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 trade.

Topics

Mr. Trân Trieû Quân
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister for International Co-operation and Minister responsible for Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, I wish to confirm to this House and to the hon. member opposite that I will be going to Hanoi tomorrow and that I fully intend to make representations to top Vietnamese officials.

It goes without saying that I cannot negotiate on the floor of the House, and the House does not expect that, but I do intend to raise the issue and to ask for the patriation of Trân Trieû Quân, for humanitarian reasons.

Justice
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, just a few weeks ago in my riding of Calgary North, it was parents themselves who spotted a sexual predator stalking the neighbourhood children and had him apprehended. This man, a convicted pedophile, was out on bail thanks to the Liberals' lenient approach to justice.

The justice minister is well aware that the anxiety Canadian parents feel about the safety of their children has just received another horrific jolt after yesterday's brutal abduction and violation of a four year old child near the minister's own home.

When will the Minister of Justice give parents even the most basic tools, like a national pedophile registry to protect their children?

Justice
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it was last year that the solicitor general introduced the child sex offender registry which has now been in operation for some months. I believe it has contributed directly to an increase in public safety.

The hon. member will know as well that in recent weeks the government has introduced in Bill C-55 specific and practical measures by which we can have sentencing judges impose on sex offenders and particularly sex offenders who offend against children, not only a period of imprisonment that is appropriate to the offence, but after their release from prison a regime of controls and supervision to minimize the high risk that they will reoffend.

I urge the hon. member and her colleagues to support that legislation which we believe strongly will enhance the safety of the community in the face of such unacceptable risks.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

October 10th, 1996 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

I would like to draw to your attention the presence in the gallery of members of the French group of the Canada-France interparliamentary association, led by Senator Jean Delaneau.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I would also like to draw to your attention the presence in the gallery of His Excellency José Lello, Secretary of State for the Portuguese Communities.

Presence In Gallery
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to find out from the government what is in store for two weeks from now, since we will not be here next week.

Business Of The House
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Minister of Labour and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Today and tomorrow, we are going to continue with the schedule we have already begun. After this debate, we will return to Bill C-60, on food inspection agencies, and will also try to finish up the debate on Bills C-26 and C-29.

This will be followed by Bill C-6, the Yukon mining bill; Bill C-51, the Nunavut waters bill; Bill C-49, the administrative tribunals bill; Bill C-47, the reproductive technologies legislation; Bill C-59, the water passengers legislation; Bill C-57, the Bell Canada bill; and Bill C-35, the labour code amendment.

Early in the week we return, the government expects to introduce a bill concerning an electors registry. As soon as procedurally possible, we will seek to refer the bill to committee before second reading.

A few weeks ago I expressed some concern about the pace of business in the House. I want to thank the House for addressing this question effectively. Now I have to give a little push to committees. There are now 18 bills in committee and more on the way. I trust that committees will attend to this business with the same dispatch demonstrated toward legislation by the House itself.

I wish the House a good Thanksgiving week off from this place. I hope to see everyone in good health when we come back.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Dauphin—Swan River
Manitoba

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, as a lifelong farmer and a member of parliament who represents the people of 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. The confidence of Canadians in the quality and safety of their food is among the highest anywhere. However, our food inspection and quarantine system is facing many new pressures. How effectively Canada meets those challenges will have a major impact on the food industry and on all Canadians.

Agriculture and agri-food accounts for 8 per cent of our gross domestic product and directly and indirectly employs some 1.9 million people. In addition, Canada has one of the largest commercial fisheries in the world with fisheries and aquaculture valued at about $4 billion a year and employing some 120,000 workers.

In our cities and in rural areas like the constituency of Dauphin-Swan River, the food industry is an integral part of our day to day lives and forms the backbone of many communities. These contributions cannot be taken for granted. The future growth and success of the food industry from fishing and farming to food service and retail depends on the continued high quality of our products and strong consumer confidence in the safety of our food supply. In the face of today's many pressures, that requires changes, less duplication and overlap, and greater responsiveness to changing ways of doing business.

In 1994 federal, provincial and territorial agricultural ministers committed themselves to addressing those challenges by endorsing a blueprint document for the Canadian food inspection system, CFIS. CFIS involves all levels of government in looking at harmonizing food standards, inspection and quarantine services into a single integrated system for all of Canada. The CFIS objectives are: to protect the health and safety of Canadian consumers; to sustain our international reputation for safe high quality food; and to maintain an efficient and effective food inspection and quarantine system.

In May the office of food inspection systems, OFIS, was established to assess the feasibility of setting up a single food inspection and quarantine system at the federal level, a first step toward a Canadian food inspection system.

In July 1995, OFIS issued a discussion paper entitled: "Federal Food Inspection System-Organizational Options", and it presented four possibilities. The discussion paper was widely distributed to industry stakeholders who further dialogued on the proposed changes. These discussions were fundamental to the decision making process that led to the announcement of the Canadian food inspection agency in the 1996 budget.

The legislation we are introducing today is widely supported by the provinces and the industry. The agency will reduce costs and ensure greater consistency in inspection and quarantine methods and standards. Under the legislation, the Canadian food inspection agency's responsibilities are clearly defined. They will be centred in six key areas: animal and plant health programs; trade and commerce and economic fraud; inspection and quarantine policy; assessment, evaluation and verification of inspection and related activities; registration, certification and approval; and enforcement and compliance actions.

The new agency will also be responsible for enforcing food safety standards and regulations. It will play a lead role in the risk management options dealing with food related health issues.

As stated in the 1996 budget, Health Canada will retain responsibility for food safety policy and setting standards. It will also be responsible for auditing the agency's inspection and quarantine activities.

With the creation of the Canadian food inspection agency, roles and accountability will be more clearly defined, strengthening the decision making process. The agency will maintain close links

with the OFIS to ensure that work toward a Canadian food inspection system is continued and expanded.

The agency will improve government responsiveness with a more private sector type financial framework. This framework incorporates multiyear flexibility and a simplified vote structure; reconciles the information requirements of Parliament and other client groups; and minimizes administration and financial systems costs. In order to encourage efficiency, the agency will have the option of selecting service providers in areas such as payroll and accommodation services.

Removing food inspection and quarantine services from the departmental system will also have many other benefits. A stand alone agency will encourage a new corporate culture which will help transcend old approaches and build new partnerships with the private sector. Staff will work in a more flexible, client focused environment and will deliver more uniform procedures whether for bread, chocolate, canned salmon or beef stew.

In addition, the new agency will have the flexibility to build on existing federal-provincial agreements by streamlining and negotiating new ways of delivering services such as delivering provincial inspection and quarantine functions by federal inspectors and vice versa, and establishing federal-provincial corporations for joint delivery of federal and provincial inspection and quarantine programs.

Federal and provincial ministers would, however, remain accountable for their respective statutory responsibilities. Clearly, this more streamlined, efficient and responsive approach to food inspection and quarantine is an important avenue to ensure continued confidence in the safety and in the quality of our food supply.

This new agency will not only benefit rural constituencies like Dauphin-Swan River. It will help all Canadians. I would like to call on all members to lend their support for this important legislation.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-60 proposes the creation of a public agency called the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. As its name indicates, this agency will be responsible for providing federal food inspection services, and related services, such as recalls and food poisoning investigations, as well as managing food safety-related emergencies.

In the government documentation, we are told that this new agency will "make it possible to eliminate duplication and overlap and to consolidate resources, while increasing efficiency and decreasing by approximately 10 per cent the overall federal costs relating to food inspection".

What is, in fact, involved is consolidation and rationalization. The overall objective of this measure is to create a more efficient and more effective inspection system.

The fusion of federal activities will facilitate implementation of an inspection system that conforms to the HACCP-hazard analysis at critical control points-approach to food inspection. The motto of the new agency would be "protecting the Canadian consumer".

Already, a sizeable number of Canadian food processing firms have adopted some elements of the HACCP approach. While, at present, this represents a preventive approach, it has some obvious advantages: first, a guarantee of exceptional safety for the consumer; second, an internationally accepted standard for export sales; third, an economical means of reducing recalls and waste.

The HACCP approach involves a hazard analysis at critical control points. In other words, we must identify risks, list preventive measures and express criticism as the situation unfolds.

To get back to the idea of creating the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, we agree there should be a single federal food inspection authority in the future. On the other hand, we cannot support this bill in its current form, and I will tell you why.

Note that there are 94 clauses in this bill. As presented by the government, this bill might become a real patronage haven. Since clause 5 allows the governor in council to appoint a president and an executive vice-president of the agency to hold office during pleasure for a term not exceeding five years, the minister might be tempted to appoint a friend.

And if that were not enough, clause 10 enables the governor to appoint an advisory board of 12 members.

Worse yet, clause 22 allows the minister to approve the agency's corporate or five-year business plan. As we know, as soon as possible after it is established and at least once every five years after that, the agency must submit a corporate business plan.

In fact, if we let the minister choose the president and vice-president of the agency as well as the 12 members of the advisory board, he can also control the agency by directing its key policies. All this does not put the government's transparency in a very good light.

That is not all. Under clause 17 in the bill, the government gives the agency and its executives the power to license, sell or otherwise make available any patent, copyright, industrial design, and so on. In this regard, I did not see any sales or allocation criteria. Would the cost be lower to a contributor to the Liberal campaign fund? As

I said earlier, the government is trying to control the agency and turn it into quite the patronage haven.

With Bill C-60, the government is looking to consolidate inspection activities relating to food as well as animal and plant health, and related activities including food recalls, the investigation of instances of food poisoning and the management of emergency situations related to food safety. To fulfil its mandate, the agency will have a staff of approximately 4,500 and an initial budget of $300 million. It should be operational early next year, in 1997.

Its 4,500 employees will come from three departments: some 3,900 from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; 400 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and 200 from Health Canada. The jobs of these 4,500 employees will be secured for two years. One wonders now what will happen to them after. And where it says that the new agency will look into the need to introduce voluntary leave incentives, I hope the agency will reduce its staff through attrition only, that is to say, as people retire.

At present, the federal government spends approximately $340 million per year to fulfil its duties and responsibilities regarding food inspection across the country. This figure is taken from schedule B to the working paper on the federal food inspection system-organizational choices of July 1995. This expenditure is shared three ways between Health Canada, Agriculture Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Under Bill C-60, total costs will be reduced by approximately 10 per cent or $44 million annually as of 1998-1999. With such a reduction of the food inspection budget, the status quo is not in the least guaranteed as regards cost recovery.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture supports the establishment of one food inspection agency, as proposed by the Minister of Agriculture in this bill. It did express some reservations, however.

It gives its support on the condition that this reorganization not lead to new cost recovery measures. Moreover, it expresses the strong desire to see producers represented on the advisory council. In this regard, I think the proposal is excellent.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also strongly hopes that, as far as compensation to be paid for costs incurred with respect to treatment is concerned, clause 71 will include "and for other measures". Thus, additional costs will be included, such as with respect to quarantine, cleaning, replacement of damaged or ruined property, restocking, etc.

The impact of such an addition to the legislation would ensure farmers do not lose out because they have reported a disease. As we all know, the riding of Lotbinière, which I am honoured to represent, is Quebec's largest agricultural riding.

Quebec supports the establishment of the agency because it amalgamates the inspection services. From now on, there will be only one interlocutor. But it would be contrary to Quebec's position if the federal government, through this agency, unilaterally established national standards. It would be a very good thing to have a new sharing of administrative responsibilities in the food inspection sector, while making sure no one has to give up its own fields of jurisdiction, and no change is made to the division of powers provided in the Constitution.

The Union des producteurs agricoles, the UPA, agrees with the Quebec government. It does not want the provinces, particularly Quebec, to have a say regarding the activities of the future agency.

The Bloc asks that the provinces, including Quebec of course, be consulted and listened to regarding the agency's activities in the coming years. It makes sense and it is only normal for the federal government to act with the agreement of the provinces in the food inspection sector, since consumers' health and interests are at stake. However, the federal government must respect the existing fields of jurisdiction.

Costly overlap must be reduced. Grouping together the inspection services of the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food, Health Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is a step in the right direction. We must promote harmonization and streamline standards so as to reduce the burden of regulatory requirements and promote the competitiveness of our businesses.

In closing, we must, I repeat, promote joint action, but according to the partners' respective fields of jurisdiction. In this regard, I refer government members to sections 91 to 95 of the Constitution Act of 1867.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of this legislation along with my other colleagues.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, as members know, has tabled a bill which is a fine example of the government's commitment to protect the health of Canadians. That bill introduces a new food inspection system. It is one that is built on the same overriding priority that we have always held high, good health for Canadians through the safest possible food sources.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Essex—Kent, ON

That is right.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

My colleague who comes from the agricultural area of Essex-Kent will bear me out.

This new system keeps that goal front and centre while achieving efficiencies, savings and increased effectiveness for everyone with a stake in the process and most especially, consumers and taxpayers. The minister has introduced legislation that creates the foundation for a Canadian system, one with greater harmonization of both standards and inspection.

As the speech from the throne noted, the government is prepared to work with interested provinces so that the new food inspection system co-ordinates these activities at the federal and provincial levels.

In my comments today I want to speak about the role of Health Canada in the new food inspection system. Hon. colleagues should know that Health Canada has a strong and firm role in protecting the health of Canadians and this bill fits that role. It draws on the unique strengths of the department.

The legislation will first of all eliminate the overlap that has existed among Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Health Canada regarding food inspection. This is not a trivial matter. The agency will be solely responsible for the delivery of food inspection and related services.

Health Canada will focus its attention on the food safety policy, standard setting and research necessary to support the system. It will assess the effectiveness of the agency's food safety activities. In short, Health Canada will focus on the science that is the foundation of a credible and effective inspection system.

You will forgive me if I applaud the initiative because this new approach makes sense. It fits with the government's emphasis on addressing the key determinants of health and few things are more important than good, healthy and nutritious food. It also fits with the other health protection functions of Health Canada has and the scientific resources it uses to carry out those functions.

These policy development and standard setting functions will draw on the strengths and resources that the department has built up over the years. We are going to apply both experience and expertise.

It will continue to use an approach that is based on good science. It will continue to use risk assessment as a framework for our activities so that our food inspection priorities are right.

These functions will continue to draw on the substantial laboratory infrastructure of Health Canada. Our national network of facilities and experts will allow the food system to identify hazards and assess them effectively through toxicology, disease surveillance and human health impact investigations. These facilities will form the practical basis of the department's abilities to set standards and create appropriate policies. This kind of work is the foundation of any modern, credible food inspection system.

Health Canada's staff deals with a wide range of food health hazards. Its scientists and analysts track chemical risks as a threat of allergens. They go after biological threats such as salmonella and they deal with physical issues such as the occasional presence of metal fragments in food products. That is not a very pleasant thought.

These experts are connected to Canada's broader public health intelligence system. They are linked to a network of people and places such as the Laboratory Centre for Disease Control. They are linked to physicians and public health specialists across Canada. That means that our national disease surveillance system includes the capacity to quickly assess and check if an emerging health problem is food related.

As Health Canada's scientists and researchers work in their labs, they are not working in isolation. In this new model they will be in constant touch with the agency. They will work in a way that recognizes industries' interests in sound standards that earn the trust of Canadian and international consumers alike.

Health Canada brings together another advantage to the new food inspection system, its international contributions and contacts. In a world where trade is increasingly open and where our food products find buyers around the world we need consistent and fair standards, as identified in our debate earlier this morning on the bilateral agreement with Israel. My colleague, who comes from a very vibrant farming community in southwestern Ontario, Essex-Kent, will affirm that.

The department will see that Canada plays a full role in this process. Health Canada has a long and respected tradition of results in helping Canadians to enjoy one of the safest, healthiest food supplies in the world. Under this legislation that tradition will continue. Canadians will have a strong, credible team of medical, scientific and research professionals at work in labs and in the field to ensure solid standards and sound policies backed by the very best of research.

With this bill Canadians will get food of the highest possible quality and an inspection system which will be efficient and well organized. I believe that is has the support of the provinces and the stakeholders. I believe it deserves the support of all members of the House.