Debates of Nov. 25th, 1998
House of Commons Hansard #159 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.
- Ontario Health Care
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- Apec Inquiry
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- Motions For Papers
- Tobacco Act
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Motions For Papers
An hon. member
Motions For Papers
Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC
That is for tomorrow. I am a day ahead.
Motions For Papers
The Deputy Speaker
Is it agreed then that all the remaining Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers stand?
Motions For Papers
Some hon. members
November 25th, 1998 / 3:25 p.m.
Ralph Goodale for the Minister of Health
moved that Bill C-42, an act to amend the Tobacco Act, be read the third time and passed.
Elinor Caplan Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the debate on this crucial piece of legislation.
It is a privilege to support Bill C-42 because it represents yet another step in the government's efforts to put Canada squarely at the international forefront of tobacco control.
As hon. members will recall, in the spring of 1997 the House passed Bill C-71, the Tobacco Act, which instituted a number of stringent restrictions on the marketing of tobacco products. It was a strong law then and it went a long way toward protecting the Canadian public from the ravages of smoking. It was a necessary law, because smoking is a public health crisis and it is of extraordinary proportions.
The amendments contained in the legislation before us today would make that strong law even stronger. By phasing out over five years all tobacco company sponsorship promotions of entertainment and sporting events, Bill C-42 reinforces this government's commitment to protecting Canadians and in particular, impressionable young people from the noxious influence of cigarette marketing.
As parliamentarians we will be sending a powerful and historic message to Canadians and in particular to cigarette manufacturers. We will be saying in no uncertain terms that tobacco smoke is public health enemy number one. We will be saying that we will not tolerate the multinational tobacco industry targeting our young people in any attempt to convince them to pick up the habit.
Permit me to briefly outline the contents of Bill C-42. As hon. members will recall, one section of the Tobacco Act includes restrictions on the way tobacco companies could advertise and promote their financial sponsorship of events such as automobile racing, show jumping, musical events and so forth.
In essence they could only display their brand names and logos on the bottom 10% on the face of ads, signs, billboards and so on. This restriction raised concerns. The motor sport industry, for instance, feared that the sudden loss of corporate sponsorship would jeopardize Canada's capacity to host international racing events.
Bill C-42 addresses these concerns. It proposes a phased approach which would delay the enforcement of the Tobacco Act promotional restrictions for two years. For the subsequent three years cigarette companies would be allowed to continue sponsoring events. However, their promotional activities outside the actual site, off site, will be restricted to the 10% size restrictions specified in the Tobacco Act.
At the end of five years, by 2003, promotional sponsorship by cigarette makers will be banned altogether. That is why I say that Bill C-42 strengthens the Tobacco Act. Instead of merely restricting promotional activity, the bill will prohibit them entirely.
These legislative changes will put Canada ahead of other nations that hold the health of their citizens in high regard. Indeed we are moving faster than Australia and the European Union, which are both implementing a similar sponsorship ban in the year 2006, three years after ours.
There is no doubt that some of the cultural and sporting groups may feel the financial pinch when the cigarette manufacturing giants are forced to withdraw their millions of dollars in sponsorship promotion. However, the fact is arts organizations and sports promoters told us over and over again that what they really needed was time to find alternative sources of funding support. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of Bill C-42.
These groups told us that they also needed fairness. Thus under the proposed amendments every group from the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra to the Victoria International Jazz Festival will be treated the same. One group will not be entitled to cigarette money that is denied to another.
It is also important to point out that with Bill C-71, as with Bill C-42 before us today, the government has sought to protect public health while at the same time respecting legitimate concerns of cultural and sports organizations. As such Bill C-42 represents a careful compromise, a delicate balance between those who would desire a complete ban, preferably yesterday, and those who feel it is equally necessary to accommodate sponsored sports, cultural and entertainment events.
Striking that balance has necessitated extensive consultations both with health groups and with representatives of the arts and entertainment industry. In that context I wish to acknowledge the important contribution of the House of Commons Standing Committee of Health in carrying forward the consultation process and refining the bill before us today. As a result of the committee hearings, the government listened and further strengthened Bill C-42 as follows.
First, the start of the phase-in period of the bill is clearly identified as October 1, 1998. This means that if the legislation passes, the five year clock will have already begun ticking.
Second, the grandfathering clause in Bill C-42 would only apply to events that had been held in Canada. In other words, promoters would not be able to move an event here from the United States or elsewhere merely to benefit from the phase-in provisions of the ban on cigarette sponsorship advertising.
Third, the new amendments would permit the grandfathering only of events that have been held in Canada in the 15 months prior to April 25, 1997. That would prevent promoters from resurrecting long dead festivals solely for their value as tobacco marketing vehicles. These changes to Bill C-42 were proposed by the health community, were adopted by the government and are consistent with our public health approach.
In conclusion, we have all heard the alarming facts. Smoking is far and away the major preventable cause of death and disease in Canada. It is estimated that nearly one in five deaths in Canada can be attributed to smoking and that is more than suicides, vehicle crashes, AIDS and murder combined. Every year 45,000 Canadians die of cancer, heart disease and lung disease as a result of tobacco use. Many more Canadians have their quality of life compromised by emphysema and other respiratory ailments.
We know that many people get hooked on smoking during their teen years and that young people are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure and messages, sometimes subliminal, encouraging them to smoke. Obviously as a caring society we have a moral obligation to act. We have a responsibility toward future generations and a duty to help our impressionable young people resist the lure of this deadly habit.
Health groups across the country urged us to lead the fight against smoking. We have not failed them. The Tobacco Act, as we propose to amend it, would give the government some meaningful ammunition in the battle against cigarette use. The legislation gives us as a society the power to look a gift horse in the mouth. We will have the wherewithal to say to tobacco manufacturers “Thanks, but no thanks. We value the health of our children too much to accept your money for event sponsorship”.
I would therefore urge all parties to support the bill so that step by step we can win the battle against tobacco use and achieve our goal of a smoke free society and a healthier Canada. I would like to share my remaining time with the member for Oak Ridges.
The Deputy Speaker
Does the House give unanimous consent to allow the hon. member to share her time with the hon. member for Oak Ridges?
Some hon. members
The Deputy Speaker
There are 30 minutes remaining in the hon. member's time.
Bryon Wilfert Oak Ridges, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of the amendment to the Tobacco Act placed before the House by the Minister of Health.
The amendment's proposal for a complete ban on the promotion of tobacco sponsorship is a step to be applauded and supported by all members of the House. It is a significant protective measure that will help reduce youth smoking and ultimately save young lives. It says no once and for all to tobacco companies using sponsorship to link their deadly products to popular youth oriented events and lifestyles. It says no to the consistent barrage of images that encourage young people to take up smoking and stay addicted to cigarettes.
The bill is the result of extensive consultation with many concerned parties across the country. As a result of this consultation we have proposed legislation that takes us further than ever before in protecting children and youth from harmful effects of tobacco. The latest consultations carried out this month by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health confirmed the need for firm legislation to reduce tobacco use among youth.
The committee listened carefully to the views of a number of groups before approving three new recommendations from the Canadian Cancer Society and other health NGOs. The recommendations presented today as amendments to the legislation make the bill a stronger, more precise instrument for reducing tobacco use among Canadian youth.
As past president of the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association I worked a few years ago with the then minister of health on a program called a break free all stars program aimed at making sure that young people between seven and and twelve years of age did not smoke or take up smoking. I know these kinds of programs can be and are effective. I applaud the government for the type of legislation that it is bringing to the House.
There is no question the bill specifically identifies October 1, 1998 as the start date for the transition. In effect this means that the five year clock has already begun to tick down on sponsorship promotion if the amendment and bill pass.
The bill mandates that the only events which can be grandfathered would be those that have been held in Canada, although it was never the government's intent to allow otherwise. The change will make it clear that an event cannot be moved from elsewhere into Canada and treated as if it has always been here.
The bill mandates that only events which have been held in Canada between January 25, 1996 and April 25, 1997 can be grandfathered. Once again it was never the government's intent to allow events to be resurrected solely for their value as marketing tobacco products.
All three of these changes are important clarifications that are completely consistent with strengthening the government's health objectives. I thank members of the Standing Committee on Health for supporting the inclusion of three amendments in the bill. No doubt critics of the legislation will claim that the government is going too far. Given the alarming statistics on youth and smoking in Canada today, the amendment is appropriate and necessary.
As a former educator having worked with young people for 20 years, I can tell the House of the devastating effects on young people who take up smoking and who get addicted. I will point out some statistics which will illustrate what the government is trying to prevent.
Smoking among Canadian teens between 15 and 19 years of age has increased 25% since 1991. Currently one in three young Canadians smoke and half of them will die prematurely of tobacco related disease. It is for that important reason the Minister of Health has called tobacco use by Canada's youth an urgent public issue. The amendment before the House today is a firm response to the issue on the part of the federal government.
The government's response is clearly in line with the attitude of Canadians toward smoking. Canadians recognize that smoking is our number one health problem. They are also all too aware of the devastation tobacco has wreaked upon the health of our current generation. They implore the government to make every effort to ensure that such devastation will not be inflicted on future generations.
When it comes to youth and smoking the statistics show that we have our work cut out for us: 29% of 15 to 19 year olds and 7% of 10 to 14 year old are current smokers. According to the 1994 youth smoking survey, 260,000 kids in Canada between the ages of 10 and 19 were beginner smokers that year. Figures like these are very disturbing. They are being replicated in other countries and have prompted other governments and the World Health Organization to classify smoking as a global pediatric epidemic.
Assumption patterns reveal that the number of young female smokers has been rising significantly. Again I can speak from personal experience having taught for many years. Girls in particular smoke early, continue to smoke and are less likely to break the habit. As all youth smokers get older, they smoke more. Smokers 10 to 14 years of age on average smoke seven cigarettes a day. Of those 15 to 19 years of age smoke on average 11 cigarettes a day.
What is striking as evidence of youth smoking is the knowledge among youth about the effects of tobacco use.
More than 90% of people between the ages of 10 and 19 believe that tobacco is addictive. A similar percentage believes that environmental tobacco smoke can be harmful to the health of people who do not smoke themselves. About 85% of all smokers surveyed say they began smoking before they were 16 years of age.
My own father, who passed away six years ago, started smoking when he was 13. He died of lung cancer.
The critical time for smoking decisions appears to be between the ages of 12 and 14. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that tobacco sponsorship targets events like music festivals, tennis tournaments and motor racing, which are popular with this age group.
For young people, taking up smoking is a gradual process. It begins with forming a predisposition to smoke; that is, a perception that smoking is normal behaviour and acceptable in society among one's peer group. The perception of normalcy and acceptability that cigarettes are an integral part of a happy and fulfilling life is exactly the perception that tobacco sponsorship promotion encourages among children and youth.
Trying smoking can lead to the experimental stage when smoking happens repeatedly but irregularly. Regular use and addiction follow. The transition from trying to daily use takes an average of two to three years.
About two-thirds of teens will try smoking and about one-half of this group will become regular daily smokers. About 90% of smokers start well before the age of 20.
In surveys, youth have told us that they never expected to become addicted, believing instead that they would be able to quit whenever they wanted to do so. Just as addiction to cigarettes is a gradual process, so is quitting.
Many young people contemplate quitting, prepare to quit and then try to quit. But quitting is not an easy proposition. That is because nicotine is highly addictive. It is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. It is not surprising then that about three-quarters of smokers over the age of 15 have tried to quit but failed.
It is ironic that my own father quit smoking three years before he died. It was an arduous task for him to quit smoking after having smoked for more than 50 years.
Based on the evidence of the health threats of tobacco, based on the thousands of deaths from tobacco related diseases and the terrible toll that tobacco addiction takes on individuals in society, it is very difficult to imagine any reason for not supporting the bill and its important amendments to the Tobacco Act.
It has often been said that young people are the future of this country. It only makes sense, therefore, that we invest in them by protecting them and by ensuring the safest and healthiest environment for their growth and development. That is what this amendment is all about.
I call on all members of the House to support the amendment. A vote in favour of a ban on the promotion of tobacco sponsorship in this country is a vote for a safer, healthier and more productive future for Canada's youth.
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to speak today to Bill C-42, a bill that we have been working on for a long time to try to address what members from across the way have said is the single greatest threat to public health in this country. They are quite correct.
However, I am absolutely dismayed by the comments which have come from the other side. The government claims to be the great upholder of smoking prevention in this country. It was this government that had the single greatest negative impact on the health of Canadians when it rolled back tobacco taxes in 1994. This undid 15 years of good work in the prevention and decrease of tobacco consumption in this country, particularly for our youth.
There was a solution to the smuggling problem of the time that did not involve rolling back taxes, but the single act of rolling back taxes has led a quarter of a million children in Canada to take up smoking. Two hundred and fifty thousand children are now smoking when they would not have done so before.
This message was given to the Minister of Health by the ministry itself. The Ministry of Health told the Minister of Health that if he rolled back the taxes a quarter of a million young people would pick up smoking, that it would have a devastating effect on the country with respect to health care costs, not to mention the humanitarian effects on those people, and that it would affect those most affected by tobacco consumption and cost, the youth of Canada. Yet the government went ahead and did it.
I understand the circumstances. A great deal of smuggling was taking place, particularly in certain areas of Quebec and Ontario. But there was another solution, a solution which we presented many times to the minister. It was a solution that had worked before: an export tax.
We had the same situation in 1991-92. The government of the day introduced an $8 export tax on each carton of cigarettes. Each carton that went to the United States would be stamped and an $8 fee would be paid by the tobacco company. That completely cut the legs out from bringing that tobacco back into Canada with the benefit of the price differential between the United States and Canada. Six weeks after it was introduced that measure caused a 70% decline in tobacco smuggling.
However, the prime minister of the day, Mr. Mulroney, caved in under pressure from the tobacco companies. The tobacco companies told Prime Minister Mulroney that they would leave the country if he brought in a tobacco export tax. He removed the export tax and smuggling resumed. If we look back in history we will see that the solution was there.
What we presented in 1994 was a solution. Do not roll back the taxes; implement an export tax. The smuggling that took place at that time not only involved cigarettes, it also involved guns, people, alcohol and other contraband. Tobacco was a conduit for the smuggling that was unfortunately taking place on such reserves as Kanasatake and Kahnawake, to name two. It was run by thugs attached to organized crime, particularly from the United States.
No one talks about the aboriginal people on those reserves and how some of those people were held hostage to criminals within their midst, many who came from the United States. Police officers were apparently told that they could not touch the smugglers going back and forth across the border because the government was afraid of an Oka crisis. This had nothing to do with Oka. It everything to do with thugs taking advantage of a political problem within our country, thugs who were by and large American. We buckled under and to this day that smuggling is still taking place.
This is my message for the government. If it truly wants to deal with the tobacco epidemic, and it is an epidemic within our midst, then there are solutions. The solutions are: raising the taxes to the level they were at before February 1994, applying an export tax to cut the legs out from underneath smuggling, enforcing the law where smuggling is taking place, and dealing with appropriate education, which the government, to its credit, has begun to introduce. However, although it promised a large sum of money for that purpose, a large chunk of money has unfortunately not yet been seen by the appropriate organizations.
In looking at the scope of this problem we can look at what happened before 1994 and since 1994. As I said before, there are 250,000 more children smoking. In 1961 there were about 13,000 smokers who died. Twelve thousand were men and 1,000 were women. In 1996-97 that figure climbed to a whopping 48,000. There are 48,000 people every year who die of tobacco related illnesses.
The numbers have changed. Tobacco consumption deaths among women have climbed dramatically. Tobacco deaths among women have now surpassed all other causes of cancer related deaths, including breast cancer. That is a profound tragedy.
To put it in perspective, 48,000 people die every year from smoking related deaths. Forty-two thousand people died in World War II. That means that every year more people die from tobacco related illnesses in Canada than those who died in World War II.
The solutions are there. What we can do, as I said before, is raise the taxes to what they were, increase the export tax, enforce the law and address the education issue.
We should not start talking to individuals when they are 17, 18, 20 or 22 years old about quitting smoking. As the member across the way quite correctly mentioned, people start smoking when they are 10, 11 or 12 years old. They do not start when they are 20.
As a result, our efforts must be addressed to younger individuals. I would submit that we have to start at ages 6 and 7. If we start at that age then perhaps we can have an effect. We should not hit them with the fact that their mortality will change. Teenagers and young children do not understand that. If we tell them they are going to die young, they know that. In fact, statistical evidence shows very clearly that young people know they are going to die young. They know the effects of tobacco. Interestingly enough, many teenagers feel they are not going to be smoking two years after they leave high school. However, 80% of them will still be smoking eight years later.
We have to address their sense of narcissism. We have to address the fact that their skin is going to look older sooner, that their breath is going to smell foul, and that their hair and skin is going to smell foul. We have to address young girls in particular. I hate to address that group, but it is the group that has increasing consumption. We have to tell them that although it keeps them slimmer, which is one of the primary reasons for them to smoke, it also makes them grow older faster and it is not sexy, despite what they may claim.
Although that is a brutal thing to say, if we address it at their level, in a way that they understand, then we will get into their psyche and have a profound effect. We must address their narcissism, not their mortality. We must tell them about what it will do to them physically, how it will age them and how they will smell.
Although there is some movement in that direction I think the government can certainly play a very constructive role in convincing health care groups to deal with it in that way.
With respect to this bill, I would suggest that there are a number of amendments that could have and should have been made. The fact that the government is going to extend tobacco sponsorships for two more years is ridiculous. That will put it at five years.
Members on the other side claim that this is somehow going to address the issue of sponsorship and it is going to protect companies. All they need to do is look at the experience in Europe. Europe did the same thing. They introduced laws very quickly. Sporting events and such got other sponsors, including car racing.
It is continually brought forth that car racing, tennis matches and such would somehow not occur in this country if we did not have tobacco groups to sponsor them. That is completely untrue. Again, the government only needs to look at the experience in the United States.
Another thing that could have happened was to put a ceiling on tobacco company sponsorship promotion expenditures during the delay period. The government could have put a ceiling on that but did not. It could have taken a leaf from Quebec's book. Quebec has implemented a similar measure with good effect.
Sponsorship promotions should not be permitted on the inside and outside of stores where tobacco is sold. That could be done now but it is not being done.
The government believes that tobacco companies can be trusted. This is complete nonsense. Tobacco companies have been asked to do things voluntarily. They have weakened their own so-called voluntary restraint by introducing tobacco advertisements within school zones. This happened in 1996, after the government had implored them to adhere to fair-minded rules and regulations so that children would not be subjected to tobacco advertising within and around schools. Tobacco companies surreptitiously did it anyway. They thumbed their noses at the government and the Canadian people.
The government could have introduced other things. It could have ensured that cabinet would determine the exact starting date of the ban. Right now it is an open book. It could start December 1 this year, December 1 next year, or the year after. That needed to be in this bill and it is not.
The government could have had a delay period for tobacco sponsorship promotions. It could have specified that sponsorship promotions for foreign events could not occur in Canada during the transition period. It could have banned the use of famous individuals in advertising and prevent misleading advertising.
From looking at the good analysis by the Ministry of Health on advertising, we know that those advertisements are geared to children no matter what the companies say. I sat on the health committee four years ago. I was shocked when people who had been bought and paid for by the tobacco companies appeared as witnesses in front of the health committee, big guns from the United States who were obviously paid a lot of money. They had been in high positions in the U.S. government. When asked pointedly if they thought tobacco had a negative effect on the health of people, their response was “we are not doctors; we do not know”. Those kinds of blatant and obviously misleading comments by witnesses should never be tolerated. They give insight into the actions and beliefs of the tobacco companies.
We need not look any further. Tobacco companies have been caught putting added nicotine into tobacco. They up the nicotine content which ups the potential for addiction.
We can also look at their actions in other countries. What they do in China is appalling. China has an enormous health care problem with cancer, emphysema, bronchitis and other related illnesses related to tobacco because tobacco consumption is going up. In some countries the tobacco companies sponsor parties and dances which are geared to children. They give out free cigarettes for no other purpose than to ensure that the children become addicted.
It has been mentioned in the House many times that tobacco, as with cocaine, is the leading most potent addictive substance we know of today. We know very clearly that despite what they say, tobacco companies gear their advertising, their work, their efforts not to adults but to youth. A good chunk of their efforts are designed to hit that vulnerable group.
Tragically the government fell into the trap by lowering taxes and rolling them back. This is despite repeated warnings by the Ministry of Health that this is going to affect children deleteriously. This is despite the fact that this is going to cost the Canadian taxpayer billions of dollars, not only in health care costs, but also in the loss of revenue from taxes and losses in the gross domestic product. It is not just a matter of death. Smokers have greater chances of becoming sick than non-smokers do. Smokers stay away from work longer. The cost to the gross domestic product is enormous.
There are obvious effective solutions, particularly with respect to the cost. Studies show that the price elasticity on demand for tobacco is very high, especially with respect to children. The higher the cost, the less they smoke; the lower the cost, the more they smoke. It is not rocket science. This is perhaps the most important message the government needs to listen to.
The government can twiddle all it wants around the edges of this issue. It can talk about plain packaging. It can talk about sponsorship. It can talk about education. But when it comes down to the cold hard facts, the single most important determinant in consumption is price, particularly for the youth.
I implore the members across the way to look at the information that has been put out by the health ministry. It is unfortunate that the Minister of Health has chosen not to speak to this bill yet. It does not look like he is going to speak to it and I wonder why.
I wonder if the minister truly is ashamed of this bill. Perhaps he is ashamed that the government has not taken a more proactive approach, a more effective approach particularly in view of the fact that he has been caught holding the bag for what his predecessors have done. The minister has been left holding the bag for an implementation strategy which, rather than lowering tobacco consumption, has increased it and not in any small amount. It is a huge amount, a quarter of a million children, and every month that we fail to change the situation, 10,000 more children will take up the tobacco habit. I cannot believe that despite the clear evidence this government continues to pursue the course and tack it is taking.
The government submits that it is the great upholder of the health of Canadians. A former Minister of Health said during her tenure “I would do anything, anything, to prevent one child from picking up smoking”. That minister and this government has failed, failed, failed in that promise.
The government would find a great deal of co-operation across party lines in pursuing an effective tobacco strategy. Please do not buckle under the threats of the tobacco industry that it would pull out of Canada. Do not buckle under the submissions the companies make that this is not addressed to children. Do not believe that this is going to prevent race car driving, tennis tournaments and other such events from taking place in this country. The facts do not support those allegations. In fact the tobacco industry has very little credibility anywhere in the world.
We can see what is happening in the United States today. The companies are paying hundreds of billions of dollars to state governments because of the cost they have incurred to those governments. They are willing to pay large sums of money, which they have, to get out.
We cannot let them off the hook. While prohibition does not work, and no one is advocating that, there are effective measures that have been implemented around the world. Before 1994 Canada was a world leader in dealing with the tobacco issue through its education strategies and by increasing the taxes on tobacco.
If we take a lesson from what we have done historically, if we do not buckle under the tobacco companies and if we work together on this issue, as the hon. NDP member mentioned in the health committee, we would be addressing the most important health care issue affecting Canadians today. Tobacco is the greatest public health care issue affecting Canadians today. This has been echoed by the member from the NDP and the member from the Liberal Party. It has been echoed many times by my colleague from Alberta and our health care critic, and members from other parties.
I implore the government to work with our party and other parties to come up with an effective strategy to deal with tobacco consumption. This bill simply does not cut the mustard.
Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Madam Speaker, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That Bill C-42, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 26 and 27 on page 3 with the following:
“(3) Subsections 24(2) and (3) apply beginning on October 1, 2000 and ending on September 30, 2003 to”
Greg Thompson Charlotte, NB
Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am not prepared to give unanimous consent to that motion, simply because the government rammed this through clause by clause at committee stage. Basically it boils down to the government making a major mistake.
The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)
Obviously there is not unanimous consent for the motion.
Greg Thompson Charlotte, NB
Madam Speaker, the point I want to make is that I will agree to unanimous consent if the government agrees that it made a tactical error in ramming this through clause by clause at the committee stage.