House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was marriage.

Topics

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the great honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

April 21st, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-368, an act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their enemy alien designation and internment during the second world war, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

Canadians of Italian origin have made and continue to make a remarkable contribution to the development of Canada.

Despite this contribution, many persons of Italian origin were unjustly registered and interned by the Government of Canada during the second world war solely because of their ethnic origin. These persons were, while interned, made to labour for Canada without pay on projects such as road construction and the clearing of land. It is necessary and timely for these injustices to be publicly recognized and for appropriate restitution to be made in the form of public education.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize for being late. I would seek unanimous consent to return to tabling of reports from associations.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member for Peterborough have the unanimous consent of the House to revert to presenting reports from interparliamentary delegations?

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, respecting its participation in the meeting of the standing committee of parliamentarians of the Arctic region, held in Washington, D.C. from February 28 to March 2, 2005.

This report deals with our efforts to engage the United States in Arctic affairs, to promote the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, to plan and promote the International Polar Year and to provide future support to the University of the Arctic.

I thank the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association staff for their fine work.

Statistics Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Trinity—Spadina
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Ianno for the Minister of Industry

moved that Bill S-18, an act to amend the Statistics Act, be read the first time.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, presented on Tuesday, April 19, be concurred in. It is a pleasure to rise today to discuss this tremendous report.

I would be remiss if I did not at this point thank the clerk of the committee, Ms. Bibiane Ouellette, and our researcher from the Library of Parliament, Jean-Denis Fréchette, who have done a fantastic job in putting this report together. J.D., in a side comment to me the other day, said that in his 20-some years on the Hill this is by far and away the best report he has ever been part of and has seen. I take that as a real compliment to the yeoman's service in the work done by the chair and members.

This report actually came about at the direction of the soon to be retired member for Langley—Abbotsford. It was in his riding, and of course the Deputy Speaker shares some of that area, that the tremendous impact of the avian flu crisis was felt, an impact that it is still undergoing. We felt we had to get out there and hold some hearings to get the viewpoint of the actual producers affected by this.

A report was to come from the CFIA, which was to have been tabled by the end of 2004. That report did not show up, and get this, it did not show up until the night before we were to hold public hearings in the latter part of January in Abbotsford. Was it just a coincidence that the CFIA finally got around to tabling that report?

A tremendous amount of viewpoints note that the CFIA report is really no more than a grandiose scheme to pat itself on the back. When we look at who had input into that lessons learned report the CFIA finally got around to putting out, we see that there are 122 different interventions, if I counted the numbers properly, but all of them are basically in house. Even such experts as the people from the PCO were getting in their two cents' worth, but nowhere in that CFIA report is there any mention of the producers who would have liked to have put something forward or of the SPCA folks from greater Vancouver who wanted things on the record.

We felt there was a tremendous void and decided to take action. The committee travelled to Abbotsford in January and held hearings.

I would also at this point like to say that I will split my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake.

We travelled to Abbotsford and heard interventions. Let me say that a lot of what we heard was really damning evidence. I think the biggest underlying reason that I wanted to go there and hear these interventions is that in my riding we faced the brunt of the chronic wasting disease with elk, to begin with, and then of the BSE crisis, which is still ongoing. Of course nothing has really been resolved on the CWD or BSE fronts and here we are on the third strike with the CFIA.

I knew from personal experience in my riding how the CFIA handled the crises on CWD and BSE. They were not farm gate friendly, not at all. Their inspectors on the ground were tremendous people. Some of them live within my riding and I know them on a first name basis. They have done yeomen's work in trying to cover the bureaucratic butts here in Ottawa and the decisions that went sideways a lot of time or took us in a misdirection because of a political agenda as opposed to a practical “let us get to the bottom of this” agenda.

A lot of the concerns we heard on CWD and BSE, and now avian flu, speak to the whole idea of compensation. If this is for the greater good of the Canadian public, for food safety and security, then everybody has to take a part of the hit, not just the farm gate, not just the farms affected and of course the collateral damage on the industries around them, but everybody.

We have seen the numbers on BSE escalating to the point where we are talking about $7 billion of hurt, an amount that is going to take some producers down. They will never recover. We are also seeing it rippling out onto main street, to small towns that are not going to recover from that hit. It is just not in the cards.

Having these hearings in Abbotsford I think really reinforced the idea that Bill C-27, now before the agriculture committee, basically underscores and gives the nod of approval to the CFIA for a lot of the action and inaction it has shown us over the last short term; it really underscores the fact that the CFIA be allowed to continue doing that. There is no recourse mechanism. There is no appeals mechanism. There is nothing in the bill that speaks to compensatory value for beyond just an ordinary run of the mill animal.

We have to look at these things on a case by case basis. We have to become much more proactive in the way that the CFIA under Agriculture Canada reacts to these. One of the recommendations we brought forward I think is a great one. It is that we must have an early warning team that goes in with the mandate, the authority and the responsibility to stop these crises dead in their tracks.

We saw that example when both Delaware and Texas in the U.S had an avian flu crisis. They went in, took the barns down and did away with the birds right away. What we saw in Abbotsford was a month and a half of nothing happening as they ran up the flagpole here to Ottawa to make decisions that took that long getting back down to the ground.

In that very first barn, the farmer himself told officials to get rid of it but they just did not quite get around to making that political decision. I guess they knew they would be calling an election and nobody wanted that blight on their record. However it is there and it will show up again as we go into another election mode.

It is just unbelievable that the best interests of producers are not paramount in any of this. These are the guys taking the economic hits and we do not see that in this so-called lessons learned from the CFIA. The only lesson that the CFIA seems to learn is to become more private and go more underground with its decisions and actions so that there will not be the fallout.

We as politicians have to step up and say that is not going to happen. We need to take a more indepth look at Bill C-27 to make sure we get this right because we have already seen that the CFIA is answerable to no one at this point. That needs to change as we increase its powers.

I want to get back to this report. Two internationally recognized experts, who were within spitting distance of the first barn, were not even consulted nor were they allowed to take part in the trace-out and the action that needed to follow. They were the ones who said and kept saying that this was high path avian flu, so the red flag went up right there.

However it took the minister and his henchmen at the CFIA weeks to decide to do that test and then to do something about that barn. When they finally did, they actually exacerbated the problem by taking those birds out of quarantine and leaving them sitting on the driveway of the farmyard for three days in plastic bins inside of a truck trailer. They did not seem to know the science, which everybody else around the world has learned, that the avian flu can be airborne and waterborne. After three days of these birds being left in the parked truck there was this yucky stuff oozing out of the trailer onto the ground and mixing into the groundwater.

When they first brought the birds outside of the barn to do things with them, the birds, of course, flap their wings and when they do that fluff and dander go into the air and downstream the next barn gets infected, and they wonder how the heck that happened. These guys really have to answer for a lot of those political, bureaucratic decisions that were made. The inspectors on the ground are carrying out their jobs.

I would like to put some quotes into the record that are in this report.

Bruce Arabskyi, with the group on behalf of primary poultry producers, said:

If there is another outbreak? There should be a total lock-down--no movement of birds or manure. Compensation must be in place to allow drastic action.

That is something that is not in Bill C-27 at this point and must be put in there so we can make those movements when it is required.

The second quote is from Dr. Neil Ambrose, a veterinarian who made presentations on January 19. He said:

It is ludicrous that the disease was not contained in the Matsqui flat area. Again it is because of procrastination and lack of common sense. We spent a huge amount of time waiting for decisions to come from Ottawa, and most of the time local CFIA staff didn’t know how to interpret those decisions.

This particular report goes on to make seven very good recommendations. We were maybe shy on one thing but I know it came out with the BSE problems and so on which is why it is not in these recommendations. However I would like to put it on the record so the government will have a look at this. When a barn or a farm goes down and its stock is completely done away with no compensation package is paid out. Right now they are allowed a year's revenue holiday to get restocked and so on but that is not long enough.

I know Mel McRae, who had the search-out herd in my area for BSE, is asking for a three year Revenue Canada break so that he can pay it out in thirds and get a chance to restock his farm and so on without paying those horrendous penalties on moneys that basically are in the common good. We have to start looking at things like that as well.

This is a report that is long past its time. It really points out the flaws in that we have politicized and bureaucratized the CFIA.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member is concerned about these issues but it amazes me how much of his time was spent trying to tie political rhetoric into this issue by bringing in Bill C-27 and talking about the minister and his henchmen at the CFIA.

This is a serious discussion and a serious report about a serious issue. We recognize that. The member actually belittles the work of the committee with that kind of political rhetoric. He said that maybe certain things were done because an election was coming up. Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. The CFIA is an independent agency doing its work in terms of food safety. I am absolutely amazed that the member, whom I respect a lot, would spend his time with that kind of rhetoric.

The member said that the CFIA took a long time basically to get down to destroying the stuff. What is his or the Conservative Party's recommendation in terms of the timeframe that should be involved? I know the committee report makes recommendations as do others but in terms of a herd or a flock being destroyed, what timeframe is the member talking about?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, the member opposite did not take part in the avian flu hearings. I know he was busy crossing the country, airport hotel to airport hotel.

Madam Speaker, I do not really give a damn if he respects me, and politics does enter into this. I would much prefer that he respects producers. If he had heard the attacks they levied on the CFIA, the bureaucrats and the politicians the days that we were in Abbotsford, he would agree with me that this has become a political exercise.

The compensation is a political exercise. The direction to the CFIA, how quickly it goes in and what they do is a political exercise. It is non-partisan. However we heard from those people in the valley out there as to everything that went wrong.

One guy who had peacocks used them as part of the landscape around his yard. He had acreage and he had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars landscaping this beautiful piece of property and he had some peacocks.

There is no science that says these birds are carriers for or can even fall to avian flu but the CFIA went in there under orders with shotguns, which I do not imagine were registered. They actually blasted away at these peacocks and feathers were flying everywhere in the wind. Now if there were a problem, the feathers would be carriers, but they blasted these things out of the sky and out of the trees. They ran out of ammunition because they were terrible shots so they commandeered more bullets from the farmer to finish off his birds. That is how bad this was.

The CFIA gassed flocks in barns three and four times because the argon and the C0

2

they were using had no effect on ducks. After two days of trying to kill these birds, they went in with hockey sticks and bagged these birds off the walls. The SPCA came forward and said that it was ridiculous.

This has happened in other parts of the world. The Americans set the example. They took out the barn in Delaware the first day and did the same thing in Texas and had no more problems. We spent 30 days playing around with this issue, making the political decision here in Ottawa as to what needed to be done, and by the time it was done it was too late. It also was done in the wrong way because the CFIA did not know it was airborne. We have the wrong scientists and the wrong politicians. The electorate will choose.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned that there were missing witnesses. I want to ask him if anyone from Health Canada or Public Health were at the hearings and what their comments were.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, to answer the hon. member's question, not to my knowledge. They could have been sitting in the back rows but I am not aware of any interventions they may have made.

The hearings in Abbotsford consisted of people in the industry but the veterinarians, who have a worldwide status and who had served these flocks, had no status with the government. It is absolutely ridiculous. They are recognized by everybody around the world, including our largest trading partners, and yet they were not given status at these hearings. They were not allowed to really put things on the record. That was the politics of the situation.

Even the B.C. government minister was on the phone with us, as I worked with the member for Langley—Abbotsford, asking us to please not go too hard, that they needed the transfer of moneys and that they did not want to be embarrassed by this. That is the politics of the situation. We need to get rid of that and do what is practical and what is right for the farm gate to keep them alive.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster for bringing this forward and giving us a chance as the House of Commons to discuss the shortfall that we experienced with the avian flu.

Since I became a member of Parliament and a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, the one thing that has shocked me is that the CFIA seems to be completely unaccountable to us as politicians. It continues to mishandle such important issues to the Canadian public and Canadian agriculture.

We have had the BSE crisis, the CWD in elk and white tail deer and the avian flu. The CFIA seems to waffle on decisions and to be unapologetic for the way it has handled these situations. We really have to look at how we oversee this agency. How do we as politicians make sure that it is doing what is right for Canadian agriculture and the public? We need to make we are the ones in control and making the decisions affecting the industry.

I am quite proud of the work that the committee has done on this and the recommendations that have come forward. The seven recommendations really revolve around a lot of the issues that have already been laid out by my colleague. There is no doubt that we have to take a cautious approach in developing policy and that is why it is so important that we bring this report forward today and discuss it in Parliament, so we can move quickly in implementing these recommendations.

The report contains seven key recommendations that would ensure something like this never happens again. We need to fix the problems so that when these zoonotic diseases occur we can actually deal with them in a responsible manner that is best reflective of the needs of the industry.

The first recommendation calls for an independent inquiry to look at the entire situation in Abbotsford. As we know, some of the the things that happened in British Columbia were atrocious. The way the flocks were destroyed was terrible and the way it affected the guys who had backyard flocks was devastating. We need to find humane ways of handling the animals as well as addressing the disease problem and we need to do it in a manner that is effective and done quickly. We wanted to have that review.

The second recommendation revolves around the need to have the Auditor General step in and do a complete accounting and review of the way CFIA works and handles these disease outbreaks, essentially looking at emergency preparedness and how prepared we are to deal with these diseases. We never know what is coming around the corner at us and we need to have a good strategy.

We saw BSE in 2003 and at the end of that year we saw avian flu. We now need to ensure that we know how to deal with any future diseases coming down the pipe in a very responsible manner that everybody can understand, scientists, veterinarians, provincial governments, the federal CFIA, the producers who would be affected and the concerned public.

The third thing we want to do is set up a special animal disease response team to deal with this, to communicate it properly and to oversee the way in which the emergency preparedness plan is put into action. We think that will be critical for the future development of CFIA and how it handles the entire industry.

We want to ensure there are more level three labs and containment facilities across the country in order to get results on all samples tested so we can go through the process of quickly identifying the problem as well as the farms. If we have to do what we call scorched earth policy, going in and destroying the entire flock or herd, we need to ensure we can do that in an expedited manner to prevent the spread of disease.

I know many people do not like hearing about taking on an entire population of animals in a certain area, but we have to minimize the spread of that disease and the risk that is associated with it.

As was already said, we must ensure that the animals are destroyed in a humane fashion. Walking in and publicly blasting them with guns and hockey sticks is completely unacceptable. It was suggested we should be using curling rocks as a more humane way. We must ensure that we employ the most humane practices in destroying the animals. It should be done under the care of veterinarians who are trained professionals in this matter.

The sixth recommendation is one that has been an ongoing issue and deals with the compensation of these herds and flocks that are being destroyed. Right now it is arbitrarily set in stone within the Health of Animals Act. An animal is only valued up to a certain limit and that is all the compensation owners are entitled to even if the value exceeds that animal's worth.

There are so many costs associated to the producer who has the unfortunate experience of being affected by the disease, whether it is avian flu, BSE, tuberculosis, or who knows what else is out there. For years we have been fighting the one time costs in disinfecting, in cleanup, and in lost income because the animals are going to be taken out of the system for some time before the facilities are able to house them again. We must help these producers through that time.

Therefore, these one time costs, this lost income must be made part of the compensation program and not just the value of the animals. We need to remove the whole issue of maximum value. As long as we are accurately representing market value and have those animals appraised, then we are doing what is responsible as a government in addressing the needs of the producers.

The final recommendation is to ensure that the communication and consultation between CFIA and producers is done in a more transparent manner and working with the industry in a better fashion. The one major complaint that has come out of British Columbia is that provinces never felt they were part of the consultation with CFIA. They felt they were on the outside looking in the entire time and that they were in the passenger seat, and CFIA was in the driver's seat. The provinces were not properly informed or participated in any of the decision making process. We must ensure that the provincial departments of agriculture are involved in these decisions. I really recommend that we move on that.

There has been quite a bit of comment about CFIA and its usefulness. We are not here to talk about Bill C-27, but in addressing the whole issue of the way we deal with disease outbreaks, we need to begin looking at Bill C-27, and how we put the leadership structure into that organization. It has been just a complete shock every time that we have officials from CFIA before the committee. There seems to be a real wall and barrier between them and us. Officials actually seem to dislike appearing before the committee and talking to us about the issues of the day that affect the industry that we as a committee are responsible for dealing with on behalf of the people of Canada.

I want to ensure that we put in place a structure where CFIA is accountable to Parliament and that CFIA is showing the leadership that reflects the views of Canadians and the industry. We must ensure that Bill C-27 incorporates these recommendations and we need to have an agency that is working well and properly.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Madam Speaker, this committee report is a very good report with the exception of at least one recommendation, which would delay action to deal with the problem that is out there, and that is recommendation 1. It calls for another independent inquiry with the mandate to investigate the 2004 avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia. I am strongly opposed to that recommendation.

There have been three reviews already, one by the agency itself, the lessons learned study, and the committee, which has some very good recommendations that in fact CFIA has started to act on.

It may be good politics for the party opposite to get into that kind of an issue and talk about hockey sticks and so on, and all the things that went wrong, which are being addressed and action is being taken.

I want to ask the hon. member why he would support such a recommendation that would result in a rehash of old ground that has already been dealt with by previous reviews and would delay the kind of action necessary to deal with some of the problems in the farm community?

I would rather see us trying to deal with those problems and assist the farm community in a preventive way so that these things do not happen again. Why is his party taking the stand, through this recommendation, to delay action for the farm community?