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
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
June 2nd, 2009 / 6 p.m.
Andrew King Department Leader, Health, Safety and Environment, United Steelworkers
Thank you very much for the opportunity to present today.
I have provided a copy of my comments. I apologize to you that they are not also available in French, but I should let you know that I found out yesterday about noon that I would be here this afternoon.
I appreciate the amount of work you've been involved in with regard to this very important legislation and have taken the time to review the comments of people who have come before you.
By way of background, the United Steelworkers is an international union, with members across Canada and the United States. In Canada our union is very diverse, with members in almost every sector of the economy.
As our name implies, we have a long history in mining, steelmaking, metalworking, and manufacturing. From that history, we have a lot of experience with toxic chemicals and the diseases they cause. We were involved in bringing WHMIS, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, into Canada in the 1980s, and to this day we are still dealing with the impacts of chemical exposures on our members and their communities. Recent occupational disease clinics in Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury attracted hundreds of people. We are supporters of the recent Ontario Toxic Chemicals Reduction Act, currently in third reading, as well as community right to know at the municipal level.
The toxicity of many of the chemicals we are concerned about in the environment and consumer products today was originally demonstrated in the lives of workers and the damage it did to their health. Many of the strategies that speak of controlling exposures, limiting risk instead of advising hazards, and personal protection responsibility were tried and failed in the occupational setting. Years ago we were told there were safe limits of exposures to most chemicals. Since then exposure limits have become lower and lower, as studies continue to show there is no safe level of exposure to toxic chemicals, especially if the exposure is repeated and over a lifetime.
We need to talk about the total burden of chemicals in our bodies from all sources, including the environment. This government's and the Ontario government's investment in green chemistry innovation at Queen's University in Kingston is recognition that we have to find a better way to produce the chemicals we need.
Our membership was deeply moved in 2007 when a wave of toxic toys hit Canada, many of which were contaminated by lead. After a decade of fighting in North America to have lead removed from paints and gasoline, after decades of controlling the exposure in smelters, mills, and other industries, something is wrong when the system allows lead to be used in consumer products.
Some of us still remember that it was the impact of our children originally being exposed to lead in communities in Canada in the 1960s that gave impetus to the regular reform that reduced those exposures and gave us the legislation we're reviewing now.
It did not seem right to us that such a well-known hazard should be allowed back into Canada by trade. Our activists became involved in a Get the Lead Out campaign across Canada and the U.S., adding our voice to others who felt that something had to be done. Product safety must not be left to voluntary systems and the luck of the draw.
I might say in parenthesis here that we were quite astounded at the response we got from our members. We have a long history and involvement in occupational health and safety and activists who are trained to deal with those issues, but it wasn't those activists who responded to the problem of toxic toys. It was the average member, the member who had children, particularly women, who were at the forefront of making this an issue for our organization and making it a key point in a campaign that led us to distributing information and becoming part of what was originally the movement toward Bill C-51 and Bill C-52, and now Bill C-6.
We are also encouraged to be here by our environmental partner, Environmental Defence. Aaron Freeman, the research director, has already addressed you. Our alliance with Environmental Defence focuses on the impacts of toxic chemicals and climate change. Environmental Defence's “Toxic Nation” campaign has shown that the challenge we face is much bigger than we think. It confirms the experiences of workers that the chemicals are in our bodies now. We are here to support their efforts and their position--and of many of the other environmental groups that I note have already spoken to you--that we need to reduce exposures through consumer products.
To quote the title of the book that Environmental Defence's chair and executive director recently co-authored, we must prevent Death by Rubber Duck,, a book that I highly recommend to each of you if you have not had a chance to review it.
To the point of our remarks regarding Bill C-6, like many others who have appeared before you, and most of the people here this evening, we support the goal and objectives of the bill. It is important that there be a mandatory reporting system for toxins and hazards in consumer products and a clear system for enforcement. While the bill has a number of these important features, it needs to be strengthened in order to achieve its goals as described in the preamble.
In particular, we support amendments suggested by Environmental Defence. Strengthening the bill now will benefit us all in the long run. The bill provides strong language regarding prohibition, but is weak in identifying the problems proactively and sets the bar for action too high.
The bill needs a proactive system of inspection and verification. In this regard, I note the previous evidence that was given by Mr. Glover on behalf of the government in regard to this bill. He in fact spoke about the bill having a proactive nature to it. I must confess to being surprised that he characterized it that way, because it seems to me the system, with all the improvements proposed, is still fundamentally reactive. Until someone discovers a problem--inadvertently, if something has happened, or if a group of doctors notice it in their patients--nothing is done. There is no system through which to go and get proactive information. And that, particularly when you're dealing with imports, which, as was previously noted, are a key part of this problem, needs to be part of the system.
What is needed is an administrative system to ensure that manufacturers and importers--and I emphasize them in particular--are testing their supply chain to make sure toxic chemicals are not getting into the products. The government needs a system of independent verification through random reviews. A testing protocol is required to protect consumers and to raise the bar for company testing. Without that protection, the legislation is at risk of encouraging "Don't ask, don't tell".
We strongly believe that there needs to be the policing function as outlined in the act. In addition, however, we believe there needs to be an administrative review program to ensure that the highest levels of performance and protection are being followed.
June 2nd, 2009 / 3:50 p.m.
David Skinner President, Consumer Health Products Canada
Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee, for allowing me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the consumer health products industry on Bill C-6. My name is David Skinner, and I'm president of Consumer Health Products Canada, formerly known as NDMAC.
Consumer Health Products Canada is the national industry association representing manufacturers, marketers, and distributors of consumer health products. The association’s members, who range from small businesses to large corporations, account for the vast majority of sales in Canada’s $4.7-billion market for these products. Our members’ sales are equally proportioned between natural health products and other consumer health products, including sunscreens, allergy medicines, upset stomach remedies, and so forth. Our association has been the leading advocate for consumer health products for over 110 years.
Bill C-6, the Canada consumer product safety act, is, along with expected amendments to the Food and Drugs Act, a key legislative component of the government’s food and consumer safety action plan. Consumer health products are exempt from Bill C-6 by virtue of falling under the current Food and Drugs Act definition of “drug”. Nevertheless, we have identified two issues with respect to Bill C-6 that relate to consumer health products within the broader consumer safety action plan.
The first of these issues is the need to ensure that the intent to exempt those products regulated under the Food and Drugs Act is indeed carried out effectively. The second relates to the release of confidential business information to third parties, a provision found in both Bill C-6 and in the former Bill C-51 the Food and Drugs Act amendments that were introduced in the last Parliament and that died on the order paper when the 39th Parliament was dissolved.
The stated intention of the government is to exempt all therapeutic products, including consumer health products, from the provisions of this particular bill. This is to be accomplished by referencing the current definition of “drug” in the Food and Drugs Act. However, there has been much confusion around the need to specify a number of consumer health products to ensure they are adequately excluded through Schedule 1 to Bill C-6. The minister has indicated that an amendment to clarify the scope of the act will be proposed.
A concern has been expressed that if specific subcategories of products broadly defined in Section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act are not set out specifically, they may be subject to the provisions of Bill C-6 in addition to the Food and Drugs Act. It stands to reason, however, that if one subcategory of natural health product is to be specifically identified as exempt, then all subcategories of products captured by Section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act must be set out in Schedule 1 to Bill C-6. Classes of product that must be recognized in addition to NHPs would include personal care products—for example, antiperspirants—and other consumer health products such as sunscreens.
A further concern that we have identified is that while Schedule 1 identifies substances that would be exempt from the provisions of the bill, it is unclear whether this exemption would extend to other elements of the products regulated under the Food and Drugs Act, specifically their packaging and labelling. Discussions with departmental officials thus far have not been able to rule out the possibility that any subcategory of product could wind up being subject to both pieces of legislation in this way. In addition to the complexities and the unwarranted burden of being subject to two pieces of legislation, this possibly also creates the potential for situations in which the two regimes could come into conflict with each other.
Regulations and guidance documents under the Food and Drugs Act set out many specific requirements for the packaging of consumer health products, including child-resistant packaging, tamper-evident packaging, packaging material specifications, dose delivery mechanisms—for example, metered inhalers—and, of course, labelling.
We recognize that an attempt to list all possible classes of product could fail to cover all potentially relevant products. Since new classes of products arise from time to time under the Food and Drugs Act—for example, nutraceuticals—the list could be out of date rather quickly. To ensure that Bill C-6 clearly exempts products regulated under the Food and Drugs Act and to provide for flexibility so that every time a new class is added under the Food and Drugs Act there is no need for consequential amendments to Bill C-6, we recommend that schedule 1 be amended to delete articles 2 to 5 and replace them with a broad exemption for all products regulated within the scope of the Food and Drugs Act.
Our second key concern relates to the confidential business information provisions. The consumer health products industry understands the need, in rare emergency circumstances, for Health Canada to be able to release confidential business information to foreign regulatory authorities and other third parties to mitigate against potential serious and imminent public health risks. However, given the extent of vital proprietary information shared with Health Canada, industry believes that Health Canada must also notify the proprietor of the confidential information at the time such information is disclosed. Since consent to disclose is not required in the circumstances laid out in the act, timely notification would not in any way impact the government's ability to act or to act in a timely manner.
Thank you for your time and consideration of our industry's perspective on this important legislative proposal. My colleague and I look forward to answering questions you may have.
May 28th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
President, Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association
The provision that was included in Bill C-51 was that “No person shall--knowing information to be false or being reckless as to its truth--communicate or cause to be communicated that information with the intent to cause a reasonable apprehension in others” that a consumer product presents a danger to human health or safety.
Clearly, the department feels that's necessary to have with respect to food, therapeutic products, or cosmetics. We felt that the same could be extended to Bill C-6 with the covering of consumer products.
May 28th, 2009 / 3:40 p.m.
Shannon Coombs President, Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association
Good afternoon, Madam Chair and honourable members of the committee. It is a pleasure to be here today to provide an overview of CCSPA's suggestions to improve Bill C-6, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. I have to say that it's a bit of a tongue twister for me, as our acronym is CCSPA.
My name is Shannon Coombs and I am the president of the CCSPA. I have proudly represented this industry for 10 years. Our accomplishments as a proactive and responsible industry will be clearly visible as I make my presentation.
We are a national trade association that represents 45 member companies across Canada. Collectively, we are a $20-billion industry employing 12,000 people in over 100 facilities. Our companies manufacture, process, package, and distribute consumer, industrial, and institutional specialty products such as soaps, detergents, domestic pest control products, aerosols, hard-surface disinfectants, deodorizers, and automotive chemicals. I have provided the clerk with copies of our one-pager, which has a picture of our products, and I'm sure many of you use them every day.
Why are we here? The health and safety of Canadians is a priority for all CCSPA members and we support this legislation. Our member companies are leaders in the responsible use of chemicals for consumer and institutional products in this country. We are committed to the appropriate and safe use of our products.
Over the past year, we have announced various exciting initiatives, such as the “William, Won't You Wash Your Hands?” initiative, which all of you would have received a copy of a few weeks ago and which we asked you to donate to your local day care or child care facility. That was a partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada as well as the Canadian Institute of Child Health.
We also announced the voluntary lowering of phosphorus in automatic dishwasher detergent. As well, we have a “Concentrate on the Future” initiative, which is a communication initiative for consumers. I'm sure many of you have seen the 2X or 3X that is now on your laundry or bleach products.
As well, last April, we announced a voluntary ingredient communication initiative that is going to allow companies the ability to disclose all of their ingredients on product labels or members' websites. The great feature of the program is the ability to do this on the website, as it allows companies to explain the benefits and the chemistry behind the products. The program is effective January 1, 2010, and it will cover air care products, automotive and cleaning products, and polishes and floor maintenance products.
Are our member companies' ingredients in products regulated? Yes, they are. Canadians can be confident that the products are safe and that the products they purchase have had various levels of government review and oversight. That oversight depends on the type of product.
In Canada, all substances and products such as laundry powder and liquids, fabric softeners, and dishwashing liquids have had either a new substance notification review or an existing substance review under CEPA and under the chemicals management plan. If any of those consumer products make a claim such as “kills 99.9% of germs”, for example, they're also regulated under the Food and Drugs Act.
As well, the labels on our products are regulated by the consumer chemicals and containers regulations, based under the Hazardous Products Act, which now will fall under Bill C-6. The foundation of that regulation is science. It's a hazard classification, but it provides risk communication to consumers. It has provided precautionary labelling for consumers for the last 39 years. It was just modernized, in 2001, and continues to be an excellent regulatory tool for communicating to Canadians. Elements of CCCR-2001 extend to other products such as food and domestic pest control products.
Our disinfectants are regulated by Health Canada. They have a pre-market assessment and, as with any kind of new substance, review under CEPA as well.
Given the diversity of products, we are subject to various laws and regulations such as CEPA, the Pest Control Products Act, and the Food and Drugs Act. Therefore, we believe that our experience is most beneficial to the committee, as we have been actively involved in the modernization of all these pieces of legislation.
We are seeking two additional clauses for Bill C-6, which include provisions for hoaxes and a provision for a ministerial advisory council. Both amendments would enhance the legislation.
Why? In our experience, a minister's advisory council, such as the one that exists currently under the Pest Control Products Act, and which I'm a member of, is a valuable tool for exchanging information and providing constructive feedback to the minister and the department to help shape and form current and future policies and regulations.
Given the three-pronged approach outlined by the officials--active prevention, targeted oversight, and rapid response--an advisory council could be only another effective tool to the minister and the department for implementing Bill C-6. We believe it would enhance outcomes and actions of Health Canada.
Why a provision for hoaxes? We believe that people should be accountable for information or misinformation they provide about consumer products and their ingredients. The provision for hoaxes is borrowed from the legislation that was tabled last April in Bill C-51, the amendments to the Food and Drugs Act.
Clearly the government believes there is a problem and they need the authority to take action on Food and Drugs Act products, as it was included in this proposed legislation. Therefore, in the spirit of consistency with other Health Canada legislation, Bill C-6 would be strengthened by providing the government with the authority to deal with people who deliberately seek to mislead consumers on these products as well. The goal should be that consumers have the information they need to make balanced and well-informed choices. Fear should not be allowed to be a marketing tool.
We respectfully request that the committee consider these two additions to the proposed law. We have provided some other minor amendments, such as a consistent precautionary statement in the preamble that would be consistent with CEPA and the Pest Control Products Act, plus some other housekeeping items.
I would like to touch on the issue of labelling, as it was raised here at committee during testimony today. I don't believe there has been enough information, or enough factual information, provided to the honourable members from the department on current regulatory authorities for labelling in this country; nor do I believe the information provided in previous testimony to be complete.
Is additional precautionary labelling warranted, and does it need to be included in this bill? As I stated in my opening remarks, labels on consumer products that contain substances are regulated by CCCR. The regulations are science-based, and they include risk communication. Canadians have been using this system for 39 years. Children are even taught to identify the symbols as early as junior kindergarten. What would be achieved by adding another labelling provision to this act?
Canadians are protected by CCCR. Including an amendment in this legislation for labelling of carcinogens; offering up a California Proposition 65 system; using a straight list-based system, such as using substances listed on schedule 1 of CEPA or IARC; even using the building blocks of GHS--we do not believe these meet the needs of Canadians.
CCSPA supports the consumer's right to know, the right to meaningful information, and the right to accurate information. Do any of those systems provide balanced information to the consumer? How would the government even enforce such a law?
In our opinion, by having parliamentarians amend Bill C-6 to include additional labelling, it would effectively be creating a loophole that would have two negative outcomes--one, the sale of unsafe products; and two, misleading claims on safe products.
Why would there be unsafe products? If a product bears a warning statement or a symbol, then consumers have been duly warned; therefore, where is the accountability? Canadians have public policy and legislative frameworks based on risk. This is not the American system of buyer beware. If a product is unsafe, the Canadian government should take it off the market--period. Why would we put forward an act that allows the government to take action via the general prohibition on unsafe products but allows unsafe products on the market to be sold as long as they're labelled?
Why would there be misleading claims? A system that penalizes ethical companies—my member companies—whose businesses are founded on consumer product confidence, and whose products are safe and do not cause cancer.... They will be forced to be put on their products a misleading claim, because a symbol of “C” on sunscreen or hand sanitizers is not accurate, as the end product is safe, even though they contain IARC-listed substances.
Right now Health Canada does not allow companies to make a claim unless it's true--for example, the level of calcium or vitamin C in products. Therefore, why would government force companies to put a “C” on a label for a product that is not a carcinogen?
If a new labelling amendment does go forward, what will we end up with? We'll end up with chaos in the marketplace and consumer confusion, asking moms to make decisions and do their own risk assessments at the retail level; an ineffective law that can't be enforced; flourishing allegations and lawsuits that waste taxpayers' dollars, exactly as has happened in California; companies forced to overlabel; and barriers to trade. I think we would agree that this is not where we want to be.
I offer these comments to you today as a way of continuing and informing this important debate. If the honourable members are contemplating a substantial change to our risk-based society, then the facts all need to be on the table.
In our opinion, Bill C-6 is a modern piece of legislation that allows this government to take an aggressive and responsive approach to protecting Canadians. It has mandatory recall provisions, incident reporting, a general prohibition to take action on products, and fines. The labelling discussion should not detract us from our collective goal, which is to pass this piece of legislation.
I would be most pleased to answer any questions that the committee has.
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
April 30th, 2009 / 11:30 a.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important piece of legislation and I am happy we are having a thorough debate in the House. While I appreciate the urgency of the situation, I also believe, as my colleagues do, that we have to get it right this time around.
Addressing this debate in the middle of an outbreak of an influenza that is circling the globe gives us reason to pause and consider the impact of legislation like this in all of its ramifications. The swine influenza reminds us just how much we live in a global context and that an incident in one part of this world can never remain isolated and contained completely. Because of travel around this globe and the way in which people are able to move around so quickly, it is clear that what we do in one part of the country, one part of the world, can affect people all around the globe.
The swine influenza incident also reminds us just how interconnected everything is. Human health directly connected to animal health, directly connected to the health of our environment. We cannot separate them. We have to look at them as a package and understand just how much government is responsible for protecting health based on that kind of global situation in the way in which everything is so connected.
I have mentioned the swine influenza and although it is not specifically related to Bill C-6 I think the Government of Canada has learned the lessons that we all experienced following the SARS outbreak and has put in place a proactive, precautionary approach to containing and mitigating in the case of the swine influenza.
I have said so publicly and I want to say so again now. I commend the Minister of Health for being so forthright with Canadian people and for ensuring that all members of Parliament are in the loop. We have had regular briefings on a daily basis. Members of Parliament will have opportunity to be briefly regularly as well. The members of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the virology lab located in Winnipeg have given up some of their valuable time to ensure that we are aware of all the facts.
I just want to give credit where credit is due because it is so important for Canadians to know that we do work together on a non-partisan basis. There are times when we disagree, but when something as serious as the swine influenza starts to circle the globe and the numbers increase daily, we have to acknowledge when government is acting appropriately, and we have to reiterate the fact that all of us are concerned and vigilant. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide the necessary information to our constituents and Canadians everywhere.
The other issue, of course, that has grabbed our attention recently that has connections to this bill is the question of listeriosis and the contamination of our food. Although this bill does not deal with food, the principle we are applying, whether it is in terms of food, drugs, natural health products or consumer products, is the same. The principle is that in fact products should be allowed on the markets, on the shelves in our stores, when they are proven to be safe.
That is a fundamental notion that is entrenched in the old legislation that we are now updating. The old legislation of the Hazardous Products Act and the old Food and Drugs Act are pieces of legislation that over the years have tried to embody the principle of do no harm, to say that it is the job of government and it is a responsibility that is enclosed within the Criminal Code because a dereliction of duty is seen as a criminal abrogation or a criminal offence.
It is that do no harm principle that requires government to ensure that all programs and measures are in place so that the products on the market, whether it is the food we eat, the drugs we have to take because of a particular illness or chronic disease, or the products that we buy for household use or for our enjoyment, are safe beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is true that the bill we are now dealing with updates legislation that is 40 years old. It is time to modernize that legislation. It is time to bring our current laws into the 21st century to ensure that we are prepared for today and for many decades to come.
By all accounts, this legislation would make some significant improvements. There are parts to the bill that are overdue and many Canadians have been clamouring for changes for many years. I commend the government for bringing forward some changes and some important legislative provisions that would help ensure the safety of Canadians.
I want to say very clearly that the bill is far from perfect and I am not even looking for perfect today. I am looking for a bill that would hold us in good stead for many years to come.
It has been acknowledged by Canadians and organizations involved in the area of environmental health and product safety that the bill takes important steps, but it is far from the kind of legislation we think is necessary for this day and age. I want to put that clearly on the record.
We are prepared to see the bill go to committee for further discussion, but we are not happy with the bill as it now exists. We have many concerns and we will be proposing some amendments that we hope the government will look at seriously.
We have been talking this morning about one area that pertains to natural health products. It has been pointed out that the minister has taken the unusual step of sending a letter to our committee indicating that there will be an amendment to Bill C-6 that would separate out natural health products from any aspect of this legislation. That is fine and good, and I know that the member for Mississauga South has raised some concerns about that whole process.
However, I think it is the government's way of trying to catch up to a rather messy situation that it still has not quite sorted through, and that is the whole melding and meshing of natural health products into both the legislation pertaining to consumer products and the legislation pertaining to food and drugs.
The furor that erupted after the introduction of Bill C-51 and Bill C-52 last year was a result of the fact that the government failed to consider the need to clearly differentiate natural health products from current drug legislation, and by implication, from other legislation that actually puts in place recalls, bans and prohibitions.
After many years of debate, it is clear that Canadians have accepted the fact that natural health products are a separate category from food and drugs, but there are some groups that would still prefer natural products to be part of food and to be faced with minimal regulation. Our view is that natural products have to be accessible to Canadians, but they have to be safe as well. We are not prepared to minimize safety requirements in order to speed up accessibility.
However, we believe that the previous Liberal government and the present Conservative government have failed to ensure a proper regulatory system for natural health products that would speed up the licensing of those products and would ensure that any concerns about false advertising or altered products or side effects with foods and drugs are taken into account.
We are anxious to see the government speed up the whole process around natural health products regulatory procedures to take away that concern from Canadians, so that they have faith and confidence that the government is not putting up any unnecessary roadblocks in terms of access to those products. There have been some signs that this is happening.
It is important that the bill be amended to exclude any reference to natural health products just as we anticipated that Bill C-51 would do as well.
Whenever the government brings forward new legislation that deals with food and drugs, we expect that it will have learned the lessons of the past sorry chapter of history, when Canadians had to rally in the thousands, when they had to send hundreds of thousands of signatures in petitions and call and fax members of Parliament on a regular basis. We hope the government has learned from this and will realize that, under no circumstances, should natural health products be lumped in with pharmaceuticals and put through the same kinds of requirements. There has to be a separate category with its own unique set of regulations.
This keeps coming up in debate because we are looking for the government to give us an agenda. How will it deal with natural health products? Will there be a report to Parliament about the licensing process and how it is changing? Will there be legislation that regulates this area so it is not lumped in with either consumer products or drugs? That would be in the best interest of Canadians.
As members know, we all continue to receive mail from people concerned about natural health products and accessibility to them with respect to Bill C-6. The sooner we can clear up this matter, the better. My view is we should have a system in place that deals with the backlog and ensures there is a separate regulatory framework, with provisions for safety and product authenticity built into that process.
It is important to focus on the major parts of the bill that ensure consumer products are safe beyond a reasonable doubt. At least that is my assumption. This is why I am somewhat critical of the bill. I do not believe the precautionary principle is deeply rooted and entrenched in the bill.
My view is that while the bill has very strong recall provisions and all groups have acknowledged this, it begs this question. What happens before a product is recalled? How many people have to get sick? What steps are being taken by the government to ensure consumers are aware of any problems with a product and if there is a serious toxic substance in a product, that the product is taken completely off the market?
The bill may require recalls and prohibit some products being on the market, but there is nothing that requires the minister and the government to inform the public the minute there is a suspicion that a product could be hazardous to one's health. We leave products on the market until someone gets sick, then we act. Is that not backwards?
Should we not try to ensure that products on the market are safe beyond a reasonable doubt? Should we not therefore ensure that the proper analysis, inspection and enforcement of regulations are done to make that happen? Why do we wait for people to get sick or die before we act? I am afraid the bill reinforces that notion. Products are recalled after something horrible happens and that does not give Canadians confidence.
The other problem in terms of recall that is without teeth is the principle of a right to know is not entrenched in this bill. If the government is reluctant to prohibit, or ban or recall on a very stringent basis, then at least it must ensure that the principle of right to know is built into the bill, and I do not see it.
I do not see a requirement for labelling in every instance. I do not see the recommendations by the Cancer Society being taken into account. I do not see the private member's bill proposed by my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster being included in this legislation. This would ensure, as a bare minimum, that Canadians would know a product may have ingredients that are toxic and dangerous to the health and well-being of humans.
We see examples of this every day. Look at bisphenol A. It is a substance that has been identified as being harmful to human hormones, reproductive capacity and the development of children. There is a clear link between bisphenol A and very serious health concerns. Yet the government has approached it on a hit and miss basis. Baby bottles were banned because it was believed they would be cleaned with scalding water, which would bring out the toxic substance that would cause problems to the health of humans.
However, we allow it in pop and fruit juice cans because the government says that people have to drink 900 cans of pop a year before they will be exposed. This does not take into account that some kids drink a lot of soft drinks. It also does not take into account that it is a cumulative effect. What about the fact that there is a little bisphenol A in this product or that product to which one is exposed? Eventually, it accumulates and causes a serious problem.
In that instance, should we not follow the do no harm principle? Should we not say that we know the links? Why not take the action? Why does the Minister of Health stand in the House and say that the government does not have all the evidence of a direct link between the amount in these pop cans and human health? Canadians want their government to be firm and tough when there is that kind of knowledge and understanding.
This is why so many groups, from the Cancer Society to the Environmental Defence league to the David Suzuki Foundation, have all recommended that the bill do a much better job in not just prohibiting a product because it, as a whole, is dangerous, but also because there are environmental toxins in the product that are on a list under CEPA as being dangerous and could possibly cause human health problems. Why not prohibit those kinds of dangerous toxins? Why not go the extra route of saying that if there is a possibility of danger to human health, we are going to take some actions?
The government does not have to worry so much about industry getting up in arms because industry adapts. When the government banned baby bottles made out of bisphenol A, the industry came up with another product that was safe. If the government would ban pop cans that use bisphenol A, the industry would come up with another option that would be safe. In fact, we would have a double whammy out of this. First, we would be taking extra precaution to ensure human health and safety. Second, we could be spurring a new made in Canada industry that would create jobs, that would be based on the green economy and that would help Canadians from the point of view of both their future health and the future of this planet.
Think about the government having the gumption, guts and courage to do something about the products we know are dangerous and could be prohibited from store shelves. The bill does not do that. However, I hope the government will listen to some very serious amendments as proposed by some of the organizations I have mentioned and that will be proposed by us at committee. I hope they will be taken seriously.
If the government cannot accept that notion, I would hope it would at least agree with the question about labelling and the need to ensure these toxic substances and potentially dangerous ingredients are clearly labelled on all such packages. Surely, we can start to use the skull and crossbones on a regular basis whenever there is scientific evidence of a particular ingredient causing harm to human health and well-being. Surely, we can do that much.
Before my time runs out, let me get to a couple of other issues. One of them is with respect to tobacco. We cannot accept a bill that includes the permanent exclusion for tobacco products. We do not believe tobacco products should be exempted from any of the provisions of the bill. We know there is other legislation dealing with tobacco, but there is nothing wrong with ensuring it is protected at all ends. It must be included in Bill C-6, and we will make that amendment.
Finally, we have come some distance, but we have a long way to go to make this ideal legislation. We do not simply want to get us up to 2009. I do not think the bill even gets us up to that level. We have made some distance from 1969, but we have not put in place the right kind of legislation or the laws that will ensure human health is put first beyond all profit and commercial interests. That is the objective and role of government and that is the work of our health committee in the weeks and months ahead.
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.