House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.

Topics

Tobacco Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

moved:

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-71, in Clause 12, be amended by replacing line 2 on page 5 with the following:

"that is activated before each transaction or that is in a place to which young persons are not permitted by law to have access."

Tobacco Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

moved:

Motion No. 30

That Bill C-71 be amended by adding after line 33 on page 17 the following:

"45.1 Every young person who contravenes section 8.1 is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $75."

Mr. Speaker, let me reiterate that this bill is not perfect. Reformers strongly object to time allocation. There is no way that anti-democratic action should take place in this House.

I have a couple of other objections for the record. The regulations that will follow this bill will not be subject to parliamentary scrutiny. I object to that. I also object to the fact that there was a way to make cigarettes a drug delivery system and to have nicotine restricted in that vein.

My third objection is reflected by my amendments. The law states that it is illegal to sell tobacco to youths, and so it should be. The fines are substantial. However, the onus is all on the shopkeepers. They must check for identification. They take all the flack. They must police our kids for us. Who actually intends to break the law? The shopkeepers in this situation are innocent.

The youth who comes into the store and who looks 17 does not get very much time from the shopkeeper, but the youth who comes in and who looks 22 but is actually 17 puts the shopkeeper in jeopardy. I believe, as do most shopkeepers, that there should be some onus placed on the youths who break the law. They are the individuals who come to the shops to break the law.

It is done with alcohol. The underage youth comes in to buy a beer. Do we charge the vendor? Of course not. We charge the youth for doing something illegal. The youth gets charged with illegal

possession, and we certainly do not go after the individual who sold the beer to the youth.

This amendment recognizes that a youth under 18 purchasing tobacco is the culprit in the equation and suggests a small fine for the youth breaking the law. Obtaining and attempting to obtain should be discouraged by a penalty. Those are the amendments I put before the House.

Tobacco Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to address this motion. Maybe I can address a few issues that have been raised so far in the debate. I draw members' attention to the motions before the House which I will comment on briefly.

Motion No. 2, moved by the member for Macleod, suggests that it become a criminal offence for young persons to possess or attempt to possess a tobacco product in a public place. Creating such an offence of possession would be contrary to the government's policy approach. As the member indicated, the onus is on the vendor.

We are trying to focus control into the commercial activities of retailers so the onus would rest and vest with the retailer. I suggest that making it illegal for young people to possess tobacco products would subject hundreds of thousands of young people to potential criminal prosecution. That may be the intended objective of some members, but at this stage we want to focus on the commercial relationship that is initiated by the retailer offering this product for sale.

Motion No. 4 has been proposed by the Minister of Health to clarify an amendment put forward in committee. Clause 12 was originally amended in committee to allow the use of vending machines with locking devices to be continued. The amendment now before us clarifies that vending machines with locking devices will be permitted only in a bar, tavern or a beverage room. Cigarette vending machines have been restricted to these locations since the coming into force of the Tobacco Sales to Young Persons Act in 1994 and we want to continue that practice.

The reference to a prescribed security mechanism is preferred to the phrase that is currently proposed "that is activated before each transaction" as expressed in the amendment adopted by the Standing Committee on Health. In this way the government can determine through consultation the most appropriate types of security mechanisms with a view to advancing the objective of limiting youth access.

Motion No. 5, moved by the member for Lévis, would also amend clause 12. The member suggests that vending machines be allowed to remain in places where youth do not have access, which is one of the venues where prescribed tobacco advertising and sponsorship promotions will be permitted. This amendment should be rejected on the grounds that on occasion youth do gain access to places where they are not permitted to be by law. Obviously the availability of tobacco products through unsupervised transactions poses a more immediate peril than does the appearance of tobacco promotions.

Finally, Motion No. 30 is proposed by the member for Macleod. It would set a maximum fine for young people who are acting as retailers and selling cigarettes illegally to other youth. The member's concern that young persons not be subjected to harsh penalties is addressed by Bill C-71. The bill sets maximums rather than minimum fines. Furthermore, a young offender between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age would be dealt with according to the Young Offenders Act, which provides for the use of alternative measures such as community service.

Mr. Speaker, in my remaining time I would like to address some of the comments made by members opposite on Friday, February 21, during the first part of report stage debate on the bill. On that date the member for Lévis stated that the Bloc shares the objectives of the Minister of Health on the issue. However, both he and his colleagues made statements which point to an opposite position. By the way, it is a position which was raised again earlier this morning in debate.

I believe I am quoting the member for Lévis correctly when he said "that the government shows no compassion, no willingness whatsoever to deal with the issue of sponsorships". The government has proposed an implementation period, so clearly this is incorrect. He said that without the regulations nothing in Bill C-71 can be implemented. This too is clearly wrong and, in fact, false.

The House will be surprised to learn that the member for Drummond is the health critic. She talked about the economic benefits of cultural and sports organizations. She is correct, there are benefits. She forgets that the government has not banned tobacco sponsorship. She overlooks that the government has proposed an implementation period. But more seriously, she and others on her side of the House have ignored the fact that there are 12,000 tobacco related deaths in Quebec each year.

They ignore that there are 38 per cent of Quebecers who are smokers. That average is higher than anywhere else in the country.

Members on this side of the House would like to hear those members' justifications for ignoring that there are 76,000 Quebec youth who take up smoking each and every year. They urge us to do nothing about that statistic.

There is a cost. Members will appreciate this in its appropriate context. There is a cost of some $530 million to the Quebec health care system each year because of tobacco related illnesses. How do members opposite from the Bloc justify their opposition to Bill C-71 in the face of these facts?

On Friday, February 21 the member for Trois-Rivières tried to convince himself that sponsorship promotion does not affect attitudes toward smoking. Obviously he did not consult with the minister for health in Quebec because he has an entirely different view.

He and his colleagues ignore an extensive and growing body of international evidence confirming that young people are aware of and susceptible to promotional practices. It also confirms that it is not possible to promote the brand of cigarette without simultaneously promoting tobacco products and their use.

Members will know that 85 per cent of smokers and 83 per cent of non-smokers in the 10 to 19-year old age group see sponsorship promotion as a way of advertising cigarettes. This is the age group in Quebec starting to smoke at a higher rate than in any other province in the country. Furthermore, sponsorship promotion has been the predominant form of tobacco products promotion in Canada since the advertising ban in 1988.

On February 21 the member from Timiskaming criticized the provisions of Bill C-71 which limit the access of youth to cigarettes. The Bloc must now answer regarding whether or not it is advocating the sale of tobacco products to youth. Let us address that issue.

The member for Anjou-Rivière-des-Prairies stood in this House on February 21 and said that everybody recognizes that smoking is not healthy. Great. He said that we must do all that we can to prevent our young people from starting to smoke, but not this.

The member for Berthier-Montcalm said that Quebecers will suffer most from this bill. Quebecers are already suffering the most. If they accept the figures that I have given, in terms of the health component, they should answer their own rhetorical question.

Quebecers smoke more and are dying faster than people in any other region of the country as a result of tobacco induced illnesses. Right now in Quebec there are up to a million citizens who will eventually die of tobacco related causes. The members opposite want to defend a continuation of the status quo. That same member said that cigarettes are good because they put $3.5 billion into the government's treasury but he did not appreciate that they take out some $15 billion in direct and indirect costs.

The member for Argenteuil-Papineau said that the government did not take into account the testimony heard before the health committee. How false a misrepresentation that would be.

The committee recommended that the Minister of Health consider an implementation period for the sponsorship promotion restriction. That is before this House today.

The same member reminded the House on February 21 that the Bloc voted for the bill on second reading because it recognized the validity of the government's objectives.

If it did, are the principles of Bill C-71 today less valid than they were in December of last year? Are there fewer Canadians being affected by tobacco than there were last-

Tobacco Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I regret the hon. member's time has expired. The hon. member for Lévis.

Tobacco Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have to acknowledge that the parliamentary secretary is quite brave. He at least has the decency to show up in this House. On the Liberal side, he is among the very few who stand up for this bill, or at least try to do so. He is having quite a hard time, because even though we support the objectives aimed at in the 80 per cent of the bill that is justifiable, including the fight against smoking among young people, there are some provisions that are unacceptable and not applicable.

I realize that it is still useful to speak up in this House. The parliamentary secretary did not like certain things the official opposition, Bloc members, said and he is giving us a piece of his mind, and I appreciate this debate we are having. However, I would like for more of his colleagues to show the same courage.

We are dealing with Group No. 2. What is the purpose of these motions? Let me focus more specifically on the amendment we put forward. It is Motion No. 5 concerning clause 12. What does clause 12 say? It deals with vending machines that have a security mechanism.

In the clause by clause consideration of this bill, we managed to convince the parliamentary secretary to approve an amendment and to recognize the fact that, in some public places, a security mechanism with a remote control could be used. It was accepted by the Department of Health, but everything has changed all of a sudden. A wind of change has been blowing on the Department of Health since the arrival of the new minister. They want to regulate everything and they no longer accept what used to be accepted.

In this case as in many others, Quebecers showed some ingenuity, as they often do. They thought of using the same kind of remote control mechanism that is used for a television set. Those who use these remote control mechanisms are called zappers. The same principle was applied to vending machines. An employee could block access to a vending machine and, using this remote control,

could allow the client to buy cigarettes himself by inserting the right amount of money in the machine.

What was the purpose of the bill initially? It was designed to have these vending machines kept in a place to which the public does not have access. Maybe this would not have been a problem in a large restaurant or in a large bar, but imagine what the situation would be in a small country bar with only one employee. According to this bill, if a client asked for cigarettes, the waiter would have had to leave the restaurant or the bar unattended to get cigarettes from a place to which the public does not have access. That is what the bill was designed to do initially.

By putting forward arguments and explaining our point of view, we finally succeeded in making the parliamentary secretary understand that an amendment was necessary. Of course, it seems very difficult for the Liberal Party to accept an amendment proposed by the opposition. They do not think the opposition can be right sometimes. And on the rare occasions where they have to agree with us, they cannot admit that we are completely right. That is why we are raising this issue again in the House at report stage, in front of the television cameras, to say that we may have won on the principle of security by remote control, but let us look, for example, at the situation in a bar where liquor is sold, but it cannot be sold to people under 18 years of age.

The purpose of the bill is to make access to tobacco products more difficult for young people under 18 years of age. Since only people 18 years of age and older are allowed into establishments restricted to adults, why would there be any need to activate the safety mechanism on a vending machine?

In a restaurant, this would be understandable, because young people may go there, accompanied by their parents. But if they have some money tucked away and their parents momentarily lose sight of them, they could buy cigarettes. So, it is understandable in a restaurant, but in a bar where it is prohibited anyway by law, by regulations, by fines or whatever, for a young person under the age of 18 to enter and consume alcoholic drinks, there is therefore less of a need, in our view, for this provision to be included because, ultimately, it departs from the purpose.

We have tried to make the government, the parliamentary secretary, understand this, without success.

When the parliamentary secretary broadened the discussion to include other provisions, reacting to comments from Bloc Quebecois members in particular, it is annoying, because we realize we were right. Members will recall that the government wanted to rush this bill through before the holidays. It put off consideration of the bill for months and then, just before Christmas, a couple of weeks before Christmas, it wanted to ram the bill through.

The Reform members went along with it. They even gave the bill their approval before it was printed, before they had read it.

Imagine. After a member from each party had spoken, the member who had introduced the amendment rose to speak for 30 seconds, after asking that the House pass the bill quickly, before the holidays, with no study or debate.

We in the official opposition suggested that some witnesses be heard by the committee, with the result that the bill was not passed before the holidays. What happened? There was a debate and public pressure made itself felt, with the result that the minister felt obliged to table certain amendments that are an improvement, that spread out the effect, but that shifted the problem. We are used to seeing this government dump things onto the provinces, but now it is dumping-

Tobacco Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My dear colleague, you are entitled to two more minutes for your speech, if you wish to use them after oral question period.

It being 2 p.m., we will proceed to statements by members.

Curling
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bernie Collins Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate my constituent, Jim Packet of Estevan, Saskatchewan, for winning the Saskatchewan Pool Tankard Men's Curling Championship on February 9, 1997, with a 7-6 extra end victory over his opponent.

Mr. Packet, along with third Jeff Mosley, second Dallas Duce and lead Ken Loeffler won the Saskatchewan tankard with a dramatic finish in a thrilling extra end. This means that Packet and his team will be competing at the Labatt Brier in Calgary on March 8, 1997.

I know I speak for all my constituents as well as all the people from the province of Saskatchewan when I wish Jim Packet, Jeff Mosley, Dallas Duce and Ken Loeffler the best of luck at the upcoming brier competition.

Small Business
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, small and medium size businesses are creating the majority of new full time jobs in Canada. The Liberal government acknowledges that this is true.

Small and medium sized businesses in a recent survey say the conditions necessary for them to hire more people are increased consumer demand and lower taxes. Lower payroll taxes were cited

by over 40 per cent as a necessary condition for them to hire more workers.

Why then did the finance minister not listen to these views with respect to payroll taxes? He not only failed to reduce payroll taxes. He increased them. A whopping 73 per cent increase in CPP premiums will overwhelm the minuscule reduction in EI premiums. In 1998, for example, CPP premium increases will take three times as much out of the pockets of small business and workers as EI cuts will leave there.

This was a bad budget decision by the Liberals, bad news for job creators and bad news for the unemployed.

Tobacco Legislation
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the more one looks at the Liberal government's tobacco bill, the more one realizes the perverse effects of a piece of legislation which will obviously not attain the intended objective, unless that objective is to damage the Quebec economy.

On top of the millions of dollars Montreal will lose as a result of this hypocritical legislation, there is the domino effect of the Canadian health ayatollah's policy, which will impact upon all regions of Quebec, including Berthier-Montcalm, unfortunately.

During the Montreal Grand Prix weekend, tourists from Japan, Europe and the southern United States come to visit the Gilles Villeneuve museum in Berthierville. The museum, and the local economy, will lose those thousands of tourists from other countries, for if there is no Grand Prix sponsorship, there will be no Grand Prix, no high-profile drivers, no foreign visitors.

Who could possibly believe that there could be any beneficial effects for Montreal and other areas of Quebec when they lose thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits?

This minister needs to be put back on the right track, for he most certainly is not on it at present.

World Trade Organization
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, the United States has served notice that it will invoke section 20, the national security clause of the World Trade Organization, to keep the regulatory body from adjudicating a European Union challenge to the controversial Helms-Burton law.

The Americans argue they fear a Cuban invasion and that their national security is threatened. Therefore they will boycott a World Trade Organization dispute settlement panel struck to examine the trade legitimacy of the Helms-Burton legislation.

If the Americans can use section 20, why does Canada not invoke section 20 to maintain a secure supply of food as a national security issue? Why not invoke section 20 to keep an American attack on our cultural industries at bay, or to ward off an attack on our generic pharmaceuticals, or perhaps most important to protect the eventual invasion by the United States to direct our water from our rivers and lakes into the United States mid and southwest?

If Americans can use section 20 of the World Trade Organization to protect the most powerful military nation on earth from a Cuban invasion, surely we can use the same argument to protect our cultural industries, our food supply, our Canadian-

World Trade Organization
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Fredericton-York-Sunbury.

Sky's The Limit Snow Challenge
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to act as honorary chair of the 1997 Sky's the Limit Snow Challenge a few weeks ago at Crabbe Mountain near Fredericton. The snow challenge was a huge success with 44 teams of eight taking part in a day of activities that ranged from snow golf to inner tube races.

While the fresh air, exercise and camaraderie were all wonderful, the best part of the snow challenge was that it raised more than $50,000 for the New Brunswick Association for Community Living.

The New Brunswick Association for Community Living is a voluntary organization dedicated to advocacy around the interest of persons living with an intellectual disability. It provides training and information and works to change policies and programs to better meet the needs of a range of individuals.

I extend congratulations to all team members, volunteers and organizers for such a successful challenge. It was well done.

Armenian Community
Statements By Members

March 4th, 1997 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the year 1887 saw the arrival of the first Armenian immigrants in Canada at Port Hope, Ontario. It is an honour to rise in the House today to recognize the 110th anniversary of the Armenian community in Canada.

Canadians of Armenian origin continue to contribute to the life and vitality of this great nation. Congratulations go to all Armenians on 110 years of building their future in Canada.

My ancestral homeland, Armenia, was a victim of a horrible earthquake in 1988. I trust Canadians will rise to the occasion today as they did then in response to the tragic loss of innocent lives and the horrible destruction caused by the recent earthquakes in Iran and Pakistan.

Canadians from all walks of life are witness to the pain and sorrow of the victims of this horrible tragedy and wish them a rapid recovery.

Canada Infrastructure Works Program
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Saturday, March 1, I had the pleasure of attending the official opening of the new civic hall and library in the town of Hanover.

The new civic centre and library was made possible through the Canada infrastructure works program which is driven by local priorities and involves all three levels of government.

We have extended the program adding $425 million to the $175 million to be spent in 1997, for a total of $600 million this year.

For those few who question the program may I suggest they examine the quality of life in those countries and communities that have ignored infrastructure. It is not a pleasant sight.

Infrastructure is more than a program to create jobs in the short run. It is an investment in the fixed assets of a country for its long term economic viability. Infrastructure is a bridge to the future.

I congratulate the town of Hanover for its forward looking vision and its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for its citizens.

Tobacco Legislation
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, every year thousands of tourists flock to the Témiscamingue region for the Ville-Marie international regatta, and of course to visit our magnificent region at the same time.

This event has a major economic impact on our region, not to mention the redistribution of profit among local organizations in order to improve the quality of life there.

Alas, the Liberal government is going at it hammer and tongs, threatening the survival of events of this type with its Bill C-71. This bill, in doing away with tobacco company sponsorships, will deprive the international regatta circuit of a major financial partner. And what lies behind such a decision? A desire to encourage young people to smoke less, or a desire to get at Quebec's sporting and cultural events, the focus of 50 per cent of the tobacco companies' sponsorships?

This is, in fact, just window-dressing, a measure by a government which wants to give the impression that it is concerned about the health of Canadians, and to make people forget the billions of dollars in cuts to health care funding.

I wish to make it clear to the people of Témiscamingue that the Bloc Quebecois will continue its battle against this bill and will keep on demanding that the Liberals explain themselves to all parts of Quebec when the next election is held.