House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was israel.

Topics

Bankruptcy And Insolvency Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Bankruptcy And Insolvency Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

Bankruptcy And Insolvency Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the vote be deferred until Monday when the House returns at the end of Government Orders.

Bankruptcy And Insolvency Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The vote is deferred until Monday when the House returns after the expiry of government business.

Bankruptcy And Insolvency Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, we agree, except that it cannot be deferred until two days later; I believe it needs to be quite simply deferred until the next sitting of the House.

Bankruptcy And Insolvency Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

If the member discusses this with his colleague, I am sure there will not be a problem.

It can be done promptly.

For the record, I believe it is agreeable to one and all that this matter be deferred until Monday, October 21, when the House resumes.

On the Order: Government Orders:

September 19, 1996-The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food-Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food of Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian food inspection agency and to repeal and amend other acts as a consequence.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

October 10th, 1996 / 1 p.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

moved:

That Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian food inspection agency and to repeal certain and amend other acts as a consequence, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Essex—Kent
Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak on Bill C-60, the Canadian food inspection agency act.

The creation of this agency is a good example of the government's commitment to better service for Canadians, food safety and that quality remains a top priority for Canadians.

An integrated approach at the federal level, as provided by this new bill, will improve our overall efficiency and effectiveness. Canada enjoys the enviable international reputation for excellence in producing and supplying some of the safest and highest quality food products in the world. A major pillar of that reputation is our stringent world class inspection and quarantine service.

However, mounting pressures including increased imports, changing export markets, new technologies, higher rates of production and continuing fiscal restraints are demanding new ways of delivering food inspection and animal and plant health programs that are more efficient, more scientific and more internationally compatible.

Today one-quarter of Canada's food production goes for export while one-fifth of the food we eat is imported. As part of our responsibility for ensuring a safe food supply for Canadians, we are involved in more than 1,000 inspection and quarantine agreements worldwide.

Here in Canada an integral network of responsibilities has developed over the years covering food production, manufacturing, distribution, retail, import and export and involving industry at all levels and government.

At the federal level, three different departments have roles to play, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada and

Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The introduction of this bill represents an innovative step forward by the Canadian government in its desire to get things right.

As the Minister of Finance announced in the 1996 budget, Bill C-60 proposes the creation of a Canadian food inspection agency to be responsible for delivering and enforcing all federally mandated inspection and quarantine services and animal and plant health programs.

The agency, which could be up and running by early 1997, will be a stand alone organization reporting to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. At the same time, responsibility for setting food safety standards and auditing the enforcement of food safety regulations will be consolidated and enhanced within Health Canada. This re-organization will have many benefits for all stakeholders in the food sector, consumers, industry and governments.

It will reduce overlap and duplication between the federal departments and set the stage for a more integrated Canadian food inspection and quarantine service. It will provide a single focal point for food inspection and quarantine services and help make the government more responsive to the needs of its clients. It will ensure the continued safety of Canada's food supply and help maintain our international reputation for safety and quality. It will facilitate the use of more efficient and up to date food inspection and quarantine technologies, and it will help lay the foundation for enhanced Canadian access to critical import international marketplace.

Federal food inspection services and animal and plant health programs currently involve over 5,000 people and cost more than $400 million a year. Consolidating these services in a single agency will allow us to achieve savings of $44 million annually and will make it easier for the industry, the provinces and the consumers to deal with the Government of Canada on food inspect and quarantine matters.

Let me underline that food safety will continue to be our top priority. In fact, the fundamental principle of this re-organization is that food safety cannot and will not be compromised. This means that Canadians will be assured of continuing high safety standards and stringent enforcement of our food safety regulations.

At the same time, the new agency will bring a more unified approach to enforcement of federal food inspection and quarantine regulations across this country. The agency will also help Canadian food firms implement a hazard analysis and a critical control point for the HACCP system.

Canada is a world leader in the implementation of HACCP which is internationally recognized as the best system available to ensure the safety of food products. Our department has $11 million in adaptation funding to help small and medium size businesses adapt to the system.

By continuing under the new agency to move to more scientific and updated systems such as HACCP we will achieve greater assurance of food safety for Canadians and improve international market access for Canadian businesses. That market access is another very important benefit of the new agency.

With more liberal trading agreements such as NAFTA and the World Trade Organization as well as rapid population and income growth in developing regions like Asia Pacific, international trade in all food products is booming. The Canadian food inspection agency will ensure that exporters of different types of food products will be able to deal with one contact for inspection and quarantine services.

By moving forward with harmonization of international standards the agency will help improve the compatibility of food inspection and quarantine requirements and reduce the possibility of artificial trade barriers based on sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, an increasing problem for Canadian exporters.

These changes in the federal food inspection and quarantine services are the result of two years of extensive consultations with industry and the provinces. Over 60,000 newsletters and fact sheets have been distributed to stakeholders around the country. The proposed agency has received widespread support from the private sector and provinces.

At our annual meeting in July, federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers not only offered unanimous support for the Canadian food inspection agency, they also endorsed further development of a more comprehensive Canadian food inspection system that would involve all levels of government and which would respect appropriate governmental jurisdictions.

A Canadian food inspection system implementation group of federal, provincial, territorial and municipal representatives is now working with the industry in a variety of other areas which include the national dairy code, a food retail established code, a meat, poultry and fish code, and a transportation practices protocol.

The drive toward a Canadian food inspection system, one of eight initiatives to improve and strengthen the efficiency of our Canadian federation, was highlighted by the first ministers last June as the leading example of how we are renewing the Canadian federation and improving the way that provinces and the Canadian government work together in the best interests of all citizens.

As we continue to move forward on the long overdue reorganization of Canada's food inspection and quarantine services, our challenge and our commitment is to ensure that Canada maintains

its high standards of food safety and quality while improving the efficiency and reducing the cost to the taxpayer.

I believe the creation of the Canadian food inspection agency will be a major step in that direction.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are certain positive elements in Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and to repeal and amend other Acts as a consequence, which we are looking at this afternoon.

The idea of creating a national agency is a good one in itself. Reducing the duplication in services of the three departments, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada will bring about savings.

We in the Bloc have long been calling for elimination of the duplication between the various departments. However, the Liberals' strategy of referring this bill to a committee before second reading prevents us from making any constructive amendments to Bill C-60 at this point.

For instance, there seems to be some latent patronage with respect to the appointment of agency executives. Under clause 5, the president and the executive vice-president shall be appointed by the governor in council.

We all know what it means when someone is appointed by the governor in council. These are friends of the government, like former minister André Ouellet, for instance, and we can refer to him by name since he has left the House, who was appointed to an executive position with a fantastic salary. The process is not exactly transparent.

Appointments should be made in accordance with the rules of the House and should be examined before the Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. Staff should be hired on the basis of competence, not on a partisan basis. Just because someone is a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party does not mean he is competent. Of course, just because someone is a card-carrying member does not mean he is incompetent, but being a member of the party should not be a conditio sine qua non .

So the Bloc Quebecois cannot give its approval to what is, in fact, an opportunity for patronage, because it would also mean approving of government interference in areas under provincial jurisdiction.

Still on the subject of political appointments, we can read the following in clause 10 of Bill C-60:

10.(1) The Minister shall appoint an advisory board of not more than twelve members to hold office during pleasure for a term not exceeding three years.

Again, this is unacceptable, for two reasons. First, here again it is the minister who appoints those who will sit on the advisory board. Second, this means that Quebec has no guarantees as to its representation on this board.

A little further we read in clauses 12 and 13:

  1. The Agency is a separate employer under the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

However, in clause 13, it says:

13.(1) The President has the authority to appoint the employees of the Agency.

Now, the president is appointed on a partisan basis, and he is supposed to appoint the employees of the agency. We will have to see how these appointments are made and whether the process is politically proper.

In clause 16, we read that the agency may procure goods and services from outside the public service, including legal services.

Of course these bills are drafted by lawyers, and a good lawyer looks after his own. So the agency will be able to procure legal services as it sees fit.

In clauses 20 and 21 there are two more issues we could raise. First, if federal agreements are entered into, we must ensure that Quebec does not end up in a position where it indirectly subsidizes the food inspection services obtained from the federal government by a province or provinces.

If a service is provided to another province by the federal government, it will be necessary to ensure that the work done in this province is not done with federal money. Otherwise, Quebec taxpayers will be paying for services in other provinces.

Two examples come to mind, including the RCMP. Everyone knows that, in Canada, two provinces-Quebec and Ontario-have their own police force: the OPP in Ontario and the SQ in Quebec, while the federal government, through the RCMP, provides police services to municipalities and also to other provinces. Well, do you know, dear colleagues, that Quebec foots part of the bill for the services rendered by the RCMP in the maritimes and in the western provinces? Ontario does also.

The federal government recovers only about 75 per cent of the real costs of the services provided, through the RCMP, to provinces and municipalities. The other 25 per cent are paid by all the provinces, including, of course, Quebec and Ontario. Since Quebec pays 24 per cent of federal taxes, it can be assumed that, we are subsidizing 24 per cent of that 25 per cent for RCMP services in provinces and territories other than Quebec and Ontario. This is an example of unfair treatment.

Similarly, Quebec, which harmonized its sales tax with the federal GST four years ago, must again pay 24 per cent of the $960 million which the federal government gave to the maritimes so they could harmonize their provincial sales tax with the GST, while we got nothing. We did not get a cent to harmonize our sales tax with the GST.

Those are two examples of unfair treatment. This agency should not be a further source of unfairness.

Secondly, care must be taken to ensure that clause 71 does not open the door to any other form of federal interference in areas under provincial jurisdiction. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture said, and I quote: "Bill C-60 states that the compensation to be paid to cattle owners following the destruction of their animals or things under the Health of Animals Act must be taken from the Consolidated Revenue Fund".

For example, if your herd is hit by brucellosis and a decision is made to destroy the whole herd, the Consolidated Revenue Fund must compensate the loss. The CFA goes even farther, considering that the cost incurred for cure, quarantine, cleaning and replacement of damaged or destroyed goods, restocking, etc., should be included and mentioned in the bill, and included in clause 71. Such a clause will guarantee that farmers will not be disadvantaged because they reported their cattle to be ill.

As agriculture critic, I worked with a farmer living near Rivière-du-Loup whose flock developed scrapie. The quarantine imposed was not 40 days, as most Canadians probably think, but five years. During this time, the farmer could not sell, kill, eat or make money in any way with his sheep. Most farmers must withdraw from business when confronted to that situation.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois will propose a series of amendments to Bill C-60 to try to improve it. We will also invite the government party to co-operate so this bill will benefit the general public.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Reform

Jake Hoeppner Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to make a few comments on this bill.

This is a bill which if passed will implement a food inspection agency that should be streamlined somewhat. What really scares me is that the agriculture minister is going to be in control of this agency. When I see that it has taken three years for the agriculture minister to decide that we are going to have a referendum on barley marketing and within those three years he still has not been able to come up with a proper question on what to ask farmers, I am just wondering how he is going to regulate this big agency and how cost effective it will be.

When the new agency comes into effect in 1997 it will become one of Ottawa's largest bureaucracies with 4,500 employees and a budget of $300 million. That is a lot of peanuts, $300 million for a regulatory body. When we look at deficit reduction and we look at the total debt in this country of $600 billion I guess it is the Liberals' idea that another $300 million is not that significant.

Federal officials contend that ending the interdepartmental overlap and duplication in such areas as enforcement, risk management, laboratory services, informatic systems and communications will save taxpayers $44 million annually starting in 1998-99. It always astounds me that whenever we see projections and they are somewhat down the road we can usually expect that somehow the manipulation of the system will be there so that they can come within that figure even when it means transferring costs to other agencies. However the detailed breakdown of this estimate has not yet been provided by the government. That is interesting.

Also, no decisions have been made on the staff reductions or details given on the new agency's surplus laboratories. There is a lot of money involved in those laboratories. What is going to happen to them is a big question. I hope the government finally realizes that if there is going to be disposable assets that it gets a fair market value for them.

Although the Reform Party supports consolidating and downsizing the operations of the federal government, we fear that this bill will accomplish little except to shuffle names and titles. Instead the government should be considering the advantages of privatizing a significant portion of Canada's food, plant and animal inspection services.

This is one of the big issues we have been debating for the last three years, harmonizing and privatizing. We know that each province has its own inspection services and there is always conflict between the two agencies. It is time we realized that harmonization has to happen or the conflict will increase and we will spend more dollars instead of less.

Only $40 million or 13.3 per cent of the agency's $300 million budget is currently cost recovered. The agency already plans to dramatically increase this amount to more than $70 million. We know who is going to bear these costs. It is going to be the taxpayer, the processor or the primary producer. It is tremendously important that we start downsizing and becoming more efficient and productive in these agencies as well as in our food processing and primary production.

Where the Reform Party supports user pay and cost recovery, the cost of the service must reflect the true costs of providing the service and not the added expense of maintaining the government bureaucracy. The bill should ensure that a greater priority is placed on cost avoidance and cost reduction. This is important as the agency created by this bill will be responsible for enforcing and administrating several federal statutes which regulate food, animal and plant health and related products. These include the Feed Act,

the Fertilizer Act, the Health of Animals Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the Plant Breeders Rights Act and the Seeds Act.

This bill will also continue to centralize authority for food inspection in the hands of the federal government. The Reform Party believes the government should acknowledge that since the provinces already provide many of these same inspection services, the emphasis should be on decentralization and encouraging common inspection standards.

For these reasons the Reform Party opposes the bill.

Turning to the bill itself, we have specific concerns. Provisions in the bill seem to create an environment for empire building.

Clause 5 of the bill states that the governor in council shall appoint a president and an executive vice-president to the new agency. These individuals will be responsible for the day to day operations of the agency and will provide advice to the minister on matters relating to the mandate of the agency. There is no mention of the qualifications which will be required by these people. This type of situation opens itself up to pork barrel politics.

Clause 8 of the bill states that the president and the executive vice-president shall be paid such remuneration as is fixed by the governor in council. We do not even know the salary amounts for these two positions.

Clause 10 states that each member of the advisory board shall be paid such fees for his or her services as are fixed by the minister. Again, we cannot tell Canadian taxpayers how much they will be paying for these salaries.

This is a very good example of what we are experiencing with the Canadian Wheat Board. We have appointed commissioners who have received severance packages. We do not know what those severance packages are. There are positions which have pension plans and nobody really knows what the cost is. When I look at this regulatory agency which is being set up very much like the Canadian Wheat Board, I find it to be scary.

I know also that the Manitoba food inspection agency is always in conflict with the federal agency. It is costing us jobs. It is costing us exports. For example, there is a small sausage manufacturing plant in my constituency. The manufacturer is allowed to sell his product all across Manitoba; however, he cannot sell it to federal agencies, such as CN or the military. I do not know why it would pose a health risk to the federal agencies; Manitobans eat the sausage and it is delicious. I am told that we could save almost a dollar a kilogram if people in the federal agencies ate the Manitoba sausage instead of importing sausages from federal agencies in a different province.

If we want to become efficient and if we want to harmonize, we do not have to harmonize just with foreign countries, we have to harmonize within our own boundaries. We have to make sure it is cost effective and that the taxpayer as well as the primary producer gets the benefit. We should also give a break to the processors. They are the people who are creating the jobs. It is the small businessmen and the entrepreneurs who really make this industrial machine work.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Fernand Robichaud Secretary of State (Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today, on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, to speak to the motion requesting that Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, be referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food before second reading.

This bill is the starting point of a very important journey. The plans for the trip began in March 1996, when we were preparing the budget speech; at that moment, our government stated for the first time its commitment to establish an agenda aimed at finding alternative solutions for the delivery of programmes, at finding the most efficient and least expensive way to carry out programs and provide services.

This journey is an important part of that agenda and it will lead us to the creation of a unique food inspection agency, gathering under one roof all the activities previously performed by three different federal departments. Our government knows some of the important port of calls where it will have to stop along the way.

The Canadian fishery is an important contributor to national import and export activities. In addition to considerable domestic consumption of Canadian fish and fish products, substantial markets exist for Canadian products abroad. Fully 84 per cent of fish and seafood caught by Canadians is destined for foreign markets.

Similarly, markets exist within Canada for fish species that are not indigenous to Canadian waters. Some 50 per cent of the fish and seafood consumed in Canada is imported. To support these high import and export figures and to promote confidence both at home and overseas in fish destined for human consumption, this government is committed to ensuring that fish inspection policies within this new agency retain the prominence and the high standards that they now have as part of fisheries and oceans.

In order for any food inspection service to meet the needs of its many client groups not the least of which are consumers, ensuring food safety for all Canadians must be the first priority. A new agency must uphold the excellent reputation of existing inspection

services to ensure the safety of products consumed by the Canadian public whether these products originate in Canada or elsewhere.

As we know, since at least 84 per cent of all fish caught in Canada is destined for foreign consumers, a new inspection agency will also have to improve and guarantee access to foreign markets for our products.

We must assure our foreign trading partners that Canadian sea products are of good quality and meet the requirements of strict regulations. That means we will have to keep up the excellent work that Fisheries and Oceans is doing now in the area of fish inspection.

Finally, to reach these goals in a period of budgetary cuts, we will, of course, have to maintain a certain form of cost recovery so that those benefitting from the inspection services will pay part of the costs.

The new single food inspection agency, which will become a reality if the bill is passed, stops in each one of these ports of call, that is to say that it takes into account all these needs while drawing on new approaches for the delivery of inspection services, many of them initiated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and creating new opportunities for the future.

We all know that the Canadian fish inspection program is world renowned. We must keep this reputation, and we will, since the new agency will be operating from such a solid foundation.

The bill enshrines the quality management program and the new importer quality management program, which are based on the premise that food safety is the main concern.

The new agency will rely on highly specialized fish inspectors, who are currently controlling the industry's quality management systems, ensuring their efficiency.

The new single food inspection agency will also be forward looking. It will create a food inspection regime that consolidates inspection activities at the federal level. It will enhance ease of access for products to foreign markets. It will facilitate greater collaboration between the various levels of government in Canada, providing the basis for equivalency of standards and programs. It will simultaneously reduce overlap and duplication while promoting a more efficient and effective service delivery system. This government is fully cognizant of the necessity of maintaining open and frequent dialogue with the new agency's many clients. This we will do.

As Canadians grow and their needs change, the government also evolves to continue to meet their needs. We are committed to doing things differently and the Canadian food inspection agency represents a significant step in this direction.

We all recognize that this is an opportunity whose time has come. As Secretary of State for Fisheries and Oceans as well as for Agriculture and Agri-Food, I remain certain that the fish inspection system will be enhanced within this new agency.

Our journey is starting now with the passing of this important bill establishing a canadian food inspection agency. I believe it will result in the setting up of a agency, which will see to the efficient and effective implementation of a world class food inspection program.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Réjean Lefebvre Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and talk about Bill C-60, an Act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and to repeal and amend other Acts as a consequence.

The need for a federal food inspection agency comes from pressure exerted by municipal and provincial governments, the agricultural sector, fisheries and even consumers. The setting up of a single unit in the area of food inspection was therefore awaited anxiously.

Very often those who must deal with the federal system of food inspection do not know to which agency they should refer. Indeed, the present system of federal inspection is such that they must deal with several departments or agencies including Agriculture Canada, Fisheries and Oceans as well as Health Canada. These three departments account for more than $340 million annually in expenditures by the Consolidated Revenue Fund for food inspection.

The creation of a public agency responsible for all federal inspection services was announced in the 1996-97 Budget. This announcement has raised great expectations, and Bill C-60 should now answer them. Unfortunately, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency the federal government is proposing is rather disappointing if you consider its structure, its make up and its mandate.

According to senior officials responsible for setting up the project, the proposed agency is a model of originality. There is no similar agency in the world. However, originality is not necessarily what provinces, municipalities and the agricultural and fishery sectors hoped to get in answer to their requests. These people wanted an end to duplication and in particular they did not want to assume the cost of an agency whose efficiency has yet to be proven.

Bill C-60 says that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is established "in order to consolidate and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of federal inspection services related to food and

animal and plant health and to increase collaboration with provincial governments in this area". All this is hot air, good intentions and window dressing.

In reality, the future agency will be a patronage haven created to reward the friends of the government of the day. The evidence is in clause 5 of the bill which provides that: "The Governor in Council shall appoint a President and an Executive Vice-president of the Agency to hold office during pleasure for a term not exceeding five years, which term may be renewed for one or more further terms". We see clearly this appointment procedure is designed to ensure the executive power's political loyalty to the government. This procedure is arbitrary, unfair and highly partisan. It calls into question the objectivity of decisions and actions that will be taken by the future federal food inspection agency. That is what must be expected from the agency.

That is not all. The agency will also have an advisory board of not more than twelve members who this time will be appointed by the minister responsible for the agency. This absolute discretionary power will probably be given to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, since it is he who gave us Bill C-60.

What we must understand in all this is that the choice of policies relating to the agency's mandate will thus be determined by the minister's friends. Once again, this appointment procedure is totally unacceptable. It does not respond in any way to the expectations of provincial and municipal governments and of the people in the farming sector and fisheries.

Furthermore, the membership of this famous advisory board does not provide any guarantee as to the representation of the farming and fisheries sectors on the committee, and even less about the involvement of the provinces and municipalities.

How will the agency be able, as is mentioned in Bill C-60, to pursue a greater degree of collaboration between federal and provincial departments in the area of federal food inspection if the provinces are not permanently represented on the agency? The provinces have their say in this future agency.

At this time, there is no guarantee that they will have a forum where they may heard, and most of all, there is no guarantee that they will be able to actively participate in decisions that will be taken. These decisions affect them directly and we should not ignore the total lack of judgment the government is showing in this issue.

When we look at the mission of the agency, it is not more reassuring. It says that the Minister of Health is responsible, among other things, for establishing policies and standards relating to the safety and the nutritional quality of food sold in Canada. This prerogative given to the Minister of Health allows him to interfere directly in fields of provincial jurisdiction by setting standards and regulations, which will be applied all across Canada. These powers belong rightfully to the provinces and not to the federal government. This situation must be strongly condemned.

Much was expected from the creation of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Once again, the federal government is disappointing us. What we are offered today is obviously, another example of patronage. Once again, the provinces are being pushed aside and, moreover, the government is making sure that it controls everything by exercising provincial powers.

Nobody in the agriculture and fishing sectors, including the provinces and the municipalities, was expecting such a disappointment. They expected at least to be true partners in the decision-making process. This is not the case. Bill C-60 introduced by the Minister of Agriculture has every possible flaw and we must scrap it.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Dauphin—Swan River
Manitoba

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, as a lifelong farmer and a member of Parliament for Dauphin-Swan River, it is a pleasure to have this chance to speak on Bill C-60, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act.

Food inspection and quarantine services have always been a priority in Canada. Canada has one of the most effective food inspection and quarantine systems in the world. In fact, Canadian confidence in quality and safety-

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the Chair has made an error. It should not have been the parliamentary secretary who spoke but it should have been the member for Vegreville. Forgive me.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments on Bill C-60, the act that would put in place the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The stated purpose of this bill is to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in order to consolidate and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal inspection services related to food, animal and plant health and to increase collaboration with provincial governments in this area.

Specifically, the bill sets out the new agency's framework in terms of responsibilities, accountability, organization, human and financial resources, powers and reporting. The bill also amends some of the enforcement provisions and penalties in federal statutes that the agency will enforce or administer in relation to food, plants and animal health.

When the new Canadian Food Inspection Agency begins operation in 1997 it will become one of Ottawa's largest bureaucratic entities with 4,500 civil servants and a budget of $300 million. Federal officials contend that ending interdepartmental overlap and duplication in such areas as enforcement, risk management,

laboratory services, informatic systems and communications will save taxpayers $44 million annually beginning in 1998-99.

However, a detailed breakdown of this estimate has not been provided by the government. No decision has been made on staff reductions or the new agency's surplus laboratories. We have a broad statement of cost, a broad statement of savings and no specifics whatsoever.

When we are working with legislation that creates a new bureaucracy of 4,500 employees with an estimated budget of $300 million we should have a lot more detail. I am not talking about minute detail, but about a statement that really explains how the money will be spent and how money will be saved. That has clearly not been offered in this legislation.

The government departmental estimates on cost are $300 million but we should know from history that departmental estimates are rarely accurate. It would be a rare occasion indeed. I have seen many new agencies created and I do not know if I have seen one that has come in on budget. I would feel much more comfortable that this agency would come in on budget if some information were given to show how the money would be spent.

I want to make it clear that the Reform Party supports the consolidation and downsizing of federal government operations but this bill will accomplish little except for the shuffling of names and titles. Instead, the government should be considering the advantages of privatizing a significant portion of Canada's food, plant and animal inspection services. The Reform Party has been calling for this since the day we came here.

We should consider how much of this service can be privatized so the service can be provided at a lower cost to the people who need the services. At the same time I acknowledge it is very important to ensure the services that are privatized can be done more efficiently, in a less expensive way and safely.

With a saving of $40 million or 13 per cent of the agency's $300 million budget, that 13 per cent is currently cost recovered. The concept of cost recovery that the Reform Party proposes, and that I personally heard being recommended by many processors, particularly processors of agricultural products, is quite different from what this government proposes.

Reform proposes that cost recovery should reflect the lowest cost at which the service can be provided, whether it is in the hands of the private sector or the government. I believe that in some cases, the private sector can provide very high quality service for less money than government can. In other cases, it may be found that the department can provide the service at a lower cost. It is not clear which services could be provided better by the private sector or by the department. I do not know of any study or any work having been done on this.

The government's idea of cost recovery is totally different than the Reform idea. The Reform idea is cost recovery at the lowest price. If it can be done for less money with high quality then give it to that group or person to do.

The second major issue I would like to touch on in this legislation concerns the authority of the provincial governments versus the federal government. The federal government has decided that the way to end overlap between the federal and provincial governments is to centralize the complete service in the hands of the federal government. This is certainly in line with what Liberal governments have done over the years.

Liberal MPs have generally accepted that Canadians like big government. Along with big government comes high taxes. I contend that Canadians want a much smaller government, lower taxes, more take home pay and therefore a much better job situation in the country. There are two visions of Canada. There is the vision held by the Liberals and Conservatives which has been demonstrated over the years. They believe in big government, high taxes, low take home pay. Then there is the Reform vision which I believe is shared by many Canadians: a much smaller federal government with much lower taxes and higher take home pay, therefore, a better take home pay.

Unfortunately, with this legislation the government has chosen the large government, high tax route. The legislation will place a great burden on the taxpayer and on processors who are paying cost recovery.