west coasts of mid-Vancouver Island. From the rugged majestic heights of Mount Moriarty or Mount Arrowsmith in the Beaufort Range, one can look down across the oceanside communities to the east with their shallow, sandy warm water beaches, or west to Port Alberni and beyond to the world renowned Pacific Rim National Park with its famous Long Beach, favoured by surfers, and surf and storm watchers. This majestic place we call home is recognized by being the only federal riding to encompass not one but two federally recognized and UNESCO recognized biospheres, the Clayoquot Sound reserve on the west and Mount Arrowsmith biosphere reserve on the east, where we live.
That said, like other regions, the west coast is caught in a time of transition that has engulfed the forest sector, the fishing industry and greatly impacted our resource based economy.
The Speech from the Throne delivered in this chamber just a few days ago, on November 19, is very different from any I have heard or debated in the past four parliaments. The government has laid out its intentions to manage the economy in this challenging time.
The Speech from the Throne is entitled, “Protecting Canada's Future”. The government is committed to ensuring Canada's continued economic success at this time of global economic instability. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada has laid out a five-pronged plan to protect Canada's economic security. I shall briefly summarize those points.
First, there is reform of global finance by working with our allies and trading partners to re-examine and renew the rules that underpin the global financial system. This process has already begun with Canada's participation in the G-20 meetings on November 15 and the recently concluded APEC meetings in Lima, Peru.
It is probably appropriate at this time to mention that the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the best in the world.
I hear someone applauding. That is worthy of note and applause. I appreciate that enthusiastic response.
However, at a time when the world itself is reeling, it is good to know that while we face challenges we have some strong attributes to bring into these unstable times.
Measures taken to allow the Bank of Canada greater latitude in responding to world shifts and economic shifts allowed the Bank of Canada to respond quickly with nearly $20 billion to improve liquidity at a time when the credit crunch was having a devastating effect elsewhere and certainly challenging our economy here at home.
Further measures to protect our mortgage system, with shorter terms and mandatory down payments, helped to prevent the type of meltdown that precipitated the current U.S. and worldwide financial crises.
We want to ensure sound budgeting so that Canada does not return to ongoing unsustainable structural deficits while putting all federal expenditures under the microscope of responsible spending.
I think the operative word there is “all” government spending. It is a time when we need to examine how we are spending. As any family would when times get tough, we need to look at how we are managing our finances and determine that we are making the best investments and strategic investments at a time when times are leaner.
We need to secure jobs for families and communities by encouraging the skilled trades and apprenticeships, supporting workers facing transition and providing further support to the automotive and aerospace industries.
On that point, I was asked to respond to criticisms from the forestry CEOs in my own community objecting to this commitment. Of course they are facing a crisis of their own with an industry in transition. I will return to this point shortly to address their concerns.
Further, we need to expand investment in trade by modernizing investment, competition and copyright laws while working with the United States to address shared challenges and pursing trade agreements in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Canada just recently signed a trade agreement with Colombia that will need to be ratified. Negotiations continue with other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas, but we must expand our markets beyond our dependence on one large market south of the border. About 85% of our trade is currently going south and, as we know, at a time when our largest trading partner is in big trouble. It is a good time to be looking to other markets to diversify, stabilize and share our financial opportunities with other nations and to reduce our dependence on one factor. It seems a very appropriate thing to do and I think it is absolutely essential that we do this.
Further, we need to make government more effective by reducing red tape, fixing procurement, improving program and service delivery and improving the management of federal agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations.
Again, I think “efficiency” is the key word in tough economic times. It will be appropriate for all levels of the Canadian economy to examine their efficiency in delivering services and ensure we are doing so without waste.
Returning to the issue of assistance to industry, I think it is fair to say that while details of any assistance to the auto and aerospace sectors are in the process of being worked out, it is important to mention that many steps have already been taken to help all sectors of industry and business. It is a very competitive and challenging time, which is why, in addition to measures to help all taxpayers, measures were brought in to help students, seniors and, indeed, to lower taxes for every Canadian.
However, the government acted in the previous budget and in the previous economic update to lower small business and corporate taxes.
We acted earlier to resolve the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., bringing more than $4 billion back to Canadian forest companies. I think it is a very good thing we did that. Given the challenge that we face now with the U.S. caught up in its own challenges, it is a very good thing that we had that resolved when we did. Even though it is not perfect and there are still challenges for sectors in transition, the fact that we made those provisions beforehand was very helpful to the current economic status of those industries going through transition.
We provided a billion dollar community development trust to help communities with economies in transition and incentives for companies to purchase new machinery and to upgrade equipment.
For the mining industry, the government will extend the mineral exploration tax credit. Further, for the forest and fishing sectors the government has o acted to extend support for international marketing efforts and to provide incentives for creating energy from biomass.
I can assure persons concerned from the coast, particularly those in the forest industry, that there will be no blank cheque to any industrial sector. I am sure that any support offered by taxpayers through the government to the aerospace or the auto sector will only come after all stakeholders also contribute in the transition to a sustainable future. I think an example of that might be the $82 million commitment to Ford to develop an energy efficient engine.
This is not about helping industries that are not producing something that will be of value in a competitive and changing market. It is about creating sustainable opportunities for the future and creating a sustainable auto industry.
An example in my own riding of a company that has made heroic efforts in transition to a cost effective and sustainable future is the Nanaimo Forest Products Ltd. that took over the Harmac pulp mill in south Nanaimo. This company bid on a court ordered sale of the mill. It as an ownership structure that is quite unique in the industry. It has 200-plus employees, each of whom made significant personal investments in the mill to the tune of $25,000 each for a 25% stake in the business, partnering with other business interests. Pioneer Log Homes is a tremendous corporate citizen. Totzauer Holdings and the Sampson Group are successful private companies. They each took 25% shares in the company.
With both employees and management having a stake in the success of the business has led to a very collaborative approach to labour relations. No labour contracts will need to be renegotiated until well into the future.
This mill is in a great location. It has a deep sea port, water resources and water treatment facilities. It has the potential to diversify into energy production. I use this as an example of all the stakeholders collaborating in a tough competitive market to make something happen and to sustain an industry that was in big trouble. We might have lost the mill. I think the community is extremely proud of its effort and we certainly want to see heroic efforts like these rewarded with success.
In a time of transition, we do need to collaborate and work together to ensure opportunities for success emerge from challenging times.
The Speech from the Throne addresses a whole range of other issues. We have a commitment to Canada's environment. We will continue with our process to reduce greenhouse emissions 20% by 2020. I am pleased to see that we are working toward continuing with alternative energy incentives to develop alternative energies.
We will be recommitting the ban on bulk water exports, which I know is an important issue to many people in my riding, and I am glad to see that mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.
Further, our government will be helping all Canadians participate by improving the universal child care benefit, increasing access to maternity and parental benefits under employment insurance and helping Canadians who care for loved ones with disabilities. That is a very important step the government can make, even in difficult times, to help those families who are working with a disabled child or a disabled adult at home and who are giving up other economic opportunities to look after a loved one in challenging circumstances.
We will be continuing to work on keeping Canadians safe by strengthening the sentences for serious criminal offences. We will be putting in place new rules for food and product safety and we will be introducing a new national security statement. We are also continuing to contribute to global security.
I will come back and talk about food and product safety in just a moment but perhaps I will go on to talk a little bit about sovereignty in the Arctic.
I am personally very pleased to see Canada's commitment to the Arctic moving ahead. It is a time when there are unprecedented not only changes in the Arctic but also challenges to our sovereignty and to the wealth and economic opportunities that northern Canada represents.
I am glad to see the commitment to assert our jurisdiction over lands and waters in the Arctic archipelago under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to further expand our jurisdiction over the region under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act requiring mandatory notification of any foreign vessels entering Canadian territorial waters. That will be asserting our control over a 200 mile limit into the Arctic.
I am glad to see that we are also proceeding with a new polar class icebreaker named in honour of the late great Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker.
I have already mentioned the bulk water exports and that is important.
I will now return to efficiencies. It will be important for us to visit every sector of the economy to ensure we are actually producing the best product in the most efficient manner. One of my big concerns is in the area of health care. If we look back to the 1990s, British Columbia's budget for health was about 30% of its expenditures. When I first ran for office it was 40% of the provincial budget. It is currently about 44% or 45% of the provincial budget. Even though we are spending more and more of the provincial budgets on health care, it seems the demand is unceasing and the perception is that somehow the government is not delivering on health care.
We have been encouraging innovation in every sector but health care has been slow to embrace innovation. About 30% of our health care is already delivered outside of the public system. I am not talking necessarily about parallel systems. I am talking about efficiencies. I am talking about services that are currently available but perhaps underutilized and not funded by provincial plans under section 2 of the Canada Health Act, extended services.
There are tremendous opportunities. However, in our zeal to regulate I hope we do not become overzealous to the point where we take opportunities away from advancing health care opportunities for Canadians. I would suggest that perhaps status quo forces have been slow to pick up advances in low cost alternatives like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and the way we regulate our natural health products. I think we need to take a very good look at that.
I know a lot of concerns have been expressed in the House not only in the last Parliament but going back to the 37th Parliament when I introduced Bill C-420 addressing issues on how we regulate natural health products. Those concerns were discussed early in the 38th Parliament with the aid of the member for Oshawa and I know there were lots of discussions in the last Parliament under Bill C-51 about how we regulate these products.
I am concerned that opportunities for Canadians to purchase low cost, low risk, non-patentable products are currently being restricted by regulatory practices. I imagine legislation will be coming forward to address a whole range of health product safety issues. I hope that in this Parliament, when we review these issues, that we will get this right and that we will deliver an outcome that will ensure Canadians have access to low cost, low risk and non-patentable forms of medicines that promote wellness and address the prevention of illness and disease in the first place.
Those are some of my concerns and they are in the Speech from the Throne. I know members have been debating issues for several days now and a lot of ideas have come forward. I am pleased with the Speech from the Throne. It gives us the opportunity to move ahead on a whole range of issues that are of concern to Canadians. We will have efficient spending in our government. We will be addressing safety concerns and crime issues. We want ensure we create safe communities so Canadians can live safely.
Food and Drugs Act
June 12th, 2008 / 11:20 a.m.
Tony Clement Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario
Mr. Speaker, at this time, I wish to table, in both official languages, copies of a letter I have sent to the chair of the Standing Committee on Health setting out proposals for amendments to Bill C-51, which the government will invite the committee to consider.
Food and Drugs Act
June 10th, 2008 / 5:40 p.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-51. I have received a ton of emails both in my riding in east Vancouver and here in Ottawa. I have hear from constituents every day because the word is out in the community about the impact of the bill. I hope either we can defeat the bill, or if it does go to committee, that we can get it significantly changed so we can respond to the overwhelming concerns put forward by the public about the impact on the availability, accessibility and licensing of natural health products.
First, I thank my colleague, our health critic, the member for Winnipeg North. She has very valiantly stayed on this file and kept our caucus updated as to the progress of the bill. I know she will be very active at the committee, if it goes to committee, working with community interests and practitioners to ensure it does not become a big stone wall that denies access for people. Therefore, I thank her for the work she has done and the work she probably will do in the future. There will be a lot of interest in the bill, and a lot of people will follow it.
Very briefly I want to go back to 1997, when I first ran for the NDP in Vancouver East as a member of Parliament. I remember at that time there must have been a proposal in the House, under the Liberal government, to try to regulate natural health products. During the election campaign in May 1997, all hell broke loose in the community because of that. The government was completely caught off guard. It had no idea that it would get the reaction it did. It tried to do what the government today has tried to do, and that is to put natural health products in a box with drugs and to give the nod to the big pharmaceutical companies.
People in communities across the country cottoned on to what was going on and a massive campaign took place. It was a fairly quiet federal election campaign in 1997, but this issue kept on coming to the surface. It was a grassroots issue because people were so outraged, particularly in a place in east Vancouver. The heart and soul of Vancouver is Chinatown, the very origins of our city. A lot of the Chinese traditional medicine practitioners were very concerned about how it would impact them. Therefore, it became very much a cross cultural campaign as well.
After the federal election, the federal government of the day had to back off on what it wanted to do. As we know, since then we have had various machinations in terms of attempts for a regulatory approach. Suffice it to say, all credit goes to well-informed citizens who pay attention to legislation that sometimes creeps in, and they get the word out there about it. As a result, we get all these emails from people who are alerted to what the government has tried to do.
I am very thankful our caucus, with our health critic, the member for Winnipeg North, has monitored the bill very closely. We cannot support it in its present form. We are very concerned that it will lump natural health products in with drugs under a category called “therapeutic products”, which reverses a long-standing practice and position of a separate regulatory framework.
When I read some of the concerns listed in the emails I receive, one of them is the change of the categorization of natural health products. To treat these products the same as drugs is very inappropriate and is much too rigorous.
There are other concerns as well. We know right now there is a huge backlog of applications for the marketing approval of natural health products. How will that be dealt with under the bill? How will we ensure that the backlog is dealt with?
We are very concerned that the fines and penalties within the bill are incredibly excessive. It will mean that practitioners, producers and people who retail or market these products will hang on with their fingernails for their livelihood, and that is a very serious concern.
Why would there be such excessive fines and penalties for these products? In fact, the enforcement provisions are very heavy. They even allow inspectors to enter private property without a warrant. What is going on here?
We are very concerned that in the bill, as we have seen in other bills, so much discretion is left in the hands of the minister and the fact that regulatory requirements can be overridden within the department. Why would that be allowed to happen? This sets off alarm bells for people, especially when they go through the fine print and look at what is taking place.
I am very thankful we have had so much response on the bill. I have had more response on this bill than any bill for a very long time. I gather that other members of the House are getting the same kind of response.
I will read some of the responses I received. Jennifer, from east Vancouver, said:
Bill C-51 undermines the civil rights of Canadians to take control of our own health and well being. It goes against all logic and intuitive common sense and in no way serves the interests of your electorate....
Millions of alternative health practitioners that are certified through Canadian educational institutions who have dedicated their life to studying the healing effects of herbs would not be able to stay in practice.
I have another email from Anne, who lives in east Vancouver. She says:
—categorizing Natural Health Products as therapeutic products, together with drugs, medical devices, cells, tissues, organs, and veterinary drugs, Bill C-51 is viewing these exclusively to the lens of pharmaceutical drugs.
Food and Drugs Act
June 10th, 2008 / 5:15 p.m.
Brian Masse Windsor West, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to speak on Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.
When we lay the grounds for legislation, it is important that we have confidence in the regulatory process and the ability to ensure that we are going to have accountability with this change to the act.
There has been a lot of discussion today about Bill C-51 and a good debate about its consequences. There is one thing I want to remind the House about, which creates the insecurity I wrestle with. I certainly am not going to be supporting this bill any further. I believe that the arguments have been well laid out as to why we cannot continue to move this forward. The legislation needs some fundamental changes.
I do not have any confidence that the drug industry is going to be subdued in this process. Let us look, for example, at the direct marketing that is going to happen with this bill. It goes back to an experience that I had here on the Hill in 2004 when we started looking at what I believe was Bill C-9 at that time, the Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa Act, to provide help for AIDS in Africa. It was the precursor bill of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime.
The bill's purpose was to provide drugs to those developing countries that might be facing issues related to HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other types of diseases that were affecting civil society. The contemplation of the bill came through an international treaty that allowed the generic production of different types of medicines to proceed, medicines that may have already had a patent restriction on them, if the actual pharmaceutical company would not provide them at a low cost to those nations.
We went through a whole series of processes and lobbying at that time. There was a very powerful lobby by big pharma to stop that bill dead in its tracks. There was some political support to try to move it forward. What ended up happening is that big pharma got a provision in the bill that was not even part of the internationally signed agreement with the TRIPS and the Doha.
Where we actually could have provided any available drug to go forward, we created this artificial list of what drugs would be available to be sent overseas and which ones would not be. The danger behind this was that it allowed for lobbying to keep certain drugs off the market.
Many people said not to worry. They said that would not happen, that it would not be ethical and that the companies would not do this. We were told that the companies would behave themselves.
To make sure this would not happen, there was a provision in the legislation to make sure big pharma would not be doing it. Lo and behold, even as we were doing that, big pharma was caught lobbying, including by me. It was exposed. It made headline news that the pharmaceutical companies were already lobbying to keep some of the drugs off the market. This plan fell flat on its face.
This is what I am concerned about with regard to this bill and how we go forward. I am concerned about the active lobbying and also the prescriptive behaviour that can take place with drugs. This could actually affect everything from safety to health care costs. Also, we kind of have a self-prescriptive society. The commercials have hit the Canadian airwaves already. They are very clever. They have been done very well. Probably they should win awards, because everyone knows what is happening but they get around the technicalities.
At the same time, these commercials lead people to go to their doctors. The doctor may prescribe some type of medication or may want to provide some type of generic alternative. Then the patients perhaps insist that they know the actual effects better. It can create longer wait times, make people potentially consider changing doctors, or other types of behaviour.
This concerns us, because I certainly would hate to see the cost of drugs rise, some of which have already skyrocketed, based on marketing and advertising campaigns and influence from the drug companies. That is important to note, because we already know that women generally suffer the consequences from prescription errors. This problem actually could expand. We believe what the experts have said. They have noted this vulnerability in the system that is being proposed.
One of the other things that we have identified as very important with regard to this case is the issue related to the lack of parliamentary oversight. The fact of the matter is that this bill is going to give more provisions for the government to be able to override the parliamentary process and for the minister to have expanded powers.
That is a concern because what we have seen with this administration is very much a centralized ideology. That has been its choice of how it wants to govern and that is fine, but at the same time, it opens up the probabilities for greater control. And it may not even be necessarily this administration that does it in the future.
I am suggesting that in the future we could once again have these types of control elements that really change the nature of how we actually have drugs administered in our society. This is another reason that New Democrats are saying at this point that we do not want to change the law right now.
Another thing I wanted to connect to right now is that we seem to be moving to a less regulatory society in some respects. Some of that is of great concern. I can tell members about it based on my background in the transportation sector. For example, in rail and air when we have been moving to safety management systems and letting the industry police itself, and there is going to be more of that with this type of bill, we have seen what is really very much a falling out of safety in many respects.
For example, there is the transportation sector. We just did a complete study. There was a panel. We talked about a culture of fear and intimidation that prevents the actual workplace from operating the SMS properly. What we have actually seen is a step back in rail safety over the last number of years as we have had increased problems.
We are really worried about having the regulatory body become more involved with regard to policing itself. What we would say is that we need to have a stronger involvement by Health Canada.
We have seen these actual situations in the past in our society. It is not just Canada that has this problem. It is in the United States as well, where active lobbying has put drugs on the market that do not necessarily meet the tests of the day and have to be recalled. That includes everything from a series of drugs related to heart medications to others such as breast implants. There are the tragic circumstances with thalidomide. These have had consequences. I think we are going to witness greater problems there.
There is a legitimate problem that we have in this country with regard to getting some of the drugs and medications to market. The hope for this bill is that it will expand those opportunities, but it is very much based upon a risk management cycle. Once again, that risk management, left in the hands of the industry for the most part, is something that gives us some trouble because of the influence.
I have witnessed it myself, as I mentioned, with Bayer doing the actual lobbying to keep some of its drugs off Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. That was even at a time when there was heightened awareness and there were actual hearings going on in Ottawa. There was discussion about that bill. There were a lot of politics around it and active lobbying on behalf of NGOs, the generics and the pharmaceutical companies. The spotlight of the nation was on this and they broke the rules at that particular time with no hesitation. They were not apologetic about it.
So when we move into this type of system, we have a lot of concerns, because it will not just be the attention that is being provided right now. It will also be later on, as the politics about the bill wind down, where the regulatory regime and the oversight are so necessary, because then what we will probably be faced with, unfortunately, is a clawing back of decisions that caused problems for Canadian consumers and their health.
With regard to health products, I know that the Natural Health Product Protection Association has been very adamant about changing the way the system is being done here. Unfortunately, this is a regressive step. I have seen a lot of emails and letters and have had phone calls come in, not only just to my office but also in the Windsor and Essex County region. They are from people expressing disappointment with the government for not adequately fixing their situation. This bill is going to compound their situation so they certainly are not supporting this.
Therefore, with the way this is right now, what we are calling for is to make sure that we actually have a new bill. I know that the government is intending to table some amendments and it is positive that the government is actually looking at some of the weaknesses of the bill, but we believe the bill is far too weak in many respects. We should be re-entering a debate and forming a bill that is going to work.