Canada Consumer Product Safety Act

An Act respecting the safety of consumer products

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Leona Aglukkaq  Conservative

Status

Considering amendments (House), as of Dec. 15, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment modernizes the regulatory regime for consumer products in Canada. It creates prohibitions with respect to the manufacturing, importing, selling, advertising, packaging and labelling of consumer products, including those that are a danger to human health or safety. In addition, it establishes certain measures that will make it easier to identify whether a consumer product is a danger to human health or safety and, if so, to more effectively prevent or address the danger. It also creates application and enforcement mechanisms. This enactment also makes consequential amendments to the Hazardous Products Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6 this morning, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products. I think this is a very important bill.

We certainly still have reservations about the bill, but by and large we are in support of it. This is evidence once again that collectively we can make this chamber work and I think that bodes well. If the parties continue to cooperate a little more than they have in the past, we can get some good legislation out of this minority Parliament and perhaps extend the minority Parliament for some time into the future.

I have had some experience with a minority government in Manitoba a number of years ago. We worked with the Gary Filmon government in Manitoba for a period of 18 months and got through a lot of very good pieces of legislation.

As a matter of fact, I am a very big fan of minority governments. When we look back to 1972-74, that was a very productive period in our politics, and as well when Mike Pearson was the Prime Minister in the sixties. We had several minority Parliaments and they worked very well too. That is when we got the flag. We had a number of issues that were resolved in a very good way.

I want to say at the beginning that our critic for this area did a tremendous job on the bill, as she does on pretty much everything she touches. She and I go back a long way. We were both elected to the Manitoba Legislature March 18, 1986. I have had a lot of experience watching her over the years in various capacities, and she takes a very aggressive and very thorough approach to her duties. When she makes a recommendation, we know that it is well-researched, well thought out and there is really nothing given to chance.

Bill C-6 follows a previous bill, Bill C-52, the original piece of legislation that was intended to strengthen the Hazardous Products Act of 1969, which is quite a long time ago. It has been proven increasingly ineffective in identifying and removing dangerous consumer products.

Let us look back to the period of 1969 when the original legislation was brought in. This was at a time when consumer products and so on were coming on the market in large numbers.

Ralph Nader was essentially the father of consumer protection in North America. Most of us were around in the 1960s. Some here probably were not, but most of us were. Most of us actually grew up with Ralph Nader and we know that he challenged the North American auto industry on the basis that consumer products, when they are produced and sold to the public, should be as safe as possible, and that the onus should be on the company producing the product to be liable if its product is defective.

Our thinking in Canada has always been the opposite, that somehow it is the purchaser and end user's responsibility and fault if something goes wrong with a product. Over the years, through people like Ralph Nader driving this envelope, we have seen consumer protection rise greatly. The man has done a terrific service for all consumers in North America by his actions.

We remember the Ford Pintos. I believe he called them rolling Molotov cocktails. These were cars built in the sixties that had gas tank problems and were subject to catching on fire in accidents. There was a statistically large number of these. Any time something like this happened, the car companies blamed the driver. It was never the car company's responsibility; it was always the driver's responsibility. Ralph Nader collected statistics to show that these accidents were happening in large numbers and only with that particular type of car, the Ford Pinto.

He took action against the companies and was able to get compensation for many Americans. He later went on to deal with the rusty Ford issue and a number of other different areas. When he did get settlements for people, at the end of the day, the settlements were always done on the basis that the settlement had to be private because the car company would always want to keep it out of the public view.

The reality is that the public view of how dangerous these consumers products were was enhanced by Ralph Nader's actions. However, that was only the tip of the iceberg. When people did have problems and took action against the car companies, in this case, there was always a settlement, but the people receiving the settlement had to sign a release that they would not talk about it. The public is literally totally unaware that there were probably hundreds of thousands of settlements made that people could not talk about by virtue of the fact that they had signed confidentiality agreements in order to get their settlement.

That is the beginning of how and why legislation such as this was developed. In the 1950s there were not a lot of consumer products to begin with. In those days, people never thought that their children were going to be poisoned by toys. It was something that was never even contemplated. In those days, people were not dealing with consumer products like cellphones, which some people feel are linked to brain cancer. I do not know if there is a link or not, but it is certainly being studied.

A member of my family was found to have a brain tumour just a few weeks ago. It was removed and it has been determined that it was cancerous. He evidently spends a lot of time on a cellphone. The family is certainly questioning as to whether or not there is a connection. Over time, I think that we will have to do studies to show whether or not cancers are in any way connected to cellphone use.

However, these were issues that we never had to deal with in the 1960s because we did not have products like this. In the 1960s the wiring in houses was probably 60 amp and one was lucky to have a refrigerator, a television and maybe a radio. That was all one would have in a house. Today, when we go into our bedroom or any other room in a house, I am sure we all agree that the whole room lights up at night. There are all kinds of consumer items plugged into the wall.

People have suggested that these products are generating electromagnetic radiation and they provide concerns in some cases. I know that we have had some studies done on people who live around power lines. There is a demonstrated suggestion that cancer rates are somehow increased for people who live around power lines. When we are looking at issues like that, it makes sense that we in this country have to come up with very strong consumer product legislation just to deal with the unknown and unforeseen health effects of consumer products.

We have another whole area of involvement here, with producers of products who are less than ethical in their manufacture. Years ago, products were manufactured in Canada. They were done under some sort of quality standards. When producers were in Winnipeg, Saskatoon or Ottawa, producing for the Canadian market, they would know that if they did not produce a good quality product, it would not be purchased any more. Eaton's would not buy it from them. They would be out of business and there would not be any other place to sell their product.

With a huge amount of consumer products today, it seems that almost everything is being outsourced and made in Mexico, China, Indonesia and other areas. I am sure that a lot of those products are of good quality, but there certainly is a temptation, when a supply source is so far away and the competition is so extremely fierce, for quick solutions and shortcuts becoming the order of the day.

That is what has happened. Children's toys have been manufactured inappropriately, and we are paying the price. We have to deal with this essentially because of multinational corporations and their free trade deals that have led to a race to the bottom for the lowest possible cost of production. We see that as a positive thing in society, but we do not tend to look at the negatives. The long-term liabilities and responsibilities come back to bite us at the end of the day.

For example, 90 consumer products were recalled last year, and there were 37 more in this year already. Many of these products were not made in Canada; China was identified as the frequent country of origin. The original act, as has been pointed out, has not been effective in identifying or removing these dangerous products, leaving Canadians dependent on product alerts and recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission instead of Health Canada.

We see the same thing in the financial services area. Legislation and enforcement in the United States are tougher. There are almost no convictions in Canada under securities violations, for example, with the Ontario Securities Commission, whereas there are a couple of thousand in the United States. I have mentioned before that Conrad Black committed his white-collar crimes in Canada, and he was not touched by any Canadian authorities at all. It was under American laws that he was picked up; it was the American system that cornered him, eventually convicted him and put him where he belongs and where he is now, in jail, at least for the next few months.

Clearly, Canada is not in a very strong position relative to other countries. This bill will help deal with that to a certain extent. However, once again we have left out some very important areas that should have been dealt with.

One of the areas that was left out, and it is certainly an issue that is near and dear to me, is the issue of smoking. Presentations were made in committee. It was a very big disappointment to me and others that cigarettes were exempted from this bill. I cannot think of a better example of a product that should be covered by this type of legislation.

I want to read a letter from the Canadian Cancer Society, which was sent to the chair and members of the committee on April 21, 2009. I know there are people watching the debate today who would not be aware that this was the case. I think it is important for them to know that the Canadian Cancer Society wrote a letter to the members of the committee regarding Bill C-6.

While it says it strongly supports the bill and commends the Minister of Health and the government for bringing forward the legislation, at the same time it recommended “the removal of the permanent exclusion for tobacco products found in the bill. The proposed amendment is short and simple but very important. In particular, we recommend the exclusion of subsection 4(2) to be deleted and that tobacco products instead be listed in Schedule 1, along with pesticides, cosmetics, explosives and other indicated products.”

If the majority of the public were aware of this bill and that this exclusion was in the bill, I am sure MPs' phones would have been ringing off the hook. We would have received a lot of feedback from the public on this issue, from both sides, I am sure, because there are still avid smokers who would defend their right to smoke.

I know at least one colleague, who may or may not be close to me at the moment, is a smoker, but I do not know how tough she would be in defending her right to keep smoking.

I am an ex-smoker, so I guess we are the worst people to be talking about this issue, but even people who do smoke tend to take a different view today of that issue. Even 20 years ago, when a member of my original caucus had a party at his house and announced that people had to smoke outside, we all shook our heads and thought there was something wrong with him.

Today it would be the absolute opposite of that. Even the smokers walk out of their houses and smoke on the front steps. If they recognize it is doing damage to their houses, it makes me wonder why they keep smoking in the first place.

I recall that people years ago would not have had a problem purchasing a car that was owned by a smoker. Today it is very difficult to sell a car that was owned by a smoker, so smokers are smoking outside their cars.

Would anybody in this Parliament believe us if we told them that only a few years ago we could smoke on airplanes? It was very, very common, and now that is past history.

We are making progress. It has been reported that smoking rates have dropped, but it is still a big problem. We have legislation before the House right now dealing with the whole area of tobacco and trying to find ways to reduce the number of smokers in the country. I really believe we are going to have to go a step further at a certain point and offer some sort of financial inducement to people who embark on a non-smoking program supervised by a doctor.

I draw the analogy between that and what we did in Manitoba with the car immobilizer program four years ago. We offered it as a voluntary program, with a reduction on insurance if people put immobilizers in their cars. Even though it made imminent sense, very few people took the government up on the program. We made the immobilizers free, and as a reward we gave people the reduction on their insurance anyway. We made them free but we mandated that people had to install these immobilizers or they could not insure their cars anymore.

There was a bit of grumbling, but by and large people complied with the program. We had our auto theft rates drop to the point where we had one day last month when we had zero. We went from the number one car theft capital of Canada three years ago down to having one day with no thefts.

That is a perfect example of how providing a free product and making it mandatory actually has solved a lot of the problem. We may have to do the same thing with smoking to get those final smokers. I am looking at another smoker down the aisle here.

At the end of the day, if the advertising does not work, all the other prohibitions do not work and the social stigmas do not work, we may have to look at offering some sort of a program, administered by the Canadian Medical Association, where we offer financial incentives to people if they quit smoking. They already have financial incentives to stop smoking through their home and life insurance programs, and other programs. I am sure it works in a few cases, but not in all.

The letter goes on to say, “Tobacco products cause more damage to public health than any other consumer product, killing 37,000 Canadians a year. It makes no sense that Bill C-6 in section 4(2) would permanently exclude tobacco products under virtually all circumstances from any of the bill's provisions. The following rationale further supports the proposed amendment. Adopting the amendment would mean that in the future the government would have the flexibility to deal with the tobacco epidemic in a rapid manner should the need arise and the Tobacco Act be inadequate.”

There would be an escape valve available to protect the public interest if necessary—

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member has to do with the prohibitions.

Starting with clause 5, which deals with the prohibitions, it states:

No person shall manufacture, import, advertise or sell a consumer product listed in Schedule 2.

If we look at schedule 2, and this is my concern, schedule 2 includes a fairly specific list, such as glasses that contain cellulose nitrate, baby walkers with wheels, et cetera. There are 14 items, the last one being lawn darts with elongated tips. This seems like a very small list relative to the range of consumer products out there.

Clause 6 then goes on to state:

No person shall manufacture, import, advertise or sell a consumer product that does not meet the requirements set out in the regulations.

This is the problem. I am concerned about the way we craft these things. We have schedule 2, which purports to be a comprehensive list of the key items or types of items, but then there is this catch-all, the regulations, which parliamentarians in either House will not see until after the bill has passed all stages in both Houses and received royal assent.

This causes me some concern. On occasion we have required that the regulations proposed by order in council, by the government, must go through committee for comment prior to being promulgated. I wonder if the member would agree that because of the importance of this legislation in terms of consumer protection that Parliament should be engaged in ensuring that the regulations are appropriate?

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct in his assessment. Not only will we not see the regulations, but we may not see the enforcement of the act by the government.

We have some concerns that there may not be enough money being put aside for the enforcement of the act. There may not be enough inspectors being hired. My colleague, the critic, pointed that out in her speech yesterday.

We have to see this as a work in progress. It is something that we will take as far as we can right now. We are a minority government. We can only go as far as the components here will allow. Unless the three opposition parties want to get together and make tougher amendments and so on, we will be stuck with what we have right now.

That is no reason that we cannot look forward to working with members in this Parliament who want to develop stronger legislation in the future. I see this as an overall movement, a sort of war, which takes many years. We are not going to solve all these problems overnight, but we have to keep focused. We have to keep working forward to accomplish the things that the member, and I, and other people in this Chamber want to accomplish in the whole area of consumer protection.

It is not just dealing with consumer products. There are also some other areas. On the whole issue with the air passenger bill of rights, we can take that concept and take that further, if we like, to other areas of the economy as well.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know it is really tough in the 20 minutes we have in the House to address an issue such as consumer protection in a comprehensive way.

I want to focus on a particular part of the legislation. For me one of the biggest concerns is the fact that 65% of the consumer goods sold in Canada are imported. We know from experience last year that we had to recall 90 products. This year we already have recalled 37 of them. While I think the act as a whole makes some significant progress with respect to protecting Canadian consumers, it does fall short in this aspect.

The way the act is written right now there really is no front-end approval of products coming into Canada. There is an opportunity to do a risk assessment when we suspect there is a high degree of non-compliance, but as a whole the government will only act once a product has been found to have harmed a Canadian, an after the fact process.

Could the member comment on whether he thinks the provisions of this act are strong enough with respect to the protection of consumer goods that are imported right now and can we beef up those sections? I think he will know from his constituents that the United Steelworkers, for example, have a very aggressive campaign, particularly with respect to lead in toys.

Could I have some feedback from him about how we might strengthen that part of the legislation, if not right now, then perhaps in subsequent legislation?

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member has made some valid points. Another disappointment in the legislation is the fact that we had hoped to have labelling provided to disclose hazardous elements in consumer products. That has not been done with this legislation. The government promises to keep an eye open on this and look to the future to work out a system. This is on the basis that labelling would be too expensive.

We also are concerned about the whole issue of counterfeit products. That is a huge area of abuse. The black market and the whole area of counterfeit products has not been dealt with in the legislation at all.

As I said before, we are in a minority Parliament and we can deal with only what we have in front of us. Our critic and our party did as good a job as they could under the circumstances, although I would have liked to have seen a lot more done with the bill. I am prepared to support the bill and move on to look to a future where we can make amendments next year or come up with a new approach and deal with those issues that have been left out of the process up to this point.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, most often there are several chemicals found in toys. Whether it is lead, phthalates, cadmium, these do tremendous damage to children and pregnant women. Could the member talk about how the bill will impact on the toy industry as it relates to imports, especially the 65% of the imports? Many of these toys and products connected to children have these chemicals in them, which are very dangerous.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, at the end of day, we have seen a bit of a shock rippling through the industry with regard to the whole issue of toys. The well-known manufacturers of North American toy brand names, which were manufactured domestically, have now taken their manufacturing offshore. I think they were stunned and shocked by what hit them. The loss of business, income and profits have probably smartened them up a little to the point now where before they bring products in under their brand names, they will send inspectors out to the plants to do first-hand inspections to ensure that no bad chemicals are put into toy products, at least I would like to think that is the case.

That would deal with the whole issue of the name brand products, but we have a lot of non-name brand products, where unscrupulous and low cost sellers will produce these products and sell them to regular stores. This will be an ongoing problem. We want the government to test these products and label them so people know nothing hazardous is in the product.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6, an act respecting the safety of consumer products, which I support. This bill is long overdue. Last year and the year before I stood in the House and asked the minister a question about toxic toys. I mentioned how a lot of the toys available for children contained lead and other kinds of very dangerous chemicals in them. Therefore, it is a great pleasure to see a bill that begins to make consumer products safer.

I want to focus particularly on several of the chemicals. We note that the U.S. has tested some of the popular toys and have found that a third of them have medium to high levels of lead, cadmium, mercury and other dangerous chemicals. Why are these chemicals particularly hard on children? We know their brains and their bodies develop the most during that first six years. Children under the age of two tend to put whatever their hands can grab into their mouths. Imagine what would happen if the products they put in their mouths contained dangerous chemicals. The impact is hardest on kids are under six, especially children two years old or under.

Two or three years ago in the U.S., a four-year-old child swallowed a heart-shaped charm and subsequently died. That charm was made almost entirely out of lead. Therefore, last year the U.S. took action and passed a bill similar to this one, which takes effect this year.

When there are high levels of lead, it causes brain damage, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioural problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage. Some of the symptoms could be vomiting and, if severe, as I said earlier, even death. Therefore, parents desperately want to know that the toys and the products around their children are safe.

We have seen that it is not just lead, it is also cadmium. Cadmium can have an impact on children and pregnant women. It can cause bone losses, increased blood pressure, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and, if serious, even death. It could even cause lung and prostate cancer.

Another kind of chemical, phthalates, especially DIMP, which is most often found in rubber ducks and bath toys, has an impact on the kidneys, liver and blood. There are all kinds of chemicals. In fact, 80,000 of them are used in the products that surround us. The European Union has banned phthalates since 1999 because of their impact.

The United Steelworkers, for example, has been asking parents to go around and check products, especially toys, to see whether they are safe for children and household use. For a while last year and the year before, before this act was finally in front of us for approval, I told my constituents to go leadcheck.com where they could purchase a pen that they could use to test products.

I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I forgot to mention that earlier on.

The United Steelworkers have this campaign. If the government is not checking these things, it is encouraging ordinary Canadians to do it.

I am glad we are finally seeing some aggressive regulations. For regulations to be successful, they require three elements. They require legislation, enforcement and education. We need to carefully ensure there are enough funds in the budget for enforcement. We know that 65% of consumer products are imported into Canada. We need to ensure the products are safe and importers should be required to prove they are.

In the past everything has been voluntary. The checking, enforcement and recall were voluntary. We did not know if a product is off the shelf. The item could be recalled by Health Canada, yet some of the product could still be on the shelves. We need to have mandatory recall and the kind of enforcement to ensure the item is off the shelf if it is dangerous.

Finally, an element of the bill includes natural health products, which has caused us some concern. However, I am glad it has now clarified. Last year we had Bill C-51 and Bill C-52. Bill C-51 especially dealt with natural health products. At that time, there was a great deal of concern over that kind of legislation because natural health products were lumped into the Food and Drugs Act. I am glad the bill did not pass. People who sold natural health products were extremely concerned that if the bill had passed, they would have been thrown in jail.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

My colleague is saying that is not true, but in reading the bill, they were concerned that if natural health products were part of the drug act, many of them could not provide the same kind of proof of their safety.

For example, ginseng has been sold in various herbal stores for thousands of years. For many years in Canada, there was no problem with that. However, many of the herbal medicine folks were extremely worried that natural health products would be included in Bill C-6. However, for anyone who was worried about that, they are not included.

This is not to say that we still do not have to deal with natural health products. We need a natural health product act so they are regulated in a way that gives a special kind of consideration because of their tradition.

I am glad we finally have the bill in front of us. Hopefully, it can pass here, find support in the Senate and come back here to be made into law.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is no doubt aware that the government was actually opposed to a comprehensive system of labelling consumer products containing hazardous materials. It seems to be a no-brainer that if products contain hazardous materials, there should be a label indicating that. The government, nevertheless, said no, that it would be too expensive and cumbersome to try to implement it. There was no consensus developed for an alternative.

Does the member agree that labelling is a very important area which the government did not deal with?

Another area that was left out was counterfeit products. That is a huge area that was not dealt with. Yet another one was cigarettes. The Canadian Cancer Society made presentations, but cigarettes were left out.

Does the member think that the bill is as good as it should be given that the government has left out three very important product areas?

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the European Union, California and Vermont mandate that there be labelling telling consumers what products are hazardous. There is absolutely no reason for Canadian products not to be labelled. It is unfortunate that in this round, corporations came first before the health of children and ordinary Canadians.

Yes, we are supporting the bill, but it is incomplete. It is not perfect. Aside from labelling, counterfeit products absolutely should have been dealt with. Cigarettes should have been dealt with as well. That element is missing. Those three areas and the whole area of labelling cause a great deal of concern.

There are carcinogens and neurotoxic substances in some of the chemicals in consumer products. When parents are buying toys, they have the right to know. Unfortunately, this part is not in the bill. I would hope that in a future bill this element would be added because consumers deserve to know what kinds of chemicals they are dealing with in their households.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question following on the question asked by my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party. He said that we will not see the regulations on this bill for some time. Of course, the regulations are a very important part of the bill. I want to add that we may not see the enforcement.

The NDP critic for this area, the member for Winnipeg North, pointed out yesterday that the government is not planning to resource the enforcement of this bill to the levels that it should. Not much money is being put toward enforcement and it is a huge area to enforce.

It is great to have legislation, but if the government does not follow through with proper enforcement and fund proper enforcement procedures, the legislation is going to be nothing more than window dressing at the end of the day.

I would ask the member if she would like to comment on those observations.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there has to be transparency so that consumers know what is in products. They are not labelled, which is the problem. If consumers do not know what is in front of them, it is hard for them to report. This is why it is important for the government to do the kind of enforcement that is necessary. The government needs to make sure the regulations and the law are being followed.

The government talks about being soft on crime. We do not want to see the government being soft on corporate crime, soft on crimes that are committed on our children when they put things in their mouths that contain lead, for example. The sum of $113 million over two years is not--

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-6.

Hundreds of products have been recalled in the last couple of years, many of them from offshore. In fact, 65% of the products sold in this country are imported. Not many are made here.

I want to speak about children's products. When my children were little, I remember seeing labels on toys, blankets and so on, mainly children's products, that indicated they were made from 100% unknown fibres. I used to smile at that. I knew what it meant. They were probably clean and new fibres, but they were unknown fibres. Hopefully this bill will address that kind of label, as well as counterfeit labels.

Canada's Hazardous Products Act is 40 years old this year. It has not been very effective in identifying or removing dangerous products. It leaves Canadians at the mercy of product recalls which mainly originate in the United States. We take action later.

Bill C-6 will enable us to recall products in a timely fashion. It addresses some of the weaknesses. It will empower the government to order a recall of dangerous products. It will increase government authority to require information and action from manufacturers and importers. It will require mandatory reporting by manufacturers and importers of incidents involving death or injury from a product's use, and to inform Canadians of any potential harm. It also will apply heavy fines to violators.

There are some good parts in this bill and I am certainly supportive of it. Despite these changes, however, improvements are still needed if the bill is to be effective and supportable. I will talk about some of those proposed amendments in a moment.

Right now there is too much discretion for inspectors, and action is pretty well optional, even when it is believed that human health might be at risk. The government is not required to inform consumers of safety issues that have been identified. This area needs to be tightened up.

Sometimes it is just a question of language. Instead of stating that something “may” be done, the legislation should state that there is a responsibility to do something, or that something “must” be done. The bill must have a more proactive, aggressive approach to product safety.

With respect to consumer protection, the previous Liberal government had 12 years to do something and as of 2005-06 nothing had been done.

I would like to make a quick comment concerning a business in my riding, because it is relevant in this particular situation regarding consumer protection and harm to Canadians.

GRK Fasteners is an importer and exporter of fastening products. Ninety-six per cent of the products that GRK Fasteners produces and repackages in Canada are sent to the United States and only about 4% of the products are sold in Canada. It is very harmful to Canadians and harmful to this company, and the 40 or so people who work for GRK Fasteners, that the company has been hit with a 170% SIMA duty. That needs to be reconsidered and dealt with soon. This company is doing absolutely no harm to Canadians, as 96% of its products are exported to the United States.

It is very interesting that the government can overlook some things that harm Canadians, but it is really harming Canadians, small business and jobs such as those at GRK Fasteners in Thunder Bay. That company's only option may be to move its operations to the United States. We are talking about 40 manufacturing jobs in Thunder Bay. It is interesting to make that contrast.

Getting back to the bill at hand, the public is hungry for reliable product safety information. Companies in Canada manufacture high-quality safe products. Quite frankly, we expect others to do the same and to be able to prove it.

There are some proposed amendments to the bill for when it gets to committee.

The first is concerning health and the environment. The general “prohibition” in the bill should be expanded so that no consumer product can be imported or marketed if it is a danger to human health or safety either through direct exposure or via the environment.

A section should be added prohibiting substances on the list of toxic substances from consumer products, with a very few exceptions, for example, when the substance is not a hazard in the consumer product itself. I think we could be reasonable on that kind of amendment.

The legislation should include a duty for the government to act when the government is made aware of a risk regarding a consumer product. I think everybody in this House would agree that would be a reasonable amendment. There should be a duty for the minister to inform the public when he or she is made aware of a risk regarding a consumer product.

In deciding whether a danger to health or safety exists, the legislation should require the government to consider: the release of harmful substances from products during use or after disposal, including to house dust and indoor air; the potential harm from chronic exposure to the substance; the potential harm to vulnerable populations; the cumulative exposure to a substance Canadians receive from the products of concern and other environmental exposures; and the substitution principle, that is, whether safe substitutes exist.

The legislation should create a hot list similar to that for cosmetics, listing carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and neurotoxins. These substances should be prohibited in products with temporary exceptions granted only to the extent that the product is essential and only when alternatives do not exist. At a bare minimum, any product containing such chemicals should be required to carry a hazard label, as is required in a number of states, including California and Vermont, and in the European Union as well.

The legislation should establish a list of product classes at highest risk of containing or releasing hazardous substances. There should be explicit guidance prioritizing the routine inspection of these product classes. The legislation should require labelling of all ingredients, as is already the case with cosmetics and some other products.

I prefaced my remarks by saying that I certainly support sending this bill to committee. I have just outlined some of the amendments we would like to see to the bill. I am certainly open to any questions that may come from the floor.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for making a very well-informed speech today regarding this bill. He dealt with some of the amendments that were not included in the bill that I personally feel we really should have made an extra effort to get included; one being the area of labelling. I think it is only reasonable for Canadians to expect that products with hazardous materials should be labelled as such. That is certainly one big area that the government has avoided by leaving it out of this bill.

Another big area that is not being dealt with here is counterfeit products. And another big area of course is tobacco. The Canadian Cancer Society made a presentation to the committee on the whole area of tobacco and the issue as to whether or not it should be excluded. It, of course, does not want it excluded from this bill. It seems to me that this is certainly a product that should be included on anybody's list of bad products.

I would like to know what the member thinks of the exclusions and the contribution these amendments could have made to the overall success of the bill had they been accepted by the committee.