House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was foreign.

Topics

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, regulations that have no basis in legislation are a constant problem that only recently has been addressed in any significant way.

Often when legislation is made, the regulations that allow for the implementation and enforcement of the law are made after the fact, by the relevant department or ministry. Essentially, Parliament confers upon the minister the power to create regulations, provided they do not exceed the parameters of the legislation. What often happens, however, is that the lengthy and convoluted process required creating regulations results in regulations that are technically not legal. Powers that have not been conferred by law are given through regulation to the minister.

Not only does this situation violate the supremacy of Parliament, it effectively allows law to be made without any accountability or oversight. While some irregularities are due simply mistakes, others are deliberate attempts to ignore the intent and alter the outcome of legislation.

The Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations is responsible for the line by line analysis of regulations. It is charged with the often thankless and tedious task of ensuring that regulations made outside of Parliament adhere to the intention and letter of the legislation made by members of Parliament.

Thanks to the rare passage of a private member's bill, Bill C-205, in 2003, which may I add, was the result of the hard work of its sponsor, the Conservative member from Newton—North Delta, Parliament now has greater powers to ensure that law by regulation is curtailed.

The Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations was given the power to disallow any regulations made pursuant to authority delegated by Parliament. Canada's elected officials now have a greater ability to ensure that Parliament, and not unelected bureaucrats, have the ultimate law-making authority. Democracy has been strengthened.

The bill is the direct result of five years of pressure by the Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations on Health Canada. The irregularity of the regulation was first pointed out in 1999, and it is only now, after years of resistance, that the department has finally brought the bill forward.

The bill is an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act. Currently, a regulation allows the direct, in this case the deputy minister of health responsible for health products, to issue notices of interim market authorizations. The regulation gives the director administrative discretion that exceeds the legislative authority granted by Parliament to the governor in council. In other words, the regulation contradicts the authority of the original legislation. The bill seeks to correct this discrepancy.

The regulation was created in 1997, and since that time 82 interim market authorizations have been made. Because the regulation violates the legislation to which it applies, all these authorizations have technically been illegal.

The amendment seeks to fix this irregularity by giving the minister the authority to make interim market authorizations. The bill also seeks to exempt any food that contains an agricultural chemical at or below a limit specified under the new Pest Control Products Act. Those foods containing safe levels of substances can be sold because their sale poses no harm to consumers.

Interim market authorizations are made to allow, by providing exemptions from the Food and Drug Act's requirements, the sale of foods that contain substances at or below specified levels. This will allow Canadians faster access to food products. The bill applies to the immediate sale of food products that contain pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals, added vitamins, minerals and amino acids at or below the specified maximum limit.

This bill is not creating from scratch a new practice, but is simply making legal or enshrining in law a practice that has been taking place for years.

The Conservative Party supports this amendment because regulations that violate the letter and/or the intent of the law should not be tolerated. Any action that eliminates irregularities should be encouraged.

We also support the writing into law of interim market authorizations. As long as the safety of Canadians is accounted for, there is no reason that food and other products should not be allowed for sale if the substances they contain do not exceed the specified safety levels.

These measures allow Canadian food producers and manufacturers to quickly bring their products to market, increasing their ability to compete. Canadian consumers also benefit by gaining quicker access to new and modified products.

Like other smart regulations, interim market authorization creates a level playing field for Canadian business especially within the U.S. market. Currently the U.S. government allows food products in the approval stage to be marketed, given that they are not harmful or restricted by other laws.

That being said, caution is needed. Although interim market authorizations have been common practice since 1997 supposedly without incident, this is not to say that unsafe food products have not been prematurely authorized for sale. Not only might their sale pose a health risk, but the government may be liable for damages in the event of unsafe food causing problems.

Interim market authorizations are necessary and welcome, but must be used only when it is known beyond a doubt that whatever substance is in a food product is at or below an already approved safe level.

In summary, Bill C-28 is a corrective measure to bring an existing regulation into line with the legislation to which it applies.

We want to reduce the number of regulations that contradict the authority of the legislation. This will take years, but it is a necessary undertaking worth the effort. We support this change as a small step toward better laws and better law making.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is the House ready for the question?

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Food and Drugs Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 5:35 p.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham for the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave now?

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Toronto Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham for the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Sudbury
Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to begin the debate at third reading of Bill C-8, a bill aimed at giving legislative confirmation to the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada which was created by order in council as a result of the government reorganization of December 12, 2003.

As reported to the House, Bill C-8 was reviewed by the government operations and estimates committee on February 1. All clauses of the bill were approved unanimously, including one amendment made by the Bloc Québécois to subsection 4.2 of the Financial Administration Act in order to stipulate that the President of the Treasury Board is not only responsible but also accountable for the coordination of the activities of the secretary of the Treasury Board, the president of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, and the comptroller general of Canada.

While this precision makes more explicit in Bill C-8 what is in fact already part of the normal responsibilities of any minister of the crown, we accept this amendment. This is just consistent with the government's goal to foster an effective, clear and transparent accountability regime across the public service at all levels. This being said, let me take this opportunity to remind hon. members of the origin, the purpose and the benefits of Bill C-8.

First, as mentioned in the introduction, it dates back to over a year ago to the government reorganization which took place in December 2003. One of the goals of the changes made in December 2003 was to restore the confidence of Canadians in their public service. How? Through resource reallocation from low to high priorities, through strengthened financial management controls and leadership capacity, and through the implementation of the highest standards of ethics, accountability, transparency, and openness.

To this end, significant changes were made to how the administration of the federal public service was structured and organized. As part of this reorganization, the Treasury Board Secretariat was streamlined to better focus on comptrollership and financial management while the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada was established by orders in council to modernize and foster excellence in human resources management and leadership across the public service.

In this context the purpose of Bill C-8 is simply to confirm by legislative means the orders in council that established the agency and placed it within the Treasury Board's portfolio. It does not change powers or functions already conferred on the agency. It merely enshrines in legislation what exists in fact.

Essentially Bill C-8 does four things. First, it adds the position of president of the agency to the Financial Administration Act, just as the secretary of the Treasury Board and the comptroller general of Canada are already identified in the act.

Second, it specifies the nature of the powers and functions that may be delegated by the Treasury Board to the president of the agency in the same manner as set out in the Financial Administration Act for the secretary of the Treasury Board and the comptroller general.

Third, it stipulates that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible and accountable for the coordination of the activities of the secretary of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the comptroller general and the president of the agency.

Since the position of the president of the agency is included in the Financial Administration Act, this bill requires amendments to two other acts.

First, it requires an amendment to the Canada School of Public Service Act to appoint the president of the agency as an ex officio member of the school’s board of governors, replacing the president of the Public Service Commission.

It also requires an amendment to the Official Languages Act to stipulate that it is the president of the agency, rather than the Treasury Board secretary, who will provide the Commissioner of Official Languages with any audit reports that are prepared under the responsibility of the Treasury Board.

That was the “what” of Bill C-8. Let me now finish by outlining the “why”.

First, a legislative basis will provide greater visibility, legitimacy and stability to the agency that only a legal framework can offer.

This will facilitate implementation of its policies, programs and services.It will help the agency provide the leadership that is needed to modernize human resources management and leadership throughout the public service.

Second, a legislative basis will clarify the role of the agency within the system, including with unions. In particular, it will clarify its relationships within the Treasury Board portfolio, as well as with the Treasury Board in its role as employer.

Third, a legislative basis will support better integration of activities relating to human resources management within the Treasury Board portfolio.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, it signals the government’s recognition that its most precious resource is its employees, the people who are in the service of Canadians. It shows the commitment and determination of the government to develop and sustain excellence in modern and exemplary management of its human resources.

The federal public service is Canada's largest employer. Setting up a true human resources management agency for the federal public service sends a strong signal to all managers, public servants and union representatives that sound human resources management is a priority for the Government of Canada.