House of Commons Hansard #204 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was flag.

Topics

Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, to begin with, I would like to say that it is not easy to follow the member for Surrey Central, after such a fine, scholarly speech that covered every aspect of a bill as important as Bill S-41. Nevertheless, I shall attempt to make a modest contribution in an attempt to explain to Canadians and Quebecers how Canadian legislation will be improved once Bill S-41 is passed.

It is a pleasure, but also a disappointment to speak to Bill S-41, which originated in the Senate. The bill is in response to the report of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations that was tabled in October 1996. The response to a report which was tabled in 1996 and which was studied for many months comes in 2002. Therefore, the public and witnesses have been waiting for this response for six, seven or eight years.

People are disillusioned and disinterested in this government. The scandals, the squandering of public money, everything that has happened with Groupaction, Everest, Lafleur Communication, and so on, and the millions of dollars that have been wasted are examples that have made the public lose interest and confidence in the members who represent them and have led the public to become disaffected.

The six year wait for Bill S-41 is another example, in addition to the scandals at Human Resources Development Canada and those concerning the sponsorship program, which may explain the public's loss of interest in its elected officials.

As regards Bill S-41, I will quote some of the witnesses who appeared before the Senate committee. These are people who are well aware of the importance of this bill. I will begin with the hon. Minister of Justice. He said, on April 24, 2002, and I quote:

I am here today to discuss Bill S-41, the Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act. This bill arises in the broader context of Parliament's duty to enact, print and publish its laws and other instruments of a legislative nature in both official languages of Canada. Before I present the purposes of this bill, allow me to clearly indicate to the committee that the government considers itself justified in asserting that the vast majority of such instruments comply with the constitutional requirements.

It was a nice admission on the part of the Minister of Justice to tell us that the vast majority of his instruments comply with legal and constitutional requirements. By saying this, he was really telling us that some of these instruments do not comply with the Constitution, but he said it candidly and honestly before a Senate committee. This is to the minister's credit, and I want to emphasize this.

Further on, the Minister of Justice added:

However, from 1867 to 1969—

I am not very good at math, but this means about 102 years.

—the scope of the constitutional duty was not known. Prior to the enactment of the 1969 Official Languages Act, it may fairly be assumed that most federal regulations, orders in council and other such instruments of a legislative nature were made only in one official language.

We are talking about the period from 1867 to 1969. I repeat what the minister said:

—it may fairly be assumed that most federal regulations, orders in council and other such instruments of a legislative nature were made only in one official language.

I will let hon. members guess which official language, but I will say that it is definitely not the one that I am using right now. This means that only one version of these instruments was signed by the governor in council. The minister concluded by saying:

These instruments were then generally printed and published in the Canada Gazette in English and French.

Of course, since then, we learned this through the rulings of the courts.

When we ask whether the rights of minority communities are being respected, the phrase “through court rulings” keeps coming up. When the government is not sure, instead of respecting what they think are people's rights, it turns to the courts, with the resulting expenditure of money, time and energy. The minister goes on to say:

Of course, we now know through the judgment of the courts that such a practice does not meet the constitutional requirements applicable to such legislative instruments.

The Minister of Justice came to tell us that the vast majority of legislative instruments are consistent with the constitution. This therefore means that some are not.

With respect to the constitution, which was patriated in 1982, I wish to point out that we are still waiting for the legislative instruments to be adopted in French. This constitution has not yet been officially translated. Twenty years have passed. We can celebrate the 20th anniversary, but we are still waiting for the provinces to approve the legislative instruments in French. The country's primary law does not respect Bill S-41, as now enacted.

The minister said that because of the federal government's restrictive interpretation, statutes were enacted primarily in English for 102 years in violation of section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867. He very clearly pointed out to the Senate committee the shortcomings of the federal government with respect to its constitutional obligations since 1867.

The Commissioner of Official Languages, Dr. Adam, appeared before the Senate committee on this topic in May 2002. She said:

Moreover, these are rights that were recognized at Confederation by section 133 of the Constitution Act, 1867 and confirmed and clarified in the Official Languages Acts of 1969 and 1988 and in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is somewhat amusing that we find ourselves here in June 2002 discussing a bill, S-41, which sets out, confirms or proves the rights contained in the British North America Act of 1867.

Those who have drafted legislative texts and those who have enacted these texts since 1867 have not understood that section 133 of the constitution required them to do so in both official languages.

For 102 years, section 133 of the constitution was for the most part neglected and violated, as legislative texts were enacted in one official language only. It would seem to me that, having realized the error, it ought to have been remedied. But no, it took supreme court judgments.

As I said, when there is any doubt as far as the defence of the rights of minority francophone communities is concerned, rather than allowing them to exercise their rights, they are told to go to court. Then the cases move from courts of first instance, to second instance, and then to the supreme court. Then after five, ten, fifteen years of debates, the minority francophone communities are informed they were right. Everyone knows that, because it is clearly stated in the law.

But to get to that point, they have to hire lawyers, and spend money and energy they ought to be devoting to the promotion and development of their community. They are required to expend energy on defending rights that are already obvious, since they are in the constitution and in other Canadian statutes.

Here is what Ms. Adam said. “Fortified by these guarantees from 1867, 1969, 1999 and the two Blaikie judgments rendered more than twenty years ago, we now learn, with some astonishment, that there are still a number of pre-1980 regulatory instruments—no one knows exactly how many—that were not re-enacted in both official languages”.

This government does not abide by the Official Languages Act nor the Canadian constitution, but asks people to abide by its laws. That is pretty funny.

Ms. Adam concluded by saying:

The situation must indeed be remedied at the earliest possible opportunity so that the constitutional obligation of legislative bilingualism is respected and the validity of our laws ensured.

It is pretty disturbing and worrying to see the official languages commissioner ask the government to remedy, at the earliest possible opportunity—this is a nice phrase that means absolutely nothing to the government—a situation that is written and enacted in the founding legislation of this country and that goes back to 1867.

Today, the commissioner is saying:

The situation must be remedied at the earliest possible opportunity.

To think that the government wonders why some people do not have confidence in it and why French language minority communities doubt its goodwill.

It is simple, it is clear, it is specific and it is obvious, we have just demonstrated this. When it comes time to assert a right, it has to be fought for. In the case of this right, it has taken more than 130 years.

Also, at the same time as it is introducing Bill S-41, this government is telling us “We are hiring unilingual English employees to fill bilingual positions, but we are asking them to learn French, this country's other official language, within a reasonable timeframe”. No one knows what reasonable means.

So, at the same time that Bill S-41 is being introduced—government members may wonder where I am going with this example—we are also discussing hiring a poet for the House of Commons and the Senate, a very official position. Now, I did have not taken this to the supreme court, but as far as I can see, the Official Languages Act is not being respected.

So a bill has been drafted to clarify a section of the Constitution Act, 1867. The government is swaggering around, saying “This is wonderful, we are fixing a problem that has existed for some one hundred years”. However, at the same time, it continues to violate this country's laws.

I will read an excerpt of the release issued by the House of Commons and the Senate on the hiring of this poet. I want to point out that we opposed the creation of this position. The release reads:

Candidates must have published poetry works. They must also have made a contribution to writing and be accomplished writers who have influenced their peers.

When we hire a poet, it goes without saying that the person should have some experience in this area. It only makes sense. So far, so good.

The release then provides that:

—the candidate—and this is getting interesting—should be able to write in both official language.

I hope that he or she will indeed be able to write in both. A person who can write neither in English nor in French has a problem when applying for this position.

However, if I am reading correctly the job offer for the poet who was just hired, an idea, as I said, that we opposed, a person who only speaks one of the country's two official languages could have applied for the position. I am sure that the President of the Treasury Board will tell us “No problem. The incumbent can take courses to learn the other official language afterwards”.

If the person hired for this position is a unilingual francophone, I am prepared to make a long speech in the House of Commons. I am prepared to meet the challenge.

I know very few people with a command of only one of the two official languages, specifically French, who are hired in so-called “bilingual” positions. But it is a different story for the other linguistic group. Furthermore, I will be providing statistics.

We are told that the poet could speak and write in English only and be hired. It is not easy to translate poetry. I have never tried, but it cannot be easy.

How, in the year 2002, can the government offer an official position in one or the other of the official languages, but not both? The President of the Treasury Board will tell us that the person will take training in the other language. By the way, the language in question will be French. We presume that, after a reasonable period of time, this person would be capable of writing their poems in both official languages.

This is in very bad faith, and it is dishonest. The government is introducing a bill like this and, at the same time, breaking the basic rules for an official position in parliament.

I urge my friends and colleagues living in minority communities throughout the country, and anglophones who respect the law and who are francophiles to ask themselves some questions about the hiring of this poet. If the government hires a unilingual anglophone, what message does this send to anglophones about respect for French-language communities, and to francophones about respect for themselves?

In the job offer, the government says that the poet must have a command of one or the other of the official languages, which I find utterly shocking.

This job offer is indicative of this government's whole approach to the Official Languages Act. Since the Liberal Party took office, the total number of offices designated bilingual in Canada dropped by 25%. This government was so interested in bilingualism that it reduced services in French by 25% in those places where people are entitled to ask for and receive service in their own language. Since 1993, the number of bilingual positions has dropped by 25%

Bill S-41 is all well and good, it is quite nice, but there is still a problem. Another statistic shows that 20% of public service managers who are in bilingual positions today are unable to meet the bilingualism requirements. This means that when a position is created, one of the conditions of this position is that the candidate be bilingual. Then a unilingual anglophone is hired. In 99.9% of the cases, the unilingual person that is hired is anglophone. A unilingual anglophone is hired to fill a bilingual position, and they are told “You must now take language training in the other official language, French”.

Currently, 20% of the management positions in the public service that are designated bilingual are held by people who do not meet the bilingualism criteria. They want to hire a unilingual English poet, and they want to pass Bill S-41.

Furthermore, the number of public servants at every level in the different departments who are responsible for the Official Languages Act, and the ones responsible for francophone minority issues, has dropped by 50% since the Liberals came to office. I am not only referring to deputy ministers, but all levels. The number of public servants assigned to positions directly or indirectly related to the Official Languages Act or to issues affecting official language minorities has plummeted by 50% since 1993.

Even the throne speech contained the following statement:

Canada's linguistic duality is fundamental to our Canadian identity and is a key element of our vibrant society—

It is a matter of saying one thing and doing another. I have proven this with the various statistics I have presented.

Since the Liberals came to power, the budget allocated to the Commissioner of Official Languages has been cut 28%. The person who is in a position to defend minority community rights, Commissioner of Official Languages Dyane Adam, has less money, fewer means, fewer tools, fewer resources to defend these communities.

At the same time as the government is talking in its throne speech about how important these communities are to the government, it has cut the number of employees responsible for their issues, their programs and their rights. There has been a 25% cut in the number of service points available to them, and people who speak only one official language are now being hired for positions with bilingual designation. At that same time, we are faced with the affront of the acceptance of a so-called official poet laureate, who might well speak only one of this country's official languages, and you can guess which one that would be.

We cannot, indeed, have any objection to the adoption of Bill S-41, because it rectifies a situation that is totally unacceptable and has gone on too long. Today, we still do not know how many bills and other instruments have been drafted and introduced in complete contravention of Canada's constitution.

I therefore encourage hon. members to support this bill. I do, however, hope that the ministers of this government and the members of the opposition will not give this matter only occasional consideration. It is an ongoing situation in our minority communities and requires their ongoing attention. I trust that they will always be watchful of what is going on with francophones in minority communities. They must not say to themselves “We have adopted Bill S-41 so we will deal with it two, five or ten years down the road”.

The sole purpose of this bill is to remedy a shortcoming that ought to have been remedied since 1867. As the person supposedly responsible for the Official Languages Act, the president of the privy council, has said—and if he does not agree, let him say so—“If the francophone communities continue to go to court to defend their rights, they will have less money for programs aimed at promoting their communities, helping them develop, and encouraging various events in their communities and regions”.

I do not believe that this is the way to advance the cause of minority official language communities. Their self-actualization will come through openness, an open and flexible interpretation of the various issues and the various pieces of legislation.

In conclusion, the Minister of Justice candidly admitted to the Senate committee that he was not complying with the constitution. He also told the Standing Joint Committee on Official Languages that, in his opinion, the most important section in the Official Languages Act, namely section 42, was a declaration of intent on the part of his government and not an obligation to act.

Again, in order to ensure the respect of an act that enjoys unanimous support—an act that was recognized by everyone in committee and even in the various court rulings—minority French language communities will have to turn to the courts. The minister told us that if minority French language communities want confirmation of the existence of this right, namely the government's obligation to act, as opposed to having made a mere declaration of intent, he is giving them the option of going before the supreme court.

Five or ten years from now, after having spent and wasted a couple of hundred thousand dollars—that they do not have or that they could use to promote and develop their communities—the government will have no choice but to meet its constitutional obligations. It will be obliged to promote and to take action. This is clearly spelled out in the act.

But the minister said “This is a declaration of intent; we do not intend to engage in this promotion, in this development of French language communities”.

We must support Bill S-41, but we must also be much more open. We must always keep in mind the development and promotion of these communities.

Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's West, Fisheries; the hon. member for Chambly, Government Contracts; and the hon. member for Davenport, The Environment.

Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I wish to first thank my hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois as well as his party for raising issues of the French culture and language, not only in the House of Commons but throughout the country.

It always starts the debate going when we talk about Mr. Trudeau, the former Prime Minister, offering official bilingualism throughout the country. We are still struggling in our predominantly English sectors with our educational process, which is a provincial responsibility, of having French language taught from the very beginning, or having French immersion or French lessons or anything of that nature.

I am just as much to blame for this as anyone, but I hope by now that all school aged children are offered official French and English language training when they first start school. By the time they become teenagers and young adults they will be able to flip back and forth between both official languages without any problem. Also people who speak our aboriginal languages such as Cree, Dene, Inuit and Inuktitut in turn would not only be able to speak their native languages but would also have the opportunity at a very early age to speak the other two official languages.

On a more provincial level, a big battle is going on in the city of Halifax about funding for École Beaufort and on whether to shut the school down or move the people enrolled in French lessons. It is really sad that we are going to stop or reduce the opportunity for children to study French because of financial restrictions. That is simply unacceptable.

There should not be one child that does not have the right, from the very beginning, to take courses in both official languages. If we did that, I believe we would see the debate over bilingualism subside. It would be really nice if say in 15 or 20 years the vast majority of Canadians could speak both French and English.

Although I am taking lessons in French, I am by no means bilingual, and I apologize for that. I could probably spend a lot more time in that regard. If only the opportunity had existed when I went was going to school, from kindergarten on up, as it does in Europe. I was born in Holland. Four languages are taught right from the beginning. By the time these kids reach their teenage years they can flip among three or four languages without a problem. I notice a lot of cab drivers here speak Arabic, French, English and other languages as well. If all Canadians had that opportunity, issues like we are discussing now with Bill S-41 would be a thing of the past.

I also want to mention the fact that the bill originated from the Senate. I question why a Liberal dominated government would have to debate a bill that originates from the Senate. Why did it originate from the Senate and not from the front benches of the government? Maybe a member on the Liberal side will answer that when he or she gets up to speak.

I just very briefly want to say that our member for Acadie--Bathurst is very supportive of this legislation. He has encouraged members of our party to support it, which we will. We know there are flaws in the bill but it is better than what we had before. We encourage the government to move quickly on this legislation and to promote and encourage official bilingualism in the country whenever it can.

Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I wish to begin my speech on Bill S-41 by saying that the Progressive Conservative Party intends to support the government on this bill.

When we look at the bill we see that it is only four pages of reading. It is one of the most simple bills we may actually have before the House of Commons. Many individuals may not think that this piece of legislation necessarily requires a lot of debate or that it could be confrontational in any way, shape or form. To be honest, the merit of the bill is that it is a technical bill. It addresses the reality that many of our statutes, principally orders in council or perhaps regulations, were initially instituted in only one of our official languages.

There is a debate among certain individuals that because these acts were in fact translations when they were eventually adopted into law, as opposed to being enshrined in law simultaneously in both of our official languages, they potentially could be subject to some form of legal challenge. There are certain individuals who may say that the bill is merely of a legal nature. I must compliment the government on the approach it has taken. I believe it to be a very efficient approach to ensure that the intent and the spirit of parliament is never contravened by our laws. I think that is the government's intent in giving this a retroactive nature. I do not think there is anything where one could conclude that the actions had an aspect of malice or mis-intent. I think the approach it has taken is completely legitimate.

I believe that the preservation of our laws in both of our official languages quite clearly speaks to the fabric of this nation. The formation of this country in 1867 was indeed a very serious partnership of four founding provinces and two strong linguistic communities. Having a law enshrined, whether or not it is intended to be a defensive mechanism for court challenges, has a positive aspect to it as well. It enshrines into law the necessity to protect and respect both of our official languages. That indeed does speak to the fabric of our nation.

We have had some similar situations arise in our country in the recent past. In the city of Moncton in the province of New Brunswick there was a court challenge because the municipal bylaws were initially tabled only in English. There is a strong bilingual character in the city of Moncton. The constitutional legality of those laws was challenged as to whether they were in fact binding in terms of municipal law.

Courageously, the province of New Brunswick did not challenge the court decision that was made. In fact, it made a clear commitment to actually ensure that in our largest cities and in our most linguistically pluralistic cities we have our municipal bylaws translated to reflect the nature of those communities. I really want to applaud the federal government and the efforts of not only the Minister of Canadian Heritage but in particular the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs for their financial contribution in assisting my provincial cousins in the province of New Brunswick with the costs of the translation for those municipal communities. This reflects a similar initiative taken by the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney in 1984 for the province of Manitoba, after the Blaikie decision, whereby the provincial statutes were written in both official languages.

I think this reflects the common bond that we have as a nation. When it comes to defence of our linguistic communities, this is an issue that transcends most party lines. Sometimes I am a little bit confused about the official position of the leader of Her Majesty's official opposition on embracing that duality, but I suspect he will have a chance to be able to provide more clarity on that aspect down the road as well.

I know that we are never supposed to make reference to the absence of a member in the House, but I would like to make reference to the presence of my friends from the ridings of Madawaska--Restigouche and Saint John. We can applaud a strong, progressive piece of legislation just passed by the province of New Brunswick through premier Bernard Lord. It is our new provincial official languages act, which really reflects the spirit of the first pioneering act that was passed by the then premier, Louis Robichaud. What the provincial government of New Brunswick has done with its new law is ensure that we have a progressive piece of legislation that meets our constitutional obligations, particularly under sections 41 and 42 of the Official Languages Act. I would like to pay tribute to that aspect as well.

I would like to perhaps send up a flare or indicate one particular concern because people are worried about our constitutional obligations under official languages and about the need to respect the constitution, which is a document that, in theory, makes our family whole. These days parliamentarians are reticent to raise the constitutional aspects of our nation from time to time, but the fact is that 25% of our population is still not represented in our constitutional family.

At some point it will be incumbent on the Government of Canada to address that immense inadequacy or deficiency. It is something that concerns me dearly, because it is just a matter of fact that at some point that issue will flare up again. We should do this in a very proactive and progressive way and not let it sit in perpetuity in the hope that it will go away. Not only is it a fact that it could be problematic, but it is also in the spirit of the nation to ensure that all members of our Canadian family participate in the constitutional framework itself.

That was the spirit of Meech when it was embraced by all 10 premiers, not once but twice, initially in 1987 and later in the 1980s. Then one particular individual turned his back on Canada, the then premier of Newfoundland. Make no mistake about it, Meech was about the protection and respect of the linguistic duality of the national identity that we have in the province of Quebec, its language, culture and civil code. It reflects the historical compromise that founded this nation and even steps back to the Quebec act of 1774 itself.

When we talk about the constitution and ensuring that we have laws that meet those obligations, let us ensure that at some point as parliamentarians we have the courage of our convictions to understand that our country has to be whole again and that 25% of the population is not represented in our constitutional framework. We need to find a way to actually accomplish that so we can reflect the nature of what we had attempted to do under the then premier, the late Robert Bourassa.

For a technical bill perhaps I went into some deeper thought for some individuals, but that is why we do this. That founding partnership still reflects the essence of our nation and is one that has to be wholeheartedly addressed. We need to ensure that we have national leadership in that regard.

Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the bill is deemed to have been referred to a committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in at report stage and read a third time and passed.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole, reported, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Health

moved that Bill C-53, An Act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests, be read the third time and passed.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche
New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak at third reading of Bill C-53, the Pest Control Products Act.

The passing of this bill will enhance the government's protection of Canadians' health and their environment by minimizing risks posed by pest control products.

Enshrined in this legislation is the requirement to incorporate modern risk assessment concepts into the scientific assessment of pesticides. This includes additional safety factors to protect children, thereby helping to ensure that Canada's children are given special protection from health risks posed by pesticides.

These additional safety factors recognize that children are affected by pesticides in a way that is different from adults and are applied whenever children might be exposed to pesticides through food or residential uses.

Health protection will also be strengthened through C-53's requirement that aggregate exposure to pesticides and the cumulative effects of pesticides that act in the same way be assessed.

One of the most important amendments that was made to the bill was to ensure that these factors are considered when making registration decisions about all pesticides, not just those used on food. This bill states unequivocally that no pesticide may be used in Canada unless any associated risks to the environment have first been determined to fall within acceptable limits.

The term “environment”, defined broadly to be consistent with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, includes the components of the earth, all layers of the atmosphere, animals, plants and other living organisms. Environmental risks include the potential capacity of pesticides to do harm to ecosystems, species at risk and biological diversity.

Bill C-53 supports minimizing risks, not just keeping them within acceptable limits. A pesticide will not be registered if its value is determined to be unacceptable—that is, if it does not contribute to pest management in a positive way. The assessment of value, which includes the pesticide's efficacy, enables the lowest effective rate of the pesticide to the determined and it is only that lowest rate that is approved for use.

One of the most important features of this bill is to increase the Canadian public's access to information generated and held by the government.

When enacted, the new Pest Control Products Act will make Canada's pesticide regulatory system among the most transparent and open in the world. A public registry will be established that allows the public to have access to detailed evaluation reports on the risks and the value of registered pesticides. The public will also be allowed to view the confidential test data on which pesticide evaluations are based.

Bill C-53 will make it easier for Health Canada to share scientific studies on pesticides with other federal, provincial, territorial and international regulators and with health professionals.

Sharing studies with its international regulatory counterparts enhances the process for international harmonization, including joint reviews of pesticides. Joint reviews give Canadian growers equal access to newer, safer pesticides so they can be competitive in the marketplace, while helping to ensure that Canadians have a safe and abundant food supply.

International harmonization also contributes to risk reduction by speeding up the withdrawal of older, frequently more hazardous pesticides and expediting their replacement with pesticides that are safer and more compatible with the goals of sustainable pest management.

Bill C-53 will also strengthen the government's post-registration control of pesticides. This control is being enhanced, first, by requiring mandatory reporting of adverse effects.

A company that is applying to register a pesticide or one that has a registered pesticide will be obliged to report to the government any adverse effects produced by its product.

Failure to report adverse effects will be an offence under the legislation. When the government receives an adverse effects report, it will review the information and decide whether it should initiate a special review in order to determine if registration of the pesticide needs to be amended or cancelled so that health and environmental risks remain acceptable. Action can be taken right away to protect human health or the environment, if necessary.

The government's capacity to re-evaluate pesticides systematically is being strengthened, notably by requiring re-evaluations of pesticides to be done 15 years after they are registered.

It is also providing the minister with the authority to take action against registrants who fail to provide the data needed to conduct re-evaluations. Strengthened capacity to conduct re-evaluations will translate into better environmental protection. It will also translate into better health protection, notably for vulnerable populations such as children and seniors. The re-evaluation process will be similar to the processes used in the United States and Europe.

Finally, Bill C-53 brings federal pesticide legislation into line with contemporary standards regarding compliance. It provides clear rules and increased powers for Health Canada's inspectors. The bill also allows higher maximum penalties to be set when pesticides are not marketed or used in accordance with the law--up to $1 million or three years in jail for the most serious offences.

Having touched on the main thrusts of Bill C-53, I will now review the changes accepted by the Standing Committee on Health which have been reported back to the House. Under these amendments, the major elements of the bill are substantially unchanged. But in order to improve and refine these elements, significant amendments have been accepted. They reflect comments made by committee members, the debates in the House, and take into account comments made by numerous other Canadians in submissions before the committee.

To respond to concerns that the term “acceptable risk” was too vague, an interpretation of this term has been added to the legislation, “Acceptable risk” means that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm to human health or the environment will result from exposure to or use of a pesticide.

This level of precaution is the most stringent way to protect Canadians and their environment from the potential risks associated with pesticides.

By adding a definition of “formulant” and including this term in the definition of “pest control product”, the requirement to ensure that all ingredients of a pesticide are assessed has been clarified. As well, as I have already mentioned, consideration of aggregate exposure and cumulative effects that was already in the section on maximum residue limits has been added into the registration and re-evaluation sections of the bill. The committee also accepted the suggested amendment that information about adverse effects be included in the material available for Canadians to examine in the public registry.

An important objective of the bill is to minimize risks associated with pesticides, not just ensure that risks are acceptable. One way of doing this is to facilitate access to pesticides that pose lower risks that those already registered. To this end, an important amendment made to the bill was to add a provision to require the minister to expedite the evaluations of reduced risk pesticides. The new provision in the bill will ensure that this is given priority. Another amendment also clarified that the annual report to Parliament on administration of the act will include the status of registrations of lower risk pesticides.

Access to minor use pesticides by farmers and other users was another key area of discussion during the committee deliberations. A specific authority to make regulations respecting minor uses has now been incorporated in the bill.

Finally, a provision has been added to have the act reviewed by a parliamentary committee after seven years.

There are two areas that have received considerable attention: restricting the so-called “cosmetic use” of pesticides, and extending the precautionary principle to the registration of new pesticides. I would like to explain why amendments have not been made in these areas.

Some witnesses before the standing committee stated that the cosmetic use of pesticides should just be banned by the federal government. The fact is that all pesticides and their uses must be treated in the same way under federal law. They must all be subjected to rigorous scientific testing and the results must be critically evaluated using the latest risk assessment methods. The results of these risk assessments will be different for each pesticide and use. An outright ban on “cosmetic uses” of pesticides presupposes that they all cause unacceptable risks.

That is not the case. Since the PCPA is based primarily on the criminal law power, it would not be appropriate to make that use a crime if the risks posed by that use have been determined to be acceptable.

The preamble to Bill C-53 recognizes the interdependence of federal, provincial and territorial pest management regulatory systems and encourages respect for the responsibilities of each order of government.

Should provinces and municipalities, whose legislation is not based on the criminal power, want to further restrict the use of any pesticide, they may.

For example, provinces may have sensitive wetlands that need to be protected and they would restrict the pesticide from being used in that area. Or, citizens of a particular municipality may decide that they do not want to have a pesticide used in their community no matter how small the risks and they may persuade the municipal government to enact a by-law to that effect, if their municipality has been given such authority by the province.

In any case, access to new, safer pesticides and an active re-evaluation program for older pesticides will ensure that any pesticides registered at the federal level do not pose unacceptable risks, bearing in mind the very stringent interpretation of “acceptable risk” that has now been added to the bill. Priority has been given to re-evaluating all lawn pesticides.

Suggestions have been made to have broader incorporation of the precautionary principle in Bill C-53. It is already included in the section of the Bill that pertains to pesticides that are already registered and in use. The principle is stated there so that if threats of serious or irreversible harm are detected for a pesticide that is already registered, the government will not have to wait for full scientific certainty before taking cost-effective measures to prevent adverse health impact or environmental degradation.

Use of the precautionary principle under these circumstances will enhance the government's capacity to act quickly when threats are detected.

The situation regarding the approval of new pesticides, that is those that are not already in use, is different. The Pest Control Products Act has as its fundamental approach the extremely rigorous assessments of pesticides before they are registered for sale or use in Canada.

As explained earlier, “acceptable risk” means that there is reasonable certainty that no harm to human health or the environment will result from use of the pesticide. Applying the precautionary principle based on a threat of serious or irreversible harm to the registration of new pesticides would actually weaken the standard set for safety, not strengthen it.

Registration decisions are based on whether or not exposure would be 100-1000 times lower than the level at which no adverse effects are shown. This is a more stringent test of safety than whether or not there are “threats of serious or irreversible damage”, which is the wording contained in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act's version of the precautionary principle and the one in this bill.

Pre-market assessment of pesticides means that Health Canada does not simply allow a pesticide to be used and then wait for evidence of harm, it exercises its authority to reduce risks before a pesticide ever reaches the market.

I would just like to note that the current Pest Control Products Act is 33 years old and Canadians are expecting the government to act to help protect their health and environment and ensure a safe and abundant food supply.

I ask everyone in the House who wishes to see an effective, modern and open pesticide regulatory system in Canada to support Bill C-53.

In closing, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Health for its careful assessment of this bill and for the amendment that have been made to further strengthen it. I believe that this bill represents a critically important step forward in our capacity to protect Canadians and their environment.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central I am pleased to rise to participate in the debate on Bill C-53, an act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests.

Before I begin I want to acknowledge the hard work done by our senior health critic on the file, the hon. member for Yellowhead with whom I will be splitting my time.

Bill C-53 would replace the 33 year old Pest Control Products Act which is long past due. This primary legislation intends to control the import, manufacture, sale and use of all pesticides in Canada.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. I must advise the hon. member that the first three speakers cannot split their time unless they ask for unanimous consent to do so.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the House to give me unanimous consent to split my time.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it agreed?

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I was mentioning, although the Canadian Alliance supports the general intent of Bill C-53 the amendments should have reflected changes within the industry.

For a short time I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, particularly when it has reviewed pest control products. The environment committee passed amendments requiring the act to be reviewed after seven years, but the government defeated the amendment that would have restricted review to Commons committees.

The Canadian Alliance amendment on harmonization passed through at committee stage. This means that under the bill applicants who apply to register pest control products or amend pest control product registrations would be able to submit information from reviews or evaluations conducted in other OECD countries if the product were to be used in Canada under conditions similar to those of the foreign countries where the evaluation was conducted.

The efficiency of the PMRA's registration operations has a direct impact on Canada's ability to remain competitive internationally. As I emphasized in my last speech, this could avoid costly duplication of pesticides for pesticide makers and hasten the process of getting newer and safer products onto the market.

We in the official opposition believe proven and sound science, domestically and internationally, should continue to be the cornerstone for debate. We also believe a clear understanding of environmental regulations and research responsibilities between federal and provincial governments and the private sector must be achieved. The precautionary principle is in the right place in the bill. We appreciate the government for that.

Bill C-53 would not impose a ban on the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes. That is a concern because it would allow municipalities to maintain control over such decisions.

While the official opposition is supportive of developing and using proven alternatives in urban environments, we do not believe a moratorium on pest control products should be put in place before there is a substantial body of conclusive scientific evidence that unequivocally links such products to human disease or ill health. I have been in the pest control business for many years. My first degree was in agriculture. I know that without conclusive scientific research or evidence such a moratorium would not only not be useful. It would be counterproductive.

There are still many shortcomings in the bill which were not addressed at committee stage despite our best efforts. The preamble to the act needs to recognize: the use of pest control products that are beneficial to human health; the need for timely access to safe and effective pesticides; and the use of safe and effective pest control products which are essential to the competitiveness of agriculture, forestry and so on.

Bill C-53 contains no provisions for minor use pesticides. Economies do not support full registration of pest control products. It is important for Canadian competitiveness. Though the government recognizes the importance of minor use, concerns about access to minor use products featured prominently in the agricultural committee's recent “Report on the Registration of Pesticides and the Competitiveness of Canadian Farmers”. The report stated:

--Canadian farmers do not have access to the same safe and effective pest management tools as their competitors, particularly American producers.

Our American neighbours can use certain chemicals Canadian farmers cannot. When produce from the United States is brought into Canada for consumption it is therefore not only a health hazard. It puts Canadian farmers at a disadvantage.

The committee also called for the appointment of an adviser on matters pertaining to minor use pest control products to intervene in decisions and policies to facilitate activities relating to minor use products. The adviser's mandate should include a special focus on the harmonization issues with the United States, such as the equivalency of similar zone maps and the consideration of data that already exist in the OECD countries. The adviser should report to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Also, Canada's risk management practices should be aligned with those of our trading partners and through Canada's membership in organizations such as the OECD.

Bill C-53 makes no provision for getting new, safer or reduced risk products into the marketplace. There is a need to expedite reviews of such products. The United States has a reduced risk category and timeliness. Last year the timeline to get these products registered was approximately 35% less than conventional pesticides. That is where the efficiency is. Bill C-53 still lacks any mention of timeliness for registration, re-evaluation or even special reviews of pest control products.

A number of witnesses appeared before the health committee and testified that registrations are taking too long in comparison to the United States, our major agriculture trading competitor. The Canadian Alliance demanded the drawing up of timeliness in registration to within one year.

The health committee also heard concerns about the Pest Management Regulatory Agency from several witnesses. Administrative and management practices were repeatedly called into question.

We know these are the reasons our farmers' impatience and frustration persist.

Accordingly, independent ombudsmen can assist farmers as well as other stakeholders. The Auditor General of Canada can conduct value for money or performance auditing that will help the industry. It is vitally important that problems within the PMRA be resolved if worthy goals within Bill C-53 are to be realized.

Bill C-53 is only as good as the PMRA's ability to administer it. Unfortunately those concerns are not adequately addressed in the bill. Regrettably the government lacks balance and does little to promote partnership and understanding between stakeholders. It fails to recognize the tremendous efforts and success achieved by manufacturers and users of pesticides or pest control products to make the products as safe to human health and the environment as they are effective in controlling pests and protecting crops.

All stakeholders recognize there is room for improving transparency, efficiency and accountability in our pesticide management system. Therefore the official opposition advocates promoting a balanced approach toward dealing with issues relating to the management and regulation of pest control products and offers recommendations on how the Pest Management Regulatory Agency could improve on fulfilling its mandate to protect human health and the environment.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address some of the concerns the Canadian Alliance has with regard to Bill C-53, the pest control management legislation.

This is a very important bill and one which the committee worked on for a long time. It is important to many Canadians from different perspectives. The legislation has three main intentions. The Canadian Alliance generally supports those intentions to strengthen health and environmental protection; to make the registration system more transparent, which is very important; and to strengthen the post-registration control of pesticides. We agree with these.

The Canadian Alliance agrees that safety and environmental issues are very important to Canadians. Health and environmental concerns must be at the forefront of Canada's pesticide registration regime.

Bill C-53 looks at the ten times safety factor and the thousand times safety factor. Whatever the factors are and whatever decision making goes into the bill, we have to ensure they are based on science and not based on emotion, half truths or misinformation. We must have the facts before we make a decision. Once we have the facts it becomes easier to make a proper decision.

We welcome the formal commitment to protect the health of infants, children and pregnant women. This is a given in the bill.

One of the disappointments of Bill C-53 is the way it was brought into the House and how it went through committee. At the initial stages of discussion on how it should be brought into parliament it was felt there should be a joint committee of agriculture, perhaps international trade and health. We are dealing with an issue that goes across more boundaries than just health. It has significant implications for international trade and for the agricultural community. We had hoped that would have taken place at the beginning but because it did not, we see some flaws in the bill which need to be addressed.

This legislation has not been worked on since 1969, some 33 years ago. It is high time it was modernized and brought up to speed. It is very important to incorporate modern risk assessment concepts and entrench the current practices into law. It is important to account for the new developments in pesticide regulations around the world and to reflect the growing concern for the health of children and others.

Looking at the legislation from a farming or forestry perspective, agricultural practices have changed considerably in the last two decades. Agriculture is an industry that is evolving probably faster than many others. We are seeing a greater reduction in the use of pesticides in agriculture and for very good reasons. I have yet to meet a farmer who likes to use pesticides. Farmers use them as a tool to solve a problem they may have and they need to be competitive with our neighbours to the south and others around the world. It is very important to understand that fact as we look at Bill C-53.

Two amendments were put forward at committee with respect to the renewal period for this legislation. It was to be reviewed not in 33 years as was mistakenly done in the prior legislation, but in five years as stated in one amendment or 10 years as stated in another. The committee settled for seven years. That is okay. At least it is not 33 years. We know that in seven years there will be another review of the legislation.

What disturbed me and others on the committee is who would do the review. An amendment came out of committee stating that the legislation should go back to a House of Commons committee and not be sent on to the Senate. That was overturned by the minister. This legislation could be reviewed in seven years by an unelected, unaccountable arm of the Prime Minister and not by a committee of the House of Commons. We have great concerns with this. Is that a true review of a piece of legislation? The committee amendment was overturned by the minister and we have serious concerns about that.

We were pleased to get some amendments through at committee. One was the harmonization of pesticides and the review of pesticides from the OECD nations and other countries. Harmonization is very important in order to be competitive with some of our trading partners. This could avoid many of the costly duplications when pesticides are registered. Newer and safer products would get into our marketplace more quickly than in the past. Some products have been held up for as many as 20 years.

The inefficiencies in the PMRA absolutely need to be addressed.

There are many shortcomings in the bill. The preamble completely ignores the value of pesticides to Canadians

It is not that we put pesticides out for our health or because we are trying to do anything other than good for Canada. There is a lot of good that comes out of the use of pesticides. Unfortunately that is not recognized in the bill. It helps us to be competitive, although we do have to recognize that health and safety come first and on that we agree.

One issue we want to talk about is the minor use products. The bill makes no provisions for minor use products. It is something that we tried to get through. A minor use of a pesticide is defined as “a necessary use of a pesticide for which the anticipatedsales volume is not sufficient to persuade a manufacturer to register and sell the product inCanada”.

It is a product for which very few acres are involved. It is not really economical to go through the regime that we have right now. Yet it is very important that we see some of these products on the market because they are much safer and much better.

It impacts the horticultural sector, the producers of fruits, vegetables, herbs and floral crops. These are small in comparison with many other crops in the country but it is a $4.2 billion sector. It is one of our fastest growing agricultural sectors. It is also very important to the pulse crops sector, which grows peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas. These are small acreage crops but it is very important that they be competitive particularly with our American counterparts.

What actually is happening with our American counterparts is something we should consider so that we are on the same footing. It will give us an idea as to how slow we are in bringing forward different products.

In 2000-01 the total number of minor use products that were registered in Canada was 22. Eighteen were for food use and four were for non-food use. During that same period of time in the United States, 1,200 different products were approved, 500 plus of which were approved for food use.

The government does recognize the importance of minor use but it is not in the bill. That is one of the problems we have with this legislation. The PMRA doubled its resources recently in being able to evaluate minor use. We are hoping that something can be done perhaps in regulations, however it should be in the legislation that is before us. It is very important.

Given the evidence that we have, why did the government not recognize that? The government recognizes it as being valuable but not valuable enough to put in the bill. That is something which disturbs us.

We can also talk about the reduced risk products. The bill makes no provisions for getting newer, safer reduced risk products into the marketplace. We need to expedite the review of these products. My colleague mentioned that the United States has had reduced risk categories and timelines for the last year. The timeline to get these products registered was approximately 35% less than conventional pesticides.

It does not matter what one's perspective is on this legislation, whether one believes we should ban all pesticides, and there were people who said that at committee, or not, the idea of timeliness for approving newer and safer products in Canada is very important. It does not matter which side one is on. We put forward amendments suggesting that the minister at least come up with a timeline, perhaps within a year after the bill is enacted, so that the industry would know how long it would take to approve some of these products.

It is certainly something that would hold the PMRA accountable to Canadians and to what it is mandated to do. We heard from many witnesses about the PMRA. There is one thing that was consistent. Nobody said anything good about the quality of performance of the PMRA. It is something the bill should recognize and try to address as one of the concerns.

The agriculture committee looked at the efficiencies of the PMRA. It called for an independent ombudsman and for the auditor general to review that agency with a view to making it more efficient. We are pleased that cosmetic pesticides are left in the hands of local municipalities because Canada has many diverse problems in different areas. The problems in the Northwest Territories are different than those in southern Ontario. It is important that the responsibility be left with the municipalities.

It is important that we have the bill before us now. It is 30 years late, but it is here. It will ensure that farmers have access to newer and safer products. It will also ensure that Canadians have access to safe and reliable food at a competitive price.

Pest Control Products Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. I wish to inform him that he still has nine minutes left in his speech when Bill C-53 resumes.

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.