House of Commons Hansard #250 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-7.

Topics

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-7 has been a complex bill that has taken some time going through the House. There is some vast improvement in the bill by opening up choice in the health food industry.

However the power to make regulation is still flawed in relation to the bill. The particular clause we have zeroed in on is clause 60:

The governor in council may, by order, amend any of schedules I to VI by adding to them or deleting from them any item or portion of an item, where the governor in council deems the amendment to be necessary in the public interest.

I have a few words to say about that clause. I believe it is dictatorial, arbitrary and opaque. Other words that come to mind are words like behind closed doors. This ability should not rest in the hands of a few. The particular amendment suggested will address a significant flaw.

One of my colleagues will speak at length on the issue a little later.

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the third party amendment to clause 60 of Bill C-7.

I agree with the hon. member the bill is a complex and at times controversial bill. All parties were eventually unanimous in the substantive changes and amendments to the bill that improve the bill a great deal.

However I speak to the specific amendment of the hon. member to clause 60 that would read:

"portion of an item, after the governor in council has consulted with those persons who will be directly affected by the amendment".

The purpose of the amendment is to get the governor in council to consult with those who would be directly affected by a change in schedule made by the governor in council.

There is already in place a democratic process within the machinery of government that answers the particular concern the hon. member for Macleod brought forward. Government is required to consult with those who will be affected by the proposal and the public at large before making any changes.

The only exception to this requirement is where public safety is concerned and where on an urgent and emergency basis one needs to make a change to the schedule within 24 hours. Even then there

is a process wherein an emergency scheduling provision in the interests of safety of the public would allow it to happen.

Turning to the broader process the member is speaking about, the process provides for the machinery of government. Government is required to prepublish for a minimum period of 30 days in The Canada Gazette , part I, any proposal to change scheduling. The prepublication period may vary, depending on the nature of the proposal.

For example, if the proposal was to have international implications and would therefore have impact on GATT, there is an agreement in GATT that there would be a minimum of 75 days of prepublication to allow other countries to respond.

Not only would interested parties respond if this were done a national level. Any citizen at all could provide comments or suggestions about the content of the proposal and about their concerns on the proposal. Then the government is obliged to report to the governor in council on those consultations, the feedback or input from parties directly affected, from concerned citizens or from the public at large. Also it is to report on the proposed remedies to be brought forth to address concerns. If this amendment represents a major shift in the original proposal, and if the concerned parties that have had input want another shift, there is a requirement to prepublish once again to discuss the new shift.

All the bells, whistles and hoops have been jumped through in the process already so I fail to see what the hon. member's amendment would do to improve the process in any way, shape or form. It is already public. It is already open to disclosure. If disclosure requires change there is a requirement for further disclosure and for a further period of 30 days to discuss it. As I said before, internationally there is a requirement to prepublish for 75 days.

There is a fail safe mechanism already there to answer the hon. member's concerns about the issue.

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the amendment to clause 60 of Bill C-7. It says that the clause should be amended by replacing lines 13 to 15 on page 44 with the following:

"portion of an item, after the governor in council has consulted with those persons who will be directly affected by the amendment".

The parliamentary secretary responded to the amendment by asking why we need it. We already have the proper bells and whistles in place to deal with the public consultation process.

The parliamentary secretary to the health minister is correct. The amendment will put in place the requirement for public discussion and public consultation on changes to the bill.

In many pieces of legislation the Liberals have succeeded in taking more and more power from the people by putting in place the ability to make changes to legislation through the governor in council. This is one such move on the part of the government. The most important example in Bill C-68, the gun control legislation, gives incredible power to the governor in council. Bill C-61 deals with several agricultural acts and gives the minister and the bureaucrats the power to impose fines of up to $15,000 with the onus on the people fined to prove their innocence. That is one negative point about the legislation. Another is the control given through the governor in council without debate happening in the House. That is not democratic.

Unfortunately the anti-democratic move in the bill that gives more power and ability to make more decisions through governor in council is not unusual. The government has shown in many ways that it does not want to make things more democratic in the House. We have seen through what has happened to members who dared to vote against their party line or against the government on bills such as the gun control bill, Bill C-41. I could name others. These members have been punished harshly for voting differently than the party position. They have been thrown off committees and the Prime Minister publicly threatened to refuse to sign their nomination papers. What kind of a democracy is that?

The amendment will at least ensure a small amount of consultation. Liberal consultation is different from the Reform's version of consultation. Reform believes that when we go to the people to ask for consultations we really want to hear what they have to say and to act on it. The Liberals have shown that is not what they see as consultation. For example, in the gun control bill the justice minister's idea of consultation was to have meetings to which people went by invitation only. Other interested people were not welcome. That was complete and utter nonsense. The amendment will in a small way give a bit of the power back to the people by requiring consultation.

I will refer to a couple of other amendments but first I will show that this amendment has in a small way dealt with the concerns of some of my constituents. I have found that Bill C-7 and the changes to the legislation are very important to people in my constituency. Many people have come to me in public meetings asking questions about specific clauses of the legislation, and this is one of them. People have written letters to me that refer to specific clauses of the legislation.

I will read a letter from one of my constituents. It is a form letter but personal comments are included with it. It represents the concerns of a wide number of people, often people who want access to herbs, spices or other traditional medicines. They do not want the pharmaceutical companies or the government to be able

to limit access to these products in some way. It is very important to them.

The letter states:

I'm writing to request that Bill C-7 be withdrawn.

That is what should have happened with the legislation. It should have been withdrawn, or at least large parts of it should have been withdrawn. It is an omnibus bill that deals with many parts of the act. It is so broad or wide ranging that I wonder how the House of Commons can be asked to vote on the bill. It would be far more useful to have more specific legislation dealing with similar concerns.

Not all parts of the legislation should be thrown out. There are many good parts. However, because it is an omnibus bill and deals with a wide range of issues, parts of it should certainly be thrown out. The letter refers to the parts this constituent feels should be thrown out. A good summary of the legislation is given:

Bill C-7, the Controlled Substances Act, combines the Narcotic Control Act with the portions of the Food and Drugs Act. Combining criminal law with regulatory health is inappropriate and puts my right to buy natural health products in serious jeopardy.

Bill C-7 is a Criminal Code framework which would implicate many common herbal remedies and natural supplements because of their "stimulant" or "relaxant" properties. I believe that public safety can be ensured without Criminal Code restrictions on food supplements-

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, my understanding of the rules of this place is that a speaker must speak to the subject matter before the House. We are now dealing at report stage with a specific amendment. The member is speaking about the whole bill.

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

With the greatest of respect, that is a matter of debate and not a point of order.

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised by the continual interruptions on the part of members opposite when we try to make a point on behalf of our constituents.

It is was important enough to my constituents to write this letter to me. That member does not want to let me rise in the House and read this letter and show how this amendment has at least in some small way dealt with this concern. That is anti-democratic. It is just one more thing. It is the Liberal way. It is not democratic and it is not what we expect in the House. I become upset when I have this type of an interruption.

The letter goes on to say:

Further, I object that the control of any bioactive components or synthetic analogues of natural herbs by Bill C-7 it will replace criminal sanctions to the herbs themselves.

Health Canada should not be allowed to seize, remove or illegalize safe products from the shelves of distributors or hold them at the border without clear and convincing evidence of a lack of safety or misbranding. Health Canada should bear the burden of proof.

I believe that natural herbs and health supplements do not belong in the Criminal Code. These products should be considered as dietary supplements and regulated as such. Natural substances should not be considered as drugs.

I expect that you will represent my interests and oppose Bill C-7.

We will of course oppose Bill C-7. If this amendment does pass, and I would be surprised if it did not, all it does is put in place a consultation process. There is nothing guaranteeing it will be a valid consultation process but it is certainly a move forward. The onus will be on the government to show that it has consulted.

If we as an opposition party ask the government to show us it has consulted, it will be forced to at least demonstrate that it has had some consultation with all interested parties.

Other things have happened with this bill; other amendments and really the deletion of one clause I think has been extremely important. I credit my colleague, the member for Macleod, for successfully having clause 3(1) removed. It is certainly an important change to this legislation.

Clause 3(1):

For purposes of this act a substance included in Schedules I, II or III shall be deemed to include any substance;

(a) that is produced, processed or provided by a person who intends that it be introduced into the body of another person for the purpose of producing a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect substantially similar to or greater than that of a substance included in Schedule I, II or III, and that, if so introduced, would produce such a substantially similar or greater effect; or

(b) that is represented or held out to produce, if introduced into a human body, a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect substantially similar to or greater than that of a substance included in Schedule I, II or III.

Again I congratulate my colleague for successfully having that clause thrown out. That is a substantial change to this bill and it will help. Unfortunately there are still so many concerns-

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I regret the member's time has elapsed at report stage.

Is the House ready for the question?

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion negatived.)

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond
Nova Scotia

Liberal

David Dingwall for the Minister of Health

moved that the bill be concurred in.

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Controlled Drugs And Substances Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.