Safe Food for Canadians Act

An Act respecting food commodities, including their inspection, their safety, their labelling and advertising, their import, export and interprovincial trade, the establishment of standards for them, the registration or licensing of persons who perform certain activities related to them, the establishment of standards governing establishments where those activities are performed and the registration of establishments where those activities are performed

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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

This enactment modernizes the regulatory system for food commodities.

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.

Votes

  • Nov. 20, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
  • Oct. 23, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, once again, I am in before you in support of our safe food for Canadians legislation. This is a bill in which I firmly believe.

This is also a bill that finds virtually unanimous support among stakeholders. Let me read some quotes.

The Food & Consumer Products of Canada says, “These changes will further enhance Canada’s reputation as a global food and beverage product safety leader”.

Martin Unrau, president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, says, “The CCA commends the government for bringing this ambitious but necessary legislation forward”.

Ron Bonnett, president of the CFA, says, “The Canadian Federation of Agriculture views the introduction of Bill S-11, the Safe Food for Canadians Act, as an important step to enhance and modernize Canada's already reputable food safety system”.

Our government is committed to making food as safe as possible for consumers. As I have said before, Canada's food safety system is world class. However, some of the legislation that governs it needs to be modernized. It is legislation that functions well, but it can be improved.

In this case, change is both needed and good. We must always ensure that the authorities granted by legislation are adequate for our goals of good governance. As well, we must look at our operating environment to see if things have changed so we can adapt and keep pace.

In light of the 2008 report of the independent investigator, Sheila Weatherill, regarding listeriosis, there is a need to strengthen and modernize much of the legislation that governs the activities of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. I should add that when our government introduced Bill S-11, we fulfilled the final recommendation of the Weatherill report. This demonstrates how seriously we take food safety.

I would like to explain how the safe food for Canadians act will strengthen and modernize our legislation. I would like to focus on five main points. The first involves strengthening the ability to trace and recall foods. The second has to do with consolidating our inspection and enforcement authorities. The third point involves providing stronger import controls. The fourth aims to modernize the certification of exports. Finally, the fifth point aims to protect Canadians from things like tampering, hoaxes, and deceptive practices.

First of all, let us look at how passing this bill will strengthen Canada's ability to trace and recall foods. There has been a lot of talk recently about food recalls, and everyone wants to know how products can be recalled more effectively. This bill is designed to fill those gaps.

I would like to ask the following question: who among us has not found some leftovers in the fridge and wondered how long they have been there? Although we know that bacteria attack food before we can taste or smell them, we inspect our leftovers by checking for mould and bad smells. As long as it seems okay, we think about keeping the leftovers for a little while longer.

Of course, cleaning out a refrigerator is one thing and getting unsafe food commodities off the shelves in our retail outlets is something else altogether. Here is how our bill would improve our capacity to recall and trace unsafe food products.

Our proposed legislation would give strengthened authority to the CFIA to develop regulations related to the traceability and recall of food commodities and the appropriate tools to take action on unsafe food as the need arises.

Our proposed legislation also includes prohibiting the sale of food that has been recalled. These new powers would go a long way to strengthening the CFIA's ability to keep consumers safe from potentially harmful food. Also included would be the authority to require regulated parties to establish a traceability system.

However, it is not up to the CFIA alone, and I wish to point out that our food safety system is a partnership between government, industry and consumers. We all have a role to play when it comes to food safety.

This leads me to consolidating our inspection and enforcement authorities. What exactly does that mean?

As I said earlier, Canada's food safety system is world class; however, we must recognize that it is getting old.

Take for example a wonderful recipe handed down by your great-grandmother. Over the years, every generation modified the ingredients and added comments in the margin. It is still a good recipe, but it is kind of difficult to follow.

Over the past 50 years, we amended food safety legislation as the need arose to take into account changes, including changes in technology. It was a good approach in that the intentions were good, but the results varied. I will provide an example.

When it comes to illegally imported food products, meat inspectors do not have the same powers as fish inspectors. A meat inspector can order that the product be removed from Canada, but a fish inspector cannot. It does not always make sense nor is it always practical for different powers to apply to different food products. After all, some companies produce both meat and fish, and there are inspectors in charge of examining a range of products.

Of course, the inspection work gets done, but it could be done more effectively. What we really need to do is incorporate various legislative provisions on food safety into one law, which would establish a subset of rules that everyone could understand and follow easily and that would apply to all food products. This streamlined process would have many benefits.

It would allow the current inspectors to do their job better and it would simplify training for the next generation of inspectors. It would also allow the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to be more efficient and effective and the inspectors to manage risks more consistently, whether we are talking about meat, fish or other food products. That is precisely the purpose of this bill: to establish a subset of powers that will make all food products and regulated parties subject to the same inspection rules.

Since the 1960s, many cooks have changed the recipe to control food safety in Canada. They did excellent work, but the time has come to adopt a new version of the recipe.

Our proposed legislation also addresses strengthening import controls, and here is why.

Thanks to our globalized marketplace, consumers can purchase almost any food they desire in Canadian grocery stores. With so much of our food coming from abroad today, many consumers are asking good questions. At the end of the day, they want to know whether imported foods are really safe to eat.

This bill and our government's planned overhaul of our food safety system would address some gaps in our legislation with regard to food imports. First, a specific clause in the legislation would prohibit the importation of unsafe food, thereby stopping it before it makes it to the marketplace. Second, we would licence importers. We need to ensure that we sustain the parity that exists, in terms of standards and compliance, for both domestic and imported food commodities, and that is what we plan to do.

These are just some of the tools we can use to do that: keep unsafe food out of Canada more effectively; track food importers and remove unsafe imports from our shelves more efficiently; and impose tough new penalties on importers who break the law. Together, these measures would better protect the health of consumers and would give Canadians greater confidence in the safety of imported food.

Let us now talk about export certification. While the bill is geared towards import, or keeping unsafe foods out of Canada, it is also geared towards export or certifying that Canada's products leaving this country are of the highest quality.

I have noticed that, when Canadians talk about food safety, they often ask questions about what is coming across our borders from other countries. But, frankly, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If we demand high standards in food safety from our trading partners, then they have the right to demand the same of us.

That is why, around the world, the idea of food certification is taking hold. Many countries, including Canada, have been insisting that food imports be certified to give consumers an added layer of confidence in the safety and quality of the food they are buying.

Some of you might be thinking this is one more burden on the food industry. The fact is, despite the high quality of our food, some foreign markets have been closed to Canadian producers. Armed with an official seal of approval, our food exporters may finally be able to pry these markets open. So certification will heighten our capacity for food exports, not hinder it.

But there is a major stumbling block to certification. At the moment, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency can only certify some foods for export. We need to expand that authority to encompass all food commodities. In this way, all Canadian food exporters can get the edge they need to go after new foreign markets.

The proposed legislation would allow the CFIA to certify all food destined for export. Essentially, this would create a level playing field and show potential export customers that the food we are offering them is every bit as safe as what we consume ourselves. In so doing, we could be helping more Canadian food producers to gain a foothold in international markets.

Last, but definitely not least, let us have a word about protecting the Canadian public from food tampering, deceptive practices and hoaxes.

Canada is blessed with one of the world's best food safety systems, but the confidence of Canadians is based to a certain extent on faith. We trust that the system works effectively and that our food is safe to eat. When Canadians hear that someone has tampered with a food commodity, it can cause alarm. We worry not just about the product or the brand in question; we start to think that if it could happen to this brand, it could happen to any brand. Even if the threat turns out to be a hoax, the damage is done. Our faith in the food safety system has been called into question.

Until now, in Canada, tampering with food, threatening to tamper with food or falsely claiming to have tampered with food was dealt with through the Criminal Code. However, we think there is a better way. Passing the bill would mean that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency could act immediately when there are reasonable grounds to believe that this type of activity has occurred. That could save time and potentially lives.

We need to update and modernize food safety in the country. I am proud to say that our government is taking action. This new food safety legislation would allow the CFIA to go after those who put hazardous foreign objects into food, those who threaten to tamper with it, or those who knowingly or recklessly communicate false or misleading information to strike fear into the hearts of consumers. Those culprits could face prosecution. The proposed legislation would provide new authorities to address immediate food safety risks and would build additional safety into the system, from the producer or importer to the consumer.

We need to work together. That includes making Bill S-11 into law. Previous governments, both Liberal and Conservative, have tried to enact legislation with similar aims. The NDP recently voiced support for what the bill strives to accomplish. At agriculture committee, and during previous debate in the House and in the other place, both opposition parties made a point of voicing their support for our legislation.

During an agriculture committee meeting, the member for Welland said: “...hopefully, it will become a standard across the country for food safety”. At another meeting, the member for Guelph exclaimed: “...everyone around this committee table supports Bill S-11”.

I now call on the opposition members to make good on their word and help pass this important bill.

Some have claimed that because this important legislation was dealt with efficiently at the House of Commons agriculture committee and no amendments were made to the bill there, the government has not done its due diligence. However, the fact is that this legislation has been debated numerous times in both the other place and in the House of Commons.

Bill S-11 has been studied in both the Senate and House of Commons agriculture committees for over 20 hours during which 46 witnesses appeared, including the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on two occasions. Both the Senate and House agriculture committees have, indeed, done their due diligence in their study of the bill.

While journalists and opposition members are entitled to their opinion as to whether proposed opposition amendments to Bill S-11 would improve the bill, the expert legal advice offered to our government was that these amendments were not necessary at best and would be an encumbrance to the CFIA and the food safety system at worst.

When it comes to the safety of Canadians and their food, our government listens to the experts.

The changes we are proposing would go a long way toward strengthening and modernizing our already robust regime. Passing this bill would give Canadians even more confidence in the safety of the food they eat.

With so much good will and good intention from my honourable colleagues, I see no reason why we cannot deliver on this bill to provide Canadians with a modern food inspection system and the protection they deserve.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4 p.m.
See context

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not slip out of the Christmas spirit which seems to be emanating from the other side from the parliamentary secretary as he warmly, at least initially, was quoting me and then, of course, went on to say that we were an encumbrance. I guess the Christmas spirit began and ended and the Grinch came back.

The parliamentary secretary wants to know whether we support this legislation. For the record, as we said earlier, we are and I will be voting in favour of the legislation.

The parliamentary secretary said that tampering was addressed by the Criminal Code but, because the Criminal Code was too slow, that the government needed to address it in this legislation. However, when I put forward the amendment at committee that talked about whistleblowers, the Conservatives said that the Criminal Code would take care of that. Would that not actually slow it down? It seems to me that not only is the burden of proof that becomes judicious because it is the Criminal Code, surely would that amendment not so much encumber but would be expeditious. The parliamentary secretary told us that the Conservatives want to expeditiously deal with tampering, and he is correct, would not whistleblowers who would say they saw someone tampering be an expeditious use of that amendment, if only the government side had said yes?

If it is not good on one hand, would it also not be good on the other hand? Are we not simply taking a process to be expeditious and actually slowing it down?

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague for his support for the bill both throughout the committee process and here in its final reading in the House. It is important for Canadians to see that MPs are working together to modernize and improve our food safety system.

With respect to my colleague's question, when we talk about the Criminal Code, it is rather broad and it more often than not refers to mischief, and it tends to deal with mischief as related to property. Under this bill, we are talking about food tampering specifically. We want to give the CFIA and the CFIA inspectors the tools to address food safety specifically. When the matter of whistleblowing came up at committee, the member put that question, as did his other opposition colleagues, to our expert witnesses who explained that whistleblowing was adequately covered by the Criminal Code.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary continually says that his government has completed all of the 57 recommendations of Sheila Weatherill when in fact they have yet to do that. Clearly, the seventh recommendation is an independent third party comprehensive audit, independent of the CFIA and outside sourced so that it can be objective.

When asked about that issue, Mr. Albert Chambers, the executive director of the Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition, argued that it had become very common in the food industry to use an accredited certification body to provide a third party audit to a food safety management system.

Even the former president of the CFIA, Carole Swan, said that only a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers has been done, which is quite different than an independent third party audit.

One of the problems we have perpetually is not knowing whether the CFIA is properly resourced and has the proper support. While we support Bill S-11, the problem is that the Conservatives continually refuse an independent audit. Why do they refuse an independent third party audit?

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have implemented all of the recommendations made by Sheila Weatherill in her report. The member continually raises this issue as sort of a crusade, but it is a solo crusade. The response is that there has been a thorough review done of inspection staff, inspectors and their responsibilities within the CFIA. This is posted on the CFIA's website and I invite the member to go there.

Our government has taken seriously its responsibility to ensure that the CFIA has both the financial and personnel resources necessary to carry out its responsibilities. In the last number of budgets, we have increased funding for the CFIA significantly. In the 2012 budget, we increased funding by over $50 million for food safety and in the 2011 budget by over $100 million. In terms of inspectors and human resources, we have increased the number of inspectors at the CFIA by more than 700 net new inspectors.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the hon. member across the way, it is not a solo crusade by one member on this issue. I have heard from many constituents in Thunder Bay—Superior North who are very concerned that there will not be third party independent comprehensive resource audits of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency instead of an internal five-year survey.

There are many constituents and members in the House and the other place who are concerned about this oversight in what is otherwise generally a bill going in the right direction.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish the member would speak with and consult with industry, as we have. There were, as I mentioned, over 45 witnesses who appeared at both our committee and the agriculture committee in the other place. We heard 20 hours of testimony. The only member raising this issue is the member for Guelph and that is what I mean by a solo crusade.

We have implemented all of the recommendations made by Sheila Weatherill, 57 of them, and the last step in the process is passing this legislation to modernize the food safety system. Canadians want parliamentarians to work together to improve and modernize the food safety system. That is what we are doing today and I ask the member for his support.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, certain events in recent years, such as the listeriosis outbreak and, more recently, the E. coli outbreak, have had a disastrous impact on beef producers across Canada. It would be truly irresponsible not to take away some lessons from what happened.

The question has been asked. Nevertheless, I will ask it again. Why will the government not allow a third party to evaluate what happened and make recommendations to ensure that it will never happen again?

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, this bill will modernize our food safety system. Many provisions of this bill will strengthen our system and enhance the powers and the mandate of our inspectors while protecting the safety of Canadians' food.

Furthermore, I hope that my colleague has read the bill, because one of the clauses explains that a comprehensive review will be conducted every five years.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, thank goodness the member for Guelph is asking tough questions because all we hear from the government side are the trained seals on the back benches who take their direction from the parliamentary secretary, which is one of the problems with this place. My colleague from Welland asked pretty tough questions at committee, too.

I have one simple question. We support the bill. In fact, an even stronger bill was introduced by the Liberal government in 2004 or 2005, which was Bill C-27 at the time. The bill has a nice sounding name. Yes, it is good to have all the powers and authorities that the bill recommends, but what about the resources? We know about the budget cutbacks in terms of financial resources. Could the parliamentary secretary tell me the total number of inspectors working within the CFIA to inspect imported food coming to Canada and to the stores, which they are not really doing, and those kinds of areas? Could he give me the numbers?

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I already gave some numbers in a question I answered earlier but I am glad to repeat them.

When we look at the CFIA and its personnel resources, since having been elected in 2006, we have increased the number of inspectors working at the CFIA by at least 700. The unfortunate part is that the member who just asked the question and who desperately wants to see the resources increased for the CFIA voted against those measures.

We have also increased the funding for the CFIA for food safety by hundreds of millions of dollars in budget after budget. The only thing consistent about the member is that he has voted against each and every budget in which we have increased resources for the CFIA.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate Bill S-11.

Sincerely, and with great deference to the other place or at least with as much deference as I can give the other place, I believe it should have been Bill C-whatever number we would have given it. The bill should have started in this place, not the other place. The 120 days that the other place took should have been spent in this place with us studying the bill, rather than the paltry number of days that the government has decided we should have simply because the other place had it for a period of time.

Whether the other place debates it or not is of no consequence to New Democrats and it is certainly of no consequence to this member for Welland. What is of consequence at the end of the day is the House debating the people's legislation, because this is the people's House and this is indeed where the legislation should have started. That is why I have called the government to account on that particular aspect.

To get back to the bill itself, at one point in time we had an emergency debate, and I will not use the reference the minister suggested and the colourful language that he used to describe the debate. At one point in time I actually said to my friends across the way that when one cannot take yes for an answer, it is still yes. It was yes then and it is yes now.

The unfortunate part for my colleagues across the way is that they could not find a way to say yes to any of the suggestions that this side of the House had. According to the parliamentary secretary, they deferred to the “experts”, when indeed it was simply a question of someone parroting verbatim the good things that the PMO suggested they parrot.

Ultimately one gets back to Sheila Weatherill's report. I had the great pleasure of serving with my colleague from Malpeque on the subcommittee on listeriosis and that was when I first came to know about food safety. I came to know first-hand the devastating effects that food safety, when it is not followed in the way that it needs to be, can have on Canadians. We saw that with the great tragedy in 2008 when those folks died from listeriosis.

That is why it was so eminently important for us on this side to make this legislation as good as it possibly could be. That is the one shortcoming we find on this side. What we had said from the beginning was that we would be supportive, encouraging, helpful, proactive and bring forward what we believed would be good suggestions. We held to our word along the way, even though the government curtailed the amount of time we actually had to work on it.

When I was on the subcommittee during 2008, the government decided to call on Ms. Weatherill and do a parallel investigation. The irony of the investigation, which by the way cost the Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars, was that all but a handful of the recommendations were exactly the same, almost uniquely identical. We saw the same things.

One of the things that we saw in the CVS, the compliance verification system, that Sheila Weatherill also saw was that the compliance verification system was flawed and in need of “critical improvements related to its design, planning and implementation”. She went on to say it was “implemented without a detailed assessment of the resources available to take on these new [CVS] tasks”.

It was not just a question of adding up the numbers of how many people were there. Ms. Weatherill said that we had to audit the design, the planning and the implementation. That is what recommendation number seven said. It was not that we go out to PricewaterhouseCoopers, a nice place that adds them up and says, “Today, there are 22. Tomorrow there will be 24, and now we are done.”

The entire system needed to be looked at because the CVS was a pilot project. That is all that it was, leading up to 2008. It was started in 2005 by the previous government as an attempt to do food safety differently. There was nothing wrong with the pilot project. There was nothing wrong with making that attempt. What was wrong was verifying that the verification system actually verified what it was intended to work on. No one ever answered that question because no one audited it.

We are still left with the question hanging over our heads. Was the compliance verification system actually verified to see if it does what it was intended to do in the first place? We added up the number of folks who might be in it and we received a number. The government still does not really tell us the actual number. It uses this number of 700.

Let me offer a little help to the government. There are 170 new inspectors in the ready-to-eat meat sector. That came out of two places: the subcommittee that recommended that additional people were needed in that field and Sheila Weatherill who said the same thing. Since we are in the spirit of being nice, let me commend the minister for taking on and fixing the ready-to-eat meat sector and putting 170 new inspectors there.

That did not happen at XL. None of those new inspectors who went to the ready-to-eat meat sector are in those abattoirs. There are no additional inspectors in any of those abattoirs. The XL meat plant certainly has more today than two years ago. It simply filled the vacancies of the folks who left, because there is a great turnover in that plant as all of us now know. Sheila Weatherill actually went through that.

Carole Swan, who at the time was the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the actual person in charge, said about this audit, which was supposedly conducted and the one that the government stands today and still defends as an audit, that:

They didn't conduct it as an audit. An audit is a very specific process. It was a detailed review.

Number seven of Sheila Weatherill's report has not been completed. Parts of it have been done. The government counted the number of people but it did not audit the design, the plan or the implementation because it never asked PricewaterhouseCoopers to do that. It did what it was asked to do and that is fair. It is fair for the government to say that it counted the number of people but it is unfair for the government to suggest that it did a strategic audit of the recommendation, which was fundamentally critical to ensuring that the CVS actually worked. We can have as many people as we like in CVS but if it does not work, it does not mean anything.

Consequently, the government has not lived up to fulfilling all of the recommendations of the Weatherill report, let alone the recommendations coming out of the subcommittee. Some of the recommendations were done and some were not. Some of the recommendations were just left out because the government did not really like them.

When it comes to resourcing, the government loves to tell us one number and play with another one. Let me quote again for the House what we know to be true. On May 8 of this year the Minister of Agriculture said, “Planned Spending is declining by approximately $46.6 million and 314 FTE’s”, which in human resource jargon means full-time equivalences. What that means is that over the next two years there will be 314 less jobs now than the before.

The government loves to tell us about the $100 million, but it neglects to tell us that it is actually over five years, not this year. It neglects to tell us that it has actually only spent $18 million of that $100 million already. It should have spent far more than that because it has been out there for over a year. The resourcing that the Conservatives' continually talk to us about is not always wholly there because it is the jig of the number. They throw numbers out and somehow they might look similar or perhaps not.

We do know the facts because we did read the budget, although I sometimes wonder about my friends on the other side. We did read that lovely book that the government gave us in budget 2012 that says the three-year outlook for food safety indicates a projected cut of $56.1 million annually.

That is the Conservative's budget. I am not making it up. I am just reading the stuff they gave us. Of course, if the other side is now telling us the book is not true, that they no longer believe that page of the budget is going to be enacted, then I think they would have to amend it. Surely they would have to retract it and tell us something altogether different. However, they have not done that.

It is unfortunate, as this is a bill that the House seems to want to pass. I have heard my colleagues from the far end and my colleague for Guelph, who works on the committee with us in the spirit of co-operation to make food safety the priority that we all believe it is. This is about safe food for Canadians, for the children and people out there who may be immune suppressed and for the elderly who we saw get sick once before and some in fact died. We want to ensure that we do not have that happen again. All members in the House believe this to be true.

Therefore, in the spirit of co-operation, the official opposition went to committee and told the government side that we could help make the bill better. We put amendments forward because we wanted to help make the bill better. No one person or one party is blessed with all the best ideas. Unfortunately, some may think that perhaps they are. The irony is that we all know that.

I know the member but I always mispronounce his lovely riding, so I won't go down that road. It is a wonderful place in New Brunswick, Tobique—Mactaquac. Every now and again Glaswegians can get their mouths around funny words. However, it was with that spirit of working together that we entered into making sure that this legislation came back to this place in an expeditious fashion, unlike the other place that hung onto it and then went on vacation for the summer, which is how important its members thought it was. They went on vacation.

Meanwhile, some of us worked on the special co-op committee during the summer, which was our vacation. I see some of my colleagues from all sides of the House who were there working. It was the members of the House who went to work during the summer and the members of the other place could indeed have done that. If they did not want to do that, they should have passed the bill to us.

There were a number of amendments that we put forward. Some were as simple as defining a container. In the legislation it says “containers” and then goes on to define a cargo container. What is a cargo container? Is it a box car? Is it a shipping hold? We suggested that we should better define it and talk about pails, totes and baskets to give it further definition. We thought that would be understandable so that when folks saw the legislation they would get a sense of what it was about, rather than having to wait for the regulations to come out for the definitions.

The Conservatives said no, but I have to give them credit, they had a reason. For the first four amendments we put forward they had some reason why they did not like it. However, on the other seven amendments, they just voted no. They did not seem to have any reason or they ran out of reasons, I am not sure which.

Clearly, the opposition side of the agriculture committee, including the member for Guelph who was supportive, felt that the two responsible factors were the compliance verification system and the audit. We felt an audit should be done now because in five years when we go back and look at the system, the problem is that we may not know where we started.

As I said in committee, if I want to drive to Edmonton and I do not know where I am when I start, in five years from now I will be somewhere. It might Edmonton but it might be in Malpeque, which is a wonderful place in Prince Edward Island. When I get there I know the member for Malpeque will say to me, “Member for Welland, you actually drove in the wrong direction. Turn around and go back the other way and then you will get to Edmonton”. However, I would then get there in ten years instead of five years.

Therefore, doing an audit now would give us a benchmark of where we are and where we are going to start from. In five years, we would know if we were better, worse or the same, and whether we need as many inspectors. Part of the government's problem is that when we say those things, it thinks we want to have more inspectors in five years.

Maybe we need fewer. Maybe the system is working so well and is so efficient that there are too many people doing that and we need to transfer them to where they are not doing quite as well. That would be the value of the resource. That would be the value of legislation.

Of course, my friends across the way on the government side just voted no. They did not really have a reason. They just voted no. Then when we suggested whistleblower protection, their response was that the Criminal Code covers that off.

We heard the parliamentary secretary say that the Criminal Code covers tampering but that it is not the best way to do it. Instead, it should be in the legislation. We agree. We think that is the best way to do it, as we do with whistleblower protection.

In the last crisis we just faced, there were workers who said that had they been protected, they might have come forward sooner, and we may not have had a crisis. That is “may”. We are not certain. However, any opportunity that would have prevented it would have been good for the cattle ranchers across the country. They suffered needlessly because of the failure of someone in the system. Whistleblower protection may have indeed helped those ranchers not suffer the unintended consequence of what happened when it came to that crisis.

We saw the government rely on the Criminal Code, but it did not rely on it for this one aspect of the bill because it believed it was better, more expeditious and made more sense to do it that way.

As for fundamental protection for people who want to come forward and tell the government something it ought to know, it is telling them to take their chances in the courts and see if they can convince a crown attorney to go ahead with the charge and see if they can get a conviction. What the government did not talk about was whether they could get their jobs back afterwards. They are more likely to be fired while going through the court system. Of course, if people won that one, they would have to go through civil proceedings to try to get their jobs back. Therefore, they would go to court twice, and along the way, would have to pay for lawyers.

However, if the Conservatives had put simple whistleblower protection into the act, it would have talked about people who make vexatious claims against a company because they are mad at the boss. This was about real claims to help prevent another food crisis for Canadians across the country.

We want to make food safety better. We want to help this legislation be the best it can be for two simple reasons. The first is that this may be the last opportunity for quite some time to do something with respect to the food safety act as we amend three acts into one. More importantly, this is about food safety for Canadian families, children, the elderly, and all of us. All of us eat. We all eat differently. Some of us graze, and some of us do not.

At the end of the day, this was about making fundamentally good legislation. It started out as decent legislation. It could have been great legislation, because all of the hands at the committee were indeed onside to make it so. The government side brought forward a bill that in its sense was pretty decent. All sides of the House at that committee, including my friend from Guelph, were bound and determined to try to make it better. There were no egregious amendments or poking sticks in eyes. There was none of that. This was about making it better from the day it showed up at committee. The unfortunate part is that as good as it is, the bill could have been so much better than it is. That is the shame of not having all sides work together.

When the government puts a hand out and asks that all sides work together, it should recognize when the hand comes from the other side to work with it to make it better. Our hand was extended to the government to make it better. Unfortunately, it decided to say no, and that is truly unfortunate.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Welland for his thoughtful and quite accurate observations and for his efforts, and the efforts of his party, to make it better.

During those hearings, motions were brought. I debated them and argued them. Members of the official opposition, including the member for Welland, argued and debated them. They were all trying to make it better. There were points when the government members did not even participate in the debate. They were not interested. They just called on the chair to call the question. It was absolute intransigence at the highest point of arrogance.

When asked about the adequacy of resources and training for CFIA at XL, Bob Kingston, from the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said:, “The answer is actually simple. The CFIA cannot afford to deliver training any faster and does not have enough inspectors to relieve those away while being trained. As well, resources are often diverted to address crises, which further derails training”.

Does it not make sense to have a third-party audit so that we know what their needs are?

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Of course it does, Mr. Speaker. It is one of the fundamental questions that has been asked for quite some time.

It is true, and the government can check the facts, that not everyone in every abattoir across the country who should be compliant in CVS , the compliance verification system, is trained to be compliant in CVS. Yet CVS is the foundation, the cornerstone, the backbone of the food safety system the government is relying on. If it is the cornerstone of the system, then everyone has to be that cornerstone. We cannot have some who are not. That is the problem. A full audit would have told the government how to get it done. If the government had enacted it back then, it would be done by now.

Yes, the government has added inspectors, but what it has not done is made them all compliant with CVS. We know that to be true, and the government knows that to be true.

If we are not able to judge whether it has been done correctly, the government should just do the audit. It will cost some money. It will save a lot of heartache in the end, when there is not another crisis, because the system will have worked the way it is supposed to work.

Therefore, I would again ask the government side, through the parliamentary secretary to the minister, to just do the audit. Let us not pretend one was done. Just go ahead and quietly do the audit, show the results, and all will be well.

Safe Food for Canadians Act
Government Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and his work as the agriculture critic for the official opposition.

Throughout the XL Foods crisis, we noted the working conditions, lack of training and high turnover of employees. I believe that an even more in-depth audit by a third party would have been worthwhile.

I would like to hear more from my colleague about the lack of resources. He referred to this when speaking about training. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is said to be in dire need of resources.

I would like to hear more about his concerns in this matter.