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 young.
- 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
Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, the final petition is from Dingwall, Nova Scotia. The petitioners draw to the attention of the House that the consumption of alcoholic beverages may cause problems or impair one's ability, and specifically that fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol related birth defects are 100 per cent preventable by avoiding alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
The petitioners pray and call on Parliament to enact legislation to require health warning labels to be placed on the containers of all alcoholic beverages to caution expectant mothers and others of the risks associated with alcohol consumption.
Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present.
Two of the petitions have to do with the national highway system, the first of which notes that 38 per cent of our national highway system is substandard. Therefore the petitioners call on Parliament to urge the federal government to join with the provincial governments to make the national highway system upgrading possible.
The second petition, which is also on the subject of highways, notes that 52 per cent of the price of gasoline is composed of taxes, while only 5 per cent of the revenue is reinvested in the highways. Therefore the petitioners call on Parliament to not increase the federal excise tax on gasoline and allocate its current revenues to rehabilitating our crumbling highways.
Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC
Mr. Speaker, the third petition concerns reading and literacy. The petitioners note that the 7 per cent GST now applied to reading material is unjust. The petitioners ask Parliament to zero rate books, magazines and newspapers under the GST.
I support their petition.
Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation And Safety Board Act
Janko Peric Cambridge, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am glad the Minister of Health is in the House today to hear me present this petition.
Five hundred and fifty petitioners from my riding of Cambridge pray and request that the government make a commitment to renew the national AIDS strategy and maintain the current level of funding.
Questions On The Order Paper
Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.
Questions On The Order Paper
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)
Is that agreed?
Questions On The Order Paper
Some hon. members
March 6th, 1997 / 10:20 a.m.
Cape Breton—East Richmond
David Dingwall Minister of Health
moved that Bill C-71, an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise and speak to Bill C-71. There are many in the House today who have experienced much debate on the issue of tobacco regulation. Several of us who sit here today were here in 1988 for debate on what was then Bill C-51, the Tobacco Products Control Act.
I would like to thank my previous colleague, the former minister of health, the Hon. Jake Epp, who brought forward Bill C-51, for his commitment to tobacco regulation and for his efforts in legislating in this area.
Almost seven years ago Minister Epp rose in the House to speak on Bill C-51 at third reading. I quote from that speech:
The purpose of the bill is to provide a legislative response to a national public health problem of substantial and present concern. It is intended to protect the health of Canadians in light of conclusive evidence implicating tobacco use and the incidents of numerous debilitating and fatal diseases.
Although we on this side of the House have on several occasions found cause to differ with the party of the Hon. Jake Epp, Bill C-51 had the support of my party.
We did have concerns about the legislation at that time. We wanted to make certain that the bill went as far as possible to restrict the access and exposure of tobacco products.
My hon. colleague, the minister of heritage, spoke to those concerns throughout the debates on Bill C-51. While we wanted to ensure the legislation was effective, we never wavered in our support for the principles of the bill. Today we have before us a bill which speaks to the commitment of my party and of the government to the health of Canadians.
Tobacco is a preventable source of much health damage to Canadians. Behind the glossy advertising and the carefree lifestyles that sponsorships feed off is a record of suffering and of lives ended far too soon. Who in the House has not been touched by the devastating toll of tobacco use? We have all had relatives, friends or acquaintances who have been sick or who have died because of tobacco related illnesses.
As debate on Bill C-71 has already revealed, smoking has complex and diverse impacts and as the research mounts all around the world we are learning much more about the effects of that use. We are coming to understand more of the factors that influence the decision to smoke and yes, the decision to continue to smoke.
Let me underline one tragic fact. The decision to smoke is being made overwhelmingly by teenagers. Some 85 per cent of all smokers started before the age of 16. Those who suggest that this issue is about adult choices should keep that in mind.
What faces these young smokers? A lifetime of weakened health for one thing, because we know that tobacco kills. We know that research shows a death toll of about 40,000 lives of Canadians cut short each and every year. We know that tobacco is associated with about 30 per cent of all cancer in this country.
If that were all the price we paid because young people fall prey to the lure of tobacco use, it would be too much. But there is more. Tobacco has economic and social costs as well. One of the most obvious economic impacts is the cost of health care for people who suffer from the effects of tobacco use. We face those costs from a number of sources, the most basic of course is the cost to our medicare system.
I think all political parties in the House understand Canadians believe very strongly in our medicare system and I believe all political parties in the House know we need to improve the way we use that system. That means reducing unnecessary drains on the system.
Tobacco must be the best example of a preventable cost to medicare. But we estimate that tobacco use costs our society approximately $15 billion each and every year, about $3.5 billion resulting from the kinds of direct health care costs I have been talking about.
I could talk about how those costs are incurred, about hospital days spent, visits to doctors and prescription costs, about time spent in long term health care facilities. We could spend considerable time talking about the illness that doctors link to tobacco consumption. It could be cancer, heart disease or a lung disease such as emphysema.
We must remember and take to heart that the smokers who are addicted and who are perhaps sick today because of their habit probably started to smoke when they were very young, probably when they were teenagers.
As we debate the bill today yet another generation of Canadian youth is being exposed to the lure of tobacco products. The new tobacco customers are young Canadians. As we sit in our places today let us try to remember the feeling of young people. Young people feel themselves to be immortal. They want to be adults and do things that seem adult like.
Being a teenager is a time to assert one's independence. It is a time when the opinions of friends and peers can weigh more heavily on a decision than the advice of teachers, parents or even physicians. The most common reason cited for starting to smoke is the influence of friends, better known as peer pressure. A 13-year old or a 14-year old cannot easily conceptualize the possibility of getting heart disease or cancer in 30 or 40 years.
Let us think of our own youth whether we grew up in Quebec, Ontario or the maritimes and how immune as young people we thought we were to diseases such as heart disease, cancer and others. If the young get hooked the addictive power of nicotine will do the rest. It is as simple as that.
We know that one in three young Canadians smoke and that half of them will ultimately die prematurely of a tobacco related disease. We know that youth are the most tragic casualties of tobacco use and addiction. We know that youth are the most vulnerable to tobacco promotion.
I wish to present to the House some facts that ought to be examined both in light of their substance and in terms of the devastating effects they can have on young people: 29 cent of 15 to 19 year olds and 14 per cent of 10 to 14 year olds are currently smoking. Let us imagine a 10-year old daughter or a 13-year old son smoking. Do they visualize the possibility of cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other lung diseases? No. Smoking among teens aged 15 to 19 has increased by as much as 25 per cent since 1991.
According to the 1994 youth smoking survey, 260,000 children in Canada between the ages of 10 and 19 began smoking in that year. Figures like these which are being replicated in other countries have prompted their governments to legislate in the area of tobacco control. The World Health Organization has classified youth smoking as a global pediatric epidemic. That is why the government's priorities in developing the legislation and our overall tobacco strategy have been focused on young people.
The tobacco industry claims it does not advertise to encourage youth to take up smoking. That is what the industry says. It claims
it is only encouraging the switching of brands among older established smokers. The focus of advertizing, says the industry, is an audience of entirely adult tobacco consumers.
If we walk the streets we see the billboards and the paraphernalia in terms of caps, jackets and T-shirts. We can check billboards in close proximity to schools and other institutions for young people. These billboards and paraphernalia are certainly not a campaign directed toward the senior citizens. The campaign is for young people.
An hon. member
David Dingwall Cape Breton—East Richmond, NS
I know the hon. member opposite hates to hear the facts, but let me share something with him. I know he will enter the debate. Then we will have an opportunity to hear his wisdom and intellectual fervour. Perhaps he will listen to one of his own who said on this issue that the tobacco industry said it did not advertise to encourage youth to take up smoking.
Vincent Fischer, president of Symbiose, can qualify as being the guru of sponsorship in Quebec. As he notes, the studies are based on common sense. He said:
If tobacco manufacturers invest $60 million, they are not doing so for the good of their health. They are doing so because they are getting a return on their investment.
That is not me. That is an advertising executive in the province of Quebec.
As I said, the focus of advertising, says the industry, is an audience of an entirely adult tobacco consumers. The information all around us suggests and proves that it is not so.
I again refer hon. members to the article in La Presse of yesterday.
An hon. member
David Dingwall Cape Breton—East Richmond, NS
I know the hon. member opposite does not like to hear what I am saying. He wishes to avail himself of the opportunity to heckle. I would encourage him to participate so that we can have an intelligent debate of the subject.
An hon. member
You are asking for too much.
David Dingwall Cape Breton—East Richmond, NS
Perhaps I have gone too far in suggesting the hon. member might be able to engage in debate of the subject matter in an intelligent way. I will reflect upon my earlier assertion and perhaps at the end of the debate I will have a few words to say to my friends opposite.
Young people are sophisticated enough to understand the purposes of tobacco company marketing tools. Health Canada's 1994 youth smoking survey found that 85 per cent of young smokers and 83 per cent of non-smokers agreed that advertisements for events
sponsored by tobacco companies were a means to directly advertise cigarette brands.
I recognize many of my colleagues opposite have expressed concern about the link between sponsorship and youth smoking. I would like to take a few moments to discuss that issue.
The National Cancer Institute of Canada has issued a report entitled "Tobacco Marketing and Youth: Examination of Youth Attitudes and Behaviour on Tobacco Industry Advertising and Sponsorship". This is Canada's premier cancer research organization. It concluded an exhaustive review of the available science not only in Canada but indeed beyond our borders.
The institute found there was substantial evidence that young people are aware of and respond to cigarette advertising. Advertisements present images that appeal to youth and are seen and remembered by them.
The United States will be implementing a full ban on sponsorship promotion in August 1998. I would like to share the following points from the federal registry of August 28, 1996.
The FDA has found that image based advertising is particularly effective with young people and that the information conveyed by imagery is likely to be more significant to young people than information conveyed by other means in advertisement.
The FDA also pointed to studies showing that children are exposed to substantial and unavoidable advertising, that exposure to tobacco advertising leads to favourable beliefs about tobacco's use, that advertising plays a role in leading young people to overestimate the prevalence of tobacco use, and that these factors are related to young people's tobacco initiation and use.
In essence it is a way in which to present an image and an environment that smoking is okay, that smoking some how is sexy, and that smokers should not worry about getting some form of disease in the future. It is a very well carved and focused strategy by the advertisers but in particular the tobacco companies.
The FDA also looked at sponsored events and found that the effect of sponsored events on young people who attend such events was enormous. Advertising affects young people's opinion of tobacco products, first, by creating attractive and existing images that can serve as a badge of identification; second, by utilizing multiple and prolonged exposure in a variety of media; and, third, by associating the product with varied positive events and images.
The World Health Organization also recognized the link between tobacco sponsorship and consumption. It has found that the tobacco industry uses the sponsoring of sports and entertainment to complement and/or replace other marketing activities to reach large audiences and to associate their products with positive images.
I am not standing here today to tell adults how to live their lives. I am not telling them to quit smoking although I would hope they would. I am not banning tobacco in this country.
Some have suggested that only a ban on tobacco would really address this public health challenge. There are seven million addicted smokers in Canada. If we were to ban this product, can we imagine the chaos and smuggling that would take place? They are addicted to a substance which according to scientific reports is more addictive than heroin. They are addicted to a product that would be prohibited if introduced on the market today. It is a product that kills when used as directed.
It is not a new product. It is a product with generations of use and an insidious hold. To be reasonable and to be responsible we have to make every effort to prevent youth from beginning to smoke. Experts on tobacco generally agree it is far more productive to discourage young people from experimenting with smoking than trying to place several legal restrictions on adult smokers. Our strategy must be to reduce and ultimately eliminate tobacco use.
We introduced a blueprint in December 1995 whereby numerous consultations took place. We consulted widely with provincial and territorial governments, the health community, tobacco manufacturers, collateral industries, sports and cultural groups, and concerned Canadians. There were over 2,700 submissions in response to the blueprint. Now, 15 months later, I stand before the House at third reading of Bill C-71. The bill contains reasonable measures that will restrict advertising and sponsorship promotion.
Let me make it perfectly clear that we are not banning advertising. We are not banning sponsorship promotion. Instead the bill will place restrictions on these promotional activities which will reduce the exposure of cigarettes in Canadian society.
The government has taken into consideration the concerns of the arts and sports events that rely on tobacco company sponsorship. We have set an implementation period for the sponsorship restriction provisions. We will bring them into force in October 1998. This is effectively a two-season adjustment period.
Let me remind the House that the completion of the implementation period equates to a banning of sponsorship or sponsorship promotion. I challenge some of the national media outlets and their spokespersons to stop acting in a grossly negligent manner in pursuing a track of misinformation about the bill and about the effects of the bill. It is just not so.
The coming into force of section 24 in October 1998 will mean the implementation of restrictions on the extent to which sponsorship activities can be promoted.
I have seen the various legal opinions that the tobacco industry has circulated about Bill C-71. One interpretation asserted that the bill would prohibit persons under 18 years of age from being hired at retail locations where tobacco products are sold. The bill creates no such prohibition and does not deal with criteria for vendors and employees in any way. The bill focuses on the ages of the purchasers. It focuses on sales to minors. Other interpretations have alleged that maximum fines and imprisonment will automatically ensue for any contravention of the act on the day following its coming into force.
In reality, such interpretation ignores the establishment of an enforcement policy in my own department. This policy deems prosecution as a last resort to achieve compliance. It includes warning letters and consultations prior to any consideration of legal action. If members opposite are asking me to do the exact opposite, I will reflect on that.
I could probably stand here all day and talk about the various legal opinions tobacco lobbyists have circulated. We know they are the heart and soul of members of the Bloc Quebec, the lobbyist. I find that the unholy alliance of the Bloc Quebecois and the tobacco lobbyists is rather insidious. For every 15 minutes that this debate continues, one more Canadian will join the role of those who died sooner than they would have otherwise, all because of tobacco use.
Let me add one comment regarding those legal opinions. I have publicly offered a voluntary preclearance mechanism. What I have proposed is that when individuals or groups are apprehensive about possible prosecution under this legislation, when they want to ensure that their advertising or their sponsorship promotion fits within restrictions, they can come to my department and discuss it with our officials.
Before event organizers start making unfounded allegations about what they can do and cannot do, I encourage them to review the restrictions with my department.
It is important not to lose sight of the strong support for Bill C-71 which comes from every region of the country. The Canadian Medical Association supports the legislation: "We are looking for expedient passage of Bill C-71 because we know that the future generation of Canadians must be protected from the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the country".
The president of the Canadian Cancer Society also wrote: "I am writing to express my support for Bill C-71 and to urge you and your ministry to do everything possible within legal frameworks to help end the tragedy of death by tobacco".
I have also received the endorsement of the Coalition québécoise pour le controle du tabac. It represents over 561 organizations across the province of Quebec. The number includes 238 towns and municipalities across the province of Quebec. It includes the Association of Cardiologists of Quebec, the Quebec Dental Association, the Quebec Association of Family Physicians, the Pathologists Association of Quebec, the Quebec Paediatrics Association, the Quebec Medical Association, the Quebec Public Health Association, the Quebec Lung Association and the Quebec division of the Canadian Cancer Society.
My friends opposite on one hand supported Bill C-71 and the principles at second reading and have now done a major flip-flop, the hypocrisy of the Bloc Quebecois. They must be accountable for this flip-flop. They must be accountable to those 561 organizations that support the provisions of Bill C-71.
To the hon. members opposite, their day of reckoning is coming and it is coming fairly soon. They will pay the price for their opposition to the health of the Quebec people, particularly the young people of the province of Quebec.
It falls to my colleagues opposite with the same force that it falls to me as the Minister of Health. We cannot, as members of Parliament, overlook the unavoidable toll of tobacco.
In Quebec alone, the members of the Bloc Quebecois, in their unholy alliance with the tobacco companies and the lobbyists, are saying to 76,000 young people who will begin smoking this year they do not care about the health of les enfants des quebecois. That is what they are saying by their opposition to Bill C-71. This is 30 per cent of the beginning smokers in the country as a whole. Smoking is more common in the province of Quebec than in other parts of Canada and the hon. members know it. They reject outright the efforts of the hon. minister of health in the province of Quebec, one of their own, Jean Rochon.
It is a flip-flop today. Why? It is to get the media headlines each and every day in order to save their political skins in the next federal election.
Thirty-eight per cent of Quebecers are smokers. In the rest of Canada the rate is 31 per cent. They are both unacceptably high. As many as three million people alive today in Canada will die from tobacco related diseases, and one million of those are in the province of Quebec. That is far too many. These are reasons enough to do all we can to reduce tobacco consumption in this country.
I know a number of my colleagues are waiting to speak to this bill. They share my concerns about reducing tobacco consumption in Canadian youth. However, let me take a few moments to
acknowledge the efforts of some of the people who have helped get us this legislation here today.
I refer of course to my parliamentary secretary. The member for Eglinton-Lawrence certainly deserves a lot of praise and a lot of recognition. He has brought his experience and judgment to this bill and I wish to thank him for it. I also want to thank the hon. member for Burin-St. George's who chairs the Standing Committee on Health. I want to thank all members of that committee regardless of their political affiliations.
I would be remiss in my remarks if I did not single out one member. In this House we have differed on many issues and I would suspect that we will continue to differ on many other issues. However, I must give credit where credit is due, to the non-partisanship demonstrated by the hon. member for Macleod. He has stood in his place time and time again and attacked me on a variety of different issues, but when it comes to this issue of smoking, tobacco and the control of tobacco use in this country, he has not stood with the Minister of Health; he has stood with the young people and I think he is deserving of praise from all of us in this Chamber.
I want to thank the members of the Bloc Quebecois, in particular the member for Lévis. I know they have concerns with the bill but I am confident that at the end of the day they will put the health of Canadians and, yes, the health of Quebecers first and foremost.
I say to members of the Bloc I know that many of them who are over there are very uncomfortable with the decisions that have been made by the leadership of the Bloc Quebecois. I know that. I say to my hon. friends opposite that it is never too late to change one's mind and do the right thing. I am sure that the children in the province of Quebec will be forever indebted to members of the Bloc Quebecois if they were to exert the kind of leadership that others in the province of Quebec have exerted in terms of supporting children and supporting the health of those children in the province of Quebec.
Finally, I wish to say a few words about the other place. Hopefully later this day this bill will receive third reading. It will leave this Chamber and go to another chamber. I would suspect, having the respect that I have for the other chamber and its members, they will examine this bill in an expeditious way, but in a comprehensive way, and that they too will see the purposes of what this bill is about. It is about the health of Canadians. It is about the health of children. It is about the health of children in the future.
I want to thank all members of the House who have participated in this debate. I know at times it has been acrimonious, but I want to say to all members that we can be a part of something which is very important to the country. I enjoin all members to join with me in that act.
Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health asked us to reconsider our decision to vote against the bill at third reading.
Before he leaves us, I would urge him to be as intelligent as he would like us to be and make his bill more flexible. It would then be possible to achieve the objectives we in the Bloc Quebecois supported at second reading, because the objectives of this bill are admirable, except in the case of devices like taking away sponsorships. Sports and cultural events so dear to the hearts of Quebecers are being deprived of these sponsorships, including the Montreal Grand Prix and all the international festivals such as the Just for Laughs festival and the jazz festival.
Vancouver also has a jazz festival. Fireworks attract thousands of people from Canada and Quebec. As you know, international events attract many tourists as well. These events give Quebec and Canada international visibility.
The Montreal Grand Prix is the third biggest sports event broadcast throughout the world, after the Olympic Games that are held once every four years and the World Cup. The Formula I Grand Prix comes right after these two. This country is lucky to have a Grand Prix event, to be seen throughout the world and to say to the people of the world: "Welcome to our country".
This country is supposed to be renowned for its quality of life, although, unfortunately, Canada's child poverty rate is one of the highest among Western countries, among the G-7 countries. That is not something to be proud of.
When the minister explained his objectives, we agreed with him, as you know. That is why we voted for the bill at second reading. The minister is an experienced parliamentarian, as you are, Mr. Speaker, and knows that at second reading the debate is on principles and objectives. That is why we supported the bill at second reading.
However, the minister should take the time to read the only speech by the only opposition member authorized to speak in the House at second reading. The hon. member for Portneuf also wanted to speak at second reading, but the hon. member for Macleod, after only a few minutes, a few seconds, called the previous question.
This caused some confusion in the House and, as a result, there was only one speaker for each party at second reading. The minister, after hesitating for months and months, as his predecessor had done, tabled this bill before Christmas. The debate at second reading was on December 5.
This is a venerable parliamentary strategy. A government that wants to pass controversial bills will table them at the end of a session, either in December or in June. They know that, at Christmas time, people are busy with their Christmas shopping. The minister purposely tabled his bill at that time because he did not want this bill to give rise to debate.
The Reform Party also did not want a debate, to the point that, when the minister announced that the bill would be tabled on December 5 at his news conference of December 1, the spokesperson for the Reform Party, who had not read the text, as no one had a copy at that point, immediately agreed in principle to ensure that the bill was passed as quickly as possible. That takes the cake. An opposition party that gives its approval before even reading the bill and its clauses.
When the Minister of Health uses a member of the third party who takes such positions, I think he is putting his credibility on the line. It makes no sense. How can you support a bill if you have not read it? In any case, we in the official opposition do not make a practice of doing so and we are not going to start now. We take the time to read the bills.
We supported the minister's objectives, but had reservations about sponsorship. I said so in my speech as the official opposition critic on tobacco. This week the Prime Minister quoted my remarks, noting that I had said we supported the minister's objectives.
That is true, but the Prime Minister should have finished reading and mentioned that we had reservations about the restrictions imposed on the sponsorship of sporting and cultural events and that, if none of the changes proposed were accepted by the Minister of Health or the government, and I said it even then, we would oppose the bill at third reading. We did not reverse our position, as the minister suggests, we did not do an about-face under the influence of the tobacco lobby.
I suggest the Minister of Health look to see who gives the most to the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is funded by the tobacco companies, and is not bothered by the fact-rather interesting behaviour. On one hand, it is acceptable for the Liberal Party to receive contributions from tobacco companies and, on the other hand, we are being accused of being the tobacco companies' accomplices. We are nobody's accomplices.
The Bloc Quebecois supports cultural and sports events. To this extent, we are their allies because their very survival is at stake. This is what we support. The government side is implying all sorts of things. No matter how calm the minister sounds in appealing for common sense on this health issue, we will not let him pull the wool over our eyes.
Who is the most opportunistic, the minister or us? Who, as he said, is being hypocritical, when the Liberal government while waging a war against tobacco products does not dare put them on the list of dangerous and illegal substances? And why not? Because the federal government alone stands to make $2.6 billion from taxes on tobacco products, as the budget reveals. The other jurisdictions in Canada will reap another $2 billion, for a grand total of $4.6 billion.
They will not recognize tobacco as a dangerous and illegal product; that would be the logical thing to do but no, they want the revenues from that dangerous but nonetheless legal product.
We can very well hold a debate on the risks associated with smoking. At the second reading stage, during the speech I made as the official opposition critic in this area, I did admit that tobacco was a dangerous product, as demonstrated by scientific studies. The most serious study on the subject was conducted by scientists at the University of Texas and the Beckman Institute in California. They found a direct link between lung cancer, some other forms of cancer, and smoking.
That study refers to a carcinogenic substance and to the P-53 gene, which weakens the body's immune system, its resistance to illnesses that may cause cancer in the long term. We do recognize that. Statistics show that, every year, 42,000 people in Canada, including 12,000 in Quebec, die of cancer or lung diseases related to smoking. We do admit there is a problem.
But should we proceed within a legal framework on this issue? Yes, we could establish a legal framework for a government initiative, program or policy. But then again, that legislation would have to be enforceable, balanced, well designed, sensible. It would have to provide for a well structured implementation over time so it can be enforced. Because a law people do not comply with is unenforceable as it would require much more than the 40 inspectors we now have to make sure it is implemented. At present, in all of Canada, only 40 federal inspectors supervise the enforcement of the existing legislation. There already is a legislation providing for the monitoring of convenience stores to ensure they do not sell tobacco products to young people under 18. This legislation is not new; it already exists. We are adding a few details like the identity card, but the law already exists.
Yet, a serious study shows that, in Canada in general, it is not being enforced in 25 per cent of cases, while in Quebec the rate is almost 50 per cent, apparently because federal inspectors do not go there much. Why should we pass a new law when we know that the existing one is neither enforced nor enforceable? Why?
Why is this legislation unbalanced? I will give you an example. The government does not appeal enough to the accountability of citizens, young people and parents. For instance, for corner stores
and other retailers who sell tobacco products, this legislation provides for significant fines that I find excessive, while the offender himself would not be fined.
Let us take the example of the legislation on alcohol. How does it work? Of course, fines are imposed on those who serve alcohol to minors but, at the same time, minors are also penalized: they are arrested and must go to court. You will tell me that it is a youth court, but they still have to appear before the judge. And parents who do not abide by the legislation on alcohol, at least in Quebec, are also questioned.
But that is not the case here. Yet, according to the health minister and the parliamentary secretary and many others, tobacco is more dangerous than alcohol. However, we know that drinking and driving may create problems; many accidents are caused by alcohol. Why this inconsistency?
Here is another inconsistency. In the health committee, of which I am a member, we see there is some responsiveness. I am not taking a final stand on this, because it has not been discussed in our caucus yet. For example, there are some who think that marijuana and hashish, which are soft drugs, should be legalized. Why? Because, these people are saying: "If they were legal, they would be better controlled. The government could better ensure the quality of the products and they would be less dangerous for young people".
Does making drugs illegal reduce the use of so-called soft drugs and even harder drugs? On the contrary, make them illegal and use increases. Is legislation effective enough in itself to prevent increased use of tobacco, alcohol or any other substance?
We could go back in time and look at what happened when alcohol was made illegal. In the United States, in the 1930s, they had something called prohibition. Being my senior, Mr. Speaker, you will recall the incredible impact banning alcoholic drinks had, the resulting increase in contraband and crime for instance. I am a baby boomer, but my parents often told me stories about those days.
Without getting into Al Capone in Chicago and all that, we all remember stories about that era; there were even movies made about it. A purely legal or legislative approach is not enough to fight something that may be bad in itself.
Before sitting on the health committee, I was the official opposition's critic for youth and training. That is the line that should be developed, that should have been developed. It was suggested earlier that the Bloc Quebecois had somewhat ambiguous, hypocritical and paradoxical positions. I have a figure here showing that, when he announced he was imposing a special surtax on tobacco two years ago, the Minister of Finance told us it would bring in $180 million in additional revenue, which would be used to fund this great prevention campaign and ensure better control. How was this $180 million used? In fact, $40 million was spent.
I am looking over the figures for this year. But, this year, what is the government doing? It is legislating. With this legislation, given how concerned the minister, his parliamentary secretary and the Liberal members are about public health, we would have thought the government would have used at least that $180 million. Yet, only $10 million was spent on prevention and another $18 million on control and inspection, for a grand total of $28 million. That is far from $180 million. What did they do with the rest of the money? Where have these millions gone?
I will tell you what happened to these millions. There were spent, among other things, to promote Canadian unity, to the tune of $23 million for flags, sweaters and all kinds of gadgets. I can tell you about it, because a provincial final is currently being held in my riding, as part of the Quebec Games. I try to attend this extraordinary event as often as possible, and I urge people to the same and go to my riding of Lévis, because it is the first time these games are organized by a RCM, a group of municipalities getting together to put up a major event.
What did the federal government do? The heritage minister came barging in and, pretty well at the last minute, announced a $100,000 subsidy, but with one condition: the Canadian flag would have to be up there and the athletes would have to wear sweaters that promote the flag and Canadian unity. We are talking about the provincial finals of the Quebec Games. Can you believe it? The heritage minister has some nerve.
With the $63 million that it is spending, hers is the only department that got a budget increase this year, when the government was cutting elsewhere, including in transfer payments to the provinces for health, the notorious Canada social transfer, which now also includes post-secondary education and social assistance. The government is indeed making deep cuts in these areas.
On the other hand, it spends on things like that. Oddly enough, this $63 million is roughly the same amount that sports and cultural events will lose, those $60 million in sponsorships, if the bill is passed this evening and if the Senate then gives it approval.
Given that difference of only $3 million, the heritage minister, who is just as convinced as her colleagues are, that is the health minister and the parliamentary secretary, should have taken that $63 million to compensate organizers of sports and cultural events, since the amounts are basically the same.
But no, they put Canadian unity ahead of health in this case. When Bloc Quebecois members talk about the survival of cultural
and sports events, we are told that we are putting culture and the promotion of sports ahead of national health objectives.
The government, however, promotes its flags, handing them out for free, and we in the Bloc Quebecois are expected to say nothing. Do not count on it, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps not you personally, you have an objective, non-partisan role, but through you, those members who make appeals to us, the minister who speaks from the heart, who says to the Minister of Canadian Heritage: "Listen, if you are as concerned about the health objective as I am, take part of the $63 million, if not all of it, and apply it to that".
First of all, the health minister should be consistent. Let him take the $180 million set aside for prevention, promotion and education. Let him so something constructive. Then we would take him seriously when he talks about our judgment, our humanity and the health objectives. Then we would take him seriously.
The minister should himself get serious and spend the money accordingly on sports and cultural events, and at the same time, in addition-because he is apparently sure of his objectives concerning young people-he would then take an important dimension seriously.
A number of studies show that, in 80 per cent of cases, young people decide whether or not to take up smoking around the age of 15 or 16. The main reason young people smoke is not because they have seen a logo for tobacco products on a car racing at speeds of 200 kilometres an hour and up; that is not the reason at all. It is not because of a logo seen at the site of a sports or cultural event, for these events draw more adults than young people. This is not why they smoke. The primary reason, in over 50 per cent of cases, is because their friends smoke. They want to copy what their friends are doing. They want to be one of the gang, so they start smoking. That is the main reason they start.
If the minister were serious, he ought to accept our recommendations. During the clause by clause examination, we said "If it is peer pressure that gets young people to start smoking, why not make use of this real social fact and provide funding for youth centres and other youth organizations that are so much in need of funding?" These organizations have had their funding cut, federal funding in particular. There could be programs focussed on prevention, young people speaking to others in the schools, telling them not to smoke, for young people are very much aware of the issue.
I have had experience with youth-related issues. Before I was an MP, I always worked in youth organizations, and I have a fairly good idea how young people think about certain things. I am not worried, not pessimistic. I think our young people are becoming increasingly aware about certain things; we could even learn a thing or two from them.
Who has more influence on today's young people than other young people? Sometimes I revert to an old habit, and throw out a piece of paper. How do young people react to this most of the time? They say: "No, no, not there. It goes for recycling". Our children make themselves responsible for recycling at home, but they also talk about it at school, and they talk to us about the environment. The environment is important to our young people, and smoke is an environmental contaminant.
Since the minister is no longer here, I shall now address the parliamentary secretary. Why does he not encourage his minister, if he is serious about this, to put the planned $180 million, at least that much, into programs for young people?
Why not give more money to anti-tobacco groups? I have personally met representatives of all groups and all lobbies, whatever you want to call them. The Bloc Quebecois, unlike the minister, took the time to listen to everyone. Not just one group but everyone, including representatives of anti-tobacco groups. There are intelligent people in those groups, people with sincere convictions.
Far be it from for me to insult people who have done a wonderful job telling young people about the dangers of tobacco use. Unfortunately, although the minister tried to avoid this debate by putting the matter before Parliament at a time when the public's attention was elsewhere, it happened just the same. The debate was there during our Christmas parties. The subject was discussed at family gatherings. And after the holidays, people started to realize what was at stake and that they might lose the Montreal Grand Prix and other major cultural and sports events that were very popular, and they started to demonstrate their opposition, as we saw in Montreal this week.
If there had been a healthy debate, properly set up, and if there had been consultations conducted properly, well planned and unbiased, not this steamroller approach so Quebecers and Canadians would not realize what hit them. If instead of this inappropriate approach to lawmaking, the government had shown a spirit of transparency and openness and respect for different opinions.
Those who support tobacco company sponsorships of cultural and sports events could have talked to the public. People I spoke to personally, in private, said they were appalled at what was happening to cultural and sports events. They are appalled. They have nothing against those who promote culture. Of course, when they defend a position, opinions tend to crystallize, and finally no reconciliation seems possible. But what do you expect? The minister talks to only one side, he hears only one side of the story and will not allow any consultation.
When you want to draft a bill, you organize forums, you have consultations and meetings in the provinces, you ask the provinces whether they agree, to get their co-operation, because the subject we are talking about today is our health. Incidentally, I may remind you, and I am sure you know, but it seems we often forget what it says in the Constitution about health. Perhaps the Minister of Heritage should have the Constitution printed in pamphlet form so Canadians across the country will know what is in the Constitution. Those who read them would see that health is a provincial matter. Where does the word "province" appear in the bill?
With my colleague from Drummond, in committee, when the bill was being studied clause by clause and on many occasions, I tried to say: "Include at least `in co-operation with the provinces"'. But no, the Minister of Health wanted to be the defender of health and take his place in history as the man who had an extraordinary anti smoking bill passed. He wanted credit for it, so much so that, seeing the consternation it caused in his own caucus and in cabinet, the minister said, in public, before anti smoking lobbies, that, if this bill were not passed before the elections, he would put his liberal beliefs, his convictions and his membership in the Liberal Party on the line. He even suggested to people that they vote against the Liberal Party in the next elections.
In doing so, he put pressure on the other members of cabinet. There are people on the other side, members from Quebec, including the member for Outremont, the Secretary of State responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development in Quebec, who said suddenly: "Hang on, I am powerful, influential, I will get the minister to change his position. You will see". He listened to the representatives of sporting and cultural events, because, several months later, he discovered the economic importance of it all: $200 million in economic benefits for the Montreal region, 2,000 jobs.
A few months later, after the holiday season, he discovered that it could adversely affect him in his own riding. He had not thought of it before, but he must have been told so in some Christmas parties. So the Secretary of State responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development in Quebec finally realized that.
The president of the Liberal caucus in Quebec realized that, but as he could feel the heat, he suggested that an election be held. Now, another president of the Liberal caucus is making promises. The extension was one year, he asked for it to be 18 months, and he won. After that, he thought he might just as well ask for a five-year period, but he was turned down. The Minister of Health told him it was enough.
Of course, even if he is from Quebec, from the riding of Saint-Maurice, the Prime Minister himself then had to support the decisions of his Minister of Health. He was compelled to state that the most important thing for him was Canadians' health. Come on. We know him well. We saw him in action during the referendum campaign. He said he would make changes and he did try a little, but as soon as the provincial premiers did not agree, that was the end of his efforts. A little motion was moved in the House of Commons.
Oh yes, we know him. He is the one who, when he was Minister of Justice and acting on behalf of former Prime Minister Trudeau, imposed patriation of the Constitution from London and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Today, he tells us that Canadians and Quebecers' health is what counts the most as far as he is concerned and that he will make this issue a plank in his electoral platform.
The Minister of Health reminded us of that when the Liberal Party agreed to delay application of some restrictions for 18 months. He will hear about it during the electoral campaign. The voters will talk about it, the official opposition too.
The bill is so imprecise and deliberately confused that it leaves room for all kinds of interpretation and speculation. Everybody is confused. For example, the organizers of the Grand Prix de Montréal claim that, according to this bill, if passed, people could not even watch the Australian Grand Prix this weekend on television.
Sponsorship of events such as the Grand Prix is a package deal. I have no respect for tobacco companies who use blackmail but, because of this bill and because of the anxiety caused by its adoption, Quebecers may not be able this weekend to watch Jacques Villeneuve race in the Australian Grand Prix. He is the son of Gilles Villeneuve, and the potential world champion driver this year.
This morning, the plane I took from Quebec City was delayed due to a terrible storm. People recognized me and told me they were hoping I would rise and speak about this, because they want to see Jacques Villeneuve compete in the Australian Grand Prix over the weekend. They absolutely want to see him.
It is not a totally sure thing. This is a very particular event, very current, and it just goes to prove that the 18-month extension proposed by the president of the caucus applies only to clause 24. The parliamentary secretary knows quite well that it applies only to clause 24 and not to clause 31.
What is in clause 31? It deals to retransmission. The 18-month adjustment period does not apply to that clause. I am sure that some Liberal members are not aware of that. Therre are not many of them, but maybe they are listening.
I urge them to do as the member for Outremont did, even if it is a bit late; I urge them to read clause 31 of Bill C-71 which they will pass tonight. It deals with retransmission. They will see that the 18-month adjustment period does not apply to clause 31. Clause 31
is really special, it means a tobacco company's logo cannot appear on a car.
If this is allowed, if a tobacco company's logo or name appears on the car, TV networks will have to distort the image. It would be somewhat similar to what is done in a news report when witnesses want to remain anonymous for whatever reason. Their image is then distorted to ensure they are not recognized.
Imagine the next formula 1 race with TV cameras trying to distort only the cigarette company's name appearing on the car so that it cannot be recognized. Imagine that Gilles Villeneuve is sponsored by a tobacco company, we will not be able to see him. If he comes first, I imagine they will go to the runner-up, but since most racers are sponsored by tobacco companies, the only one they might be allowed to show will be the one who came in last. This does not make sense. Usually people are interested in the driver who comes in first not last. This is rather odd.
But it is the truth. The member who is grinning should look at clause 31 and ask a lawyer to review it. If he is of the opinion that what I am saying is wrong, the member should have his health minister make a solemn statement to that effect in this House before we adjourn, as he did the other day, with good reason.
The job of the opposition is to criticize, but sometimes we have to recognize that the minister does set the record straight. For example, some people in Quebec, and perhaps elsewhere, are saying that it would prohibit persons under 18 years of age from being hired at convenience stores. Indeed, it was not clear.
We wondered, we asked questions and so did Reform members. In a solemn declaration, the minister said: "It is not in the bill. It is not in, but I commit myself to not prohibiting it by way of regulations". He said it would not make any sense. He took that solemn pledge. We are asking him to do the same for the broadcasting of Grand Prix auto races. We want him to say: "Section 31 is so convoluted that you could read into it one thing and its opposite".
That is saying quite a lot. If I had more time, I would prove to you that this bill has been put together in such a way that some sections are totally incomprehensible. Nobody can understand them.