House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was appointments.

Topics

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Essex—Kent
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear from the comments of the last speaker that he shares the same concerns as our ministry, the safe food supply for Canadians. There is no question that issue will never be compromised by this government or any other group of people who represent people in this country. I would certainly say that we have shown a record in the past and we continue to show a record that the safety of Canadians is number one.

However, only in government would someone suggest that the people responsible for a whole operation, the people responsible for the operation of government, are not the people who should be setting fees, looking at the costs and looking at the expenses. But that they would take the setting of fees, they would take the operations and push them off to somebody else on a side group. I find that suggestion quite disconcerting.

There is no question that the minister must retain the responsibility of setting fees to any operations in government, not just this agency, but all other operations of government because circumstances change, times change and with those changes there need to be adjustments. Who better than one who consults with industry, the provincial parliaments across this country, with every part of the country to make certain they are up to date with all actions? Who better than the minister to set the fees and set a proper structure in place?

I certainly question the thought raised here that the minister should give up the whole operation of setting fees and making sure that our operations are efficient. At the same time I must point out very clearly that there were concerns raised about how quickly fees would be changed and therefore the minister made a very clear commitment that once the agency is up in operation, in order to study and analyze what is happening, internally with our fee structure, the kinds of consultations that are required, he would not

alter or change those fees until the year 2000, which is a pretty strong commitment by the minister.

The minister therefore has said once we have the agency up and operating we will look very carefully at how the system operates and we will take a long time to consult with people, making certain that the abuse of industry, other governments in the provinces and others who are affected across this country, namely the consumers, all have their voices heard and brought forward to the ministry.

It is consistent with our policies in health, in industry and in heritage. We have similar processes in place. As a result, the processes that we are talking about here are consistent with the other government agencies and therefore I believe it makes our whole operation in government much easier to understand.

The amendment to the bill suggests consultation is an important part of fee structuring. It suggests in that change that every group affected be consulted before any changes occur. Imagine the legal ramification if someone comes forward and says "I am a consumer and I was not consulted, therefore any change to that fee structure is illegitimate". It certainly does not make sense to say that every person who possibly could have a concern must be consulted.

At the same time, consultation is extremely important and we have various vehicles by which we do that consultation on a daily, monthly, weekly basis all weeks of the year.

There is no question we try to make certain the industry is kept aware by newsletters we send out, by professional publications and by gazetting information. We make certain we have face to face meetings with the people who are affected. Certainly if we make changes within any industry, we have consultations with them. We take their concerns into account. We definitely make certain that the consumer organizations are involved in these processes. There is no question the government takes very elaborate steps to make sure the consultation process is always ongoing and that the concerns of industry, governments and consumers are always filled.

I must say that this consultation has proven to be very good for the government. As I stated before, with this legislation coming forward we know we have all provincial governments onside, we have the industry itself onside. We have allowed it to come and consult. We also had open hearings at the House of Commons agriculture committee in which all kinds of concerns came forward. The government acted upon those concerns and tried to make certain that those concerns raised were dealt with properly in this legislation.

There is no question we look at this in a very serious way. We want to make certain that everyone in this country who is affected is treated properly with open information and that we act upon their concerns. There is no question the minister places a priority in making certain that the health of this industry is maintained. Through his consultations he takes into account their concerns and acts upon them in a very quick and important way.

When we deal with issues that affect public safety though, we must make certain that all cautions are there to make certain we still maintain as a world reputation food safety and we make certain that the supply of food is there. From our track record over the years, we have and are looked upon as the best food production country in the world. That is why we can ship products anywhere in the world. Certainly they are well respected and well received everywhere they go. There has never been a question nor will there be a question because we put a top priority on inspection and safety.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is always interesting to listen to the comments of the parliamentary secretary on how this government is so accountable to the people it serves.

We are talking here about the right to be consulted when the government wants to increase fees regarding the agency that is being set up. The parliamentary secretary went on at great length about how everybody cannot be consulted. I read the motion and it did not say he had to consult with everybody but only with the advisory board and he may consult with other interested parties. That gives a great deal of latitude which the parliamentary secretary just rejected out of hand by saying why should he bother.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

They only consult with the Liberal membership.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

That is right. I was interested in one of the quotes he made. Let me quote the parliamentary secretary who was talking about the consumers who would say: "I am a consumer and I was not consulted on this issue". That was the rationale he gave for not allowing this motion. He would be required to consult with everybody. He said that rather than being required to consult with everybody, why not consult with nobody? He said that if people thought they had not been consulted as consumers, they would be outraged, and rightly so.

Let us replace the word consumer with the word taxpayer. Taxpayers are not being consulted by this government and they are outraged. During the last election they were told that the GST would be axed, scrapped and abolished and they now find that this harmonized HST is being imposed upon them. The taxpayers were not consulted by this government. Their opinions were absolutely ignored. They were trashed.

The government said: "Your opinion does not count. We decided that you did not understand what axe, scrap and abolish meant. Therefore you are going to have an HST or a BST rather than a GST. This still means you are going to pay 7 per cent plus

provincial tax, plus more tax through harmonization". The taxpayers were not consulted.

Now the parliamentary secretary says: "I do not want to consult the consumers who are going to be affected by this organization because they may have an opinion that is different than the government's. That is why I do not want to listen to them. That is why I do not want to hear from them". Do we call that being accountable? Do we call that integrity in government? Do we call that being responsible to the taxpayers? I do not think so.

That is why this type of arrogance demonstrated by the government in Bill C-60 has got to stop. That is why ramming other legislation through this House by using time allocation has got to stop. That is why this government has got to start listening to the people who say: "What about me? What about me and my family? Do I not deserve to be heard?" They deserve to be heard. They deserve to be heard every time this government introduces legislation or makes a major initiative.

When the parliamentary secretary says: "I am not that excited or interested in talking to the consumers. I do not need to consult them", the arrogance contained in that type of statement speaks volumes. That is why I hope this government will listen to the objections being raised on this side of the House so it can realize that there are valid and necessary changes to this piece of legislation.

The situation is that as soon as a bill is introduced in this House, the government whip says: "What is on the table is what you vote for. We are not interested in hearing what goes on in this House. We are not interested in hearing what MPs on the other side of the House bring back from their constituents who say there are some valid and responsible changes that can be made to this legislation".

These are the types of things this House is supposed to debate. We find that this process is a sham in that the bill as tabled is the bill as proclaimed because this government will not tolerate a contrary opinion expressed in this House even though that contrary opinion is a valid opinion that has come from the people on the streets, the taxpayers of this country who are being squeezed to death every day, more and more to pay for this type of legislation that we know is smoke and mirrors. It is not designed to improve efficiency. It is not designed to downsize government. It is not designed to ensure that service is improved. It is just the idea that the government can say it is doing something when in reality when we look behind the scenes it is doing nothing.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, December 12, 1996, all questions on the motions in Group No. 9 are deemed to have been put and the recorded divisions deemed demanded and deferred.

The House will now proceed with the debate on Group No. 10. In accordance with the motion adopted as aforesaid on December 12, 1996, all the questions are deemed to have been moved, seconded and put to the House.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now debating motions in Group No. 10, which seek to improve Bill C-60.

I see that members opposite are smiling, but they should listen instead, they should read our motions and take a close look at them, because these motions are aimed at ensuring the well-being of consumers, who are the ones at the end of the food chain. Consumers are the ones who are paying and who will continue to foot the bill.

The clerks at the table in front of you have included three motions in Group No. 10, namely Motions Nos. 31, 32 and 33. In the nine minutes that I have left, I will try, for the benefit of all elected members of this Parliament, to explain each of these motions originating from the official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois.

We seek to amend clause 31 by replacing line 29 on page 9. The minister may remit all or part of any fee fixed under section 24 or 25 or under any act that the agency enforces or administers by virtue of subsection 11(1), and the interest on it.

Incidentally, we would also like to see in this clause a provision requiring the president of the food inspection agency to submit a report to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, within a period of one year. I can hear government members sitting on the committee say: "He is raising this issue once again". I am raising this issue once again because, among the elected members of this Parliament, those who sit on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food are the ones who have the best knowledge of this issue, given that most of them used to farm in just about every sector and region in the country. Some used to grow grain, others were in the poultry or the beef industry, while others still, such as the very knowledgeable member for Malpeque, were active in the dairy industry.

Given its membership, our committee has the required expertise, knowledge and know-how. This is why we would like to see Bill C-60 state clearly that the president must submit his annual report after 12 months at the latest, because under Bill C-60 as written, the he could wait 4 or 5 years before doing so. No precise date or year is given. We pointed this shortcoming out to the senior officials

who appeared before the standing committee, but no deadline was deemed necessary. Adding one would definitely improve the bill.

We move on to Motion No. 32, which reads as follows:

That Bill C-60, in Clause 32, be amended by replacing lines 40 to 42 on page 9 with the following:

"(c) provide a report to the President, the Minister and such committee of the House of Commons as is designated or established to consider agricultural matters on the audit, opinion and assessment."

Thus, it is clearly mentioned to whom the president must submit his annual report.

Motion No. 33 also refers to clause 32. We are proposing to improve subsection 32(1) as follows:

"32.1 Before providing the report under paragraph 32(c), the Auditor General of Canada shall consult (a) any person from the agriculture, fisheries, food processing, food distribution and public health sectors whom the Minister considers appropriate to consult; and

This is not clear in the bill, as it says: "any government of a province that has advised the Auditor General of Canada, in writing, of its wish to be consulted".

Bill C-60 is a major bill, and it will have a decisive impact on all Canadian consumers. The purpose of our amendments seek to set deadlines for submitting the documents outlining the agency's management and administration. It must be remembered that, knowing the finance minister, he will require the agency to recover its operating costs. You can see where this all leads: what might cost 1 cent to begin with will end up costing 10 cents, and the consumers will have to pay.

I see here some of my colleagues who seem to be smiling when they hear me say that there will be an increase of 10 cents a pound. I am well aware that, for some of us, the weekly food basket does not make a big dent in the family budget, but for most of our fellow citizens, putting food on the table eats up a very large portion of the weekly pay cheque of one or both bread winners.

These amendments also seek to revitalize the role of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food by giving it priority with regard to assessment and consideration of the agency's accounting documents, and most of all the role of the auditor general.

Therefore, we want to require the auditor general to consult the groups directly involved with the agency in order to ensure that senior management or the agriculture minister are not trying to hide disturbing facts.

You will find me tiresome about this, I know, but I must insist. I come back to the make-up of the Food Inspection Agency.

The president will be a Liberal; the vice-president, another Liberal; on the advisory board, the 12 members will be Liberals and, moreover, hiring rules are being suspended for two years. So you can imagine who will fill the management positions. In the ten provinces and the two territories, the management positions will be filled-and I see you do not seem to be surprised by this statement-by more Liberals.

I would remind the House that, last week, three judges were appointed to the Quebec Superior Court. One of them comes from the beautiful area of Victoriaville, in the wonderful riding of Lotbinière. I see that my hon. colleague from Lotbinière is smiling; he will be losing one of his constituents, with little regret if any. The appointee made some commendable efforts during the last referendum, but met with little success, since he was well known to the voters. Jean-Guy Dubois is being raised to the bench in recognition of his long-standing service.

I know full well, Mr. Speaker, that being on the bench is not one of your wishes, but I think you would make a good judge with that smile of yours; and you have the right political stripes.

Finally, I want to say that one can never be too careful when putting forward amendments, since patronage could become rampant within the agency, which would not, of course, be in the best interests of the consumers of Canada.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on this first day back from the Christmas break to the very important issue of food inspection, specifically Bill C-60 and the amendments that are before the House.

We are debating group No. 10 which is comprised of motions Nos. 31, 32 and 33. I have heard it said that no issue is more important for the government and the Canadian Parliament to deal with than the issue of food and food inspection. Along with such things as the air we breathe, the water we drink and shelter in our harsh northern climate, food is one of the staples which maintains life. It is an important subject.

I would like to say at the outset that the Reform Party, in dealing with these three motions, supports motion No. 31. It would add more accountability. As everyone knows, Reform Party members in the 35th Parliament have stressed accountability of government in its operations on an ongoing basis. Therefore, anything that

could be written into the legislation that would bring about a greater degree of accountability is certainly supported by members on this side of the House.

During an intervention on this bill by one of my colleague's some government members from the far end of the House, from the so-called rump section of Parliament, said: "What about us? Do not forget about us down at this end". He was referring to the fact that the government consistently does not listen to people on this side of the House. I would add that those in the rump section are not listened to as well. They are possibly even more annoyed than we are. It shows us the value of being a Liberal backbencher, especially those who are sitting in the rump section of the 35th Parliament. They are never listened to. It must be incredibly frustrating.

We support the intent of motion No. 32 as well. However, we oppose motion No. 33. We are not opposed to the intent of the motion, however, it deals specifically with outlining how the auditor general should do his job. We feel that should be left to the auditor general. We have supported everything which that office has done in the past and we will continue to support the involvement of the auditor general in all aspects of holding governments accountable. We support the intent of the motion, however, we feel that motion No. 33 goes a bit far in instructing the auditor general in the way he should do his job. We think he is doing a terrific job already and does not need that type of interference or direction.

Reform members oppose the bill. The intent is quite admirable. The government wishes to consolidate and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of federal inspection services related to food, animal and plant health, and to increase the collaboration with provincial governments in this area. It is certainly an admirable goal. It is one which all Canadians would support. However, we do not see the details of that in the bill.

My concern is that, once again, the government, as it has time after time in the past, is passing umbrella type legislation and will bring in the details and the regulations later. We are supposed to take the government at its word and trust that it will accomplish those stated objectives and goals. We have very deep and grave concerns about that because all too often in the past that has not happened. The government has a grandiose plan of how it is going to accomplish certain things. It brings in umbrella legislation, passes it, and then we are stuck with regulations that do not work, which are simply shuffled through by order in council. That is why we are in opposition to the bill.

No provision for a detailed breakdown of the cost savings has been provided by the government. We do not see how a decision can be made about such an all-encompassing bill without that type of detail being brought forward.

We heard statements by the parliamentary secretary earlier when he was speaking about group 9 amendments that the government will make a commitment to take a long time-he emphasized the word long-to consult with all the stakeholders and that the bill is consistent with Liberal policies. I suggest that is because the policy of the government is the status quo. It is taking a long time to bring in legislation which Canadians have been demanding and insisting upon. That is certainly a concern.

While the government seems to move at a snail's pace in some areas, in others when it finally makes a decision it shuts down debate, as was indicated by my colleague earlier. It brings in time allocation or closure and shuts down the democratic process in this place once it decides the direction it wants to go.

Since this is our first opportunity to speak since returning to this place after the Christmas break, it is very interesting that the minister for defence invoked closure on the Somali inquiry. He shut down any further debate.

I made a comment in a newspaper column which I write back in my riding of Prince George-Peace River that I think the hon. minister confused the operations in the House of Commons with the operations outside of the House of Commons. The government has become accustomed to bringing in time allocation and shutting down debate in this place. Now it wants to elevate that one step further and do it across the country. I find that despicable and I believe most Canadians are concerned about that type of operation.

As I have said on this group of amendments, we support the first two amendments and oppose the third. That is the official position of the Reform Party.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Since it is just about two o'clock we will proceed to statements by members.

The Late Father Guy Pinard
Statements By Members

February 3rd, 1997 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Dupuy Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to the family of Father Guy Pinard, who was tragically killed Saturday while celebrating mass in his parish of Kampanga, in Rwanda.

This news has caused great sadness in the whole country and particularly in Quebec where Father Pinard was well known. We have lost a man of exceptional courage and dedication.

His assassination is even more tragic considering that it happened in the country to which Father Pinard had dedicated a big part of his life. He was so attached to that country and to its people

that he had gone back there last year in spite of dangers he was fully aware of.

We deplore this barbaric act which has aroused indignation everywhere. The people of Rwanda, who knew how good a man Father Pinard was, share our feelings.

I ask everybody to pay tribute to this missionary, for whom a commemorative service will be held next Wednesday at the White Fathers' chapel, in Montreal.

The Late Father Guy Pinard
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I would like to express our profound sadness on learning of the assassination yesterday morning in Rwanda of Father Guy Pinard, a Quebec missionary from Trois-Rivières, who had worked in that country for 37 years. Father Pinard was parish priest in Kampanga parish.

He was the third Quebecer belonging to a religious order to be killed in Rwanda. Father Claude Simard was killed because he apparently knew too much about the 1994 genocide, and Brother François Cardinal was killed in 1992 after speaking out publicly against the diversion of Canadian aid to benefit the Rwandan government.

This tragic event is a reminder to us of the devotion and, in particular, the courage of all those working abroad to help the poorest inhabitants of this planet.

In my own name, and on behalf of my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, I would like to express our sincerest condolences to Father Pinard's next of kin.

Program For Older Worker Adjustment
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, provides monthly financial support for older workers unable to find work a year after a major permanent layoff.

The mine in Port Hardy, B.C. closed in 1995. Seventy older workers in good faith and after years of hard work and faced with no job prospects in the North Island immediately made application for program assistance. They qualified as a group.

In October 1996 it was announced that federal support would end for any new applicant. However, now it is unclear that the funding commitment to approved applicants from 1995 and early 1996 is in play.

I want to put the government and the Minister of Human Resources Development on notice that retroactive cancellation of financial support is unacceptable. These older miners qualify for and have a longstanding expectation to receive the benefits of the program. If the government offers a program it must fund it.

Free Trade
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, when Brian Mulroney negotiated the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement he said "don't worry, Canadian culture is exempt from free trade". When the Liberal government signed on to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, it said "don't worry, Canadian culture is exempt from free trade".

The World Trade Organization has ruled that culture is not exempt from free trade, a conclusion not surprising to anyone who ever honestly analysed these agreements and the agenda they serve. But the Minister for International Trade, about this stunning defeat of decades of effective public policy, gives the usual Liberal answer: don't worry.

This defeatist answer has led to much speculation about who is in charge of Canadian cultural policy, Canadians or American business interests. But when we look at the surrender on trade policy, at the decimation of the CBC, at the sale of the RCMP's image to Disney and the appearance of Disneyland on Canadian postage stamps, it is clear why we have such a Mickey Mouse cultural policy: Mickey Mouse is actually in charge.

Special Olympics
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to salute over 2,000 athletes from over 80 countries who are taking part in the sixth Special Olympics World Winter Games.

The World Winter Games is the largest multi-sport event that will be held this year and Toronto and Collingwood have the honour of hosting the athletes and the games. These games are about the triumph of the human spirit. Everyone who competes in these games is a winner because winning is not just about medals, breaking records or beating your opponent. In these games winning is about having the chance to compete, feeling the joy of the sport and overcoming challenges.

To the athletes, their coaches, their families and all the volunteers I extend my best wishes for a fun and memorable six days of friendly competition.