House of Commons Hansard #159 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.

Topics

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the government knew that some XL Foods equipment was damaged and not working properly. The government knew that XL Foods had no system in place to identify and trace the E. coli bacteria.

And the Minister of Agriculture knew that, even after the American government had sounded the alarm about E. coli, XL Foods continued to hide vital information on the safety of its facilities.

Why did the Minister of Agriculture hide this information about tainted beef from Canadians?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite cared to go on the CFIA website, he would find a full timeline from September 4 on, day by day, of exactly what it did and how it did it. He will find a robust system that sought to make sure Canadian food is safe.

We worked together with the Public Health Agency of Canada and the public health agencies in the provinces to ensure we did not have a major problem at that point. As the information became available, we changed our tactics, because that is the way the system works.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the director of meat inspection has said that up to 5% of the meat processed by XL Foods was contaminated with E. coli. If Canada had real regulations, all of the meat processed on the day that that threshold was passed would have been discarded. But thanks to the Minister of Agriculture, no such rule exists. It is up to the industry to decide what to do.

Even worse, the public was not informed of the danger posed by the tainted meat. That represents a serious breach of ethics and ministerial responsibility. The Minister of Agriculture has no other choice: he must step down.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite fails to recognize is that the OECD, an international body, has ranked Canada's food safety system right up there at the top. Every other country we deal with, including Japan, which has a robust food safety system, looks to emulate ours.

We will continue to do the job. We will enhance what CFIA has, the rules and regulations it works within and the dollars it will have to hire more inspectors. I am hopeful that the NDP will support us in those initiatives.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, key safety equipment was damaged and inoperable; there was no clear testing standard, no monitoring system for tracking high rates of E. coli, and withholding of key food safety data. All of this is just four years after the same minister of agriculture presided over another tainted meat scandal that killed 22 Canadians and he made jokes about it.

This time the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food knew what was going on. He withheld what he knew from Canadians and he is refusing to be accountable. He is the one who put the self-regulating system in place. He is responsible. Why is the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food still in his position? He must resign.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, there is no such thing as a self-regulating system in Canada. CFIA has a number of different jobs it performs in these plants every day. The particular plant in question has 46 professional CFIA staff, which is a 20% increase over just a few years ago.

We take this very seriously. We are working to ensure that CFIA has the regulations it requires and the monetary capacity to get the job done.

I am hopeful that the NDP will work with us in the future.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

October 4th, 2012 / 2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the timeline that the minister has referred to, and I would like him to think back.

Since he says he was meeting with the staff on a daily basis, I assume that means he was meeting with the staff on a daily basis after the initial findings of E. coli on September 4. On September 10 and 11, we are told in the timeline, the CFIA identified August 24, August 28 and September 5 as of interest for further investigation. Did that have to do with extraordinary or high levels of E. coli with respect to those particular dates, and can the minister tell us when he himself was informed with respect to those findings on those dates?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, my office was fully engaged on September 5 as CFIA had identified the initial batch of contaminated product both in a secondary facility in Calgary and, of course, at the border by the United States. That product was captured and brought back in. As we strove to work further, we worked with scientific evidence, and we work with information that we have available to us to make sure that Canadian consumers are not at risk.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, these are troubling facts that the minister and the CFIA itself is disclosing. September 16, according to the timeline—the minister himself said it—is the date upon which the CFIA removed XL Foods; but on September 13 the Americans removed XL Foods from the list of establishments eligible to export to the United States. Canada did not take the step of closing the plant until September 27. There were recalls on September 16 and recalls again on September—

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

As the member opposite rightly points out, Mr. Speaker, CFIA was acting on the information it had. It did issue a recall on September 16 on some potentially dangerous hamburger product, the higher-risk product. That is what it does. It works on scientific evidence and a growing body of evidence to make sure that Canadians are well served by their food safety system.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, even Mr. Arsenault, director of the Meat Programs Division, clearly said that he was not going to pretend that they got it all right.

“We're not going to pretend we got it right”. That is the statement of Mr. Arsenault from the meat programs division.

I would like to ask the minister this. Americans were protected on September 13 because no product was allowed to be exported to the United States. All Canadian consumers were not protected until September 27, two weeks later. Why were Americans better protected than Canadians?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Of course, I fundamentally disagree with that statement, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite also said the other day that the American E. coli statistics were far more robust than Canada's. The Americans' have gone down by some 40%. In that same timeframe, in Canada the E. coli incidence went down by 69%, and 2012 is going further in that good, positive way. We will take no lessons from the Liberals.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the minister bragged about what a great job everyone has been doing, yesterday Canadians learned the truth about how slow the process truly is. On September 6, CFIA requested critical distribution and testing information from XL Foods. In return, XL took five days to respond. This is an unacceptable delay in the chain of information.

The minister cannot keep running from the question. Why does the minister think that a five-day lag in the transfer of critical information is acceptable?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, we absolutely agree a five-day lag is unacceptable. That is why we tabled Bill S-11, the safe food for Canadians act, last spring. It gives us more robust powers, a more timely way to assess the paperwork, and we will continue to move forward in that vein. I know that bill will be here very soon. The Senate went through clause by clause this morning. That bill will be before them very soon. Let us get it passed.