Evidence of meeting #51 for Health in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sodium.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Heather Chappell  Director, Cancer Control Policy, Canadian Cancer Society
  • Rob Cunningham  Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society
  • Eleanor White  President, Canadian Chiropractic Association
  • Garth Whyte  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association
  • Joyce Reynolds  Executive Vice-President, Government Affairs, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association
  • Stéphanie Côté  Dietitian, Public nutrition and communication/media, Nutrition reference centre of Université de Montréal, NUTRIUM
  • Barbara Kaminsky  Chair, BC Healthy Living Alliance
  • Mary Collins  Director of the Secretariat, BC Healthy Living Alliance
  • John Tucker  Director, Government and Interprofessional Relations, Canadian Chiropractic Association

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Thank you very much.

All of you, thank you for being here, particularly the British Columbian friends by video conference. It's good to see you, Mary. It's good to see you, Barbara.

4:05 p.m.

Director of the Secretariat, BC Healthy Living Alliance

Mary Collins

Great to see you.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Yes. I'm going to ask you a question first. You've made some good suggestions—obviously more government involvement—and I agree with many of them. I want to ask you a question about menu labelling. You may have a view. What is your view on menu labelling?

4:05 p.m.

Director of the Secretariat, BC Healthy Living Alliance

Mary Collins

We have, in fact, in our proposals to the provincial government, recommended that this is something that should be considered. Certainly, hearing what we did today from the restaurant association, we know it's not easy, and I think we need to look at it somewhat differently, perhaps, than how some of the other jurisdictions have in the U.S. Let's make sure that whatever we do actually will have an impact on consumers.

While much of this is under provincial jurisdiction, we certainly would agree that it would be better for everyone if there were a national approach, so no matter where you are in Canada, you would have a similar opportunity to become more aware of the nutrient values of foods you're going to consume in restaurants.

4:05 p.m.

Chair, BC Healthy Living Alliance

Barbara Kaminsky

Just to further that point, the example that one of the other speakers raised earlier this afternoon is that in some menus there is a huge range of calories that are cited for particular items. That's not very useful information to the consumer, so that would be, I would say, not a best practice and not one worth emulating.

But no doubt it started with the right spirit in mind.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Okay. Thank you.

You mention the tobacco control strategy, and that's the question I want to ask. I'll go to Mr. Cunningham.

Can you tell me what you're hearing with respect to whether or not that strategy is going to continue? You tell me that it's going to expire very soon.

4:05 p.m.

Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society

Rob Cunningham

Yes. I mean, it's scheduled to expire. The government has engaged in consultations. I think the government is conscious of the deadline. You've heard from the minister her perspective on the importance of tobacco control. Of course, we are getting close to a deadline, and we just want to ensure that everything continues successfully.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

But in terms of any specific decisions, you don't know whether a decision has been made or not, do you?

4:05 p.m.

Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society

Rob Cunningham

We are not aware.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

By the way, I share your congratulations to the minister. We extend our congratulations from the committee as well for actually coming forward and doing the labelling as it was supposed to be done—in a non-partisan way.

I have a question with respect to the adult fitness tax credit. I think it was raised by the chiropractic association. How do you see that functioning? Who measures whether or not you're actually legitimately claiming the tax credit? How does it function? Have you thought about that?

4:05 p.m.

President, Canadian Chiropractic Association

Eleanor White

Quite honestly, I'm unaware of a study that has done that. Indirectly, I would imagine that the proof would be in the pudding, so to speak. If the individuals adopted a healthier lifestyle, one would hope to see a drop in expense of health care. But how you would measure the outcome and police it, I'm not really sure.

Dr. Tucker, do you know anything about that?

February 17th, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.

John Tucker Director, Government and Interprofessional Relations, Canadian Chiropractic Association

Such a program would obviously be an incentive program. It would probably be modelled after the child tax credit, which is a modest improvement in public policy, which allows a very small amount of money a family can claim if their child is involved in a healthy activity. It may take that form in its first stage, and as it evolves and establishes itself, it can be expanded.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

Thank you.

To the restaurant association, I have a very brief question. This is not being asked in a partisan spirit, but I don't understand fully what the government has or hasn't done with respect to the salt issue by disbanding the group or bringing some other group in. Can you tell me, in a very constructive way, what you think the impact would be? It's voluntary now; it's not mandatory. First of all, do you support voluntary, or are you also open to mandatory? Because that is going to impact you as well.

Secondly, what is your constructive assessment of the current approach?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Vice-President, Government Affairs, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association

Joyce Reynolds

Thank you.

CRFA was represented on the sodium working group. A lot of work went into the strategy report, which we support. The support includes three prongs: sodium reduction targets; an education awareness campaign; and research. All three prongs have to be integrated. I can assure you that there's a huge amount of work going on right now on identifying sodium in products and on reformulating products, not only in the food services industry but in the complete food supply.

I can also say that there is some angst that there is too much focus on that aspect and not on the other two prongs. There needs to be a huge education campaign so that consumers understand why the taste profile of their food is changing. I don't think government can ask industry to spend hundreds of millions of dollars reformulating their products and transforming the food supply fundamentally in this country and not participate in education and awareness. All three prongs of the strategy report must be implemented in tandem.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Vancouver South, BC

I want to go back to my compatriots from British Columbia.

Mary, I have a question for you. You obviously have an understanding of how the federal government works, or doesn't work, perhaps. You argued, I thought somewhat persuasively, with respect to regulations for non-nutritious foods, for taxing them. Taxing is unpopular, at best, as you know. And you know that there's going to be huge resistance from the various soft drink manufacturers and the like. Are you advocating that vociferously? How much support do you have in British Columbia for that?