Evidence of meeting #27 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was need.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Ted Johnston  President and Chief Executive Officer, Alberta Food Processors Association
  • Rick Culbert  President, Food Safety Division, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.
  • Anna Paskal  Senior Policy Advisor, Food Secure Canada

4:20 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Alberta Food Processors Association

Ted Johnston

In terms of food safety innovation, basically all these standards, as I said, are going on all over the place. We've got the global food safety initiative, we've got ISO 22000, we've got SQF, we've got BRC, we've FSEP. We don't have to do anything. We've got more stuff coming at us in terms of all of these various standards.

We participate in consultations. There was a federal-provincial food safety policy conference in Edmonton about four weeks ago today, which I attended. Many senior bureaucrats from CFIA and Health Canada were there to participate and discuss that issue. They made the one fundamental point that what we need to do is move towards a single standard. We've got to get to a single standard because of the cost and all of those things.

This industry does not object to regulation. There are some people who think that we do. We don't object at all, but we need one standard. Tell us what it is, and we'll get on with it and give you exactly what you're looking for, but we can't afford to do five standards.

The API initiative is a good example, although our numbers disagree. The numbers that I have are a little higher in terms of what's gone out the door on API. One of the areas that it does not do is it will not support change that's based on food safety.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

I have a question for Mr. Culbert.

You talked about funding the vaccine for cattle. I don't have a clue as to how much it would cost to fund it or who should be responsible for that. Should the producer be responsible for it? Should there be some government funding for it? Is that a shared cost between the producer, the province, the federal government? I don't know if you've got any numbers that would help us understand that aspect.

4:25 p.m.

President, Food Safety Division, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.

Rick Culbert

Thank you for that question. The challenge, as I said, is that incurring the cost of a public health intervention is very hard for an agricultural commodity producer to do. Who's going to pay him back for it? In reality, the answer to this is more of a cross-departmental hybrid, if you will. It is quite conceivable that this could be mandated like a public health immunization. However, it's just not given to the public. It goes through veterinarians and the animal industry.

The math is pretty strong. If all the cattle in Canada were vaccinated, it would cost $50 million, but the benefit just in terms of health care costs is $221 million. According to the George Morris Centre and some of the agricultural economists, the return in consumer confidence would be about $80 million, so it would be over $300 million in all.

The math shows an easy return, but it's coming from multiple sources: it's potentially benefiting trade, it's benefiting public health, itt's benefiting municipal wells. It's just that the cost should not be borne by the guy who's raising cattle, and the cattle would be perfectly healthy.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Do I have any time left?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

No, you're out of time.

Mr. Rousseau, you have five minutes.

February 29th, 2012 / 4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

My question is for the three witnesses, starting with Ms. Paskal. It seems that consumer demand is increasingly paradoxical. They want a quality, often organic, product of Canada, but they also want to pay as little as possible. It's a contradiction that producers seem to have difficulty responding to. It's difficult because of all kinds of things. We just heard about safety standards. There's also transport which, in Canada, creates huge costs.

I'm a big believer in buying locally, in products from local public markets. What can we do to make healthy, balanced food accessible to people who are increasingly poor? In fact, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. We seem to be forgetting a large part of our population. It's a problem that will be difficult to resolve in 10 or 15 years. What can we do to resolve it?

4:25 p.m.

Senior Policy Advisor, Food Secure Canada

Anna Paskal

Thank you for your question. This is a concern for us as well.

It's really a matter of comparing figures. We see that the food we buy in dollar stores, for example, is part of a system of agriculture and industrial processing that benefits significantly from all kinds of subsidies, including transport and production. But there are huge costs associated with the consequences on health.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Especially since these products are often imported.

4:25 p.m.

Senior Policy Advisor, Food Secure Canada

Anna Paskal

Yes, precisely. And we're the ones paying the cost in terms of health, environment and in social respects.

But in the local, sustainable sector, there are almost no subsidies. The external impact is enormous environmentally and socially. It's important to look into these figures because that's what is causing the inequality in our perception of the costs. So a real review process needs to take place to find out how we pay and what the costs of the two systems are. Although, we would prefer to integrate them to get more support. Otherwise, we aren't talking about the same thing. We aren't even talking about apples and oranges, but airplanes and oranges, or something like that. I think that would be an important starting point.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Culbert, on the same subject, would you comment?

4:30 p.m.

President, Food Safety Division, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.

Rick Culbert

I'm sorry?

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

On the same subject...?

4:30 p.m.

President, Food Safety Division, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.

Rick Culbert

I'm sorry. I don't understand your question.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

You didn't have the translation, then?

4:30 p.m.

President, Food Safety Division, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc.

Rick Culbert

Yes, but I'm still not clear about your question.