House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting point because the member for Mississauga South brought examples of some of the labelling in the United States to the committee and challenged us to find the label. We could not find it. It was placed vertically; the colour was the same as the bottle. It was virtually unreadable. So of course the industry was going to say the labelling was effective because it was effective in its view of not reducing any alcohol consumption.

We really want Canadians to understand the potential for risk. One of the witnesses that came before the committee, Tim Stockwell who was the director and professor for the centre for addictions research of B.C. at the University of Victoria, specifically talked about how we could make labels effective. He talked about the fact that tobacco packages have essays written on them about quite simple health effects of tobacco in huge detail.

However, he also talked about how else we could make those messages effective and this is what we really wanted to see. The message could be rotated and be illustrated with pictures. He went on to talk about the low risk drinking guidelines that were developed in Australia with which he had been involved. A whole series of punchy messages were developed that the alcohol industry actually climbed on board with.

Initially there was a huge resistance; the world was going to end if labels had to be put on bottles. However, eventually the industry came on board and has actively supported a very proactive campaign in Australia. It would be a model that we could look at in Canada for effective labelling.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, with all of the work that has been done by our member for Winnipeg North and the member for Mississauga South, I was very concerned, perhaps even shocked, by the committee's decision not to proceed. I wonder if my colleague could make a quick comment on why she thinks the committee decided not to proceed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am relatively new to the House and it was interesting to me to watch how the witnesses at the committee divided. On the one hand, many of the advocates in the health care community and the addictions and substance abuse community, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Motherisk, a whole series of advocacy groups and health professionals talked about the importance of labelling as part of a comprehensive strategy.

On the other side of the coin, industry representatives talked about the fact that labelling would actually impact on their economic benefits and impact on jobs in the community. I would argue that we need to take both of those pieces and come together, so that we are looking at how jobs might be affected, but also taking seriously into consideration the health and welfare of citizens in our country.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

Noon

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for recognizing that I was sharing my time with the hon. member for Nanaimo--Cowichan.

I would like to thank the member for Yellowhead for bringing forward this motion today, so that we can actually have this debate in the House. Obviously it took place in the health committee, but now it is taking place in the House. I think it provides a good opportunity for all members to express their viewpoint on this very important public health issue.

I would like to recognize the work that is being done by my colleague from Nanaimo--Cowichan, the NDP health critic, and the role that she has played in the committee of basically sticking to the principles. As she said, in responding to a question from my other colleague from Windsor--Tecumseh who asked why the health committee of Parliament decided not to proceed with any further proactive measures to ensure that labelling took place, the witnesses were divided.

There were witnesses who were advocates and who understood the importance and the imperative of this public policy health proposal. Then there were industry representatives. It has become very clear that in the health committee a majority of members, in fact I believe all but the member from the NDP, the member for Nanaimo--Cowichan, voted down a proposal to proceed with the labelling. Instead, the committee adopted this report that is now before us which is to have a further consultation and report through Health Canada with stakeholder groups.

That is fine as far as it goes, but I think it begs the question as to why this issue has been stalled for so long and why so little has been done? I want to draw to the attention of the House that my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, brought a private member's motion before the House several years and it was approved. Her motion to place warnings and advisories on alcohol beverages was approved by the House. Since that time very little progress has been made by the federal government and Health Canada to move on that motion passed by Parliament to have labelling.

I think that is very disconcerting. It is one of these issues where there are a lot of vested interests involved, but it is critical that as members of Parliament representing our constituents and representing the broad public health of the community, that we not lose sight of the importance of requiring a comprehensive strategy of which labelling should be one component.

I represent the riding of Vancouver East. In my community we are dealing with very huge issues of discrimination, poverty, people who are facing unemployment, who are working in part time jobs, people who are living below the poverty line, and who have very poor access to health care in the city. We have seen massive privatization take place in British Columbia under Gordon Campbell who has allowed it to happen. We have seen this government be completely silent on that question and not do anything to enforce the Canada Health Act.

What this produces is an environment where we are basically creating a society where there are people who have access to resources, often private resources, they have good jobs and good incomes, but there are growing numbers of people who are now joining a part of society where the gap between wealth and poverty is growing.

Certainly, in a community like mine in east Vancouver, we can see the visibility of that. We can see the impact of that in the local community in terms of lack of housing, lack of accessible affordable health care, and lack of education.

I raise those issues because to me they are all part of the environment that creates a situation where there are a growing number of families who have very little access to real resources and support by which to make informed decisions about what they do to live in a healthy community.

In fact, we have removed many of those supports over the years, so families become more and more isolated. More and more people live below the poverty line. They struggle to make ends meet every month. They struggle to keep food on the table and feed their kids.

It is within that environment in my community and I know in many communities across the country that we need to address these fundamental health issues. We need to look at the determinants of health. We need to look at the things that will help produce healthy communities in terms of housing, resources, income, stable work, family support and child care. These are the basics for healthy and livable neighbourhoods.

I very much see this issue of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as a part of that debate, because I think we can see this as we experience a society where more and more dysfunction takes place. We have people feeling the stresses of everyday life and trying to keep their families together. We can see that with a lack of support and resources people make decisions, and they may be engaging in practices such as consuming alcohol without the awareness about what the direct consequences are for unborn children and for children as they are growing up.

These are very critical issues and I feel a sense of dismay. I have now been in this House for almost eight years. I do not know how many throne speeches I have heard, but I have heard enough of them, and I think I can safely say that every single Speech from the Throne that I have heard has addressed this issue. It has always supposedly been on the government's agenda to address this issue, particularly within the aboriginal community where we have seen the incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder happen at very alarming rates because of the lack of supports.

It is very alarming to look at this place and hear the speeches and the fine words laid out in those speeches when the result is that really nothing takes place. I have to say for the NDP members here that we are very concerned about the direction the government has taken in sort of moving off this agenda, from the big picture of not enforcing the Canada Health Act and allowing privatization to take place to other parts of the picture. The government is being completely passive and non-active on this issue of FASD.

This has tragic consequences in local communities. I think we have to question ourselves. What is the weight and what is the balance we give to different interests who come before us?

I think there are legitimate concerns from the industry about labelling. There are questions that industry has, but surely there are also some broader principles at work here in terms of public policy and health policy. Surely if we can adopt those principles then we should be able to figure out, with all the resources that we have in this place, how to design a system that can mitigate the effects the industry is concerned about while still bringing forward a strong public message about the dangers of alcohol consumption that can result in FASD.

Surely we are able to accomplish that. This is not an insurmountable task. I think what it comes back to is a lack of political will to carry this out. With this government, this lack of political will is something that we are unfortunately all too familiar with. How many times do we have to hear about the commitment to this and that, whether it is child care, health care, housing, education or help for aboriginal people? How many times do we have to hear this rhetoric but see a complete lack of follow-through? We do end up feeling very cynical about what this government's record is all about. I think Canadians feel very cynical about that record.

While we are here today to support this report or the need for a report as far as it goes, let us be very clear that this issue could have already been dealt with if this Liberal government had decided to act even when the member for Winnipeg Centre had her motion approved by this House several years ago.

Here we have yet another example of this Liberal government dragging its feet, not following through on its agenda and dropping the ball on a significant public policy issue that has to do with the health and welfare of our children and our families. So yes, we will have this debate here in the House, but it is this government that has dropped the ball on this issue.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a comment and ask a question of the member. She talked a lot about how it is important for government to realize how the addictions are troublesome and how labelling will help.

In our province, our provincial government owns all the liquor stores. I am wondering if she would agree, then, that probably it should put up big signs to tell people that whatever they buy out of those stores is definitely a detriment to their health.

I want her to comment because in our province we seem to encourage drinking. Our premier wanted to lower the liquor age. He is putting up three brand new beautiful buildings throughout the province. While we are closing schools and hospitals we are going to have three of the nicest looking liquor stores in the nation, I am sure, because the NDP does believe that people should have choice. Now we are down to the same topic as liquor. That is all these stores sell. The government has a monopoly. It controls these liquor stores. Should there be warning signals and warning signs posted on their doors as well?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that the hon. member is from the province of Saskatchewan. I have to say that I think it is far preferable that we have government control of liquor licensing and liquor distribution.

I come from a province where the Liberal government has for years tried to privatize liquor distribution and basically get rid of all the rules. It was only because of a massive public outcry in the community that the government had to back off from its privatization plans. I think the Saskatchewan model, where at least there is a clear accountability back to the government for liquor regulation, licensing and distribution, is a preferable environment to operate in.

In terms of notices or labelling in that province, it is obviously for the people of Saskatchewan to decide how they want to urge their government to follow through on that.

I think that what we are debating here today is the critical role of the federal government in taking up its responsibility. This is part of the problem. We can look at it province by province, but the question before us today is what we should be doing in this federal jurisdiction to ensure that there is a comprehensive strategy, to ensure that we have education, awareness and prevention right across the country.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member for Vancouver East to comment on this statement because I know that her riding is one of the ridings in Canada with the lowest income per capita. One of the things that came out in 1992 in the standing committee report on fetal alcohol, where Mrs. Betty MacPhee, the manager of Vancouver's Crabtree Corner, was a witness, was that every woman should know that “there is no known safe amount of alcohol” for women who are pregnant.

Subsequently, results of a national survey done for Health Canada by Environics said that part of the major findings of the study was again that there was “confusion about the safety of 'small amounts' of alcohol”. This was many years later so clearly there had not been an improvement in women's knowledge. I wonder if the member for Vancouver East could comment on how labelling would benefit her community in that many people there probably struggle a bit with literacy and just finding out information.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the organization the member refers to is a family child care centre in the downtown east side. This is a place that is overwhelmed by the stresses and the demands that are placed on families in that community.

The member makes a very good point. It seems to me that labelling and providing public information about the devastating effects of consuming alcohol during pregnancy is one measure. It must be part of a comprehensive strategy. As well, information must be delivered in a way that is accessible, noticeable and usable to people. I think labelling is a part of that, but it cannot be the only part of that. We need to have information that is delivered right at the grassroots in terms of community education and awareness campaigns.

Some of these organizations work tremendously hard under very difficult circumstances to get that message out, but if we had a clear strategy from the federal government to assist that I think those organizations would be a lot better off in working that message in the local communities and bringing about the understanding and awareness for women who are pregnant.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, we could say a lot of words here. A lot could be said about why the private member's bill did not succeed through committee in its current form. More importantly, though, I think we should talk about why this process did work and how it did work. Perhaps it did not achieve the outcome that we would all have liked, especially the mover, the member for Mississauga South, who has done a lot of arduous work on this. He has done a lot of hard work for a number of years. He is an expert in the matter.

A lot of people in the House supported sending the bill to committee so that it would have full study. I think we have to see that where the system worked for the private member's bill was in bringing an increased level of awareness to the House, to all parties and to Canadians to make sure that people understand the horror of diseases like FASD, fetal alcohol syndrome, the risks in the operation of machinery, the danger to general health with misuse of alcohol and other drugs, and the effects that improper use has on families and on communities generally.

We have had a very good debate on that. Now we have a follow-up to one element of it. We listened to reports. Committees should do that. All parliamentarians from all parties worked very hard at the committee. Perhaps Canadians become disenchanted with parliamentarians when they watch the House and listen to the arguments, name calling, screaming and accusations, but I think those who followed the committee would have seen people working very hard and very seriously, asking good questions of a lot of experts and of people with their protected interests, of course, who came to the committee, were able to testify and were asked questions by all members in a very good manner.

At the end of the day the decision was made that perhaps it was not the time to go alone in a stand-alone fashion on labelling, but that we needed a comprehensive strategy. The committee reported on that and the member for Yellowhead put a motion to the committee, which was supported nearly unanimously if not unanimously, if my memory serves me. It was very well supported that we get a report and get some action from the Department of Health, that the Department of Health appear and talk about its comprehensive strategy on FASD and that we see what it is preparing.

I think that is very good. If we get that element out and get people working together in the right direction, then the member's work is not lost. I believe he worked very hard. We cannot lose it. We cannot have that work go for nothing. No member of Parliament and no Canadian benefits from that. We have to build on the work that has been done to date and look forward to a comprehensive strategy in the future, which may very well include labelling. It has to have the participation of all players. The alcohol industry, I understand and I certainly hope, has been served notice that it has to be a player at the table. It is the product the industry profits from that is a risk to our society in many ways and society has to be informed. The question remains on what is the best way to inform.

We are now talking about one element of it, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, about which the member for Mississauga South has written and with which he is very familiar. He will be encouraged, I hope, by the moves that will be made by government and by other sectors of our society over the coming years. I hope we see a day when we have the complete elimination of FASD; certainly we have to see a reduction and that starts with awareness.

It is our intention to be present at the committee with the future strategic directions of the government's activities on fetal alcohol syndrome, as stated in the motion. The government will support the motion. We will present a document that will highlight the involvement of key partners and stakeholders, as well as the gaps, the challenges and the opportunities in current fetal alcohol spectrum disorder activities. We will speak on how we plan to address these challenges and opportunities.

The health portfolio has been working with other departments and agencies, the provinces and territories and aboriginal groups as well as a host of community based partners on a comprehensive approach to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Its objective is to address the critical gaps and pressures caused by FASD and provide individuals and organizations working with groups that are at risk with the tools and resources they need to reach and educate prospective parents.

As profound as the impact may be for affected individuals and their families, the cost of FASD is steep for society. Canadian taxpayers will spend an additional $1.5 million over the lifetime of each affected individual in extra health care, education, welfare, policing and criminal justice costs.

Consider that given the incidents of 9.1 cases of FASD per thousand births, there are an estimated 280,000 people in Canada currently living with this fully preventable disability. We believe that the most effective approach is one which focuses on awareness and on prevention. That is what the experts and academics who have studied this issue tell us works best.

For example, research shows that women are more likely to turn to their health care providers for information on alcohol during pregnancy. This reinforces that it is important to educate the range of health care professionals. Supporting health and allied professionals will enable them to deal more effectively with their people at risk and help reduce the risk factors.

To this, a lot has been accomplished already. Among the many activities completed to date, the department has published a framework for action on FASD. The Public Health Agency of Canada also conducted and published a national survey of health care professionals on their knowledge and attitudes on FASD. It has also supported the development and publication of Canadian diagnostic guidelines to assist teams of health care providers in identifying affected individuals.

In 2000 and again in 2002, Health Canada conducted public opinion surveys to gauge public awareness and general knowledge about FASD and alcohol use during pregnancy. The intelligence gathered through this process helped to shape common messages on FASD. Those were developed by the department in partnership with the provinces and territories. Posters and pamphlets using these messages were prepared and distributed to the public. Health Canada subsequently conducted limited awareness campaigns using these materials.

That is not all. Working in partnership with Thyme Maternity and News Canada, the department had newspaper articles published aimed at increasing public awareness of FASD and the need to avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Of particular importance to organizations working with high risk groups, the Public Health Agency has funded eight projects the country through the national FASD strategic projects fund. Through these projects, tools, resources and training programs are being developed and are used by community-based organizations to prevent FASD and to improve the prospects of people living with this disability.

A lot of work is also being done at regional levels to support local projects that will help reduce the incidents of FASD and improve outcomes for those affected.

This is just the beginning. Work currently underway will create greater knowledge and understanding of the impacts of pre-natal alcohol exposure and support prospective parents and affected individuals and their families. For instance, focus group studies are being conducted among women to gauge their acceptance of the current messages. The information obtained from these studies will help form a healthy pregnancy campaign, which is under development, targeting women of child-bearing age with health messages around pregnancy, including alcohol and FASD.

Another sample is a series of literature reviews being undertaken that focuses on alcohol use by pregnant women and the alcohol consumption rates of women of child-bearing age. Research is also being carried out on FASD training opportunities and public awareness activities across Canada.

Momentum is building all across the country to address many of the challenges Bill C-206 proposes to resolve. National multi-stakeholders meetings were recently held in Ottawa, including one to follow up on the publication of the diagnostic guidelines. A symposium on FASD was held as part of ongoing discussions on Canada's alcohol strategy and a national framework in substance use and abuse.

A survey of allied professionals' knowledge, attitudes and behaviours regarding FAS is currently being planned. The result of this survey will provide baseline information on FASD knowledge among such groups as correctional officers, teachers, social workers, nurses and other front line workers dealing with affected individuals. The public health function that they provide is paramount to FASD harm reduction and prevention.

An analysis of disability laws and regulations and the evidence necessary to declare FASD as a disability is also being compiled. The first nations and Inuit health branch of Health Canada is developing culturally appropriate screening and diagnostic tools. There will be a new call for proposals for the national FASD strategic project funds.

This says nothing of the plethora of activities taking place in the regions of the country. Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada are working hard to ensure that their efforts merge seamlessly with those of community based organizations in the provinces and territories. They are ensuring that prevention and awareness measures are not limited to the health care domain.

FASD is an issue that cuts across sectors and jurisdictions. All these activities contribute to a comprehensive approach that seeks to reduce the risks and tragic consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure. That, as witness after witness told the Standing Committee on Health, is exactly what is needed if we are to produce meaningful results.

Make no mistake. This is precisely what the Minister of Health has indicated he intends to do. All parties are well aware that the health minister is serious about preventing FASD. He has told the House of Commons that his department is working toward a comprehensive strategy for FASD based on proven and established best practices.

Do not forget that while I have focused on challenges specific to FASD, I remind my hon. colleagues that there is a broad range of important programs at play, including Canada's drug strategy, the alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation program, the drug strategy community initiative funds and the national native alcohol and drug abuse program, in addition to the national fetal spectrum disorder initiative.

It is important to remind ourselves that while the committee did not see fit to go through with the bill as proposed, the committee did not say, or I certainly did not as a member of the committee, that there was not a benefit to alcohol labelling. I believe what has been said by most witnesses at the committee and by the committee's decision at the end is that it is not in the interest of Canadians to proceed on a one-off basis on this one element, but that it is important to have a strategy. It is important to inform Canadians on the risk of alcohol abuse and drug abuse generally and to give the tools to the communities so they can help those affected individuals and so they can identify those who are at risk.

We should all be thankful of the hard work done by the member for Mississauga South, the information that it gives to the public, the baseline work that it provides to committee in the House of Commons and the anticipation of resolutions to these very serious matters in the future.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by indicating to all members and to the public, which is very interested in this subject, that the concurrence motion that I have on the order paper with regard to Bill C-206, which would allow it to continue to report stage and third reading, is still on the order paper. As a result of having this concurrence motion, which will require a comprehensive strategy by June 2, I will defer in calling that motion on the bill itself and the eighth report of the health committee until we receive the comprehensive strategy. If it calls for health warning labels, I would be more than happy to move the concurrence motion so we could continue working on Bill C-206.

Therefore, for those who are interested the bill is not dead.

I want to ask the member a question about a matter which appeared in the Globe and Mail on February 7. There was an interview with one of the representatives of the beverage alcohol industry. The individual was quoted as saying that there had been extensive meetings with Health Canada in regard to the framework and strategies, even to the extent that discussions were held on labelling beverage alcohol with regard to ingredients and also allergens.

It appears Health Canada already is quite engaged with the issue of labelling as it relates to ingredients and allergens. It would then raise this question, and I hope the member could shed some light on it. If the argument is that labelling does not work, why would we consider labelling of ingredients and allergens, but not consider information with regard to the risks associated with misuse of alcohol?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, again I do not want to defend either side of the argument. I supported the motion presented in the House that we not proceed with the bill at this current time based on the evidence that was provided. I understood that this type of labelling would not be effective as a stand-alone measure.

On the question of other labelling for other purposes, there are rules and regulations under the Food and Drugs Act that allergens have to be reported on and labelled. While I have not researched this matter, I presume that would be to what the member has referred.

Many people spoke on the question of labelling at committee. This is particularly true when it comes to questions like FASD and other problems associated with the abuse of alcohol. We have to reach the individuals at risk before they buy the bottle because often that decision will not change at that time.

For women of child-bearing age, who are considering pregnancy, it is important they have that understanding in the information and education provided to them prior to them buying a bottle. We heard the evidence of experts that it was too later for people who had problems, those who we refer commonly to as alcoholics, or women who continued to drink through pregnancy because of an alcohol or drug dependence. We have to work with them before it becomes a problem.

Those are elements that were provided by experts who appeared at committee on the strategy on comprehensive drug use. In this motion we talk about FASD. However, let us remember we heard at committee, and it was brought to light by the private member's bill, that there was more than the risk of FASD from the abuse of alcohol. There are general health risks such as liver disease, heart disease and cancer. There is also the risk in operating machinery while intoxicated or drinking and driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving made an excellent presentation on those risks and costs to society and families due to alcohol abuse. Many of us know first-hand of the excesses of alcohol and the stress it can put on the family, the community, individuals and all our systems.

When I consider a comprehensive drug strategy, I go beyond FASD. This motion deals with FASD which is a very important element within that strategy.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

I commend the member for Mississauga South for fighting on this issue for so long. His fight against the negative effects of irresponsible alcohol use, fetal alcohol syndrome disorder and drinking and driving, to name only two, has been inspirational.

The member deserves much credit for the momentum building toward a comprehensive FASD strategy. I and the Conservative Party wholeheartedly share his concern about FASD and drunk driving. My party supports the intent of the member's bill but, unfortunately, not the bill itself. Simply put, it has not been proven yet to be the best way to address the problem it seeks to solve.

The eighth report of the health committee recognizes the ineffectiveness of alcohol labelling, highlights the costs associated with it and recommends that the House proceed with a comprehensive FASD strategy that may or may not include warning labels.

The Standing Committee on Health voted almost unanimously in favour of a more comprehensive strategy. In fact, the vote was ten to one.

The eighth report contained reasons why the committee recommended that a label only strategy proposed by Bill C-206 be replaced with new comprehensive FASD and drunk driving strategies. All witnesses and committee members agreed that FASD and drinking and driving were serious problems that demanded action.

We know that these issues cause untold suffering on those affected by them. However very little evidence was put forward to indicate that alcohol labels would be an effective way of preventing either FASD or drunk driving. Labelling certainly works for a variety of purposes but for FASD and drunk driving, given the intended targets of the messaging, labelling may be ineffective.

The implementation of Bill C-206 would have cost the federal government significant dollars to implement and maintain. A diversion of these resources to labelling at the expense of targeted programs may not be cost effective. The implementation of the bill would have likely raised trade and charter questions which would have imposed further costs on the government.

Many witnesses calling for a comprehensive FASD strategy did not feel that the first dollars should be committed to labelling initiatives.

There was constant concern that if the government moved ahead with labelling that it would be able to claim that the problem was addressed and would not feel compelled to do what was really needed. The cost of labelling would have crippled many smaller breweries, distillers and wineries.

A leaked cabinet document indicated that Health Canada was aware of the ineffectiveness of labels in preventing FASD and drunk driving. In the letter, however, Health Canada acknowledged that to not support Bill C-206 would look bad politically.

This is no way to draft legislation. This is no way to govern. Laws should not be justified based on how they will be perceived. Laws should be passed based on sound research and well proven facts.

The majority of witnesses who appeared before the committee told members that established targeted programs currently in place to address FASD and drunk driving had a much better chance at success than warning labels.

The Conservative Party of Canada believes that a comprehensive strategy that may or may not include warning labels is the best way to tackle FASD. We therefore support the motion to concur in the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Health. The Conservative Party will demand that the alcohol beverage industry play an active role in the new strategy. Although the industry has played a part in previous initiatives, it must do more and will therefore be called upon to take a leading role in a comprehensive strategy.

The committee supported the motion by the member for Yellowhead that the committee call upon the government to present to the Standing Committee on Health a new strategy for the prevention of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder to be developed by Health Canada and its stakeholder groups by June 2, 2005. The motion will be tabled at a later date.

The health minister has indicated that he is serious about preventing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and has told the House of Commons that his department is working toward a comprehensive strategy for FASD based on proven and established best practices. The Conservative Party hopes that Health Canada will develop, release and implement that strategy as soon as possible and the motion by the member for Yellowhead will hopefully accelerate that process.

As a member of Parliament for Manitoba, FASD is a serious problem. I was also involved with Teens Against Drinking and Driving at a very young age. In fact, the program was set up at my high school so I am aware of these challenges. However I want to ensure that if efforts are made they are not done in a haphazard way but in a manner that will ensure we get the maximum impact on the population that these programs will be targeting.

Therefore I hope that we will work together as a nation to reduce the occurrences of FASD and drinking and driving to basically nothing. Only together will we make that happen. I ask that we all support the member's intent of Bill C-206 but that we wait to see a comprehensive strategy that may or may not include alcohol labelling. We have to do the work required.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his intervention in this matter and would ask him if he could tell the House how this matter has directly impacted Canadians.

Sometimes when we talk about policy in the House, certainly if we are not intimately involved in the issue as my colleague is, we can lose sight of how real Canadians are impacted. I would be interested in my colleague's comments on that dimension of the issue.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting aspects of the bill that struck me as helpful was that the labelling targeted two areas of harm by alcohol consumption that are completely preventable. There is no need for babies to be born with FAS and there is no need for drunk drivers to be on the roads. We all know that each year too many people are killed by drinking and driving. We all know the terrible effect that fetal alcohol syndrome has on the population, especially the most vulnerable part of our population, the children.

Not only is it terrible for a child to have that health challenge at the beginning of life but it is also important that prevention measures are implemented so we do not have to deal with children with FAS. For the unfortunate children who do have FAS, we need to provide the resources to allow those children to live meaningful and productive lives. However that is a heavy drain on the resources in society for something that is completely preventable. It seems that we could do a lot more as Canadians.

Alcohol labels, in and of themselves, may or may not reduce the effects but we know that the existing programs reduce the effects. It would be great to have a program that incorporates the best policies from all stakeholders to ensure that FAS and drinking and driving are reduced to zero.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

April 19th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Charleswood--St. James--Assiniboia for his thoughtful and constructive participation in the hearings at committee and the counsel he gave to all his colleagues on the issues facing us and the difficult question about warning labels and the likelihood of their affecting behaviour as opposed to simply informing people or improving their awareness.

Some suggestion was made that labels in a vacuum would not do anything special other than satisfy the obligation or the duty to inform.

Should Health Canada table with the House a comprehensive strategy laying out its argument that the strategy would be enhanced by having health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages, would my colleague support Bill C-206 calling for those labels?