House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was products.

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The House resumed from June 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, be read the third time and passed.

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10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6 this morning, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products. I think this is a very important bill.

We certainly still have reservations about the bill, but by and large we are in support of it. This is evidence once again that collectively we can make this chamber work and I think that bodes well. If the parties continue to cooperate a little more than they have in the past, we can get some good legislation out of this minority Parliament and perhaps extend the minority Parliament for some time into the future.

I have had some experience with a minority government in Manitoba a number of years ago. We worked with the Gary Filmon government in Manitoba for a period of 18 months and got through a lot of very good pieces of legislation.

As a matter of fact, I am a very big fan of minority governments. When we look back to 1972-74, that was a very productive period in our politics, and as well when Mike Pearson was the Prime Minister in the sixties. We had several minority Parliaments and they worked very well too. That is when we got the flag. We had a number of issues that were resolved in a very good way.

I want to say at the beginning that our critic for this area did a tremendous job on the bill, as she does on pretty much everything she touches. She and I go back a long way. We were both elected to the Manitoba Legislature March 18, 1986. I have had a lot of experience watching her over the years in various capacities, and she takes a very aggressive and very thorough approach to her duties. When she makes a recommendation, we know that it is well-researched, well thought out and there is really nothing given to chance.

Bill C-6 follows a previous bill, Bill C-52, the original piece of legislation that was intended to strengthen the Hazardous Products Act of 1969, which is quite a long time ago. It has been proven increasingly ineffective in identifying and removing dangerous consumer products.

Let us look back to the period of 1969 when the original legislation was brought in. This was at a time when consumer products and so on were coming on the market in large numbers.

Ralph Nader was essentially the father of consumer protection in North America. Most of us were around in the 1960s. Some here probably were not, but most of us were. Most of us actually grew up with Ralph Nader and we know that he challenged the North American auto industry on the basis that consumer products, when they are produced and sold to the public, should be as safe as possible, and that the onus should be on the company producing the product to be liable if its product is defective.

Our thinking in Canada has always been the opposite, that somehow it is the purchaser and end user's responsibility and fault if something goes wrong with a product. Over the years, through people like Ralph Nader driving this envelope, we have seen consumer protection rise greatly. The man has done a terrific service for all consumers in North America by his actions.

We remember the Ford Pintos. I believe he called them rolling Molotov cocktails. These were cars built in the sixties that had gas tank problems and were subject to catching on fire in accidents. There was a statistically large number of these. Any time something like this happened, the car companies blamed the driver. It was never the car company's responsibility; it was always the driver's responsibility. Ralph Nader collected statistics to show that these accidents were happening in large numbers and only with that particular type of car, the Ford Pinto.

He took action against the companies and was able to get compensation for many Americans. He later went on to deal with the rusty Ford issue and a number of other different areas. When he did get settlements for people, at the end of the day, the settlements were always done on the basis that the settlement had to be private because the car company would always want to keep it out of the public view.

The reality is that the public view of how dangerous these consumers products were was enhanced by Ralph Nader's actions. However, that was only the tip of the iceberg. When people did have problems and took action against the car companies, in this case, there was always a settlement, but the people receiving the settlement had to sign a release that they would not talk about it. The public is literally totally unaware that there were probably hundreds of thousands of settlements made that people could not talk about by virtue of the fact that they had signed confidentiality agreements in order to get their settlement.

That is the beginning of how and why legislation such as this was developed. In the 1950s there were not a lot of consumer products to begin with. In those days, people never thought that their children were going to be poisoned by toys. It was something that was never even contemplated. In those days, people were not dealing with consumer products like cellphones, which some people feel are linked to brain cancer. I do not know if there is a link or not, but it is certainly being studied.

A member of my family was found to have a brain tumour just a few weeks ago. It was removed and it has been determined that it was cancerous. He evidently spends a lot of time on a cellphone. The family is certainly questioning as to whether or not there is a connection. Over time, I think that we will have to do studies to show whether or not cancers are in any way connected to cellphone use.

However, these were issues that we never had to deal with in the 1960s because we did not have products like this. In the 1960s the wiring in houses was probably 60 amp and one was lucky to have a refrigerator, a television and maybe a radio. That was all one would have in a house. Today, when we go into our bedroom or any other room in a house, I am sure we all agree that the whole room lights up at night. There are all kinds of consumer items plugged into the wall.

People have suggested that these products are generating electromagnetic radiation and they provide concerns in some cases. I know that we have had some studies done on people who live around power lines. There is a demonstrated suggestion that cancer rates are somehow increased for people who live around power lines. When we are looking at issues like that, it makes sense that we in this country have to come up with very strong consumer product legislation just to deal with the unknown and unforeseen health effects of consumer products.

We have another whole area of involvement here, with producers of products who are less than ethical in their manufacture. Years ago, products were manufactured in Canada. They were done under some sort of quality standards. When producers were in Winnipeg, Saskatoon or Ottawa, producing for the Canadian market, they would know that if they did not produce a good quality product, it would not be purchased any more. Eaton's would not buy it from them. They would be out of business and there would not be any other place to sell their product.

With a huge amount of consumer products today, it seems that almost everything is being outsourced and made in Mexico, China, Indonesia and other areas. I am sure that a lot of those products are of good quality, but there certainly is a temptation, when a supply source is so far away and the competition is so extremely fierce, for quick solutions and shortcuts becoming the order of the day.

That is what has happened. Children's toys have been manufactured inappropriately, and we are paying the price. We have to deal with this essentially because of multinational corporations and their free trade deals that have led to a race to the bottom for the lowest possible cost of production. We see that as a positive thing in society, but we do not tend to look at the negatives. The long-term liabilities and responsibilities come back to bite us at the end of the day.

For example, 90 consumer products were recalled last year, and there were 37 more in this year already. Many of these products were not made in Canada; China was identified as the frequent country of origin. The original act, as has been pointed out, has not been effective in identifying or removing these dangerous products, leaving Canadians dependent on product alerts and recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission instead of Health Canada.

We see the same thing in the financial services area. Legislation and enforcement in the United States are tougher. There are almost no convictions in Canada under securities violations, for example, with the Ontario Securities Commission, whereas there are a couple of thousand in the United States. I have mentioned before that Conrad Black committed his white-collar crimes in Canada, and he was not touched by any Canadian authorities at all. It was under American laws that he was picked up; it was the American system that cornered him, eventually convicted him and put him where he belongs and where he is now, in jail, at least for the next few months.

Clearly, Canada is not in a very strong position relative to other countries. This bill will help deal with that to a certain extent. However, once again we have left out some very important areas that should have been dealt with.

One of the areas that was left out, and it is certainly an issue that is near and dear to me, is the issue of smoking. Presentations were made in committee. It was a very big disappointment to me and others that cigarettes were exempted from this bill. I cannot think of a better example of a product that should be covered by this type of legislation.

I want to read a letter from the Canadian Cancer Society, which was sent to the chair and members of the committee on April 21, 2009. I know there are people watching the debate today who would not be aware that this was the case. I think it is important for them to know that the Canadian Cancer Society wrote a letter to the members of the committee regarding Bill C-6.

While it says it strongly supports the bill and commends the Minister of Health and the government for bringing forward the legislation, at the same time it recommended “the removal of the permanent exclusion for tobacco products found in the bill. The proposed amendment is short and simple but very important. In particular, we recommend the exclusion of subsection 4(2) to be deleted and that tobacco products instead be listed in Schedule 1, along with pesticides, cosmetics, explosives and other indicated products.”

If the majority of the public were aware of this bill and that this exclusion was in the bill, I am sure MPs' phones would have been ringing off the hook. We would have received a lot of feedback from the public on this issue, from both sides, I am sure, because there are still avid smokers who would defend their right to smoke.

I know at least one colleague, who may or may not be close to me at the moment, is a smoker, but I do not know how tough she would be in defending her right to keep smoking.

I am an ex-smoker, so I guess we are the worst people to be talking about this issue, but even people who do smoke tend to take a different view today of that issue. Even 20 years ago, when a member of my original caucus had a party at his house and announced that people had to smoke outside, we all shook our heads and thought there was something wrong with him.

Today it would be the absolute opposite of that. Even the smokers walk out of their houses and smoke on the front steps. If they recognize it is doing damage to their houses, it makes me wonder why they keep smoking in the first place.

I recall that people years ago would not have had a problem purchasing a car that was owned by a smoker. Today it is very difficult to sell a car that was owned by a smoker, so smokers are smoking outside their cars.

Would anybody in this Parliament believe us if we told them that only a few years ago we could smoke on airplanes? It was very, very common, and now that is past history.

We are making progress. It has been reported that smoking rates have dropped, but it is still a big problem. We have legislation before the House right now dealing with the whole area of tobacco and trying to find ways to reduce the number of smokers in the country. I really believe we are going to have to go a step further at a certain point and offer some sort of financial inducement to people who embark on a non-smoking program supervised by a doctor.

I draw the analogy between that and what we did in Manitoba with the car immobilizer program four years ago. We offered it as a voluntary program, with a reduction on insurance if people put immobilizers in their cars. Even though it made imminent sense, very few people took the government up on the program. We made the immobilizers free, and as a reward we gave people the reduction on their insurance anyway. We made them free but we mandated that people had to install these immobilizers or they could not insure their cars anymore.

There was a bit of grumbling, but by and large people complied with the program. We had our auto theft rates drop to the point where we had one day last month when we had zero. We went from the number one car theft capital of Canada three years ago down to having one day with no thefts.

That is a perfect example of how providing a free product and making it mandatory actually has solved a lot of the problem. We may have to do the same thing with smoking to get those final smokers. I am looking at another smoker down the aisle here.

At the end of the day, if the advertising does not work, all the other prohibitions do not work and the social stigmas do not work, we may have to look at offering some sort of a program, administered by the Canadian Medical Association, where we offer financial incentives to people if they quit smoking. They already have financial incentives to stop smoking through their home and life insurance programs, and other programs. I am sure it works in a few cases, but not in all.

The letter goes on to say, “Tobacco products cause more damage to public health than any other consumer product, killing 37,000 Canadians a year. It makes no sense that Bill C-6 in section 4(2) would permanently exclude tobacco products under virtually all circumstances from any of the bill's provisions. The following rationale further supports the proposed amendment. Adopting the amendment would mean that in the future the government would have the flexibility to deal with the tobacco epidemic in a rapid manner should the need arise and the Tobacco Act be inadequate.”

There would be an escape valve available to protect the public interest if necessary—

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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, order. I will have to stop the hon. member there, as his time has expired.

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10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question for the member has to do with the prohibitions.

Starting with clause 5, which deals with the prohibitions, it states:

No person shall manufacture, import, advertise or sell a consumer product listed in Schedule 2.

If we look at schedule 2, and this is my concern, schedule 2 includes a fairly specific list, such as glasses that contain cellulose nitrate, baby walkers with wheels, et cetera. There are 14 items, the last one being lawn darts with elongated tips. This seems like a very small list relative to the range of consumer products out there.

Clause 6 then goes on to state:

No person shall manufacture, import, advertise or sell a consumer product that does not meet the requirements set out in the regulations.

This is the problem. I am concerned about the way we craft these things. We have schedule 2, which purports to be a comprehensive list of the key items or types of items, but then there is this catch-all, the regulations, which parliamentarians in either House will not see until after the bill has passed all stages in both Houses and received royal assent.

This causes me some concern. On occasion we have required that the regulations proposed by order in council, by the government, must go through committee for comment prior to being promulgated. I wonder if the member would agree that because of the importance of this legislation in terms of consumer protection that Parliament should be engaged in ensuring that the regulations are appropriate?

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct in his assessment. Not only will we not see the regulations, but we may not see the enforcement of the act by the government.

We have some concerns that there may not be enough money being put aside for the enforcement of the act. There may not be enough inspectors being hired. My colleague, the critic, pointed that out in her speech yesterday.

We have to see this as a work in progress. It is something that we will take as far as we can right now. We are a minority government. We can only go as far as the components here will allow. Unless the three opposition parties want to get together and make tougher amendments and so on, we will be stuck with what we have right now.

That is no reason that we cannot look forward to working with members in this Parliament who want to develop stronger legislation in the future. I see this as an overall movement, a sort of war, which takes many years. We are not going to solve all these problems overnight, but we have to keep focused. We have to keep working forward to accomplish the things that the member, and I, and other people in this Chamber want to accomplish in the whole area of consumer protection.

It is not just dealing with consumer products. There are also some other areas. On the whole issue with the air passenger bill of rights, we can take that concept and take that further, if we like, to other areas of the economy as well.

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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know it is really tough in the 20 minutes we have in the House to address an issue such as consumer protection in a comprehensive way.

I want to focus on a particular part of the legislation. For me one of the biggest concerns is the fact that 65% of the consumer goods sold in Canada are imported. We know from experience last year that we had to recall 90 products. This year we already have recalled 37 of them. While I think the act as a whole makes some significant progress with respect to protecting Canadian consumers, it does fall short in this aspect.

The way the act is written right now there really is no front-end approval of products coming into Canada. There is an opportunity to do a risk assessment when we suspect there is a high degree of non-compliance, but as a whole the government will only act once a product has been found to have harmed a Canadian, an after the fact process.

Could the member comment on whether he thinks the provisions of this act are strong enough with respect to the protection of consumer goods that are imported right now and can we beef up those sections? I think he will know from his constituents that the United Steelworkers, for example, have a very aggressive campaign, particularly with respect to lead in toys.

Could I have some feedback from him about how we might strengthen that part of the legislation, if not right now, then perhaps in subsequent legislation?

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member has made some valid points. Another disappointment in the legislation is the fact that we had hoped to have labelling provided to disclose hazardous elements in consumer products. That has not been done with this legislation. The government promises to keep an eye open on this and look to the future to work out a system. This is on the basis that labelling would be too expensive.

We also are concerned about the whole issue of counterfeit products. That is a huge area of abuse. The black market and the whole area of counterfeit products has not been dealt with in the legislation at all.

As I said before, we are in a minority Parliament and we can deal with only what we have in front of us. Our critic and our party did as good a job as they could under the circumstances, although I would have liked to have seen a lot more done with the bill. I am prepared to support the bill and move on to look to a future where we can make amendments next year or come up with a new approach and deal with those issues that have been left out of the process up to this point.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, most often there are several chemicals found in toys. Whether it is lead, phthalates, cadmium, these do tremendous damage to children and pregnant women. Could the member talk about how the bill will impact on the toy industry as it relates to imports, especially the 65% of the imports? Many of these toys and products connected to children have these chemicals in them, which are very dangerous.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, at the end of day, we have seen a bit of a shock rippling through the industry with regard to the whole issue of toys. The well-known manufacturers of North American toy brand names, which were manufactured domestically, have now taken their manufacturing offshore. I think they were stunned and shocked by what hit them. The loss of business, income and profits have probably smartened them up a little to the point now where before they bring products in under their brand names, they will send inspectors out to the plants to do first-hand inspections to ensure that no bad chemicals are put into toy products, at least I would like to think that is the case.

That would deal with the whole issue of the name brand products, but we have a lot of non-name brand products, where unscrupulous and low cost sellers will produce these products and sell them to regular stores. This will be an ongoing problem. We want the government to test these products and label them so people know nothing hazardous is in the product.

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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6, an act respecting the safety of consumer products, which I support. This bill is long overdue. Last year and the year before I stood in the House and asked the minister a question about toxic toys. I mentioned how a lot of the toys available for children contained lead and other kinds of very dangerous chemicals in them. Therefore, it is a great pleasure to see a bill that begins to make consumer products safer.

I want to focus particularly on several of the chemicals. We note that the U.S. has tested some of the popular toys and have found that a third of them have medium to high levels of lead, cadmium, mercury and other dangerous chemicals. Why are these chemicals particularly hard on children? We know their brains and their bodies develop the most during that first six years. Children under the age of two tend to put whatever their hands can grab into their mouths. Imagine what would happen if the products they put in their mouths contained dangerous chemicals. The impact is hardest on kids are under six, especially children two years old or under.

Two or three years ago in the U.S., a four-year-old child swallowed a heart-shaped charm and subsequently died. That charm was made almost entirely out of lead. Therefore, last year the U.S. took action and passed a bill similar to this one, which takes effect this year.

When there are high levels of lead, it causes brain damage, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioural problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage. Some of the symptoms could be vomiting and, if severe, as I said earlier, even death. Therefore, parents desperately want to know that the toys and the products around their children are safe.

We have seen that it is not just lead, it is also cadmium. Cadmium can have an impact on children and pregnant women. It can cause bone losses, increased blood pressure, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and, if serious, even death. It could even cause lung and prostate cancer.

Another kind of chemical, phthalates, especially DIMP, which is most often found in rubber ducks and bath toys, has an impact on the kidneys, liver and blood. There are all kinds of chemicals. In fact, 80,000 of them are used in the products that surround us. The European Union has banned phthalates since 1999 because of their impact.

The United Steelworkers, for example, has been asking parents to go around and check products, especially toys, to see whether they are safe for children and household use. For a while last year and the year before, before this act was finally in front of us for approval, I told my constituents to go leadcheck.com where they could purchase a pen that they could use to test products.

I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I forgot to mention that earlier on.

The United Steelworkers have this campaign. If the government is not checking these things, it is encouraging ordinary Canadians to do it.

I am glad we are finally seeing some aggressive regulations. For regulations to be successful, they require three elements. They require legislation, enforcement and education. We need to carefully ensure there are enough funds in the budget for enforcement. We know that 65% of consumer products are imported into Canada. We need to ensure the products are safe and importers should be required to prove they are.

In the past everything has been voluntary. The checking, enforcement and recall were voluntary. We did not know if a product is off the shelf. The item could be recalled by Health Canada, yet some of the product could still be on the shelves. We need to have mandatory recall and the kind of enforcement to ensure the item is off the shelf if it is dangerous.

Finally, an element of the bill includes natural health products, which has caused us some concern. However, I am glad it has now clarified. Last year we had Bill C-51 and Bill C-52. Bill C-51 especially dealt with natural health products. At that time, there was a great deal of concern over that kind of legislation because natural health products were lumped into the Food and Drugs Act. I am glad the bill did not pass. People who sold natural health products were extremely concerned that if the bill had passed, they would have been thrown in jail.

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10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra St. Catharines, ON

That is not true.

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10:35 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

My colleague is saying that is not true, but in reading the bill, they were concerned that if natural health products were part of the drug act, many of them could not provide the same kind of proof of their safety.

For example, ginseng has been sold in various herbal stores for thousands of years. For many years in Canada, there was no problem with that. However, many of the herbal medicine folks were extremely worried that natural health products would be included in Bill C-6. However, for anyone who was worried about that, they are not included.

This is not to say that we still do not have to deal with natural health products. We need a natural health product act so they are regulated in a way that gives a special kind of consideration because of their tradition.

I am glad we finally have the bill in front of us. Hopefully, it can pass here, find support in the Senate and come back here to be made into law.

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10:40 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is no doubt aware that the government was actually opposed to a comprehensive system of labelling consumer products containing hazardous materials. It seems to be a no-brainer that if products contain hazardous materials, there should be a label indicating that. The government, nevertheless, said no, that it would be too expensive and cumbersome to try to implement it. There was no consensus developed for an alternative.

Does the member agree that labelling is a very important area which the government did not deal with?

Another area that was left out was counterfeit products. That is a huge area that was not dealt with. Yet another one was cigarettes. The Canadian Cancer Society made presentations, but cigarettes were left out.

Does the member think that the bill is as good as it should be given that the government has left out three very important product areas?

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the European Union, California and Vermont mandate that there be labelling telling consumers what products are hazardous. There is absolutely no reason for Canadian products not to be labelled. It is unfortunate that in this round, corporations came first before the health of children and ordinary Canadians.

Yes, we are supporting the bill, but it is incomplete. It is not perfect. Aside from labelling, counterfeit products absolutely should have been dealt with. Cigarettes should have been dealt with as well. That element is missing. Those three areas and the whole area of labelling cause a great deal of concern.

There are carcinogens and neurotoxic substances in some of the chemicals in consumer products. When parents are buying toys, they have the right to know. Unfortunately, this part is not in the bill. I would hope that in a future bill this element would be added because consumers deserve to know what kinds of chemicals they are dealing with in their households.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question following on the question asked by my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party. He said that we will not see the regulations on this bill for some time. Of course, the regulations are a very important part of the bill. I want to add that we may not see the enforcement.

The NDP critic for this area, the member for Winnipeg North, pointed out yesterday that the government is not planning to resource the enforcement of this bill to the levels that it should. Not much money is being put toward enforcement and it is a huge area to enforce.

It is great to have legislation, but if the government does not follow through with proper enforcement and fund proper enforcement procedures, the legislation is going to be nothing more than window dressing at the end of the day.

I would ask the member if she would like to comment on those observations.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, there has to be transparency so that consumers know what is in products. They are not labelled, which is the problem. If consumers do not know what is in front of them, it is hard for them to report. This is why it is important for the government to do the kind of enforcement that is necessary. The government needs to make sure the regulations and the law are being followed.

The government talks about being soft on crime. We do not want to see the government being soft on corporate crime, soft on crimes that are committed on our children when they put things in their mouths that contain lead, for example. The sum of $113 million over two years is not--

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10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Thunder Bay--Rainy River.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-6.

Hundreds of products have been recalled in the last couple of years, many of them from offshore. In fact, 65% of the products sold in this country are imported. Not many are made here.

I want to speak about children's products. When my children were little, I remember seeing labels on toys, blankets and so on, mainly children's products, that indicated they were made from 100% unknown fibres. I used to smile at that. I knew what it meant. They were probably clean and new fibres, but they were unknown fibres. Hopefully this bill will address that kind of label, as well as counterfeit labels.

Canada's Hazardous Products Act is 40 years old this year. It has not been very effective in identifying or removing dangerous products. It leaves Canadians at the mercy of product recalls which mainly originate in the United States. We take action later.

Bill C-6 will enable us to recall products in a timely fashion. It addresses some of the weaknesses. It will empower the government to order a recall of dangerous products. It will increase government authority to require information and action from manufacturers and importers. It will require mandatory reporting by manufacturers and importers of incidents involving death or injury from a product's use, and to inform Canadians of any potential harm. It also will apply heavy fines to violators.

There are some good parts in this bill and I am certainly supportive of it. Despite these changes, however, improvements are still needed if the bill is to be effective and supportable. I will talk about some of those proposed amendments in a moment.

Right now there is too much discretion for inspectors, and action is pretty well optional, even when it is believed that human health might be at risk. The government is not required to inform consumers of safety issues that have been identified. This area needs to be tightened up.

Sometimes it is just a question of language. Instead of stating that something “may” be done, the legislation should state that there is a responsibility to do something, or that something “must” be done. The bill must have a more proactive, aggressive approach to product safety.

With respect to consumer protection, the previous Liberal government had 12 years to do something and as of 2005-06 nothing had been done.

I would like to make a quick comment concerning a business in my riding, because it is relevant in this particular situation regarding consumer protection and harm to Canadians.

GRK Fasteners is an importer and exporter of fastening products. Ninety-six per cent of the products that GRK Fasteners produces and repackages in Canada are sent to the United States and only about 4% of the products are sold in Canada. It is very harmful to Canadians and harmful to this company, and the 40 or so people who work for GRK Fasteners, that the company has been hit with a 170% SIMA duty. That needs to be reconsidered and dealt with soon. This company is doing absolutely no harm to Canadians, as 96% of its products are exported to the United States.

It is very interesting that the government can overlook some things that harm Canadians, but it is really harming Canadians, small business and jobs such as those at GRK Fasteners in Thunder Bay. That company's only option may be to move its operations to the United States. We are talking about 40 manufacturing jobs in Thunder Bay. It is interesting to make that contrast.

Getting back to the bill at hand, the public is hungry for reliable product safety information. Companies in Canada manufacture high-quality safe products. Quite frankly, we expect others to do the same and to be able to prove it.

There are some proposed amendments to the bill for when it gets to committee.

The first is concerning health and the environment. The general “prohibition” in the bill should be expanded so that no consumer product can be imported or marketed if it is a danger to human health or safety either through direct exposure or via the environment.

A section should be added prohibiting substances on the list of toxic substances from consumer products, with a very few exceptions, for example, when the substance is not a hazard in the consumer product itself. I think we could be reasonable on that kind of amendment.

The legislation should include a duty for the government to act when the government is made aware of a risk regarding a consumer product. I think everybody in this House would agree that would be a reasonable amendment. There should be a duty for the minister to inform the public when he or she is made aware of a risk regarding a consumer product.

In deciding whether a danger to health or safety exists, the legislation should require the government to consider: the release of harmful substances from products during use or after disposal, including to house dust and indoor air; the potential harm from chronic exposure to the substance; the potential harm to vulnerable populations; the cumulative exposure to a substance Canadians receive from the products of concern and other environmental exposures; and the substitution principle, that is, whether safe substitutes exist.

The legislation should create a hot list similar to that for cosmetics, listing carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and neurotoxins. These substances should be prohibited in products with temporary exceptions granted only to the extent that the product is essential and only when alternatives do not exist. At a bare minimum, any product containing such chemicals should be required to carry a hazard label, as is required in a number of states, including California and Vermont, and in the European Union as well.

The legislation should establish a list of product classes at highest risk of containing or releasing hazardous substances. There should be explicit guidance prioritizing the routine inspection of these product classes. The legislation should require labelling of all ingredients, as is already the case with cosmetics and some other products.

I prefaced my remarks by saying that I certainly support sending this bill to committee. I have just outlined some of the amendments we would like to see to the bill. I am certainly open to any questions that may come from the floor.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I think we will conduct the questions and comments portion after question period. We will move on to statements by members.

Class of 2009
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the end of the school year is upon us, I would like to take a moment to congratulate the students in our riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar who are graduating in 2009.

Graduation is a time for students to look back and celebrate their successful completion of this important chapter in their lives. It is also a time for each graduate to look forward with anticipation to the opportunities that are awaiting him or her in the future.

I know families, friends and communities are very proud of their hard work, diligence and perseverance. I look forward to hearing stories of how the members of these graduating classes have changed our world.

I would like to offer my best wishes for a bright and prosperous future, as well as a safe and worry-free graduation.

Nova Scotia Provincial Election
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia has a new premier and a new government following Tuesday's election. I want to congratulate all the candidates who ran for office from all parties, showing their commitment to Nova Scotia.

I want to personally congratulate the re-elected MLAs from my own riding: Marilyn More, Trevor Zinck and Becky Kent. I look forward to continuing to work with them to improve our communities.

I am thrilled to see Andrew Younger win my home provincial constituency of Dartmouth East. He is an outstanding advocate for Dartmouth East and will be a fabulous Liberal MLA, as will Kelly Regan, the wonderful new MLA in Bedford-Birch Cove. I also want to salute Steve McNeil, our leader in Nova Scotia, who fought a tremendously strong and honourable campaign.

I want to congratulate our new premier, NDP Premier Darrell Dexter, somebody I have known longer than either one of us would care to admit. He is an honourable public servant who has well earned this victory. While we belong to different political parties, I know him to be a dedicated, honest person who will put the province first.

I join all Nova Scotians in wishing him well as he takes on the difficult task of governing in uneasy times.

Gilles Tremblay
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to pay tribute today to one of our own, a man from Repentigny, Gilles Tremblay. On May 20, the sports complex in Repentigny was renamed Complexe sportif Gilles-Tremblay, in honour of this former player for the Montreal Canadiens.

He skated with the Habs from 1960 to 1969, winning two Stanley Cups. When his career on the ice came to an end, he did not leave the hockey world, but became one of the first retired players to sit behind the microphone, joining the legendary René Lecavalier. He spent 27 years working on La Soirée du hockey, CBC's French-language version of Hockey Night in Canada, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a sports commentator in 2002.

As the member for Repentigny, I am very happy to be able to pay tribute to this passionate man. I congratulate Mr. Tremblay for his important contribution to the Repentigny community, and thank him for all the years he dedicated to promoting our national sport.

Labour
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 90th anniversary of the historic Winnipeg General Strike and the completion of the Ukrainian Labour Temple, recently designated a national historic site.

The temple stands in my constituency of Winnipeg North as a symbol of the courage needed always to defend the rights of working people who, like today, are often made to bear the brunt of a nation's economic ills.

The spirit of 1919 lives on through Danny Schur's musical, Strike!, and it lives on through concrete efforts today to build community and pursue social justice. It lives on in the Spirit's Call choir, which just donated the proceeds of its annual concert to the North Point Douglas Women's Centre, whose director is Elaine Bishop, a recent recipient of the YWCA's Woman of Distinction Award.

It lives on in this weekend's celebration of the first anniversary of Pollock's Hardware Co-op, which has proven that the spirit of cooperation and collective action can overcome.

Happy 90th Birthday, Winnipeg General Strike, the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians and the Ukrainian Labour Temple.

Sarnia-Lambton Committee against Trafficking of Women and Children
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to pay tribute to a dynamic trio of women from my riding of Sarnia—Lambton.

The three women, Wilma McNeil, Vera Lawlor and Margaret Cushman, started a local group, the Sarnia-Lambton Committee against Trafficking of Women and Children.

From its humble beginnings of just three members a little over two years ago, these three women have persisted in bringing attention to this urgent issue and are now the proud founders of an organization that has membership from the Sexual Assault Survivors' Centre, the Sarnia Police Service, Sarnia-Lambton Crime Stoppers, the Salvation Army and a team of compassionate and dedicated volunteers.

They recently produced an info-pamphlet for distribution that identifies the signs of human trafficking and outlines actions for the public to take.

I invite all members of the House to join me in paying tribute to Wilma, Vera and Margaret for their selfless and tireless work in promoting human rights in our community.

Lobster Industry
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, lobster fishermen from Quebec, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are reacting to the federal government's recent announcement with disappointment, frustration and concern.

For an industry that should be netting $5 billion in value to those provinces over the next five years, the government has extended $15 million in income support. That $15 million is to be spread over five provinces for 10,000 lobster fishermen.

The FFAW, the MFU and several Quebec-based fisheries organizations have all come out and said that the federal government's response is far too little and far too late. Some have said that the program is a good start, but for it to be a good start, there would have to be more on the way.

Little concrete information is out yet about the program, but here is a portion of what we do know: $15 million will be spread among 10,000 lobster fishermen; no applications or specific eligibility criteria have been established yet; and since it is based on a comparison of 2008 lobster earnings versus 2009 lobster earnings, it will not be until at least the fall of 2009 before one dime is spent.

Rogers TV
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate Rogers TV Simcoe and Grey Counties, which took top honours at the 2009 Impression Awards.

The station was named TV Station of the Year and was honoured for its programming and community commitment to Simcoe and Grey Counties. The local channel produces substantial, quality and daily local programming that is so important to our communities.

The local Rogers channel also picked up the Impact Award for its documentary series, In Focus: Beating the Bully, one of two awards earned by Rogers TV producer Steve McEown.

The community channel earned three awards and two finalist nominations for its local news show and its coverage of the federal election in 2008.

I am very proud to have a group of television producers and journalists so dedicated to local television production in my community. The people of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound are well served by this station and the committed people who make this station work day after day.

Congratulations to Rogers TV.

Conservative Stimulus Plan
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, we believe that the progress report on the Conservatives' stimulus plan, which the Prime Minister presented yesterday with great fanfare, is a con. Most of the infrastructure projects announced in the Liberal-supported plan are not even underway yet, even though the crisis has been going on for months.

The presidents of the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités and the Union des municipalités du Québec are unanimous. They have not seen any money yet, and they are beginning to wonder if the crisis will be over by the time the work finally begins.

The fact is that barely 6% of the funds have been distributed. This government's stimulus plan is a failure, and more and more people are losing their jobs.

And what has the government decided to do? It has decided to delay employment insurance reform until the fall, thereby depriving thousands of unemployed workers of income. This government should have acted on the solutions proposed by the Bloc Québécois, solutions that communities support.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister reported to Canadians that 80% of our economic action plan initiatives are already being implemented.

Conservatives are delivering results and creating jobs. The Conservative government's unprecedented effort to accelerate job-creating investments is working for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We are creating jobs, stimulating the economy, and helping those hardest hit by the global recession.

In Cambridge yesterday, the Prime Minister said:

In just 72 days, our government has eighty per cent of the largest economic recovery program in Canadian history under way.

We are providing tax relief and improved access to financing for Canadian households and businesses; assisting unemployed workers through extended EI benefits and improved skills training; creating jobs through a massive injection of infrastructure spending; and investing in the jobs of tomorrow through new supports for research and technology.

At actionplan.gc.ca, Canadians can view all the new job creation projects that the economic action plan and this Conservative government are delivering for Canadians.

Dominic Giroux
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week, on June 2, I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony to install my friend Dominic Giroux as the ninth president of Laurentian University.

I would like to begin by congratulating him, as well as his wife Barbara, herself a graduate of Laurentian University. I also want to wish him every success. His impressive record suggests nothing less.

At 18 years of age, he was elected as a school trustee here in eastern Ontario. Two years later, he became the youngest school board president in the country. He is a graduate of the University of Ottawa and the École des hautes études commerciales de Montréal. He began a career in education administration and climbed the ranks so quickly that, in his early 30s, he became the Deputy Minister of Education for the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, where he championed French-language education and an education strategy for aboriginal peoples.

The university's Board of Governors has made a judicious choice in Dominic. With his energy, enthusiasm, creativity and sincerity, the next 10 years should prove very successful for Laurentian University and the Sudbury area.

I wish Dominic continued success.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government has taken unprecedented and extraordinary action to accelerate the job-creating investments in Canada's economic action plan. Because of our unprecedented action, families and businesses in every region of Canada are now paying less tax, we are helping the unemployed, and major job-creating projects are already breaking ground.

This is in very sharp contrast to the Liberal plan of raising taxes. The leader of the Liberal Party announced a few months ago, “We will have to raise taxes”. This harmful policy is in addition to his promise to impose a job-killing carbon tax and increase the GST. Canadians do not want that, and that is why they trust our Conservative government to manage the economy.

Because of our government's prudent management of the country's finances and economy, we have managed to retain the smallest deficit compared to GDP of any G7 country.

Canada's economic action plan is internationally recognized as the right response to this economic challenge.

Food Banks
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is the season of renewal, but during these turbulent economic times, not all families are able to share in this summer's bounty. That is why I am so proud to live in Hamilton, a community where we help each other thrive.

In that spirit, I want to encourage all those who can to make a donation of time, talent or treasure to two organizations that are making a profoundly positive difference in our community.

Neighbour to Neighbour is the Mountain's only food bank, and while many of us give generously on special occasions, hunger exists 365 days a year. Please help replenish the food bank's cupboards by making a donation to help our neighbours in need.

Or if people would rather get their hands dirty, why not volunteer at the Hamilton Community Gardens, a ministry of West Highland Baptist Church? One and a half acres of vegetable gardens have already been planted, but they need weeding, cultivating and harvesting. It is gentle exercise and a great way to assist the Hamilton food bank and soup kitchen community with supplies of fresh local produce.

Thanks for digging deep. It is what we do for each that makes me proud to call Hamilton my home.

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, last spring, our government tabled an effective and unprecedented economic action plan and 80% of the measures are already on their way to being implemented. The Bloc Québécois has chosen sides. Its objective is clear: to destabilize Quebec. The end result is also clear. It wants to let Quebec hang out to dry. It prefers to vote against any positive action and do nothing at all for Quebec workers.

As for the Liberal leader, he voted for this action plan. Holding an election now will inevitably slow down its implementation and the Liberal leader knows it. He wants to increase taxes. We do not. Canada needs a strong Parliament that works for and not against the economic and social future of Canada and Quebec.

Today, the Liberal leader must decide if he will be remembered for choosing the greater good of Canada or his own partisan interests. Will he rise to the occasion or turn his back on Canada? He should—

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry.

Aerospace Industry
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are using the aerospace industry to play petty politics, wrongly accusing the Bloc Québécois of being to blame for the fact that three ministers will be away next week at one of the world's largest aerospace shows, the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget. Ordinarily, ministers are accompanied by only one opposition member when they travel. Against the backdrop of a minority government, the Conservative whip's unrealistic demand that every minister be accompanied by two opposition MPs threatened this mission from the start.

Yesterday morning, the Bloc Québécois confirmed to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services that the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord would accompany him to Paris, even though a number of important votes, including a confidence vote, are due to be held next week. However, the minister declined the offer, claiming that his schedule had been changed and that it was too late. The minister's flat-out refusal is a clear sign that he has little interest in attending this show and consequently little interest in the aerospace industry, which is based mainly in Quebec.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a quiz for the House today. Where is the most famous and iconic lighthouse in all of Canada?

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Peggy's Cove.

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

It is at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.

I did not hear anything from that side of the House, not because Conservatives do not know but because they are embarrassed that they cannot find $25,000 to paint that international landmark.

Being a good Nova Scotian, I will offer them a few ideas. I will offer them a few suggestions. How about this? They can fire the Republican spin doctors they hired for one month's work. That is $25,000 right there.

They can fire the psychic “style” consultant the Prime Minister has. The way they missed on the budget projections, they are not listening to her anyway.

They can shrink the size of cabinet. If they shrink the size of cabinet, they could paint the Peggy's Cove lighthouse 156 times.

They can slash the $1 billion that they have been using for consultants. They could paint 40,000 tourist landmarks with that one move alone.

The lighthouse is on over there, but nobody is home.

It is time to come out of the fog and paint the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove.

The Economy
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government is getting things done for Canadians and their families. Because of the unprecedented steps we took in our economic action plan, families and businesses in every region of Canada are now paying less taxes. Unemployed workers are now receiving more help and major job-creating projects are already breaking ground.

Our Conservative government has permanently reduced the tax burden on Canadians. We are assisting the unemployed through extended EI benefits and improving skills training. We are supporting home ownership and creating jobs through housing construction. We are investing in the jobs of tomorrow through new supports for research and technology. The actions we have taken are what Canadians have asked for.

In response to our strong leadership, the leader of the Liberal Party said, “We will have to raise taxes”. This Liberal tax hike policy and the job-killing carbon tax are not what Canadians need.

That is why Canadians continue to trust our Conservative government with managing the economy.

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, so far, we have heard nothing but disinformation, misleading numbers and propaganda in the isotope crisis.

The minister said that the MAPLE reactors have never produced isotopes. That is not true, according to the experts. She dug up studies from 2003, but forgot to tell us that the MAPLE reactors' licences were renewed in 2007.

Why is the government putting its ideological privatization agenda ahead of the facts and Canadians' health care needs?

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I quote Hugh MacDiarmid, the CEO of AECL:

--even if we were to take the decision tomorrow morning for whatever set of reasons to try to return the MAPLEs to service, it would be many years and many hundreds of millions of dollars before those reactors would be licenseable and able to be put into service. It's just not a realistic option at this time.

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we also get misinformation about isotope supply.

Dr. Robert Atcher, president of the American Society of Nuclear Medicine, has stated that the excess capacity that the world's remaining four reactors have “is not capable of making up for the shortage that having the Chalk River reactor off-line has created”. Is Dr. Atcher wrong?

Would the minister tell us exactly how many of the 5,000 Canadian patients scheduled daily to receive cancer, heart and bone tests over the next week will get them?

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. There are two parts to it. One is the short-term reaction to the problem before us.

Right now, Canada is leading in the world to find an international response to this global problem. In fact, the Petten reactor in The Netherlands has ramped up production by 50% and South Africa by 30%. Australia is moving fast to bring the OPAL reactor on line and some believe that this will happen within the next few weeks. That is the short-term solution.

In the long-term, we have a panel of experts who are working to address the problem of medical isotope production.

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government is misleading Canadians about the effectiveness of alternatives and their supply. There are no alternatives when it comes to getting bone scans for our kids. Deny it.

Thallium supplies are not meeting demand. Deny it.

It has been confirmed we are in an international bidding war for scarce medical isotopes.

How does the minister respond to the U.S. national research council's description of the government's handling of this crisis as a “train wreck”, wreaking havoc all over the world?

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the contingency measures that were established by the medical isotope experts are being implemented to manage the shortage that we are dealing with in Canada. Contingency measures are ensuring that the supplies of isotopes are targeted at patients most at risk, such as children.

Many tests can be completed using other options, such as thallium and sodium fluoride. While they are not long-term solutions, they provide doctors with more options to ensure patients who require testing receive it and to ensure those who are unable to use the alternatives, such as children, can receive TC99 isotopes.

Health
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, “A global pandemic, a local failure” reads today's headline in The Globe and Mail.

The H1N1 virus continues to spread in first nations communities in northern Manitoba. The federal government says it has a plan. It says it is working with the province. Yet, people are still getting sick; they are still waiting for help.

Why has the federal government not sent supplies and expertise to the Garden Hill First Nation and others to help them fight the spread of this virus?

Health
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, Canada is well-positioned to respond through pandemic preparedness. We prepared the plan back in 2006 and invested $1 billion. This plan includes delivery of services to first nations communities. We continue to work with the first nations communities, including the provincial health ministries. Supply is not a problem in any of the nursing stations in Manitoba's first nations communities.

Health
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, “We are in a war with no artillery”, said Chief Harper of the Garden Hill First Nation.

Yesterday, another mother lost her child to miscarriage. Residents continue to be airlifted out, with severe symptoms, but planes return empty. Pandemics hit first nations communities the hardest and the federal government has failed to respond. The worst may still be upon us, according to experts.

How many more have to get sick before the feds send in help to the Garden Hill First Nation and other first nations communities?

Health
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, again, we continue to work with the provinces and public health agencies, Indian and northern affairs and aboriginal communities to ensure a coordinated response to this.

Health Canada has provided additional nurses to the community and physicians are on-site. PHAC epidemiologists arrived in the community last week. Supply is not an issue in the communities. I come from a small community of aboriginal people. I know what the limitations are. At the same time we are continuing to work with the communities as we respond to this issue.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said, “The EI system is not perfect. We are looking at more improvements for the fall”. In the same breath, he said, “But don’t let anyone tell you that the EI system is not responding to the realities of the recession”. This progress report is yet another sham. His plan is clearly not responding to the crisis.

The Liberals are looking for excuses to support a smoke-and-mirrors progress report, but how can the Prime Minister dare ask unemployed workers to wait any longer? He needs to act now. What does he plan to do?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, we have done a lot for those unfortunate enough to lose their jobs. We have provided five extra weeks of benefits. We have broadened the work sharing program to protect jobs. We have done plenty of other very important things. Meanwhile, the Bloc has voted against our efforts to help the unemployed.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, unemployed workers cannot wait any longer. The employment insurance system must be completely revamped, as the Bloc Québécois has suggested. We have to eliminate the waiting period, apply a 360-hour eligibility threshold to everyone, and increase the benefit rate from 55% to 60%.

The solutions are obvious. When will the government take action?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, we are keeping a close eye on the economy and on benefits for the unemployed. That is why the Prime Minister said yesterday that changes are in store to improve the system so that it meets the needs of unemployed workers. However, one thing we will not do is set up an employment insurance system that calls 45 days a year's worth of work.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the rescue plan for the forestry industry has not even been announced, and it is already coming under fire. According to Yves Lachapelle, of the Quebec Forest Industry Council, the plan is too limited. It would deal only with the problem of black liquor, and just six paper mills out of 50 in Quebec would have access. A plan must address the majority of the companies.

Will the minister hear the message from the industry, which has been saying loud and clear for months that what the industry needs is financing?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we are determined to support the efforts of the forestry industry across the country, including in Quebec. Our government is working very hard to ensure that the proposed solutions are effective and that they are implemented as quickly as possible.

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, paper mills no longer have any cash, and their lines of credit are maxed out. What they need is very short-term financing.

Does the government plan on offering loan guarantees to all sectors of the forestry industry and not just to the export sector?

Forestry Industry
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, our government is determined to help the forestry industry without jeopardizing the softwood lumber agreement with the United States and access to the American market. We are taking a cautious approach because we are listening to industry stakeholders, who are all telling us to be careful.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians expect their government to be upfront with them, especially in the midst of a recession that is hurting so many. Yesterday's performance by the Prime Minister and his own personal Phil Donahue had all the substance of a 30-second spot for ShamWows.

Will the Prime Minister just do what he owes Canadians and explain why the stimulus he promised to accelerate is not reaching the very people and communities who so desperately need it?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the member comes from Hamilton. We have announced, with our partner the Government of Ontario, with my Premier Dalton McGuinty, more than 1,200 projects in every corner of the province, and we are going to see more than $3.5 billion worth of projects go forward. Engineers, architects, plants that make materials for construction, are already well at work. Shovels are going in the ground as we speak, and we are getting the job done.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the minister what it says on his very own report card. On page 110 of the report card, the Conservatives claim to have accelerated the building Canada plan, yet according to the information that they themselves tabled in the House just a week ago, the Conservatives have allocated less than one-quarter of the building Canada plan and not a cent went to either Quebec or Ontario for base funding.

Their stimulus report was pure fiction. Why are the Conservatives saying one thing about their stimulus on an over-produced infomercial and another thing behind closed doors?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, what we have seen with respect to building Canada is that more than half of the money has now been completely committed, projects are under way right across the province and right across the country. We have new infrastructure spending that is going on to stimulate the economy, to stimulate economic growth. More than 80% of the initiatives in the budget are now well under way. Step by step, we are getting the job done. This time requires strong leadership, cooperation in partnership, and not the criticism of the NDP, who did not even read the project and the proposals in the report that came out last week. That is a shame.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' progress report is full of fast-talk, but the one and a half million ordinary Canadians who are without a job are hurting because of the government's inaction.

All the Prime Minister can say is that maybe, maybe he will offer some help on EI in the fall. If he can help in the fall, why not now? Mortgage payments cannot wait and hungry children certainly cannot wait. Why not help the innocent victims of this recession now instead of pushing them onto the welfare rolls?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, one thing that the hon. member ignores steadfastly is the fact that we have done a lot to help those who have been unfortunate enough to lose their jobs. We have expanded regular benefits by five weeks. We have increased the maximum to 50 weeks. We have made it possible for long-tenured workers who need to change a career because their jobs are no longer there to collect EI benefits for up to two years while they get training for those new jobs.

The opposition is only proposing a 45 day work year. Canadians cannot afford that. Our small businesses would go belly up with that kind of offering. Everything positive that we have been doing for the unemployed, the NDP voted against.

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, thousands of Canadians have had their life-saving cardiac and cancer tests unnecessarily delayed as a direct result of mismanagement by the Conservative government and the minister. Vancouver General Hospital performs as many as 50 tests every day, and at least six are urgent. The supply in B.C. is down by 30% and falling.

With her abysmal track record, is the minister not ashamed to stand in the House and tell people waiting in Vancouver General that she has done her job?

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, again, contingency measures were established by the provinces and territories to manage a possible short supply of medical isotopes. That contingency measure is in place to ensure that alternatives are also available. The alternatives that are available were identified by the medical experts on isotopes as options when we are dealing with a major shortage. I am in regular contact with the provincial and territorial ministers as we deal with this shortage.

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the real story is serial incompetence. Already this year the Conservatives have spent $222 million on Chalk River, but earlier this week the Prime Minister announced that Canada is getting out of the isotope business, admitting the money was wasted.

Why can they not make up their minds? Can Canadians expect a guaranteed domestic supply of isotopes tomorrow and in the future, or are the Conservatives simply abdicating their responsibility to doctors and patients in Canada and around the world?

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the member will know that the NRU reactor is aging and that currently that reactor is experiencing an unplanned and unexpected shutdown.

AECL has stated that “it will take at least three months to action the repairs”. Those are the words of AECL. We are committed to ensuring that this happens as quickly as possible. In the longer term, as a government, we have appointed an expert panel to determine from where our long-term supply of medical isotopes will come.

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government insists that it has access to international medical isotope supplies. But yesterday, the president of Quebec's association of nuclear medicine specialists said that up to 12,000 patients in Quebec, and just in Quebec, were experiencing increased wait times for heart and cancer tests because of the isotope shortage.

Why are the Conservatives misleading Canadians?

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the contingency measures and strategies being used by doctors include triaging patients to ensure that when alternatives are not available they can receive Tc99 isotopes. They are also working flexible hours so that when they do receive Tc99 isotopes they can maximize their use and minimize the delays.

Using alternatives wherever possible was one of the alternatives identified by the medical experts on isotopes as lessons learned in 2007, and those options, such as thallium, which is very effective in this case, are available to the provinces and territories.

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that waiting lists for cardiac and cancer tests are growing longer every day. Medical isotope supplies in Quebec are down to 20%. Hospitals in Ottawa and Manitoba will soon run out.

For days we have been asking specific questions of this government that Canadians want answered, but this government will not give us basic information. Why can it not answer these simple questions?

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, again, as we deal with the shortage of Tc99, alternatives are available.

Let me repeat what I said yesterday. Fifty per cent of the uses of Tc99 isotopes are for heart scans. Thallium can be used as an alternative in many of these cases, and that is available now. The next largest use of Tc99 isotopes is for bone scanning. Again, there is an alternative, sodium fluoride, which can be used in these cases, and it is available now.

These alternatives were identified by medical experts on isotopes and we are making sure they are available.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his second progress report, the Prime Minister said that 73% of the funds allocated for infrastructure projects has been spent. Yet Quebec municipalities are saying that they have yet to see any of that money. They are very skeptical. They have not yet received any money, although the government says it knows where the money will go.

How can the minister justify this rose-coloured-glasses approach to the stimulus plan, when the president of the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités, which represents over 900 cities and towns, said, “The objective, which is to get our people back to work, is being ignored”?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we have made significant investments in every region of Quebec. I can give some examples: we have invested in Anjou, Beaupré, Blainville, Cabano, Gaspé and Gatineau. We are taking action and working hard in Quebec, and this will produce real results.

We feel it is absolutely crucial that we respect provincial jurisdictions and that is why we are taking action in Quebec. The Prime Minister, my colleague from Pontiac and I will continue working with the Charest government to produce positive results for the people of Quebec.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, barely 6% of the money promised for infrastructure has been spent, that is, $60 million, when in fact $1 billion should have been granted.

How can the minister possibly believe he has met the municipalities' expectations, when some of them will have to wait until 2010 to begin their projects?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we are making millions of dollars of investments right across Quebec. We have the gas tax, which this government committed to doubling as of April 1, and we honoured that commitment. Instead of paying out the first of that money in July, this government advanced those payments to April to get money on the ground.

The mayor of Sherbrooke said just this week, “The government has shown a commitment to co-operation and flexibility that will create jobs, and the economic stimulus plan moving forward will create new jobs and invest in the foundations of our economy, of quality of life”.

That was from the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the mayor of Sherbrooke.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources stated, on tape, that her environment colleague allegedly diverted funds earmarked for wind energy to the oil sector. When questioned yesterday, the Minister of the Environment said that that was not the case.

If that is not the case, the minister is contradicting not only his colleague's statements but also the industry, which objects to the transfer of funds earmarked for the wind sector.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Canada is now a leader in clean energy. For example, in the last budget, we invested $1 billion in research and development for green energy and technology. We are a world leader in carbon capture and storage and we are working on reducing our carbon footprint.

While we work, the Bloc Québécois is a shining example of passivity.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources speaks of additional resources for wind energy in the budget. What does the budget say? Nothing!

If this money did not go to the wind sector, can the Minister of the Environment tell us where it did go? To the oil companies, perhaps?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the member should examine the budget. Our government has made massive investments in green and clean energy such as wind and solar energy.

Furthermore, with regard to clean technologies, we need carbon capture and storage to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The Liberals have never had the courage of their convictions and the Bloc and the NDP will never have the chance to do anything more than stand up in the House.

Finance
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question. Yesterday, the government's report clearly said that $11 billion of the Canadian secured credit facility had gone out the door. However, yesterday at the finance committee, the president of BDC, who is the man in charge of this program, said:

--we expect the first cheques will reach the market in a few weeks.

Can the government clear this matter up? As of today, have any of these cheques gone out the door, yes or no?

Finance
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question lies with the Business Development Bank of Canada, whose representatives appeared at committee yesterday. We provided the allocation that provides them with the opportunity to deal with their customers.

I would ask my hon. colleague to ask BDC representatives when they are going to deliver the cheques, because it is through the Business Development Bank of Canada that they are delivered to those people who need it.

Finance
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

So there are no cheques, Mr. Speaker. Here we have, for a single program, an $11 billion gap between what the government has promised and the reality on the ground. It is not a very good example, but I have another.

Yesterday, in its report, the government said it had committed between $1 million and $5 million to a water treatment plant in Grand Falls, Newfoundland. However, yesterday a reporter spoke to the mayor of that town and he had never heard of the project. Can the government clear that one up? When is construction going to begin?

Finance
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Finance
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Apologize.

Finance
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, order. It is a Friday. The Speaker should be able to hear the member who is rising to answer. If members cannot stay quiet, the Speaker might have to ask them to leave the Chamber so the Speaker can hear the answer.

The hon. Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

Finance
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I wish that the member for Ottawa South could be more like his brother Dalton.

Yesterday, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador announced that it currently has 107 tenders out for projects totalling $1.6 billion, creating an estimated 1,500 jobs. I hope the member opposite will join me in welcoming those important investments. We are working well with not just my premier, we are working well with the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Danny Williams.

Persons with Disabilities
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, last year, when the government announced the enabling accessibility fund, people in the disability community raised concerns right away that the fund was specifically designed to provide money for Conservative ministers. They called it “pork barrel politics”.

That turned out to be entirely true. In fact, not only did the Minister of Finance get his project worth $15 million, but fully 94% of all funding went to Conservative ridings. Can the minister explain the mathematical equation she employed in order to send 94% of all funding to Conservative ridings?

Persons with Disabilities
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the enabling accessibility fund is a great program that will make it easier for so many disabled people to actually get access to buildings. This is a good thing. It is long overdue. It is something that party should have done when it was in government for 13 years, but it did not bother. It did not even have an accessible office for people with disabilities.

We are working right across the country, particularly in small communities, to ensure the disabled have the access that they not only need but deserve.

Persons with Disabilities
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is very sad. The Conservatives have one lens they use for everything, and that is political. The rest, good public policy, economic prudence, social justice, equity, means nothing to them.

This fund was supposed to be set up for all Canadians with disabilities. It now appears to have become a Conservative slush fund. There is no plausible explanation how 94% of any program could end up in a minority party and only there. It does not make any sense.

I invite the minister to speak to Canadians with disabilities and ask them how they feel. Could she honestly justify this level of political abuse in a program designed for persons with disabilities?

Persons with Disabilities
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, when the member opposite looks in totality at the important investments we are making in infrastructure, he will see we are making significant investments in Newfoundland and Labrador, and none of that money has gone into government ridings.

He will see that we made substantial investments in the city of Windsor, which is undertaking very serious unemployment challenges. He will see we are making substantive investments in Ottawa—Vanier, where we turned the sod on a project just this morning.

We are putting partisanship aside. We are working constructively with Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic governments around the country. We hope the hon. member will also put aside partisan politics and do what is right for the Canadian people.

Middle East
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, for three years now, this Conservative government has taken a principled stand in response to the senseless violence in the Middle East. For example, back in 2006, Canada was the first government in the world to cut off aid to the Hamas terrorists who control Gaza. Just this winter the world witnessed hundreds of Hamas rockets, with increasing range and destructive power, fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel and civilian targets.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs inform the House as to what Canada is doing to stop arms smuggling into Gaza?

Middle East
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government firmly believes that the continued threat of terrorism and arms smuggling as well as Hamas' continued rocket attacks against Israel's citizens are major obstacles to a lasting peace in the Middle East. The government is leading international efforts to ensure action is taken to stop the flow of arms into the Gaza Strip.

This week, Canada hosted an expert level panel meeting on the Gaza counter-arms smuggling initiative. Alongside like-minded allies, the government continues to show leadership on a clear commitment—

Middle East
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, isotope levels are getting so low that hospitals in Manitoba and in Ottawa are now saying that they are about to completely run out. Tens of thousands of patients across Canada face a long, dry summer without the scans they need. The government's isotope contingency plan is quickly becoming the new normal and doctors across Canada are sounding the alarm that if isotope supplies dip any lower, people will start to die.

Will the health minister guarantee that, at a minimum, critical care patients, no matter where they live, will have access to the isotopes they need in order to save their lives?

Medical Isotopes
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, continues to work with the international community to ensure we have supplies in Canada.

The current shortage is a challenge. We have contingency measures to ensure that supplies of isotopes are targeted to patients most at risk, such as children. Supplies will vary throughout time, depending on what global reactors are available to supply these isotopes. We will continue to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that alternatives are available.

Health
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is still no real plan, no real answers for Canadians. The same is the case with the H1N1 wherein it has revealed there are serious cracks in the system.

Years of neglect of first nations communities has produced the ideal conditions for this pandemic to take root, cramped living conditions, poor water, lack of drinking water, and the government cannot even get hand sanitizers to all first nations communities. Worse, Health Canada is now talking about closing nursing stations in the north.

Will the minister guarantee that no nursing station in the north will be closed and that, in fact, the government will fix this public health disaster.

Health
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear to the House that we will not close nursing stations in Manitoba. The facts were misrepresented.

We continue to work with the provinces, public health agencies, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, aboriginal organizations and communities to ensure a coordinated response.

Minister of Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's blunders in managing the isotope crisis are common knowledge. The minister left it up to the scientific and medical community to find solutions on its own, while she did nothing.

How can the minister explain this negligence and flagrant lack of leadership? She should have come up with a plan to deal with such a crisis, seeing as how the Chalk River reactor is now 52 years old and has been showing signs of failure for years.

Minister of Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there are two tracks to the response to this global problem. One is to work with our international partners to increase the supply of medical isotopes and also to find alternatives in the meantime. The other is to appoint an expert panel that will work together on a long-term strategy for the production of medical isotopes in the future.

Minister of Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, faced with the fiasco in the management of the isotope crisis, the Prime Minister must see that his minister lacks the credibility to deal with this issue.

What is he waiting for to fire her and replace her with someone who can restore the hope and confidence of the scientific community and the many patients waiting for diagnosis and treatment?

Minister of Natural Resources
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, my department has taken action by working with the isotopes experts to develop guidance on dealing with the shortage. We are also using a special access program in the clinical trials to provide alternatives to Canadians.

Many tests can be completed using other options, such as thallium and sodium fluoride. While these are not long-term solutions, they provide doctors with more options to ensure that patients who require testing and who cannot use the alternatives, such as children, can receive TC99.

CBC/Radio-Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are worried about the dismantling of an institution like CBC/Radio-Canada for ideological reasons. Because of the government's inaction, CBC/Radio-Canada must cut 800 jobs across the country and sell $125 million worth of assets. To oppose what the Prime Minister is doing, employees of Radio-Canada have launched a campaign entitled “I am, we are in favour of quality public broadcasting”. A number of federal and provincial members have supported this initiative.

Will the Prime Minister support this important campaign to save Radio-Canada?

CBC/Radio-Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, our support for the CBC remains unwavering. We made a commitment in the last election that we would maintain or increase funding for the CBC. We have kept that commitment because we keep our election commitments.

The Liberal Party does not keep its election commitments, like in 1993 and 1997. In both cases that party promised to increase funding to the CBC and actually cut it and 4,000 jobs were lost.

We keep our election commitments. When it comes to the CBC, the Liberals cannot be trusted at all.

CBC/Radio-Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the Conservatives say that they are funding CBC/Radio-Canada appropriately, they know that that is completely false. Public funding for CBC/Radio-Canada in constant dollars is declining, and the corporation's budget is eroded every year. As a result, a major player in developing French- and English-language television, radio and new media is fading away.

Can the Prime Minister put aside his ideology? He should give that a try and promise to provide stable, adequate funding for our public broadcaster. Can he do that?

CBC/Radio-Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, that is consistent with what we always hear from the Liberal Party: spend, spend, spend. The Liberals say that they will raise taxes and bring in an increase to the GST. They are going to get it all from Canadians because they are going to keep on spending.

Our government has put stable funding behind the CBC, more funding than the Liberal Party ever provided. Tax Freedom Day came 19 days earlier this year thanks to our Conservative government. We will not follow a Liberal example.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Mr. Abdelrazik's daughter, Wafa, celebrated another birthday without her father around.

Today, Mr. Abdelrazik had a flight booked to return home, pursuant to a request for him to appear before the foreign affairs committee. In fact, the minister received the letter, signed by the Conservative chair of the committee, asking the minister to issue him a passport so he could appear before the committee, which is exactly what the Federal Court is requesting. Sadly, the minister did not even bother responding to the committee's letter.

Will Mr. Abdelrazik be at the foreign affairs committee on Monday?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles
Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, our government will make a decision at the appropriate time.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, appropriate would be the Minister of Foreign Affairs getting up and answering the question. The minister is showing contempt for Parliament for not even responding to a request from a chair.

We have a judge from the Federal Court who says that the government has absolutely no case. Up until now, the government has been hiding behind the courts, but the decision could not be more clear. The government must plan for Mr. Abdelrazik's return by next Friday.

Will the government respect the court, or will it show contempt for the courts as well?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles
Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I would point out to him, however, that a decision will be made at the appropriate time.

Lighthouses
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove at the entrance to St. Margaret's Bay is recognized by all Canadians and citizens of many countries around the world.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade assure the House that this national icon will indeed receive the upkeep it needs?

Lighthouses
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove is in my riding of South Shore—St. Margaret's, and it is a tourist destination for nearly one million people a year. It should be noted that it is also near the monument to Swissair 111, which was erected in memory of the 229 men, women and children who perished in 1998 on Swissair 111.

It should be noted that I spoke directly to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans about this last fall. She has given clear orders for the lighthouse to be painted. It was not painted last fall. It will be painted this year.

Government Assets
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister says that he will make $2.3 billion from asset sales this year. The Conservatives told us we would see a list of those assets by June. However, Public Works has now told us that it has not even been asked to do an asset review. Gee whiz, those guys are confused.

Either the minister does not know what he will sell, and he will miss his deficit numbers again, or he will flog God only knows what crown corporations at fire-sale prices, or the minister knows what he is planning to sell, but he just will not say. Which is it?

Government Assets
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Gee whiz, Mr. Speaker, that hon. member should get her facts correct. All four of the departments that have been tasked with doing an asset review, the Departments of Finance, Indian and Northern Affairs, Natural Resources and transport and infrastructure are all well aware of the review that is necessary.

That is prudent use of taxpayer dollars. It has not been done in 15 years. It is a good idea that we see what the Government of Canada now owns.

Colombia Free Trade Agreement
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the former Colombian ambassador to Canada, the one who initiated negotiations for the free trade agreement, has resigned his position as a senator, because he is under investigation for his ties to the paramilitaries, as are many other members of Alvaro Uribe's party. These death squads are responsible for hundreds of human rights violations, including murder.

How can the Minister of International Trade claim that this agreement will improve the human rights situation, when it has been signed by a government linked to paramilitary groups?

Colombia Free Trade Agreement
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, first of all, let us be clear; I reject the premise of that question. That hon. member is totally over the top.

If the member had taken the time to come to the committee yesterday, President Uribe appeared at committee himself. He spoke very clearly and with great candour about the situation in Colombia and about the advantages and opportunities for Colombians if free trade begins, because it will give more jobs and more opportunities for all Colombians.

Mackenzie Valley Pipeline
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, on Monday the U.S. Congress supported a bill increasing the loan guarantees for the Alaska pipeline from $18 billion to $30 billion.

Yesterday, Imperial Oil's parent company, ExxonMobil struck a deal with TransCanada Corporation to develop an Alaska gas pipeline at a projected cost of $26 billion, a clear threat to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. The minister who has been in secret talks with Imperial says, “Don't worry, be happy”.

When will the minister come clean and tell this House just exactly what his cozy relationship is with big oil and how it is advancing the Canadian pipeline, or do Canadians—

Mackenzie Valley Pipeline
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. Minister of the Environment.

Mackenzie Valley Pipeline
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member ran out of time and facts, as well.

The only thing that is actually a threat to the pipeline has been the hon. member's position that is not supportive of the pipeline. I am quite surprised by the question, as a matter of fact, based on what he has previously said.

The Mackenzie Valley project continues to have a four to five year lead in front of the Alaska project. Certainly positive news has been announced for the Alaska project and that is fine. It is the position of the Government of Canada that we wish to see the Mackenzie project proceed first so that a northern basin is opened up.

We remain four to give years ahead of the Alaska project in terms of regulatory work and work with aboriginal Canadians.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada, in cooperation with the provinces, is investing heavily in infrastructure projects across the country.

As these projects continue to get under way and jobs are being created, could the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities update the House about the status of one of the first projects announced through the building Canada fund, the Ottawa Congress Centre?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

Noon

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, in this period of economic uncertainty, what my electors, the people I work for in Ottawa West--Nepean, expect is their political parties to put aside partisanship and to work together for the benefit of the country, the province and the city.

There is a great partnership going on between this federal government, led by the Prime Minister, and the government of Premier Dalton McGuinty, my premier. We are working constructively with the city and the other two levels of government on a $160 million plan with the Ottawa Congress Centre.

We put the shovels in the ground this morning. Jobs are being created. Hope and opportunity are in the future. Already 50 conventions have been booked.

Not-for-Profit Organizations
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's not-for-profit organizations have 12 million volunteers who provide services equivalent to 7% of the gross domestic product, to help the poorest members of our society. These organizations are most vulnerable during a recession like this one, yet it is now when they are needed the most.

Experts believe that 20% of these organizations are at risk of closing. What is the government going to do to protect them?

Not-for-Profit Organizations
Oral Questions

Noon

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, this government is focused on helping Canadians, whether it is non-governmental organizations, whether it is the poor. We have taken 750,000 low-income Canadians off the tax rolls in the last five years. We care very much. We are dealing with the pension issues that impact seniors in this country. We have put forward an economic action plan that helps all Canadians equally.

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, two years ago this month Parliament held an emergency debate on the threat to Manitoba's health and environment from water dumped into the Red River system from Devils Lake, North Dakota. Members instructed the government to move as quickly as possible to stop the flow until adequate filtration was in place. There is still no filter and now North Dakota intends to double the flow.

There have been 18 months of inaction on the Chalk River reactor and two years of inaction on Devils Lake. When will we see action on this file?

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the question of Devils Lake has previously been raised in the House.

I can assure the hon. member that we are well aware of the file. We have reviewed the circumstances of which he complains in the House. Frankly, I have had discussions and will continue to have discussions, in the upcoming meeting between Lisa Jackson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, and me. We will be meeting in about a week's time. At that time this issue will be raised with her.

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I want to know, when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance in responding to questions says the answer lies, is he speaking for all of the government and all of his colleagues?

The Environment
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I do not think that is a point of order.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, you can tell it is Friday and mid-June with that interjection by my colleague from Ottawa—Vanier.

On a serious note, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I have the honour to table a notice of ways and means motion to introduce an act to give effect to the Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of this motion. Later today, I will seek unanimous consent to adopt this motion.

I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, two copies of the following documents: the Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement, the Harvest Agreement, and the Maa-nulth First Nations Tax Treatment Agreement.

North Atlantic Treaty Protocols
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to table documents pursuant to Standing Order 32.

One is the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of the Republic of Albania. The second is the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of the Republic of Croatia, done at Brussels on July 9, 2008.

Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Convention
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I also have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, the treaty entitled “Amendment to the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries”, adopted by the general council of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization.

Canada Elections Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-40, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act.

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

Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour to present, in both official languages, the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, entitled “Privacy Act: First Steps Towards Renewal”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report within 120 days of its presentation.

I want to recognize the extensive and good work of all hon. committee members. We heard from the Privacy Commissioner, from many witnesses and from the minister himself.

The Privacy Act has not been amended in any meaningful way in over 25 years. This report mentions 12 significant areas where we believe the minister should give serious consideration to amending this important act on behalf of all Canadians.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

moved that Bill S-205, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (suicide bombings), be read the first time.

(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Mississauga is rising on a point of order.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this has come up before and perhaps you will check it. When an hon. member is a sponsor of a bill from the other place, the member does have an opportunity to make brief comments to the House and maybe the member did want to say something.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The Chair was under the impression the member did not choose to make remarks at this time, so that is why the Chair did not call on the member.

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between all the parties. I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, the ways and means motion tabled earlier today to introduce an Act to give effect to the Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts be adopted.

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Sri Lanka
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two more petitions from constituents in my riding concerning the conflict in Sri Lanka. They call upon the government to bring humanitarian relief through the United Nations to that island and to provide full and free access to the conflict zone by NGOs and international media.

These petitions were actually gathered over the last six weeks. It is highly ironic that these petitioners should be so prescient given that the member for Toronto Centre was prevented from staying in Sri Lanka and conducting any kind of interview process or investigation on his own to determine the concerns of these people.

The petitioners are giving voice to the issue that Sri Lanka's government is descending into an authoritarian mode which makes it very difficult for the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. I am looking forward to the government's response to these petitions.

Employment Insurance
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to table two petitions today signed by hundreds of people from all over southern Ontario and Quebec urging Parliament to immediately pass my bill, Bill C-378, to allow hard-working families to access their maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits without worrying that if they lose their jobs in the meantime, they will also lose their EI.

The petitioners note that one of the barriers preventing workers from accessing EI is contained in the anti-staffing provisions found within the Employment Insurance Act. These discriminatory provisions prevent new mothers in particular who have secured the full amount of special benefit entitlements from accessing regular benefits if they lose their jobs during or shortly after these specially sanctioned leaves.

The petitioners are keenly aware that in the current economic downturn lay-off announcements are coming daily and they want to ensure that these discriminatory provisions of the EI Act are eliminated. I am pleased to say that my Bill C-378 would indeed address those concerns. I very much appreciate the support of the petitioners on this very important issue for thousands of working families.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, thousands of Canadians have joined the call to stop the Canada-Colombia trade deal. The petitioners call on Parliament to reject the Canada-Colombia trade deal until an independent human rights impact assessment is carried out, the resulting concerns addressed, and the agreement be renegotiated along the principles of fair trade which would take environmental and social impacts fully into account while generally respecting and enhancing labour and rights of all affected parties.

A review of the text of the Canada-Colombia trade deal confirms that the type of labour and the environmental protection clauses being sought do not provide meaningful effective protection and lack enforcement mechanisms. The labour protection clauses in the trade deal include as a penalty for lethal violence against workers a token fine to be paid by the offending government into a cooperation fund which makes a mockery of human rights. The offending government also benefits from the fund which does nothing to address impunity and allows the continuation of violence.

It is time for Parliament to stop this free trade deal.

Taxation
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to introduce my first petition as a member. I am presenting it on behalf of 850 fishermen throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec who voluntarily participated in retirement under the 1998 Atlantic groundfish strategy when we had to close the groundfishery.

The issue of the petitioners is that they were charged too much tax on their capital gains. A number of them were charged at 25%. About 850 of them were charged at 100% tax on their capital gains. The basis of this is that every Canadian taxpayer should be treated fairly. All they are asking is for the government to acknowledge that it made an error here and take corrective measures.

It has been 10 years now. I should recognize the hard work done by Ms. Elizabeth Harvey over the years in trying to get this onto the government agenda, as well as my colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's who has been working very hard on this file as well.

We are talking about 200 fishers who were taxed at 25%. Again, 850 were taxed at 100%. I would like to present this petition and I am looking forward to the response from the government.

Public Safety Officers Compensation Fund
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 and as certified by the clerk of petitions, I am pleased to present yet another petition on a matter referred to as the public safety officers compensation fund. Firefighters from across Canada come to Parliament Hill each year to advise parliamentarians of some of the key priorities that they have and would like us to consider. This petition deals with the first priority of the firefighters for the last three years.

These petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that police officers and firefighters are required to place their lives at risk in the execution of their duties on a daily basis and that employment benefits of these public safety officers often provide insufficient compensation to the families of those who are killed while in the line of duty.

Finally, the public also mourns the loss of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty and wish to support in a tangible way the surviving families in their time of need. The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to establish a fund known as the public safety officers compensation fund for the benefit of families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty.

Taxation
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table another petition that has been circulated by John Grimshaw, business manager of IBEW Local 105 in my hometown of Hamilton.

The building trades have lobbied successive governments for over 30 years to achieve some basic fairness for their members. They want tradespeople and indentured apprentices to be able to deduct travel and accommodation expenses from their taxable incomes, so that they can secure and maintain employment at construction sites that are more than 80 kilometres from their homes.

It makes no sense for tradespeople to be out of work in one area of the country while another region suffers from temporary skilled labour shortages simply because the cost of traveling is too high. To that end, they have gathered tens of thousands of signatures since I first introduced Bill C-227, which allows for precisely the kinds of deductions that their members have been asking for.

I am pleased to table the petition on their behalf and I will continue to work with the building trades until the federal government finally addresses their concerns.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 158, 159 and 161 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 158
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

With regard to spousal sponsorship, what are: (a) the number, overall percentage and the countries of origin of spousal sponsorship through family class applications rejected by visa offices but i) approved by the Immigration Appeal Board, ii) approved by the Federal Court; and (b) the wait times on average for spousal sponsorship in visa offices from India, China, the Middle East and African countries compared with wait times from European countries, and the reasons for the difference?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 159
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

What is the number and countries of origin of refugee claimants, based on sexual orientation, who were rejected by each Immigration Refugee Board member since 2006, the approval and rejection rates of each of these Board members, and the cost each year to defend refugees' appeals at the Federal Court?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 161
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

With regard to the Shi’ite personal status law: (a) when did Canadian officials in Afghanistan first become aware of the proposed legislation; (b) when was knowledge of the proposed law communicated to the government; (c) to which branches, in which departments, was this information sent; (d) what action did the government take upon knowledge of the proposed legislation; (e) on what dates did the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and International Cooperation first become aware of these proposals; and (f) on what date did Canadian representatives in Afghanistan receive a copy of the proposed law and with whom have they shared this information outside of government?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, be read the third time and passed.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Before question period started, the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River had just concluded his remarks. So, if there are any questions and comments, we will do those now.

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for making a very well-informed speech today regarding this bill. He dealt with some of the amendments that were not included in the bill that I personally feel we really should have made an extra effort to get included; one being the area of labelling. I think it is only reasonable for Canadians to expect that products with hazardous materials should be labelled as such. That is certainly one big area that the government has avoided by leaving it out of this bill.

Another big area that is not being dealt with here is counterfeit products. And another big area of course is tobacco. The Canadian Cancer Society made a presentation to the committee on the whole area of tobacco and the issue as to whether or not it should be excluded. It, of course, does not want it excluded from this bill. It seems to me that this is certainly a product that should be included on anybody's list of bad products.

I would like to know what the member thinks of the exclusions and the contribution these amendments could have made to the overall success of the bill had they been accepted by the committee.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would have been nice to have those amendments in there, absolutely. I think the member is correct in saying that they were not considered perhaps carefully enough, particularly the tobacco-related ones.

He began his question by talking about labelling. I have always found it humorous when I see a label on a children's toy that says “100% unknown fibres”. That does not seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

However, there are things that we can still fix. Part of our job here in this House is to ensure that we can come forward with the best bill possible. As we strive for that, we will be looking at this again, probably some years down the road, to make improvements once it has been in place for a while.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the big concerns that we had in the NDP caucus regarding the bill was the enforcement of the bill. We see that as being not really adequate. Because of the immensity and the enormity of the job, we are not going to be able to hire the number of people that we should to enforce this act.

In addition, one of the Liberal members mentioned this morning that we will not see the regulations, which are going to be a very important part of this process, for some time to come.

So, when we look at a combination of the regulation and the regulation development, and the whole issue of enforcement and the fact that we are talking about a government that really has never been very strong on consumer issues, we have to be concerned and very vigilant regarding this legislation and this government, in terms of the future.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. Enforcement has always been a problem. I have always thought that there is no sense having a law or a regulation if it is not going to be enforced. This bill, as it comes back, is lacking somewhat in that regard. However, I believe that if there is a government will to ensure that consumer products remain safe for everyone, in particular for children, the government will do the right thing and ensure that there are enough people to police them.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, on enforcement, the first offence would be a fine of not more than $250,000 or an imprisonment term of no more than six months; the second one could be a fine of more than $5 million or imprisonment of not more than two years. These kinds of fines are good. However, without--

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am going to stop the hon. member there.

The hon. member for Thunder Bay--Rainy River has 15 seconds to respond.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, more than half of the goods that we import into this country are from offshore, and that certainly is a serious problem in that we need to ensure there are enough people enforcing the rules and the laws of this land.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

I support this legislation, but I would caution against any description of this as being the definitive approach to consumer product safety. The bill takes a relatively narrow slice of the challenge and addresses that in an acceptable way. For that reason, I see it as a step forward, but certainly a lot of terrain remains to be covered.

I want to comment on the co-operative approach taken by the Standing Committee on Health. Members from all parties essentially had the same objective, which was to increase protection for Canadian consumers in terms of both the design of and the elements in manufactured products.

Bill C-6 would modernize the regulatory framework. One witness at committee commented that this could have been done through an amendment to the Hazardous Products Act, but the government decided to provide new legislation in response to Canadians' concerns about the various recalls and unsafe products that were coming into the country and being sold over the last couple of years.

The bill operates on a premise that is considered to be a general prohibition. It takes more of the responsibility for ensuring product safety off the government's lap and places it on the private sector's lap. There is a general prohibition in terms of the manufacturing, import, advertisement and sale of consumer products that constitute a danger to human health or safety.

That is a different direction from having lists of dangerous compounds or dangers that the government identifies. This legislation primarily puts that responsibility on the private sector. There is a lot of debate about that, and there are some pros and cons to that approach.

While the bill would add more of the ongoing monitoring and safety assurance responsibilities to the private sector and reduce the burden on government, it increases the level of compliance and enforcement and creates a tracing mechanism so that government can ensure that the private sector is doing its job. It would allow the government to monitor that more easily.

The legislation also proposes to increase fines and penalties, which is part of the compliance and enforcement strengthening.

A key function of the legislation would be to enable government to have mandatory recall where there is a problem, rather than that being a voluntary act on the part of the private sector as it was in the past. Having this provision for a mandatory recall was supported by all witnesses at committee and is a strength of the bill.

The bill is not as comprehensive as some committee members, including myself, thought it could be. It addresses only a slice of the problem.

Schedule 2 talks about the kinds of things that have to be taken off the market, but it has only 14 products or product categories listed. For example, spectacle frames that, in whole or in part, are made of or contain cellulose nitrate would be prohibited. That is one of 14 prohibited categories. Under item 9, kite string made of a material that conducts electricity would be prohibited. That is a good thing to prohibit. However, I am giving these examples to show that the schedule is very narrow and specific.

Item 14 concerns law darts with elongated tips. Yes, it is good to ensure that these kinds of products are not in the marketplace where they could hurt people. However, when there are only 14 exclusions and they are that specific, that tells us there is a lot this bill does not address. That is more where I would like to direct my remarks.

It was very ably captured by the member for Etobicoke North earlier in the debate. She and I, as well as some of the other committee members, have grave concerns about the bill's failure to address toxins, carcinogens, the cumulative impacts of compounds that may not be harmful in small doses but build up in the body causing damage to health, chronic exposure, toxins in products affecting the environment when they are flushed down the drain or go into landfills and accumulate in the environment, and very worrisome hormone disrupters. These chemicals are not adequately removed from circulation in consumer products in this bill.

I am particularly concerned about the impact of consumer products containing chemicals and toxins that I have noted, such as pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, arsenic, lead, or mercury in products that children have access to, children's products such as toys and clothing. Other countries have done the job of removing access to these toxic and carcinogenic compounds from consumers. Canada has not done that yet. We still need to do that, and Bill C-6 does not do the job.

My concern about children's health and the environment goes back a number of years. I had the privilege in 2003 of being the president of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. During my term, I chose to put two things on the forward agenda of CCME so that they would be part of what the provincial and federal ministers would research, address and develop strategies for.

One of those two items was the issue of children's health and the environment. Children process these toxins differently. It is not just a matter of smaller bodies needing proportionately less of the chemicals to create harm. Children are actually in a developmental stage in their early years, so there can be a disruption of their neurological and metabolic development that is very harmful. Government needs to be addressing this. We need a stronger approach to eliminating these toxins, and Bill C-6 just does not do that.

Liberal members put forward a number of amendments to address this concern. For example, there was an amendment to clause 7 that would identify cumulative impacts, chronic exposure and release into the environment as areas of harm and danger to people that would be covered by this bill.

We crafted an amendment, a new clause 8.1, in which we would have had this bill list up to 700 chemicals, carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and toxins, drawn from the groups of agents provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, as well as substances listed in schedule 1 of CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

We proposed that these compounds be covered under Bill C-6. We proposed that they be removed over time if the minister could not show reason that they were absolutely essential to stay in consumer products aimed at children. So our amendments squarely addressed the issue of access that children have to compounds that are harmful to them and not covered in the set of 14 categories in the schedule included in the bill.

We successfully brought forward an amendment to have an advisory committee, so that as the government goes forward with the regulations there can be proper consultation and a thoughtful approach to the regulations so that any concerns that may come forward based on the rather thin consultation that has happened so far on this bill can be addressed in the crafting of the regulations.

The government's view was that the improvements we were looking for can be covered under CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and its chemical management plan, and that those are vehicles for pulling those toxins out of the environment.

I accept that it is a possibility. My knowledge from previously dealing with CEPA when I was a provincial environment minister was that it was very slow to actually act on removing toxins from the environment. It had a huge list that it was not getting to, and it was causing great frustration for Canadians concerned about environmental issues and in provinces across the country.

We have been assured that CEPA has been fixed and is moving forward more quickly and that the chemical management plan is doing the job that we were looking for from Bill C-6. This has yet to be demonstrated to my satisfaction.

We have done a small segment with Bill C-6, but I am going to be calling on the advisory committee legislated by Bill C-6 to take a very thorough look at these issues of chronic toxic effects and cumulative effects of these toxins, carcinogens, hormone-disrupters, and persistent organic pollutants. I am going to challenge that advisory committee to put forward an approach to pulling those out of consumer products.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Consumer Product Safety Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles
Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

moved that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to participate in the debate today on Bill C-36, a bill to increase sentencing for the most serious crimes.

The Criminal Code amendments I am proposing have two objectives. First, with these amendments, those convicted of murder and high treason will no longer be able to apply for parole under the faint hope clause. Consequently, someone who commits such an offence on or after the day of coming into force of these Criminal Code amendments will no longer be able to apply for early parole after serving 15 years of a life sentence. These people will no longer be able to apply for early parole. In short, the faint hope clause will no longer apply to those convicted of high treason or murder.

As many members know, in Canadian prisons, a large number of those serving life sentences for murder have the right to apply under the faint hope clause or may be able to do so in the next few years. They will retain that right. Second, the amendments will also restrict the application procedure in order to set aside less deserving applications and to establish restrictions as to when and how many times an offender can submit an application under the faint hope clause.

These new restrictions will apply to offenders who are already serving a life sentence, those about to be sentenced to life imprisonment and those charged but not yet convicted of first-degree or second-degree murder or high treason. These restrictions will apply to such murderers as Paul Bernardo, if he were to attempt, after the new rules come into force, to make an application under the faint hope clause. People like Paul Bernardo will find it even more difficult to obtain an early parole and will have fewer opportunities to apply.

By proposing these changes to the Criminal Code in order to prevent anyone who commits a murder after the provisions take effect from applying for parole under the faint hope clause, and by tightening up the application procedure for those already in the system, we are acknowledging the suffering of the families and loved ones of murder victims.

These changes will save families the pain of attending multiple parole eligibility hearings and having to relive over and over again the intense emotions that are brought up by seeing the person who turned their lives upside down and took the life of someone close to them.

The changes we are proposing also take into account the concerns of Canadians, who are shocked to learn that, through the faint hope clause, the sentence given when a murderer is found guilty is not always the sentence he will serve. I would like to add that these changes show, once again, that this government is determined to protect Canadians by ensuring that the most dangerous criminals serve their full sentences.

As the hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière said last week outside the House, the proposed changes are another example of our government delivering on its commitment to strengthening Canada's criminal justice system and following through on our tackling crime agenda, by standing up for victims of crime, and putting the rights of law-abiding citizens ahead of the rights of criminals.

I would like to talk about this in a little more detail, since I think it is important for members to have some background on these proposals.

As it stands, under the Criminal Code, anyone who is found guilty of high treason or murder in the first or second degree, must be sentenced to imprisonment for life with a long period before being eligible for parole. In the case of first-degree murder or high treason, an offender who is found guilty must serve 25 years before being eligible to apply to the National Parole Board for parole.

In the case of second-degree murder, the offender must serve 10 years of the sentence before applying for parole. However, there are two circumstances under which the ineligibility period may be extended. First, if an offender is found guilty of an offence under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, the ineligibility period is 25 years, the same as for first-degree murder. Second, a sentencing judge who decides to increase the ineligibility period because of the murderer's character, the nature of the offence, the circumstances surrounding the perpetration of the offence or any recommendation of the jury may determine that the period is to end after 10 to 25 years of the sentence have been served.

Under the Criminal Code's faint hope clause, those who commit high treason or murder may apply for their parole ineligibility period to be reduced after serving 15 years of their sentence. Currently, applying is a three-stage process. Procedural changes proposed in Bill C-36 would modify each of those stages.

The three stages are as follows. First, the applicant presents an application to a superior court judge, who reviews the case, then decides whether the applicant can move on to the next stage. In the current system, if the judge finds that the applicant has shown that there is a reasonable prospect that the application will succeed, the judge authorizes the applicant to move on to the next stage.

Some courts have said that it is relatively easy for an applicant to meet the review criteria, so we are changing them to make it harder for offenders to meet the criteria. From now on, offenders will have to show that there is a substantial likelihood that the application will succeed. This criterion will exclude the least deserving applicants. If an applicant's application is rejected at the first stage, he may re-apply two years later, unless the judge has imposed a longer waiting period. We will increase that waiting period to five years.

In other words, an offender who is not eligible for parole for 25 years, for example, will be able to submit only two applications under the faint hope clause: the first after serving 15 years and the second after serving 20 years. For comparison's sake, the faint hope clause now permits offenders to apply five times: after serving 15 years, 17 years, 19 years, 21 years and 23 years of a sentence.

Changing that timeframe from two years to five years will allow victims' families to predict when a hearing under the faint hope clause will be held. This change will also reduce the trauma that is often felt as a result of these hearings.

At the second stage of the current process under the faint hope clause, applicants whose request is granted at the first stage must convince a 12-member jury that they should be allowed to apply for early parole. When the jury unanimously approves an applicant's request, it must indicate when the offender can apply for early parole. If the jury rejects an applicant's request, he may apply again two years later, to a judge, unless the jury has specified a longer period of time. We will also increase that timeframe to five years.

Thus, after the period of time stipulated by the jury, an applicant whose request is approved may move on to the third stage, that is, applying to the National Parole Board for early parole.

Under the current legislation, offenders can apply for parole under the faint hope clause anytime after serving 15 years of their sentence. We will change that, making applications under the faint hope clause subject to a three-month time limit for filing. This means that offenders who are eligible to apply for parole under the faint hope clause must do so within three months of their eligibility date. If they fail to do so for whatever reason within the three-month timeframe, they must wait the full five years before they can apply.

As I mentioned earlier, the procedural changes I have just described, the strict eligibility requirements, the new three-month deadline for applying and the five-year waiting period will apply only to offenders already in the system. In other words, these changes will apply only to offenders who have committed murder, are arrested for murder or are convicted of murder before the amendments take effect. Offenders who commit murder after this bill comes into force will not be able to take advantage of the faint hope regime.

Since the faint hope clause in the Criminal Code is incorporated by reference in the National Defence Act, all the proposed changes I have just described will apply to members of the Canadian Forces who are convicted of a serious offence under that act.

Before I conclude, I would like to remind the members of this House about the controversy that has swirled around the faint hope clause for a long time and that gave rise to the amendments proposed in Bill C-36.

Since the first application was made under this regime in 1987, Canadians have repeatedly made the point that the faint hope clause seems to allow people convicted of the most serious crimes to serve less time than they were sentenced to.

Ordinary Canadians have a hard time understanding how the most violent offenders—murderers—can get early parole, when the fundamental objectives of sentencing are to denounce unlawful conduct, deter the offender from committing other offences and protect society by keeping convicted criminals off the streets.

In short, the existence of the faint hope regime and the apparent ease with which people convicted of the worst crimes imaginable can take advantage of it erode public confidence in the integrity of the justice system. They also undermine the government's commitment to enhance the safety and security of Canadians by keeping violent offenders in custody for longer periods.

Our government is taking action to deliver on its commitment to ensure that offenders who are found guilty of a crime serve a sentence that reflects the severity of that crime. Our government is also respecting its commitment to ensure there is truth in sentencing. Canadians will no longer wonder how a murderer who was supposed to be serving a sentence with a parole ineligibility period could be released early.

The issues related to sentencing are complex, and the current government believes they are very important. The proposed changes are necessary. Canadians have demanded that we make them. Many people believe that too often, offenders seem to fall through the cracks of the Canadian justice system without serving their full sentence. Canadians, myself included, think that the sentence imposed, including the applicable parole ineligibility period, should be served in full.

The approach set out in Bill C-36 will restore people's faith in our justice system. For years now, Canadians have been telling us that they want a strong criminal justice system. They want us to take decisive measures to fight the growing threat of violent crime by passing laws that will keep our communities safe. Our government has promised to tackle crime and improve safety, and we have kept that promise by proposing significant measures, such as the Tackling Violent Crime Act.

Recently, in Bill C-14, we proposed measures to fight organized crime. In Bill C-15, we proposed measures to apply mandatory minimum penalties to serious drug-related crimes. We are justifiably proud of these measures and the many other changes we have proposed. As we have said in the House, we are protecting the interests of Canadians who urged us to get tough on crime.

We are asking the members of the House to help us make our communities safer. We are asking for the support of members on both sides of the House to pass this legislative measure as quickly as possible. Let us focus on protecting Canadians and restoring their faith in the justice system by adopting the measures set out in Bill C-36, which will help to eliminate what many have called a loophole for those sentenced to life.

Bill C-36 would get rid of that loophole by striking a fair balance between respect for the law and respect for the rights of family members and victims. I urge all of my colleagues to support our proposed legislation.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the hon. member tell the House how many people are convicted, on an annual basis, for murder in our country?

Could he tell the House how many people have been wrongfully convicted on murder charges in the last while and have had their sentences reversed?

How many applications are there, on an annual basis, on this faint hope clause? Out of those faint hope clause applications, how many people actually succeed in their applications?

Finally, is there any set of circumstances where he could see the efficacy of the faint hope clause?

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising this question, which is to his credit.

I would point out that our bill simply meets the needs of the public.

Someone who is not a lawyer and is not familiar with the judicial system might read in the newspaper that an individual has been convicted of first or second degree murder, and then some 10 years later learn—because we often live in the same city for many years—that the offender has been released from prison. Many people might be upset by this.

When one is not familiar with the judicial system and hears a judge sentence someone to 25 years, one expects the offender to serve 25 years in prison. However, that offender might be released after 15 or 16 years, and that can be very upsetting.

Another goal of our bill is to prevent victims from having to go through these situations over and over. Current legislation allows five parole applications. This bill allows only two.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I asked some very specific questions and did not get an answer to any one of them, so I will go over the questions again.

First, how many people are convicted on an annual basis?

Second, how many people are wrongfully convicted?

Third, how many people make a faint hope clause application? It is a hearing that they must go before and show that they are entitled to consideration before it is actually granted.

Fourth, how many people actually succeed in their applications on the faint hope clause?

A factual response on each one would be very useful. If the hon. member is not immediately familiar with those numbers, I would appreciate it if he could undertake to the House to deposit those numbers on the floor of the House at some future date, hopefully, in the very near future.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understood my colleague's question.

I would point out that our government has only one goal, and that is to protect victims and victims' families, those who have lost a loved one as the result of a first degree murder.

No matter how many people are affected, I have full confidence in the courts, as does my colleague. When a jury finds someone guilty, that person is guilty. When an offender is sentenced to 25 years in a federal penitentiary, I imagine that the wife who lost her husband or the family that lost their daughter in a first degree murder expect the sentence to be served.

Regardless of the number of people, it is a question of justice for the victims.

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12:55 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us try a third time. These questions are extraordinarily simple.

First, how many people are convicted in Canada, on an annual basis, of murder?

Second, how many wrongful convictions of murder are set aside on an annual basis in Canada?

Third, how many applications are there for this faint hope clause?

Fourth, how many of those applications are successful?

The hon. member, with greatest respect, wanders off into the wild blue yonder of all kinds of irrelevancies. All I want is a very simple answer to those four questions.

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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that my colleague is very interested in the number of murderers who have or have not been paroled and in the number of murderers who have been convicted. It is not a question of numbers. The victims, not the numbers, should be the basis for the bill.

No matter which government presents a bill, the purpose is always to protect society, to protect families and above all to ensure that justice is not just shrugged off and that murderers who are supposed to be in jail are not now out in society.

That is why, whatever the bill, it is not just about numbers, and even if just one person benefits, that is fine. The victims or the victims' families must always benefit. The numbers are not important when it comes to voting for a bill. In voting for a bill we vote for a principle that we have identified and we promise to fix the problem, in this case the problem presented with Bill C-36. I would like to mention that it was in our program. We are pleased to have it in our program and we are fine with that.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will pose a couple of questions for the parliamentary secretary on this issue. We have some concerns about the evidence provided and the background and he might be able to help us with that.

With respect to the faint hope clause, could he tell us which jurisdictions have this clause and which ones do not?

Also, concerns have been raised by some in the prison guard community about how this would affect their workplace. Some people are concerned that the changes might have an effect on their safety as prison guards.

Could he address those question?

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1 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for also being interested in this bill.

As I mentioned, this bill has the sole purpose of restoring faith in the justice system. We must restore faith in the justice system for those who have lost a loved one.

The purpose of this bill is so that when the courts, through a jury, find someone guilty of first degree murder and sentence them to jail, the murderer will not be back out in society because of an overly permissive system.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have asked the same set of questions three times. The hon. member has yet to answer any one of them, so I will take it as a reasonable assumption that he does not know.

If he does not know, could he at least undertake to the House to deposit the answers to the questions on the floor of the House? It is no dishonour to not know the answers to those questions.

I want to make the point that in listening to the debate, an average, informed Canadian citizen would have to ask how many people would be affected by this. Is it one? Is it 100? Is it none at all? Could he please just answer the question?

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1 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice has 30 seconds left.

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1 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, I will tell the member that it is not a question of numbers. What is important is to protect the victims, and that is what we are doing.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I support the bill going to committee for study. However, why are even dealing with this right now? We have one week to go before Parliament breaks for the summer, not to return until the fall. We have an EI crisis. We have a March motion for EI reform that passed the House of Commons, which has been ignored by the Conservatives. We have an isotopes crisis wherein cancer patients cannot get treatment.

There should be a bill before the House on EI, or on isotopes, not this legislation. We only have one week to go. Why are the Conservatives not dealing with the most serious problems facing Canadians right now?

The parliamentary secretary indicated that the reason the bill was before the House was to give people greater confidence in the justice system. We will have to go through this, analyze it and see if there really is a problem. If there is a problem, obviously it needs to be fixed, but we have to identify a problem before we simply start to change legislation that has been in force since 1975, with one amendment in 1997.

We are dealing with section 745 of the Criminal Code of Canada. What everyone has to remember is that when someone gets a life sentence, it is a life sentence. All it currently says under section 745 is that people cannot apply for parole until they serve 25 years. With the faint hope clause in the proposed amendment, all we are discussing is whether someone can apply in theory for parole earlier than the 25 years. If we wish to change the law to, in essence, reduce the standard or eliminate the standard, there really needs to be a problem. What is it?

Under section 745, for first degree murder or high treason, it says, “without eligibility for parole until the person has served twenty-five years”. For second degree murder, a person serves at least 10 years.

The faint hope clause was initially added in 1976, when the death penalty was eliminated and it was part of a compromise at the time. What may be interesting for people to know, or perhaps remember, is that at the time the average sentence for first or second degree murderers, who were not subjected to the death penalty, was seven years before they were eligible to apply for parole. What happened was that changed from seven to twenty-five as part of this compromise.

A lot of our western democracy friends, England, Belgium, a number of others, allow the chance of parole after 15 years. Once again, if we are to change a law that has been in force for years, what is the problem? Where are the statistics? What are we trying to solve, or is this simply ideology, which I do not think is an appropriate way to run a justice system?

With respect to the faint hope clause, substantial amendments came into force under Prime Minister Chrétien's government, under Justice Minister Rock, in 1997. We have to examine those very carefully in coming to this conclusion and answering the question on whether there is currently a problem. Let us look at that.

Under section 745.01, people, after serving 15 years of a sentence, may apply, but they do not have to apply and most do not, to seek to have the years of imprisonment, in terms of their eligibility, reduced. It is not them getting out. It is not saying their sentence is reduced. It is saying that the time period when they can apply for parole is reduced. How do they get there? If we look at the various provisions, they have to apply, pursuant to section 745.6, to a judicial review and they do that in writing. That stage has nothing to do with the victim's family. It is a judge who reads material and then decides whether there is enough reasonable evidence.

The judge has to consider various criteria in determining whether or not this can be talked about. Many people have used incorrectly the example of Clifford Olson or other multiple murderers and said that we cannot let them out. I agree, but they cannot get out under this clause, because subsection 2 says that a person who has been convicted of more than one murder may not make an application. Those people cannot even try under this legislation.

First, a judge, based on written material, has to make a legal determination that on a balance of probabilities, a jury would actually allow for some reduction. The onus is actually on the convicted offender to prove to a judge there is a reasonable possibility this would occur. If the judge finds that there is no such possibility, then nothing happens. If a judge finds there is a possibility, then he goes to a jury.

When the Conservatives talk about the public determining what should occur, or the public having confidence in the justice system, it is the public, not a judge and not the National Parole Board, but the public as represented by a jury, that actually determines whether or not the person is entitled, not to get out of prison, but to have the eligibility for parole reduced from 25 years, in the example of first degree murder, to something lower. It is a jury of our peers that makes that determination. Also, it has to be unanimous. If anybody on the jury determines that it is not appropriate, it does not happen.

Essentially the Conservatives are attempting to take away from a jury of Canadian citizens who have to reach a unanimous decision, the ability to simply reduce the possibility from 25 years to something lower, where the offender can then apply to get parole, but then still have to get the full permission of the National Parole Board. There is no guarantee. It is simply whether it can be done sooner.

Really, the Conservatives are trying to take away power from a jury to unanimously decide that something in theory could be reduced by way of when somebody could apply to the National Parole Board. That is what is happening here.

In terms of what the jury decides, a jury decides various factors. A number of these factors are enumerated. One of them is the applicant's conduct while serving a sentence. This is all new.

There will be hearings. If the bill passes and goes to committee, and I expect it will, we want to hear from multiple groups about it. My understanding is that prison guards use this as a method of keeping order. What would they say about it? I assume that people who want to rehabilitate these offenders, which is one of our goals and I will come back to that, would be against it. Let us hear from these various groups. Let us hear the evidence. Let us also hear what the problem is. I will address that in terms of numbers.

Before we get to the actual legislation, once again the jury decides unanimously whether this is even possible, in terms of whether somebody is allowed to go to the National Parole Board earlier. I will provide the jury questions and members can decide whether they are very soft.

On of them is, “Do you unanimously agree that the applicant's number of years of imprisonment, without eligibility for parole, ought to be reduced, having regard to the character of the applicant, his conduct while serving his sentence, the nature of the murder for which he was convicted and the victim impact statements, yes or no?”

If it is not unanimously yes, it is over. If it is unanimously yes by a jury composed of Canadian citizens, then it can go to the National Parole Board, but there is a second jury question, because in terms of the reduction of the sentence for when a person can apply for parole, a jury votes a second time. Essentially the jury has to agree by two-thirds what the reduced period of time will be, not for when the person gets out, but for when the person can apply for parole.

The second question is, “Are no less than two-thirds of you satisfied that the applicant should be eligible for parole immediately, having regard to the character of the applicant, his conduct while serving his sentence, the nature of the murder for which he was convicted and the victim impact statements, yes or no?”

Then, the third question is, “Having decided that the applicant's number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole ought to be reduced from 25 years, what lesser number of years do you, at least two-thirds of you, order substituted?”

We are getting a unanimous decision by a jury as to whether it could be reduced at all, and then two-thirds of the jury have to decide what the reduction is for when the person can simply apply for parole. If the jury can jump through all of those hurdles, it then still goes to the National Parole Board for the board to decide whether the person gets parole at all, and if so on what conditions.

Once again, with that current system which is very strict, the question is, with one week to go before Parliament breaks for the summer, why are we dealing with this legislation rather than economic legislation, isotopes legislation or employment insurance legislation? What is so urgent?

In terms of the statute that the government is proposing, the first section proposes to abolish entirely these provisions, not retroactively, prospectively, to abolish them entirely. There will be repercussions for that, whether it is rehabilitation, prison guards or whatever it may be.

We have an obligation to listen to these people, to get their opinions before simply deciding if something should pass the House. That is what the committee process is for. Once again I do support sending the bill to committee.

In terms of a change of legal standard for the persons who are currently incarcerated, they wish to change it from “reasonable prospect” to “substantial likelihood”. It is phraseology. At the end of the day, the judge can decide that there is no appreciable difference, it means the same thing and the case law will build up in terms of what that means. Essentially, I do not think that is much of a change. I personally have no difficulty with that change, but I do not think it is going to do anything. Once again, I do not know why we are spending time in Parliament now, during an economic crisis, dealing with this issue.

In terms of comments, the John Howard Society currently does not support the repeal of the faint hope clause. The society said, “Our position is that we're not sure that this is something that does need fixing or repealing”.

Let us hear from the government why it is doing this. What is the evidence?

In fact, the society is concerned that this could lead to increased violence in prisons because there is no incentive for prisoners to be on their best behaviour because there is no possibility that they might, even in theory although remote, be able to apply earlier for parole.

In 2008 there were 109 offenders who were successful in such an application. Of those, only a handful were sent back to jail for breaching parole conditions, not for the commission of any serious crimes. The question is, since this is a recent 2008 statistic, what is the urgency as to why we are dealing with this in the House of Commons now rather than dealing with economic issues or isotope issues?

There is also a recent quote from the Minister of Justice. His rationale for why we are dealing with this now is, “We cannot bring back those who have been so callously murdered” . The justice minister said, “We cannot repair the hearts of those who have lost loved ones. But what we can do is ensure that those who commit the most serious crime, taking the life of another, pay the price and thereby validate the life lost”.

I do not disagree with the quote, but if the rationale as to why we are here rather than dealing with economic issues is vengeance, I do not think that is a substantial reason for not dealing with isotopes, EI and economic issues with one week left in this sitting of Parliament.

Prison guards in particular would be a group that we need to hear from. I am personally concerned about what happens in prisons with incarcerated individuals. I have a couple of examples.

We talk about rehabilitation. A former inmate who is out and I understand is leading a productive life, said that before being released he has spent his entire adult life in jail. He said that the possibility of early release was the only thing that provided hope and the motivation to change. He said that he thought for the longest time that he would never get out of jail, so he created his own freedom by getting involved in drugs. He said that realizing that he had an opportunity to get out early, gave him a different attitude. He gave up drugs, pursued his education, re-established contact with his mother and two younger brothers and began exploring his native roots. He said he looked at what he could do to better himself. He got out and became a productive citizen.

He did all that, in terms of rehabilitation, because of the theoretical, although difficult, possibility not that his sentence could be reduced, but that he could apply earlier for parole to the National Parole Board.

I went through the current statistics. In 2008, there were 109 inmates released with no serious recommission of offences. Once again, why are we considering this bill, with the current economic crisis and a week left to go in Parliament?

There are other important statistics. If the government were serious about the criminal justice system, in terms of an overall package, it would be taking into account other goals, not just retribution, but things such as rehabilitation and deterrence. We should have a very sophisticated analysis from the Conservatives, including from the Minister of Justice, as to why they are not doing this rather than this blunt instrument approach.

In terms of the criminal justice system, we have heard from many experts in the last couple of weeks that it is broken down. The prisons are overcrowded and it costs over $100,000 a year for each inmate. There are serious addiction issues. About half of all convicts committed their offence while intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol. Four to five people going into prisons have an addiction issue. Yet, there is a clear admission, as we heard in committee this week, that they cannot stop the drug trafficking in prisons. Why? Where is the legislation fixing that?

There are mental health issues. Thirty-nine per cent of Ontario inmates have mental health issues. There is an admission there is not the capacity at present to give them treatment. Where is the legislation on that?

The reason this is very important is that over 90% of all convicted persons in our jails get out. Our focus should be our responsibility to the Canadian public to ensure that when inmates are released, they have received the treatment that has been required for them. Where is the legislation on that?

Earlier this week I had the honour of speaking in this House on the legislation regarding the sex offender registry. I recommended many additional changes to make that legislation stronger because I thought it was too weak.

What I do question is, with a week to go in this sitting of Parliament, why we are dealing with this legislation when nothing has been shown by anyone as to why it is urgent, especially with the current economic and isotope crises.

We have to consider this entire issue from a reasonable perspective. There will be committee hearings if the bill passes, and I believe it will. However, we also have to look at the broader perspective, in terms of a criminal justice analysis. It is not sufficient for a western democracy such as Canada to simply have the justice minister use retribution as the rationale for changing a law that has been in force since 1975.

We need to look at the statistics and approach the problem not with rhetoric or any other form of motivation, but in a reasonable and rational manner.

I have no difficulty with this bill going to committee, but I expect to see good evidence, hear witnesses and have considered reflection as to what this legislation should truly do, rather than simply a rationale of being tougher.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Recently the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville rose in the House to express his support for private member's bill, Bill C-391, standing in the name of our colleague from Portage—Lisgar. On June 10, the member for Yorkton—Melville sought unanimous consent to withdraw his Bill C-301.

I note that the subcommittee on private members' business has yet to report back on the votability of a number of items within the order of precedence, including Bill C-391.

While the two bills are substantially different, and our rules and practices would warrant that Bill C-391 remain votable, people do play politics in the House, and unfortunately sometimes it is politics that governs procedural decisions. It would be unfortunate if the presence of Bill C-301 was used as a political reason to impede the votability of Bill C-391.

I have spoken with the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville, who cannot be here today, so on his behalf I seek unanimous consent of the House to withdraw Bill C-301

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1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It does not sound like there is unanimous consent, and I am not sure that the member would be able to do it on behalf of another member anyway.

As there is no consent, the Chair will take it under advisement as to whether or not that type of procedure is admissible.

We will move on with debate.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member seems to be a bit soft on criminals. I am sure that the John Howard Society is against this too, knowing what it stands for, but someone has to start getting tough on these people.

I do not know if my colleague has ever attended a section 745 hearing, but I have, and it puts the victim right back to the beginning. Do these people need to have this done to them again and again? Very few people come up for a section 745 hearing, but when they do, it is devastating, it hurts, and it is just disgusting.

Does the member have any comments on that?

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, given her first comment in terms of being soft on criminals, obviously the member was not in the House of Commons when I gave my speech earlier this week on the sex offender registry. I was challenging the government to get tougher on its own legislation.

We are dealing with this legislation without any statistics, without any background information, without hearing from experts, without anything suggesting there is currently a problem. In 2008, 109 people were released and there were no offences other than parole violations.

I want to know why we are here now, with a week to go in Parliament, and we are not dealing with serious issues such as EI or medical isotopes.

I would have no difficulty addressing this legislation in the fall or later on. Should we study it? Yes. When we are in an economic crisis, and with a week to go, why are we not dealing with the important issues I just mentioned?

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member whether there have been any long-term studies on the impact of such legislation? Would it be more likely for an offender to reoffend or not? Would there be more incidents of violence in jails or less? Is there any academic research showing which country has the faint hope clause? What would the impact be, not just in a five year time frame, but within a 30 year or 50 year time frame? Have there been any good international studies, or even studies within Canada, regarding this matter?

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, in terms of what is currently available, my chief concern at present is that the government has produced this legislation during this crisis without any expert evidence in terms of a problem. I think it is trying to turn the channel from the economy to criminal justice issues, when frankly they are not urgent.

I have a study on how the views of the public are shaped in terms of the media and political parties. There is a study by Ms. Julie Belinda Erb, which says essentially that there is a misperception by the public in terms of offenders reoffending. They really do not. For rehabilitated people who are released early with conditions, the chances of reoffending are actually very low. There is a whole range of views that are not really tied to statistics in terms of what people believe is happening in society based on what politicians and the media say.

My simple point is that I am not for or against; I am in favour of a study, but let us see what the actual intellectual arguments are rather than rhetoric.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments on this bill. It is a matter that has come up from time to time.

I believe the last time it came up was in the early 1990s, and one of the issues was the public's perception of who criminals are. I recall at the time that a very large proportion of those who committed crimes in fact turned out to be family members and close friends as opposed to those people one might think would be bad from the get-go.

I want to ask the member if there is updated information, or is this the kind of information we should have from experts in committee?

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an excellent point. That is exactly the sort of information that must be produced in determining whether the law should be changed.

There are current statistics, which I am aware of and that I mentioned, in terms of who is going into prisons. They are people with addiction issues essentially. That is something that should be examined both in prisons, for rehabilitation purposes, but also in Canada.

It is true that the vast majority of murderers commit crimes on family members or someone they are close to. A lot of that is in the heat of passion. There is no excuse for it, and I will not make any no excuse for it. However, I am concerned that an ideology or a previous Reform Party position, call it what one will, is now being brought forward when we should be focusing on isotopes and the economy.

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Brampton West will have four minutes left for questions and comments the next time this bill is before the House.

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

moved that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a real privilege for me today to begin to speak to a bill that has been the product of so many hours of work by community activists and NGOs right across this country and around world. I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-393, which is an act to amend the Patent Act and to ensure that we can flow drugs for international humanitarian purposes.

Our day to day work in this place clearly impacts upon every aspect of Canadian lives, but rarely are we, as members of Parliament, presented with so clear and direct an opportunity to save lives. We know that 14,000 people a day die from infectious disease, such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and that these deaths are preventable because they can be treated with medicines that are on the market today. The dimensions of this crisis are almost impossible to comprehend, with the personal cost to victims' health, the cost to their families, the plight of those left as orphans, and the strain on grandparents thrust into the role of providers.

There are 33.2 million people living with HIV worldwide, 22.5 million, or 68%, live in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2007, 2.1 million adults and children died of AIDS, and 76% of them, or 1.6 million, were in sub-Saharan Africa alone. An estimated 2.1 million children under 15 were living with HIV worldwide in that same year, and again, nearly 90% were in sub-Saharan Africa. Some 13 million children have been orphaned by HIV-AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, and it is now estimated that by the year 2010, as many as 20 million children will have been orphaned by AIDS worldwide.

Finally, without treatment, an estimated one-third of infants infected with HIV will die before reaching the age of one. Half will die before the age of two.

Tuberculosis patients and malaria sufferers are also losing their lives for lack of available medicines, medicines that are on the market today. Five thousand people die from tuberculosis every day, while more than one million people die each year from severe malaria, a disease relatively easy to treat with proper drugs.

This is mind-boggling when we think about it. It is a crisis that no Canadian wants to turn his or her back on. Everyone in this country wants to see Canada do its job and carry out its responsibilities on such a serious life and death situation.

Canadians were very proud when Parliament took action quickly five years ago, following the landmark decision by the World Trade Organization in 2003. It allowed more prosperous nations, like Canada, to offer humanitarian medical support to developing nations.

Canadians were very proud when Parliament unanimously passed reforms to the Patent Act in 2004, called Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, otherwise known as CAMR. That regime was created to provide a framework to use a system of compulsory licensing to allow generic drug companies to produce cheaper versions of the latest most effective drugs to treat infectious diseases even though they were still under patent.

However, we all became disillusioned. Canadians right across this country were very disappointed when we actually came to realize that this medicines regime produced practically no results.

Since that time, four years ago, when we passed the legislation unanimously in the House, there has been only one compulsory licence completed under that legislation. Last September, the first and only shipment went out. It was a shipment of 7 million Apo-TriAvir tablets, shipped to Rwanda by Apotex, Canada's largest generic drug manufacturer. That was an important shipment. It will help 21,000 people. However, given the statistics I just mentioned, it is a drop in the bucket. That has been the only shipment.

There is obviously something wrong with the legislation. I am here today to try to fix it. The burden of drug costs for the world's lowest-income nations has intensified. Despite the efforts of those like my former colleague, the hon. Alexa McDonough, Canada and other prosperous nations are shamefully not on track to meet our commitments to the United Nations millennium development goals, such as reaching 0.7% of GNP in international assistance by the year 2015, increasing our efforts toward the global fund, reducing child and maternal death, and reducing HIV-AIDS.

Other G8 commitments to reduce poverty have not lived up to their hype. As a final blow, the world is now in the midst of an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions. Within their own borders, the devastating loss of large numbers of productive adults to infectious disease has further compounded the already difficult road to economic security and stability. Countries are obviously even less able to cope with high drug costs for their citizens. I am sure that members of Parliament realize that Canadians will not tolerate us carrying on with a dysfunctional drug system that keeps cheaper drugs from getting to where they are needed.

Former UN special envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa and respected Canadian Stephen Lewis has been at this for years, tirelessly. He has never given up trying to reduce the incidents of HIV-AIDS in Africa and elsewhere, and has never stopped pushing and prodding us to find solutions. He, like all of us, is concerned about the inaction under the legislation we passed five years ago. He said:

Delaying action is inexcusable when the path forward is so clear: streamline CAMR, get affordable medicines to those who are dying for them, save thousands of lives, particularly those of children with HIV. Every day counts,

Stephen Lewis is right. Every day counts. Canadian generic drug maker Apotex has made a priority of clearing up the mess. It has committed to making a low-cost version of an important pediatric AIDS medication as soon as this access to medicines regime is made workable. I want to remind members that, in sub-Saharan Africa, half of all the children born with HIV died before reaching their second birthday.

This type of drug, which is so needed, is not currently being made. If we could only change the rules, it would happen and it would improve the treatment of these children tremendously. Peggy Edwards, co-chair of the national advocacy committee of the grandmothers to grandmothers campaign, echoes the call for CAMR reform. She says:

Right now, African grandmothers are carrying the burden of caring for children orphaned by AIDS and dying of AIDS without appropriate medicines. Streamlining CAMR and getting affordable medicines to children with HIV would ease that burden considerably.

That is very well said. Let me also quote Richard Elliott, who is the executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. I should mention that his organization has studied this process more than anyone and knows it inside and out. He says:

The current system just doesn’t work...The need is enormous, but CAMR just isn’t user-friendly in its current form.

That is why, in Bill C-393, I have drawn on the legal network's expertise and that of others knowledgeable of the strengths and weaknesses of the current CAMR system to come up with a workable proposal for change. It is a proposal that will get these drugs into production and to the children and adults who have been waiting for them for far too long.

Bill C-393 proposes critical changes to Canada's access to medicines regime. Let me mention a few of them.

It provides for a one licence system to replace the need for single applications for every drug, for every amount of drug produced, and for every country which is seeking medications. That is important.

It gets rid of the narrow list of eligible drugs in order that new medicines can be incorporated at the earliest possible time.

It gets rid of the two-year time limit on compulsory licences with only one reapplication allowed.

It lives up to our international trade agreements while dumping the CAMR's requirements that exceed WTO demands.

Finally, it discourages unnecessary legal action by allowing generic producers to correct minor errors within a limited time.

The reforms we are proposing today in the bill have been supported by many, including 37 humanitarian and health organizations in Canada. They have said so in their submissions to government. That we are here today aware of the problems with CAMR and with solutions to offer to resolve these problems is due to the ongoing effort of so many individuals and organizations.

I want to particularly thank the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Results Canada, Stephen Lewis Foundation and Oxfam Canada. I would particularly like to mention the incredible work of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign that now has more than 200 groups spread across Canada working tirelessly to raise awareness and rally support for these grandparents struggling for their own and their families' survival in sub-Saharan Africa in the wake of their children's premature deaths from HIV-AIDS. In Winnipeg, the group is named Grands 'n' More Winnipeg and I have been helped by discussions and information from Linda Watson, Irene Rempel, Enid Butler, Nancy Cosway and Shelley Coombes.

This spring, the grandmothers, as they have become known around this place, and I am wearing the pin that they have given to us all, brought petitions with more than 32,000 signatures to Parliament. We all had the privilege of presenting some of those petitions.

I want to cite the work of a present colleague of mine who formerly worked on this issue. The member for Windsor West was active on this file when Parliament first passed this bill a number of years ago.

In presenting the bill, I feel a great sense of responsibility. Normally, I have had the responsibility in this place to speak for my constituents in Winnipeg North. That responsibility is daunting in itself.

Today, I am speaking to this bill for millions of women, men and children who have a right to health, a right to life, just as we do, but who through circumstances of birth find themselves faced with serious conditions and diseases in countries unable to afford them the help they and their families need because of economic limitations.

As I have said, the challenges are unimaginable, but the spirit of the struggle is strong. We have a choice today, whether to break down a barrier that is denying them a future or to stay with the status quo and extinguish that spirit. I urge members to choose the former.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would respectfully request the hon. member to explain why she would be in favour of making a review by Health Canada optional? I understand that Bill C-393 does this. Perhaps she could explain why she thinks that it is not unethical to export products to other countries which have not met the same safety standards that we have for consumption by Canadians?

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I should put the question back to the member because in fact it was the government that committed to a review to ensure that all drugs were safe, that all drugs met the requirements as he is expressing today. The government has failed to carry out its commitments, so we are back today with legislation that is trying to redress this situation, address those problems, and to move forward the agenda.

It is clear when we have had only one shipment for one drug to one country in all of these years that something is wrong. I have identified those barriers to the problem. I have presented some very modest proposals to improve the situation so we can actually start to flow drugs as quickly as possible.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Winnipeg North for this initiative and especially the response and support that she is giving to the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. I am a very strong supporter of that campaign.

I had the chance to meet with some of the grandmothers from South Africa in my riding of Vancouver Quadra. Being from Africa myself, I have a great deal of empathy for the struggles they are facing, especially at a time when the government has reduced by half the number of the poorest African countries that are being supported by CIDA on its priority list, so it is very badly needed that the help comes some other way.

What would be the estimated timeframe that the member's bill would enable these drugs to get to the people who need them so badly?

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the member for Vancouver Quadra. I especially want to acknowledge her expertise in this area.

I do not have personal experience in terms of Africa. I was fortunate to be part of a Results Canada voyage to Bangladesh, where I learned so much about the importance of taking one forward step at a time, that some of the smallest efforts can produce the biggest rewards, and that for a few pennies a day we can get drugs to stop tuberculosis, something we thought we had rid ourselves and society long ago.

It is important that we take this step forward and start to flow the drugs. As for the timeframe, I believe that once the bill is through the House, including a thorough review at the committee stage, we should be ready to ensure its full implementation before the end of this year. I am hopeful that 2009 will be the year that we actually conclude this process and begin the application so that drugs actually start to flow.

I believe that the generic drug companies are ready, willing and able to embark upon immediate production, and shipments to other countries would begin as soon as possible. I know that with this initiative we will have made a huge difference.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for this initiative. If Canada is able to do this and the bill goes through, what effect might that have on other countries, like Norway, that are looking at this? In other words, will the bill be a good example and an opportunity for other countries to join in to help in this initiative?

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is an important question from my colleague, who is very familiar with this whole area and has much more expertise than I do. I believe that Canada had been a leader in the world on this issue. Since the failure of the application of the legislation, our light has grown dim in the eyes of the world. By correcting the flaws of the legislation and moving quickly, we cannot only show that we are leaders around the world but we can encourage other countries to follow suit.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I truly believe that as a country, we must do everything we can to help people in developing countries get access to much-needed medicines. Such a humanitarian initiative must be supported, because we all know that many people are suffering in poorer parts of the world.

Having said that, I personally do not believe that we can achieve that goal by changing the law associated with Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. Allow me to explain.

Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, or CAMR, came into force in May 2005, following the adoption by Parliament of Bill C-9. CAMR's purpose was to put in place a low-cost generic drug-based mechanism to deliver lifesaving medications to countries which could not otherwise afford them. The purpose was laudable and remains laudable, and the bill passed with the consent of all parties.

As an amendment to the Patent Act, CAMR allows generic drug companies to obtain the compulsory licence to manufacture patented pharmaceutical products and to export those products to developing countries that do not have internal capacity to manufacture products required to address public health problems.

If one looks at the flow of generic medicines to developing countries since the implementation of CAMR, one can only cite one example of such a transfer from Canada, and that was to Rwanda.

Similar legislation to CAMR implemented in other countries has also not resulted in the flow of generic medicines to developing countries.

The reasons for this situation are complicated, but they have nothing to do with the difficulty of complying with the current legislation, as the bill before us today suggests. The amendments proposed in Bill C-393 will not make things better, because the main challenges involved in getting medicines to the people who need them have nothing to do with the flaws in the current legislation.

The balance that was established in the legislative process through amendments to the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act was deemed appropriate by the review conducted in 2007 by Industry Canada in collaboration with Health Canada, CIDA and DFAIT.

Although critics of CAMR have said that the law is too complicated, it is worth noting that Douglas Clark, the former director of Patent Policy at Industry Canada, has stated that this criticism is not credible.

In fact, the reasons why CAMR does not work as we had hoped have to do with real problems in the field, in the countries that need these medicines. They have to do with access to properly trained medical staff, whether they be doctors or nurses. They have to do with clean water supply, refrigeration facilities, accurate diagnosis, secure infrastructure for distributing the medicines and so on. In short, they have to do with poverty and the need to make developing countries aware of CAMR. Those are the real challenges.

It is not the process itself of requesting the medicine. That process is uncomplicated, even with its checks and balances that ensure compliance with international obligations under the WTO TRIPS agreement, the agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights.

Canada does have obligations related to TRIPS and it is important to respect them. The World Trade Organization's agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, to which Canada is a signatory, generally prohibits countries from engaging in compulsory licensing for purposes of export.

Canada and other WTO member countries are authorized to adopt regimes like CAMR only as a result of an agreement reached between WTO member countries in August 2003, which waives the restriction that compulsory licensing can only be used for their domestic markets. This waiver sets out strict and limited conditions under which Canada and other exporting WTO members may grant compulsory licences to manufacture and export pharmaceutical products for humanitarian purposes.

It is important to remember that Canada is only one of many nations that have implemented the waiver as part of their domestic legal regimes. CAMR appropriately uses this waiver as the basic framework for Canada's regime. The waiver is also used by other nations as the basis for their domestic law equivalence of CAMR.

The changes to CAMR proposed by Bill C-393 would eliminate all references to the TRIPS agreement and waiver and would eliminate most of the elements of CAMR that help Canada to comply with the applicable conditions governing the issuance of compulsory licences.

The amendments proposed to CAMR in the bill would render the regime non-complied with Canada's WTO obligations as established in the TRIPS agreement and waiver.

Key deficiencies in the proposed amendments, from the standpoint of WTO compliance, include the fact that TRIPS requires the applicant for licence to seek a voluntary licence from the patent owner.

Bill C-393 would repeal the provision of CAMR that requires the prospective licensee to seek from the patentee a voluntary licence to manufacture and sell pharmaceutical products for export. This is inconsistent with the spirit of the waiver, which is intended, where feasible, to encourage voluntary agreements rather than impose compulsory licences.

TRIPS requires that the scope and duration of the licence must be limited to the purpose for which it is authorized. The bill would repeal all limitations on the scope and duration of the compulsory licence, theoretically granting a perpetual and unlimited legal right.

TRIPS requires that a licence should be terminated if and when the circumstances that lead to its issuance cease to exist or are unlikely to recur. Under Bill C-393, absent an application by a patent owner, a licence would only terminate if relinquished by the licensee.

TRIPS requires that the patent owner be paid adequate compensation in the circumstances of each case. Bill C-393 would repeal the CAMR provision that allows the patent owner to seek a higher royalty than the formula established by CAMR, if warranted.

The waiver applies only to pharmaceutical products needed to address public health problems. Bill C-393 would repeal schedule 1 of CAMR, which is the list of eligible products, and would not put in place any limitation on the patented pharmaceutical products for which a compulsory licence may be granted.

The waiver requires all importing WTO members to make a notification to the WTO, specifying the name and quantity of needed pharmaceutical products. Importing members, which are not least-developed countries, must also establish that they do not have the manufacturing capability to produce the pharmaceutical product. Bill C-393 would not require any notification or copy of the notification submitted by an importing country regarding its need for a pharmaceutical product or setting out the quantity required or speaking to manufacturing capacity.

The waiver states that exporting members, like Canada, can only authorize manufacture and export of that amount of product necessary to meet the needs of the importing member and states that all of the product must be exported to that importing member, as opposed to other members or countries. Bill C-393 places no limits on the amounts of product that may be manufactured under the compulsory licence and would permit unlimited quantities of the product to be exported to any eligible importing country regardless of their need.

The issues noted above are only the most obvious problems of Bill C-393 to comply with Canada's international obligations. It is clear that if this bill were to become law, Canada would be in default of its international trade treaty obligations under the TRIPS agreement.

Canada is a well-intentioned country that wishes to provide much needed assistance to countries in need of medicines to prevent or combat diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV-AIDS and other epidemics. That is why Parliament voted for Bill C-9, the original CAMR legislation. In other words, our intentions were and remain honourable.

In the intervening years, however, we have come to the conclusion that what we had intended, a flow of generic drugs to countries in need, is not happening. We are all in agreement on this point, however, there is a different interpretation as to why CAMR is failing.

There are many things that Canada can and should do through CIDA, and that is where Canada should focus its efforts. That will enable Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, which is part of the solution, to do everything it is supposed to do.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, which aims to modify certain fundamental aspects of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime.

Canada's Access to Medicines Regime's stated purpose is to improve access to lower cost, Canadian-made generic versions of patented drugs and medical devices to address public health problems in developing countries. It was designed to achieve this humanitarian objective, while respecting Canada's international trade obligations and maintaining the integrity of Canada's patent system.

Members of the House view Canada's Access to Medicines Regime as a key component of Canada's long-term approach to addressing serious public health problems that affect many developing and least developed countries, such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics. In addition to Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, this approach includes significant contributions from the Government of Canada to other global mechanisms and alliances which have come into existence in recent years and have become leading instruments for procuring lower cost drugs to respond to the needs of developing and least developed countries.

For example, the government has contributed more than $500 million to the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. It has also pledged another $450 million to the fund over the next three years. In addition, the government is working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the development on an HIV-AIDS vaccination.

The government has serious concerns with Bill C-393's proposed modification to the regime's legislative framework. If passed by Parliament, the bill will result in the elimination of many of the key operational elements in Canada's Access to Medicines Regime in order to adopt a very broad, one-licence approach. This could have serious negative implications for continued pharmaceutical investment and growth in Canada. In addition, many of the bill's proposed legislative changes may not be in keeping with the spirit of the World Trade Organization decision on which Canada's Access to Medicines Regime is based.

This decision was the result of years of intensive international negotiations by members of the World Trade Organization. Those negotiations sought a solution to international patent obligations that impeded the export of critical medicines from countries with pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities to countries without.

In August 2003, WTO members reached a landmark decision. They agreed to waive two of the patent obligations in the WTO's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, known as TRIPS, in order to improve access to patented drugs and medical devices needed to address public health problems in developing and least developed countries.

Canada's regime is one of the nine regimes in existence to have implemented the World Trade Organization decision, but it is the only one to have successfully authorized the export of drugs to a developing country. This important event occurred on September 24, 2008, when a Canadian drug manufacturer, Apotex Inc., sent approximately seven million tablets of HIV-AIDS therapy to Rwanda.

In 2007 the government completed a statutory review of the regime as part of this process. It reviewed all public input in Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. That input included the extensive written submissions received in response to a 2006 consultation paper on the regime, expert testimony heard at separate hearings by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in April 2007, and I was a part of that committee, as well as input from developing countries at a workshop organized by non-governmental organizations.

In December 2007 the Minister of Industry tabled a report on the results of the statutory review in Parliament. The report concluded that insufficient evidence was accumulated to warrant making changes to the regime at that juncture.

This conclusion remains valid today, since the case for making legislative or regulatory changes to Canada's Access to Medicines Regime has still not been made. The fact that Canada is the only country today to see drugs shipped to a country in need under its access to medicines regime demonstrates that our system does work.

However, for Canada's Access to Medicines Regime to be used again, another country in need must inform the World Trade Organization of its intent to import lower-cost versions of patented pharmaceutical products under the terms of the August 2003 WTO decision.

The government has and continues to encourage developing and least developed countries to use the system and hopes that such a notification happens. In the meantime, however, it will continue to support Canada's access to medicines, while fighting diseases and helping improve public health conditions in the developing world through other initiatives in the government's long-term comprehensive strategy on access to medicines.

It is for these reasons that I urge all hon. members of this House not to support Bill C-393.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois acknowledges the need for immediate action to ensure that low-cost medications are sent to low-income countries.

As the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has said, the numbers speak for themselves. In 2007, the United Nations estimated that 33 million people were living with HIV/AIDS, including 2.5 million children. More than 8,000 people die every day from HIV/AIDS in the world.

The Bloc Québécois is aware of the different challenges surrounding research and development, of the problem with intellectual property on patents, of the need to pursue scientific research, and of the difficulty in balancing this with accessibility of low-cost medications in low-income countries. The Bloc also recognizes Canada's international obligations regarding the protection of intellectual property and the balance between accessibility and scientific research on this subject. As the Bloc Québécois has said many times, we must have another look at the Patent Act and Canada's access to medicines regime, now that law has been applied and the first medications sent to an African country.

It is more clear than ever that we need to act quickly. We must call together the various stakeholders to determine the advantages and disadvantages of Canada's access to medicines regime, and to come up with ideas to improve the current regime. We have a number of questions about the current effectiveness of this regime and its first application. Did it achieve the goal of bringing medications to the people? What were the relationships between the suppliers of the low-cost medications and the receiving country? Did the country have the necessary infrastructure to help sick people obtain the medication? Did the medication have the desired effect? How did negotiations work between the companies producing name-brand and generic medications?

The Bloc Québécois believes it is important to review Canada's access to medicines regime and the Patent Act, and to conduct in-depth follow-ups on the first application. Only after evaluating each step of the regime will we be able to determine how to improve it.

The Bloc Québécois is in favour of sending Bill C-393 to committee. We recognize that there are some provisions in the current regime that are keeping it from working properly. The committee will be able to carry out an in-depth analysis of how this legislation was applied on the ground for the first time.

However, the Bloc Québécois already has several concerns about the details of relaxing the requirements in relation to the current system, namely, expanding the list of countries, eliminating the wait time, Canada's commitments regarding intellectual property and how this bill will affect those commitments, the fact that brand name pharmaceutical companies are losing their oversight on agreements, the balance between intellectual property, the humanitarian aspect of the system, and the commercial aspect, which is more significant in Bill C-393 than in the current system.

Obviously, this bill raises many questions. The Bloc Québécois believes, however, that urgent action is required on this issue and that a study of Bill C-393 would be an excellent forum to begin discussions on potential ways to make the current system more flexible. Bearing in mind that a certain balance must achieved between the commercial and humanitarian aspects, the Bloc Québécois will definitely propose several amendments to this bill.

The World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and UNICEF produced a report in 2008 entitled Towards universal access: Scaling up priority HIV/AIDS interventions in the health sector. That report reveals that access to anti-retroviral treatment for advanced HIV/AIDS improved between 2006 and 2007 in low-income and moderate-income countries. At the end of 2007, nearly 3 million people were being treated, that is, nearly 950,000 more people than in 2006, which is 31% of the 9.7 million people requiring anti-retroviral therapy.

Since 2001, the number of people receiving anti-retroviral therapy has increased 15-fold, from under 200,000 to 3 million, including 2 million people in Africa.

The greatest increase in treatment rates was in sub-Saharan Africa. That seems encouraging, but the fact remains that less than a third of the people who need treatment are receiving it. Some 2.5 million people were infected that same year, while fewer than 1 million new patients began receiving treatment.

There have been other improvements as well. Some 33% of HIV-positive pregnant women in those same countries received antiretroviral medications to prevent transmission of the disease to their child. Only 10% of pregnant women had access to that treatment in 2004. Once again, there has been a substantial improvement, but two-thirds of HIV-positive pregnant women still do not have access to these drugs.

With respect to children, nearly 200,000 of them had access to treatment in 2007, compared to 127,000 in 2006 and 75,000 in 2005. However, less than 5% of children have access to pediatric AIDS treatment, the kind of treatment specially developed for them. Treatment for children can cost up to eight times more than treatment for adults.

Every day, there are nearly 1,800 new cases of HIV infection in children under the age of 15, mainly as a result of mother to child transmission. In addition, every day, 1,400 children under 15 die from AIDS-related illnesses. More than 6,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected with HIV. After more than 20 years of effort, less than 10% of pregnant women have access to services to prevent them from transmitting HIV to their newborn. Less than 10% of the children who are orphaned or made vulnerable by AIDS receive public assistance or have access to support services. Less than one-third of young women between 15 and 24 in sub-Saharan Africa really understand how to avoid the disease.

In the fall of 2008, Apotex, a generic drug company, began delivering triple combination anti-AIDS pills to Rwanda, and the contract calls for 21,000 people to be treated over two years. This is the first initiative of its kind in the world. Other countries have laws that allow low-cost drugs to be sent to developing countries, but none has shipped any yet.

According to patent drug companies, authorization to use their products was given very quickly, within two months, which proves the efficiency of the program. In terms of generic drugs, and more specifically Apotex, there are too many restrictions and the effort is not worth it. Apotex has stated that it would not want to repeat the experience in the current conditions.

Let us take a look at the background. At the end of the 1990s, charitable organizations initiated an awareness campaign. Pharmaceutical patents were deemed to be one of the main obstacles to drug access. Developing countries called on the World Trade Organization to relax intellectual property rules. Others considered corruption and insufficient infrastructure, in African countries in particular, to be the main obstacle.

In November 2001, in Doha, WTO members unanimously accepted that pharmaceutical patents were one of the main obstacles to access to drugs. In August 2003, WTO members agreed to allow developed countries to export low-cost drugs to developing countries. On August 30, 2003, WTO members agreed to make legal changes to certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights that seemed to prevent poor countries from importing pharmaceuticals.

I am told that I have only one minute remaining and so I will say that the Bloc Québécois supports some of the principles contained in Bill C-393. As I mentioned at the very beginning, we have a number of questions. Therefore, we would like this bill to be sent to a committee for more in-depth study. And, as I mentioned, the Bloc will propose a number of amendments to ensure that the bill will respect not only the industry but above all the charitable organizations that work primarily in Africa in order to ensure that we do all we can to fight AIDS.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to address Bill C-393, which seeks to make substantial operational changes to the legislative framework for Canada's access to medicines regime under the Patent Act and for the Food and Drugs Act.

While I and other hon. members of the House are committed to improving access to medicines in the developing world via Canada's access to medicines regime and other initiatives, I have some strong reservations about Bill C-393 and its proposed changes. However, let me begin with some background on Canada's access to medicines regime.

The stated purpose of the regime is to increase access to lower-cost, Canadian-made generic versions of patented pharmaceutical products needed to address public health problems in developing and least-developed countries.

The development of Canada's access to medicines regime was a landmark event, as there was no other international precedent at that particular time. Thus, in crafting the regime, the government focused on three important objectives: first, to increase access to patented drugs and medical devices in the developing world; second, to continue to respect Canada's international trade obligations; and third, to maintain the integrity of our domestic patent system for pharmaceuticals.

In 2004, the then Liberal government introduced legislation to establish this regime by amending the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act. Shortly thereafter, Bill C-9 received royal assent with the unanimous support of all parties in both the House and the Senate.

I will now turn to discussing some of the problematic elements of Bill C-393 that propose to alter the scope of eligible drugs for export under the regime and the health and safety review of these pharmaceutical products.

First, I am concerned that Bill C-393 seeks to eliminate the list of pre-approved products for export in Canada's access to medicines regime. While some critics of the regime allege that the list makes Canada's access to medicines regime too rigid and inflexible, it does serve an important and practical purpose. Specifically, the list of pre-approved products for export minimizes the discretionary elements of the regime, and as a result, expedites the decision-making process. It also provides prospective users with the assurance that, assuming all other statutory requirements are met, an application for authorization under the regime will be issued by the Commissioner of Patents.

Second, I am concerned about the proposed changes to the drug review process in Bill C-393. If passed, these changes would significantly alter the level of domestic oversight regarding the safety, efficacy and quality of products exported under Canada's access to medicines regime. This is because Bill C-393 suggests, among other things, making the existing mandatory Health Canada review an option. Further, it suggests allowing the export of eligible products under Canada's access to medicines regime to be made on the basis of a review by a foreign regulatory authority.

Such an abeyance of Health Canada's review would not be permitted for drugs and medical devices destined for the Canadian domestic market. In addition, during the statutory review of the regime in 2007, developing countries and generic drug manufacturers expressed strong approval for the very drug review that Bill C-393 seeks to remove. These potential users of Canada's access to medicines regime went on the record as stating that Health Canada's review was a useful mechanism for ensuring that products sent to the developing world under the system are safe, efficacious and of high quality.

Some critics of Canada's access to medicines regime state that the Health Canada drug review is unnecessary and allege that it duplicates the World Health Organization's pre-qualification process for listing pharmaceutical products that are eventually purchased by international aid agencies in developing and least-developed countries without appropriate regulatory capacities.

However, I do not agree with them. Health Canada has a long-standing and excellent relationship with the World Health Organization in this regard, both in undertaking reviews for the international organization's pre-qualification program and in working with the World Health Organization on other initiatives to build regulatory health and safety capacity in the developing and least-developed countries.

Furthermore, since Health Canada's reviews are accepted by the World Health Organization for its alternate listings process, Canada's domestic drug reviews are not duplicative. The alternate listings process, which is an abbreviated process for listing drugs to the pre-qualified program, is available for drugs reviewed by Health Canada, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.

I would like to conclude by reiterating that while the government remains committed to Canada's access to medicines regime and a broader long-term approach to fighting public health issues in the developing world, we simply oppose Bill C-393 and its proposed changes to the regime.

In my opinion, several of these changes to the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act raise concerns about their potential impact on the effective operation of Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. Many of these changes also do not support the humanitarian objective of improving access to safe and efficacious medicines in the developing world.

Finally, there is little evidence that the proposed amendments in Bill C-393 will make a meaningful difference in the volume and frequency of export under Canada's access to medicines regime. To date, Canada's compulsory licensing for export regime is the only one of its kind worldwide to have successfully authorized an exported drug to a country in need. This demonstrates that Canada's Access to Medicines Regime can and does, currently work.

For those reasons, I urge all hon. members in the House not to support Bill C-393 not because the intention is not good, but the bill is simply flawed.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for bringing this important piece of legislation to the House of Commons. This bill will improve another piece of legislation.

The bill will tweak and improve what was an honourable piece of legislation which, when it was put into practice, certain aspects were clearly deficient and needed to be improved. That is what this legislation is about.

My father was a negotiator for GATT. He spent a lot of time in Brussels negotiating the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. My father was very proud of the work Canada did at the negotiating table. I will focus a lot of my comments on TRIPS. It is important to understand that with respect to GATT, the WTO and going back in time to negotiations that happened before Doha and others, Canada was a leader in providing innovative ways to come to an agreement.

We have always been a country that has put forward innovations to benefit people beyond our borders. That is really important to understand, because what we are hearing from some members in the House is that according to TRIPS, ne touche pas, we cannot go there. The reverse is the case, because time and time again in the history of this country, we have gone to the international table and provided ways that countries can open up and not close off opportunities to help. That is exactly what needs to happen when it comes to TRIPS.

Let us look at what happened with TRIPS in 2001. I will not provide the arguments on why the drugs are needed. We will assume everyone in this place wants to send more drugs to Africa to help. Let us assume that, but let us take a look at how that can be done.

The bill would open the range and would streamline the process so that licences would be more than just one-off every time. Those involved in the Rwanda experience tell us that they will never do it again. That is an indication of the need to improve the legislation. Some say we cannot do that because it would jeopardize investments in our drug industry because of the patent protection that was provided in legislation passed by a previous Conservative government.

I think that is wrong. Clear rules need to be set. We need to streamline how legislation is put forward and then go to the international table and ask what the problem is. Is the list too wide? Does it overlap on any agreements for patent protection?

The government and some of my friends in the Liberal Party seem to be saying that we cannot go there, let us not even try. I do not think that is the Canadian way. The Canadian way is to put ideas on the table and make sure everyone understands the intention, and look for a pathway forward. That is what needs to happen.

In 2001, Doha was about asking for opportunities for African countries to receive the help they need.

I want to give an example of how this is not working. We know the Canadian experience needs to be changed. When Bill Gates and Mr. Clinton formulated an opportunity to help those in Africa who needed the ARVs and other drugs to fight malaria, they went forward with an initiative. They bought the drugs, not from the United States, not from Canada, but from India. It is important to underline this.

Unlike Canada at the time, India resisted the patent protections the industries were trying to foist upon them. India told them, “We will set terms with you, but we will not have it done to us”. The drug companies said that if India did not abide by their terms, they would leave. The Indian government of the day left the table. What followed is very interesting. India actually made drugs on its own. It provided innovation on its own. It created one of the most successful examples of drug production. To this date, India is in the WTO.

What is the result? Bill Clinton and Bill Gates went to India to do their bulk buy. Why? Because it was affordable. Why? Because the Indians looked at innovation and tried a different model. They have provided cheaper drugs to this day. That is important to understand. If we do not try to innovate, then we leave people behind. That is not sufficient.

I my colleagues to talk to people who have looked at Doha. I ask them to look at TRIPS and the challenges there. When my father went to the table on behalf of Canada for the GATT agreements, he did not do so to pitch for industry, to pitch for one side or the other, he went to pitch for Canada.

That is what we want to do. We want our government to pitch for Canadians to help out people abroad, not pitch for an industry that says that it has such constraints and that it will never be able to invest in innovation if these kinds of opportunities are opened up.

I do not think that is what Canadians want. I know what the African population needs. It needs to have this legislation changed, so we can open up and flow drugs, not at the expense of our industry but to help others.

For those who have questions about this, they should look at Doha and look at the opportunities for us to open up the TRIPS to ensure it will be fair-minded and help people abroad. No one is asking for a free lunch. We ask that those people, who are suffering greatly in Africa right now, to have the same access to medicines and health care that we have here.

Does anyone really believe the existing legislation is working? If they do, then I ask them to talk to grandmothers who have been overseas helping out. I ask them to talk to Stephen Lewis who has dedicated his life to this. I ask them to talk to any of the ambassadors in this city from Africa. They will tell us that there needs to be a response from Canada, that there needs to be a change to this legislation.

At the AIDS conference In 2006, the government pledged that it would do a comprehensive review on the legislation. One was done, but it was not sufficient. This bill will provide what is needed, and that is a change to this regime so people in Africa can benefit, not at the cost of industry here but at the benefit of Africans abroad.

I urge all my colleagues to support the bill.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

It being 2:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)