Debates of March 6th, 1997
House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.
- Government Response To Petitions
- Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
- Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Tobacco Act
- Liberal Party Of Canada
- The Jazscats
- Community Clubs
- International Women's Day
- The Deficit
- Employment Insurance
- Status Of Women
- Esquimalt Defence Research Detachment
- Employment Insurance
- Health Care
- Hostage From Quebec In Niger
- Health Care
- Health Care
- Financial Institutions
- Bovine Somatotropin
- Regional Development
- Veterans Affairs
- Youth Employment
- Business Of The House
- Points Of Order
- Tobacco Act
- Business Of The House
- Tobacco Act
- Criminal Code
René Laurin Joliette, QC
Madam Speaker, I see that I have only 30 seconds left. That is not much time to answer my colleague's question.
I spoke primarily of sponsorships because this is what affects us most immediately. We could of course have spoken of the regulations, but it would have been with great uncertainty, because we do not know what it is about.
Furthermore, the bill's regulations will not in all likelihood be presented until after the election, because a Liberal promise is involved. And we know what to expect from a Liberal election promise. We had them at the last election, and they were not honoured. The government does not want to reveal them immediately. It will wait until after the election, because the cost to it will be less then.
Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk, ON
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to take part in a debate which is close to my heart. I have talked about this subject for the last eight years, probably more than any other member.
I thank my colleagues on this side of the House for their understanding of my position. It is important and very difficult sometimes to stand and talk about the tobacco issue. I particularly thank the minister and his departmental officials for accepting amendments put forward by tobacco farmers. Specifically I thank the member for Lambton-Middlesex for her amendment. She worked very hard on contributing to this piece of legislation.
The number of tobacco farmers have greatly decreased since 1984. Most of the 1,200 remaining are in my riding of Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant. The economic consequences of the tobacco industry in my riding are significant. It represents almost one in three jobs. Within Canada about 60,000 Canadians are employed by the industry as a whole. The impact in my area is greater than in any other area. Its rural economy is dramatically impacted. With that many jobs it means income that people can spend. Certainly the economic impact is greatest. Of all the tobacco money generated in my riding, 80 per cent of it actually remains there.
A study done by Deloitte & Touche entitled "Economic Contribution of the Tobacco Industry in the Tobacco Growing Regions of Ontario" outlines the importance of the industry to a small community such as mine. It is important for all hon. members and all Canadians to understand that.
If we look at the total number of jobs directly involved in tobacco growing, the producing of the product, there are 16,189 full time and part time jobs. That averages out to 4,578 FTE or full time equivalent jobs, which accounts for 22 per cent of all agricultural jobs within my area.
In terms of university students, $13.4 million of labour income goes to university and high school students in my area each year. It helps students attend high school and university.
I have some other figures on income. The total income created by tobacco is $315 million. In Haldimand-Norfolk it is $174 million. In Brant county it is $31 million. In Oxford county it is $44 million. In Elgin it is $66 million.
Let us look at its impact on local communities. Communities and municipalities throughout Ontario are being dramatically cut back by the Harris Conservatives. Let us also look at the income tobacco taxes bring to these areas. In Brant county federal taxes amount to $6 million; provincial taxes, $3 million; and local taxes, $1 million, for a total of $10 million. In Haldimand-Norfolk the federal taxes amount to $34 million; provincial taxes, $16 million; and local taxes, $7 million. This industry is generating $56 million in taxes in the area.
Where do the jobs come from? Locally hired family members account for the largest portion. These are family farms that help put children through school. It is estimated that 33.4 per cent or $11.3 million goes to local high school students from these growers. Almost 20 per cent of the income goes to students.
My argument is simple. As long as Canadians can legally smoke, which is difficult sometimes given some of the legislation, espe-
cially municipal legislation, they should be able to smoke Canadian tobacco. The benefits of that will be seen in my community.
That money does not only go into the pockets of the growers and the people who work in tobacco growing regions. It goes to schools. It goes to corner stores. It goes to support local hospitals. It goes into charitable events within the community.
Within the area of Delhi, Tillsonburg and Aylmer or the entire tobacco growing area, the level of money given by that community is a greater percentage than most other regions of Ontario. Tobacco producers give back what they take out of the soil.
Tobacco growers are normal people. They are good people. They are Canadians who have contributed to the fabric of the country. They came from all over the world to Haldimand-Norfolk to produce tobacco. We have one of the largest German communities and one of the largest Belgian communities. We have Hungarians and all kinds of different groups that have come to our area to produce tobacco.
They were encouraged to get into the industry by the federal government, by the provincial government and by consumers. My argument is simple. Let us not throw them to the wolves. We have taken the time to encourage them to get into the business. Why do we not take some time if it is the view of governments to move them out?
The industry can be stabilized. Some of the measures the government has implemented have helped producers in my area. People ask why they do not move into another area or why they do not grow wheat or melons. That has been tried. The soil is not suitable for other crops. The size of the tobacco farms are on average 80 acres and today not much money can be made with 80 acres of soil. They just cannot have viable farming operations. Certainly the area they have tried have already been flooded. There is no easy answer to help them move.
The government has helped. I congratulate it for that. I will continue to work for more help. Past governments, this government, consumers and political parties have all participated in the debate. Sometimes they forget these farmers are normal Canadians who want to earn a living for their families. As a member of Parliament for that area I will continue to speak out on their behalf with regard to the tobacco legislation. I hope hon. members on all sides will help me speak out for them.
Maurice Godin Châteauguay, QC
Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to the hon. member who spoke for the Liberal Party. I see that he too is very concerned about the economic aspects. Apparently, his riding is in an agricultural area where a lot of tobacco is grown. He mentioned 16,000 jobs, 22 per cent of all farm jobs and $56 million worth of taxes. And this is in a very rich province. Today, the economy in Montreal and the province of Quebec is facing a host of problems.
I would appreciate if he would explain a few things for me. Did he at any time consider talking to his government to try to establish a measure of fairness and ensure some kind of economic balance?
Not so long ago, when it wanted to harmonize the GST in the provinces of Eastern Canada because it thought they would lose a lot more than Quebec, the government offered them $1.2 billion or $1.3 billion as compensation. It has been calculated that in the province of Quebec, and especially Montreal, this bill will cost us $30 million.
I wonder why the Liberal Party, which decided to give $1.2 billion in compensation to the provinces in Eastern Canada, would not do the same for Montreal. Does he think he could get this point across to his government?
Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk, ON
Madam Speaker, obviously the hon. member was not listening to me as closely as he said he was. Members on this side from Quebec and the minister have spoken out strongly on behalf of the people of Quebec and Montreal. They have put forward the argument very forcefully and have been very successful in doing so.
I will not get into the GST, but I was going to comment on the economic impact of the bill on my community and the impact of all governments and the actions they take. Frankly the economic impact of the bill will be very minimal. However I assure the hon. member the people of Quebec are very well represented within government by capable ministers, much more so than they are through some of the voices on the other side.
Joe Volpe Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health
Madam Speaker, I compliment my colleague for highlighting a couple of points. Unlike some other members of the House he was here to appreciate an amendment was put forward by a member on this side of the House which dealt with the concerns of the Bloc and the Reform on the question of regulations. That amendment has passed and regulations will be available for scrutiny by the committee. It is a precedent setting item that works to the advantage of all who want to take a look at the complete impact of the bill.
On this issue my colleague, who has always spoken on behalf of his own constituents, will have to address the bill as it stands. The speaker who proceeded him talked about the importance of education to curbing behaviour, to modifying behaviour and to weaning people away from the evils of tobacco use. I am wondering if while
he is defending the interests of his growers is he also accepting that education and by extension controlling-
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)
Order. The hon. member, very briefly.
Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk, ON
Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. If it is a question of raising tobacco taxes like the Reform Party would have us do or putting in an education program, I would certainly support the education program rather than increasing an export tax.
John Bryden Hamilton—Wentworth, ON
Madam Speaker, I have reservations about this bill but I support it strongly despite those reservations.
I am a former smoker and at one time I smoked 60 cigarettes a day, which is a lot of tobacco. I first began smoking at age 16 as a result of peer pressure and gradually I began smoking more and more. Tobacco is a very insidious drug. It tends to grow on you and the addiction develops both physically and psychologically over the years. It was very difficult to quit the habit but I did about 10 years ago. So I know something about the problems of tobacco.
I support the spirit of the bill because it is certainly true that young people tend to be the ones who get first hooked on tobacco products and become the addicted adults later in life. In reality cigarettes are a nasty product when you are first introduced to them. I am sure if people began as adults to try cigarettes they would reject them absolutely. It is something that really develops as a result of peer pressure. The idea behind the bill that we should address the problem of young people beginning to smoke is a very good one.
I am not entirely certain that creating more restrictions on young people who smoke will actually have the desired affect because when you prohibit something from young people they tend to want it that much more. On the other hand, given the importance of the intent of this legislation, it is worth trying these restrictions that the legislation proposes.
The second reservation I did have is sponsorship. I always regarded the sponsorship by tobacco companies, breweries and distilleries of arts and sporting events as something they did as good corporate citizens. In reality we need the tobacco companies, the distilleries and the breweries. If legitimate companies do not produce these products that are demanded by the consumers, even though these products have adverse health effects, then we know from past historical experience that organized crime will produce these products. It is a very necessary and good thing to have legitimate industry producing these products for the marketplace. The benefits flow to shareholders of those public companies, and that is as it should be.
I always thought the payback of companies engaged in producing products that have potentially adverse health effects would be that they would want to be especially good corporate citizens. I always regarded the sponsorship of tobacco companies of things like the Grand Prix, or the breweries and distilleries of things like the theatre, as something that they did as good corporate citizens in order to in a sense make up for the fact that they were producing products that did have adverse health effects.
I must say that in my own riding this theory that I have held for a very long time was eroded somewhat when I found that a local volunteer theatre, Theatre Aquarius, developed in the community, wanted to go into the big leagues and managed to obtain some government money and also some sponsorship from a tobacco company. When the new theatre was built as a result of this sponsorship they changed the name to the du Maurier Centre. That was about 10 years ago. I felt at the time that was a terribly tacky thing to do and that it eroded the whole sense of generosity from the tobacco company that it should want to rename the theatre with its own logo.
In the one sense I am not so sure that the sponsorship of these major events that has been the subject of so much debate here actually is going to have an effect in deterring young people from smoking. I am not sure that is going to be the case. However, again, like the other aspects of the bill, it is worth trying.
In the other sense I do not understand why the tobacco companies if their intention is not so much advertising as it is being good corporate citizens, I do not see why they take umbrage at the provisions in the bill which do not eliminate their logos but which merely put them in a less prominent position. I would have thought that this would not be something that they would reject so hotly, as appears to be the case.
That brings me to the third point. The reason why the tobacco companies react so aggressively to Bill C-71 is a tremendous climate of conflict has been created as a result of the lobby groups on both sides of the equation. Certainly the tobacco companies have been able to afford very strong lobbyists but what has actually fueled the acrimony and the conflict have been the government funded lobbies that exist on the other side, the anti-smoking lobbies like the Non-Smokers' Rights Association and the Canadian Council on Smoking and Health.
These groups have received tens of millions of dollars from Health Canada and provincial health ministries over the years in order to promote anti-smoking. I wish I could say that this was something that was prompted by altruism, but I am afraid that big bucks count in this instance and many of the principal players in these lobby groups, just like the lobby groups supported by the tobacco industry, are getting very big bucks indeed. In fact, if we try to find out how much money they are receiving it will enter into the range of $100,000 plus.
Indeed I believe a chief executive of one of the anti-smoking lobbies is around the range of about $180,000 a year. This is government money ultimately, government money coming from our Department of Health. I point out that the Department of Health has supplied $500,000 a year over the last two years to the Non-Smokers' Rights Association, a lobby.
The lobbying extends beyond these named organizations. It also includes various health organizations that have very much something at stake. What is at stake ultimately is research dollars.
If we look at the public accounts for Health Canada what we find is a disproportionate amount of money from Health Canada which is spent on various types of studies on tobacco control. Some of these studies are nothing less than exercises in propaganda, attempts to propagandize members of the House of Commons.
I refer very quickly to a study that we all saw, a questionnaire that we were approached with last November from the faculty of medicine of York University, I believe it was. It was conducted by Mary Jane Ashley, M.D., faculty of medicine of the University of Toronto. This was a survey that asked us for our views on health promotion. It was a telephone survey. After one got into the survey by the person questioning one realized that these questions were directed toward tobacco control.
I submit that this survey was nothing more than an exercise to propagandize members of the House. When I called the authors of the survey they refused to give me copies of the survey. As a matter of fact, they hung up on me. When I called Health Canada to find out how much money was spent and whether I could get a copy, because Health Canada was sponsoring the survey, it said the survey was not available.
In other words, I could not get a copy of the survey that was phoned to all the MPs in this House of Commons from either Health Canada or the authors of the survey even though it was entirely financed by Health Canada. So it was simply a propaganda exercise.
I am happy to say that I do not believe that this Minister of Health or this government is bringing forward C-71 as a result of being driven by these propaganda exercises by these various lobby groups that stand to make so much money in government funds. I really do believe that the bill is being driven by a genuine desire to find a solution to young people smoking.
What I do hope is that when this bill finally passes, the health minister will turn to the Department of Health and do something about the $60 million in the last three years on tobacco control research. I hope he will turn back to the department and redirect that type of funding to health care, research, muscular dystrophy and cancer and even the creation of tobacco abuse clinics. However, let us stop funding lobby organizations. That is the third reason why I support this bill.
The fourth and final reason is the amendments moved by the member for Lambton-Middlesex, a backbencher, who moved I think the most important amendment and the most important element of this bill which is to require that any regulation to be set as a result of this legislation be referred first to this House of Commons and debated by a standing committee before the regulation can be passed. This means that when this legislation passes there will still be an opportunity for all the stakeholders to make sure that the regulations really do reflect the needs not only of the tobacco industry and the freedoms of the tobacco industry but also the needs of Canadians.
François Langlois Bellechasse, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Hamilton-Wentworth for his remarks.
A long time ago, Victor Hugo wrote, in Les Misérables , that the State does the accounting for us and it does not make mistakes. That is what Inspector Javert told Jean Valjean when he put in a request for payment of the very small amount he had earned after spending 19 years in jail in Toulon.
Today, the modern version of Les Mis would read: ``The State thinks for you and it does not make mistakes''. As my colleague, the hon, member for Chambly, said earlier, ready to think has replaced ready to wear, one thought fits all has replaced one size fits all.
There is something fundamentally wrong in this. Everyone in this House is against smoking and against tobacco being readily available to young people, but this is not the way to deal with the problem.
I myself come from a family of smokers. My father's father used to smoke a pipe, my mother's father smoked Alouette tobacco, and both of them enjoyed cigars. My father smoked approximately two packs of Export a day, unfiltered, and my mother still smokes the same brand today.
I saw so many of those packs of cigarettes on the kitchen table at my parents, so many cigarettes and butts all over the place, that the thought of starting to smoke never occurred to me. I have never touched that forbidden fruit. Perhaps I should have abstained from other things, but seeing my parents and family smoking around me acting as a disincentive, made me a non smoker. Still today, I look at my mother smoking and it says right on her pack of cigarettes that smoking is harmful to her lungs, that it could be dangerous if she became pregnant-nothing to worry about on that score-and, since she smokes American cigarettes, that the surgeon general has determined that smoking can be dangerous to your health.
Smokers do not even read these warnings any more, they are so used to them now.
The education effort the hon. member for Joliette and the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm referred to earlier is the best thing we can do.
Where should it start? In school and with people giving a good example, but it should continue at work. When our young people go to work, when they are in school-let us prevent dropping out-they are not smoking.
When young people are at work or in school, they do not engage in criminal activities. It is all a matter of how one uses one's time. One way to keep our young people busy is to get them back in school or in the workplace, to convince them to pursue their professional development.
Reducing tobacco use is definitely a noble cause, but I do not think that the bill will help that cause. Rather, it will result in economic losses for regions such as Lanaudière, and it will also increase unemployment in regions such as Haldimand-Norfolk, which is represented by the hon. member.
Are we going to solve a problem by creating other problems elsewhere? I do not think so. Nor do I believe that the promoters and sponsors themselves would be seriously hurt if international events in Montreal, Valleyfield, Ville-Marie and elsewhere in Quebec and in Canada were to disappear because of the loss of major sponsors.
Therefore, I will oppose Bill C-71, as I did at second reading.
John Bryden Hamilton—Wentworth, ON
Madam Speaker, I want to pick up on something my hon. colleague said, which was that the key to stopping young people from smoking is education. One reason I support passage of the bill is that I believe we have to try whatever we can to stop young people from smoking.
However, one thing that it will accomplish is take government money way from the special interest groups, the lobbys that make so much money by propagandizing both sides of the issue, by fomenting conflict and by pretending to educate the public.
Millions of dollars are given to these organizations that say they are educating the public. If Health Canada really wants to educate young people, let it give those millions of dollars to the schools, to teachers in the schools whether in Quebec, Ontario or any other province, Let the schools teach the children the problems with smoking. Do not give the money to the lobbyists.
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-71 today. I would like to make a few remarks about the comments of the member for Haldimand-Norfolk, who extolled the benefits of tobacco producers and the positive impact it has made on Canadian society.
I want to go on record by saying that it is an absolutely outrageous distortion of the truth to say the tobacco producers in any way are even remotely considered a benefit to Canadian society. It is an affront to every Canadian who is suffering from tobacco related diseases. Today the Canadian Cancer Society released a study which tragically demonstrates that women have unfortunately bypassed men in terms of lung cancer. It is the number one killer of women. What a tragedy. Those are the benefits the tobacco producers are giving to Canadians.
Madam Speaker, 45,000 people die every year as a result of tobacco related diseases; 250,000 children take up tobacco every single year. Half of them will die prematurely and the morbidity statistics will be greater for them than their non-smoking colleagues.
The cost to the health care system is billions of dollars. The loss in gross national product is billions of dollars. What is the benefit of this?
Today the primary cause of cancer deaths in women is lung cancer. It took women 20 year to catch up, but by heaven, "you have come a long way, baby". Indeed, they have. These are statistics of which no one can be proud and are a tragedy.
In 1994, just after the election, the situation was similar to what it is today except there was tobacco smuggling primarily centred in Quebec and on aboriginal reserves in Quebec. That is a bad thing.
However, not only was tobacco smuggled but also alcohol, people, weapons and drugs. Smuggling conduits were occurring across the board in full view of the police who were told to leave things alone because they were afraid of instigating another Oka situation, a significant consideration.
What did the government of the day do? This Liberal government dropped the tax on tobacco, decreasing the price by up to 50 per cent in some provinces. What has that done? It has increased the number of children who begin smoking every single year by about 50,000 to 100,000.
I want to read from a document published by the Ministry of Health by Drs. Morrison, Mao and Wigle called "The Impact of the Cigarette Price Rollback on the Future Health of Canadian adolescents". I will read a couple of excerpts.
"It is estimated that a 20 per cent reduction in the price of cigarettes in the next five years will result in over 142,000 new
adolescent smokers by the end of 1998. Among these persons, almost 16,900 smoking attributable deaths will occur before the age of 70, well before their normal life span should be finished".
"A 50 per cent price reduction is estimated to result in over 355,000 new adolescent smokers over the next five years which will result in approximately 40,000 smoking attributable deaths before the age of 70". That is what the government has done.
The last paragraph of this document put out by the Ministry of Health says: "Government tobacco control in Canada has had three main components: health promotion campaigns, high tobacco taxes and restrictive policies on public smoking". This is important. "Even the temporary abandonment of high cigarette taxes will likely lead to large numbers of teenagers becoming and/or remaining cigarette smokers. The health consequences of the recent tax decrease will continue for decades".
I cannot think of a single piece of legislation by any government in the history of the country that has had a more negative impact on the health and welfare of Canadians, and certainly on the health and welfare of children. I do not understand how the people on that side, who have children themselves, can in all good conscience support that bill.
Right after that, I brought in a private member's bill which demanded that the government put the tobacco taxes back where they were as of January 1994. What was the government's response? It would not make it votable so that it could become law. It would not give the House the opportunity to make the bill votable, become law and have a chance for a full debate. The government cut it off in committee. What a shame.
In the intervening three years, as a direct result of this policy, hundreds of thousands of children are now picking up cigarette smoking. It did not have to happen. There was a solution to addressing the smuggling situation without compromising the health, welfare and lives of Canadian children.
In 1992, the Conservative government of the day put an export tax on cigarettes. Within six weeks, smuggling went down by 70 per cent. The tobacco companies said to the government: "If you don't remove this export tax, we will get out of Canada". What did the Conservative government do? It buckled under the pressure, removed the export tax and the smuggling went up again. There are solutions. The reason why I focus on this is that cost is the single most important factor in consumption, particularly among children.
The government sold out in 1994 because it knew the tobacco companies would bring a strong lobby and say to the government: "You can't put an export tax on". Instead the government lowered the price and we heard champagne bottles being uncorked in all the tobacco companies. They must think we are fools to do this. They probably could not imagine that any government would compromise the health, welfare and lives of Canadians for political expediency, but that is exactly what happened.
Furthermore the government promised a $60 million investment in education after it lowered the cost because it recognized there would be an increase in consumption. However, it did not even put $6 million into education. The other $54 million somehow disappeared. The government's promise was not kept and people, particularly children, are paying the price to this day.
During the past three years, with obvious evidence of the devastating effects of the government's tobacco tax rollback, the government has done nothing. Now it is bringing in a bill which we are going to support. It is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, in fact it is quite weak. We are going to support it because it is better than nothing.
However, there are solutions to the problem. The government could have enacted solutions that would have addressed the smuggling situation without compromising the health and welfare of Canadians. That is what the government should have done.
First, it should have kept the cost at the January 1994 level and even increased the taxes on tobacco. Second, it should have put an export tax on tobacco in order to eliminate smuggling. Third, it needed to enforce the law.
Nobody talks about the law-abiding aboriginal people on reserves who live in the midst of thugs who engage in smuggling. I do not care whether they are aboriginal or non-aboriginal. These people are breaking the law. If they are breaking the law, the law has to be enforced and they should be dealt with accordingly. One law, one land, one people. However, that is not happening.
The government has put its tail between its legs and has not enforced the law. The law needs to be enforced not only for the sake of principle but also because nobody speaks for the law-abiding aboriginal people on the reserves who live in a culture of fear in the midst of these thugs. It does not suit them very much to have people who traffic in automatic weapons in their midst.
Fourth is education. Unless you have been living in a cave, Madam Speaker, it is impossible not to recognize the harmful, damaging, deleterious effects of tobacco consumption. We have to invest in children. As a physician I know that most people pick up tobacco when they are 11 or 12 years of age, not when they are 20. When they are 11 or 12 they do not know the difference. You can tell them as much as you want that tobacco will cause lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a number of other problems later on and they simply will not listen because they have a sense of immortality.
If we are going to have an effective education policy we have to address children in terms that are meaningful to them. We have to address their sense of narcissism, which is normal for that age, and their sense of self. Tell them that their skin will look ugly, that their breath will smell, that their hair will smell. These are things they can understand. Tell them that they will age prematurely. These are the things they should be telling children, not that their lungs will look black when they are 55 years of age. That would be a far more effective way to address the educational situation with children.
The primary reason women and young girls start smoking is to be thin, to be skinny. This gets into a whole different issue which we can address at another time. The secondary reason is to be cool, which is a very difficult issue to address. If we attack their sense of narcissism, we will be much more effective in our educational policies than we would be if we talked about the long term effects of smoking to one's health.
Fifth, the government needs to stop subsidizing tobacco producers. Sixth, stop promotion and seventh, introduce crop substitution policies for the farmers. Contrary to the claims of the member for Haldimand-Norfolk, these policies do work.
I would like to address again the aggressive lobby which is being put on by the Bloc Quebecois on the sponsorship issue. Would these cultural and athletic events really disappear from the Canadian scene? Where would they go? To England? To France? To the United States? Of course not. All of those countries either have or are going to ban tobacco sponsorship of cultural and athletic events. They are not going anywhere. This is just another move by the tobacco companies to try to prevent having any restrictions placed on them and they will go to any length to do that.
This week during this debate the Bloc Quebecois sponsored an event in the Hall of Honour of the House of Commons, which was a front for the tobacco companies, where free drinks and food were served. It was a cheap, shameless effort to try to seduce members of the House to vote against Bill C-71. I cannot think of one reason why the people of Quebec should be proud of the members they elected to the House who would compromise the health and welfare of their children. The province of Quebec has the highest number of kids who smoke. They are compromising those children under the guise of tobacco sponsorship.
The tobacco companies claim that it is an issue of free speech. They hide their true agenda under spurious arguments.
In the United States they increased the content of carcinogens and addictive materials in tobacco.
If they say that advertising has no effect on children, why are they currently engaged in such a fight? Why do they invest millions of dollars into sponsorships? Out of the goodness of their hearts? I do not think so. Why are they currently engaged in the most aggressive advertising campaign in China that the world has ever seen? They are doing it because they recognize there are millions of potential smokers they can capitalize on. China is only beginning to realize the cost.
The tobacco companies have one agenda, to ensure that the greatest number of people in this or any other country smoke. They do not give a damn whether there will be any adverse effects. They are purveyors of a carcinogenic, toxic material which, if brought to this country today, would never be legalized.
A libertarian would say that people have the right to do what they want. People should have the right to consume whatever they want, whenever they want. However, libertarian views do not apply to 11 year olds. That is why we are trying to put forth good, tough legislation that will address the tobacco epidemic we have in Canada today.
I urge the government to do the following. First, be courageous and restore the tobacco taxes to the January 1995 level. Second, put an export tax on tobacco. That will cut the legs out from underneath the smugglers. Third, enforce the law so that those people who are smuggling are brought to justice. Fourth, introduce appropriate and effective educational policies within our schools, not only for tobacco but also for alcohol, pot, cocaine, heroin, et cetera. The dangers of all those substances need to be told through our education system.
This is an opportunity for the government to take a leadership role on this important issue. It can do something constructive for the health and welfare of all Canadians and, most important, for the health and welfare of our children.
Bob Speller Haldimand—Norfolk, ON
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his comments. As the hon. member knows, I do not agree with them certainly.
I did not mention this earlier in my speech, but in my riding of Haldimand-Norfolk not only do I have the largest number of producers of tobacco in the country but I also have the largest native reserve in the country. I use reserve in that sense.
Yes, the tobacco producers do support me in my riding. However, I was shocked to hear some of the statements coming out of the Reform Party members who have called on the government to put on an export tax and to increase the taxes. Even today on the local radio station the Reform candidate in my riding said they are against this. I wonder if he has consulted with the local candidate in my riding who keeps claiming that Reform would not do any of that if they were in government. It is just a question of free speech.
I know the hon. member and I know his background. We have talked about this issue today. I heard just a clip of him talking about the tobacco diversification program. I know he, unlike other members in his party, has spoken to me and has said that he is concerned with tobacco farmers and producers, unlike his House leader who said that we should just get rid of them all.
I want to explain to the hon. member, who may not be aware, in terms of the tobacco diversification program, as I explained earlier, there are only so many places where we can diversify. In fact, with an 80 acre farm there is not a lot that one can do in terms of producing other products. They have been into ginseng and some other things but frankly the markets have been cluttered. What does he expect these farmers to do when his party puts them out of work?
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Madam Speaker, we are very sensitive to anybody who could lose a job. That is the last thing we want to happen. However, we have to balance this situation out with what is actually occurring.
We have a group of individuals producing a substance that is the single leading cause of preventable death in this country today. The hon. member may talk about 16,000 people who are employed in the industry but let us balance this off with the fact that 45,000 Canadians die every year from tobacco related diseases. Two hundred and fifty thousand children pick up the tobacco habit every year.
The fact is the tobacco lobby is actively going and supporting this member for its own gains. It wants to invest money into this individual's coffers, not for the benefit of the individual but for the benefit of its own pockets. It has no interest whatsoever in trying to do something for the betterment of Canadian society and for the people therein.
The reality is that tobacco producers are caught in a difficult situation. Crop diversification has worked in a number of countries and I will be happy to offer the hon. member examples of where this has occurred. However, beyond that we are looking at a situation where the production of the substance is costing the Canadian taxpayer and society billions of dollars in losses to health care and to the gross national product.
I would ask the hon. member, when he contemplates this situation, to balance out the supposedly tiny gains that he has in his own riding to the collective good of Canadian society.
Joe Volpe Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member who has just spoken about Bill C-71. He gave us a few issues to think about and I would like to congratulate him.
The hon. member spoke about one thing that our friends in the Bloc Quebecois are ignoring. While he, and we, are speaking about the health of Canadians throughout the country, wherever they may live, the members of the Bloc Quebecois are ignoring the health of young and old alike. They are still confusing the issue of sponsorships with the issue of health. I would like to thank the member for coming back to the topic that concerns us today, which is a bill that deals with health.
He emphasized certain very important themes, obviously, but I would like to ask him a question. It is somewhat political, I admit, but it is also necessary.
When the member talks about the importance of a comprehensive strategy to combat a preventable illness he addressed a series of items and he made some recommendations. They have been considered by committee and they will continue to be debated in this House.
He pointed to the export tax which regrettably was tried a few short years ago and did not work. We would be prepared to consider that or at least his views on the matter. More important, the member ought to know that when there was a reduction in the taxes on tobacco a few short years ago there was as well a commitment of $180 million to provide funds for education, enforcement, promotion and research. Of those moneys spread out over four years, he will know that in the course of the last three years there was $104 million and $24 million currently available for this year.
I am sure there is enough of a question in there for the hon. member to address it in one minute.