House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was food.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Minister of State (Finance)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pursue where the parliamentary secretary was headed with those proposed amendments to the Food and Drugs Act.

We realize that expediency is very important but we also want to be reassured that safety is paramount, as do all Canadians. We know that we need to do this to foster innovation to help our food industry in this country grow and prosper and to be able to provide more and safer food.

Would the parliamentary secretary reaffirm for us that the primary focus is on ensuring that safeguards are in place to preserve our great food safety record in this country.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all of the good work that he has done. As I said in my speech, under his leadership, we have put over $50 million into ensuring that the food in Canada is healthy and safe. These amendments would not have any impact on the scientific processes or the rigour of the reviews of these new products. The amendments would only change the approval process after the scientific assessments and consultations have been concluded. They would provide tools to allow safe new products with potential health benefits for Canadians to get to market much more quickly. This has been a problem. Sometimes it can take months or years for these great products to get to market.

I can give some examples of the types of products that would be authorized more efficiently and effectively and maybe I will get a chance to do when answering another question.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary's interventions in the House are always measured and reasonable. I am hoping he can help me figure something out with respect to the budget.

In strengthening food safety, on page 168 of the budget, $51.2 million will be provided over the next two years to continue with the recommendations in the Weatherill report. That $51.2 million will be spread between CFIA, the Canadian Health Agency and Health Canada. Therefore, as I understand it, three different agencies will be getting $51 million over two years.

On page 261 of the same budget, $56 million in ongoing cuts will be made to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Overall, we do not know what that nets out for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Will it get an even one-third of the money? What kind of money comes from the Weatherill report? How will the $56 million in cuts that are only being made to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency be felt in terms of food inspection?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can reaffirm for my colleague that we did take the recommendations of the Weatherill report seriously. That is where we will be focusing and targeting the investments we are making.

As the member knows, Mrs. Weatherill actually made over 57 recommendations. There were issues that needed to be dealt with. We have taken those targeted investments to ensure we have looked at every one of her recommendations because, at the end of the day, it is our government's commitment to the health and safety of Canadians that is most important and Canadians expect that.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as hon. members know, Canadians experience better health outcomes than citizens in many other countries. Statistics Canada recently reported that life expectancy in Canada has reached a new high of 80.9 years. We also know that the infant mortality rate has declined since 1982 and, based on data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, we know that almost 90% of Canadians believe that their health is good, very good or excellent.

I am also pleased to note that Canada is a world leader in tobacco control. In fact, smoking is at an all time low in Canada, dropping from 22% to 17% over the last decade. In 2009, we passed the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act. Our government is proud of this work and is refocussing our anti-smoking efforts toward populations with higher smoking rates while investing in initiatives that work. We have also provided leadership to the world on health warning labels and we are the first country in the world to have them on cigarette packages.

Even with the improvements that Canadians now enjoy in their health and safety, we understand that there is a great need yet, much to be done and further improvements to be achieved by promoting healthy living and combatting chronic disease.

Today, chronic diseases and injury are the main causes of death and ill health in Canada. Fortunately, through healthy living and eating, a large proportion of these diseases and injuries can be prevented or delayed. I am proud to highlight the actions taken by our government to ensure that Canadians can feel safe about the food they eat and understand the steps they can take to contribute to their own good health.

Today, societies the world over are all too familiar with the impact of cancer. That is why we support cancer prevention efforts through our joint work with provincial and territorial governments, as well as stakeholders from all across Canada. Funding has been renewed over the past five years for the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer so it can continue its work.

Through the lung health program, the Government of Canada is also helping to improve the health of Canadians. The Government of Canada's $3.5 million investment in phase 2 of the lung health program demonstrates a strong commitment to preventing and managing respiratory diseases in Canada.

The Government of Canada has supported the national lung health framework, a stakeholder-led initiative from its initial stages in 2006-08, with an additional three-year, $10 million investment in 2009. Resulting projects from the lung health program have produced tangible results for Canadians, increasing awareness of as well as improving prevention, early detection and management of lung disease in Canada.

Our government is also working to prevent diabetes and improve health outcomes for Canadians living with diabetes. Through the Canadian diabetes strategy, we are taking a proactive, long-term approach to prevent and control diabetes. Today, many Canadians understand that, in addition to good nutrition and regular exercise, managing one's blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels can substantially reduce the risk of developing diabetes and its complications or can slow the progression.

Food safety is the top priority for our government. We have invested wisely in strengthening our ability to reduce food safety risks. This means enhanced surveillance, early detection and improved emergency response. As a government, we have acted on all 57 recommendations in the Weatherall report and invested significant dollars into improving the food safety of Canadians.

Budget 2012 contains a commitment of more than $50 million to be invested over the next two years. As a result, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and CFIA will continue their ongoing support to strengthen and make more effective our food safety system. I have some examples of those improvements.

We have improved the national surveillance of listeriosis by adding listeria to the national enteric surveillance program. We have strengthened responses to the outbreaks of national or international food-borne illnesses. The food-borne illness protocol has been updated, strengthened and tested with our provincial and territorial food safety partners. In addition to the listeriosis project, we are planning to conduct community-based surveillance in food-borne and water-borne diseases in two different locations across the country. Plans are in place to expand this testing to five sites.

With budget 2012, we are implementing further improvements to our food regulatory system. These changes will reduce the regulatory burden associated with managing the food system while maintaining our rigorous testing and assessment to ensure Canadians continue to enjoy safe and secure food.

Every day we hear about the links between healthy weight and healthy living. We also hear about the risks of obesity. This topic and our government's efforts to help Canadians of all ages and walks of life understand this connection between healthy living and good health has been part of this debate. Today more than one in four children and youth are overweight or obese. Rates among children and youth have nearly tripled over the last 25 years, and rates are even higher amongst our aboriginal populations.

All of this comes with a clear human cost. Simply put, obesity increases the risk of developing several major chronic diseases. As a result, promoting and maintaining healthy weights in the early years is critically important. It sets a good foundation for healthier living over time. Overweight and obesity also comes with greater health care costs to the Canadian economy. The direct health care costs of overweight and obesity has been estimated at $6 billion a year and the indirect costs are roughly an additional $1.1 billion per year in Canada. That is astronomical.

Last summer, Canada participated in a United Nations meeting on chronic diseases. At that meeting there was clear recognition that obesity was a global health problem and countries have placed a high priority on tackling it. In 2010, federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health endorsed the declaration on prevention and promotion that makes health promotion and disease prevention a priority for action in all jurisdictions across Canada.

In addition, since obesity is such an important issue, governments also endorsed curbing childhood obesity, a federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. The summit on healthy weights, which took place in February, was another example of federal, provincial and territorial collaboration. This topic has been very important to Canadians all across our country. It was an opportunity for representatives of diverse sectors to focus on healthy eating, active living, creating supportive environments and promoting multi-sectoral partnerships. Summit participants identified actions to promote and maintain healthy weights in children and youth.

For most Canadians, responsibility for school health lies with the provincial and territorial governments and school boards. Children's nutrition provides another example of federal, provincial and territorial governments working together for Canadians. The joint consortium for school health is a federal, provincial and territorial partnership that brings health and education sectors together to promote the health of children and youth in the school setting.

The Canada prenatal nutrition program is yet another important collaborative program. It assists communities in providing nutritional information and breastfeeding support to prenatal and postpartum women facing challenging life circumstances. Work is also under way to champion healthy living within jurisdictions through collaboration with relevant sectors, such as health, sport, physical activity, recreation and education.

I am pleased to see that the federal government is leading so much of this work. Leadership means bringing everyone together, ensuring we share knowledge and best practices, encouraging dialogue and ensuring we take collaborative action. The federal government will continue to act as a convenor in mobilizing all partners and partnerships. In this way, we can build on all the good initiatives and resources across the country.

I was particularly pleased to note that, at the summit on healthy weights, the federal Minister of Health announced $4 million to add new elements to the nationwide healthy eating awareness and education initiatives in collaboration with others. This will promote healthy eating, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, and will provide nutritional advice to Canadians. It is also critically important to build our understanding and fill gaps in our knowledge about obesity so we can help to make a difference in children's lives.

To that end, our government is investing in obesity-related research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR. CIHR's Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes has made obesity a strategic research priority since 2002 and it provided $34 million in 2010-11 alone for research that helps us assess and identify the most effective interventions.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

April 30th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul, not only for her work on this file, but for the work that she continues to do for children and the protection of our families.

We know that obesity among children has been accelerating. It has almost tripled in the past 25 years. We know that obesity in children is complex and comes with many problems and impacts upon their lives, causing hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and a number of others. The important part is also the cost: $6 billion per year and an estimated $1.1 billion in indirect costs.

I wonder if she would help members in the House understand what has been done by this government so that we have some influence and how we have engaged other jurisdictions in this sector to help with this important problem?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, never before in Canadian history have we had to say that our youth and our children are obese and that it is something we have to work on.

As I talked about in my previous speech, it is the collaboration between the provincial and territorial governments, all the levels of government and the population working together to recognize that obesity is a huge problem with our youth and children. Activity, nutrition and awareness need to be promoted within families, not only within governments. At 65 years of age, I actually learned how to swim. That is a direct impact of the government getting that knowledge out there so we can work together to stop this.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just heard the hon. Conservative member say that it is important for our children to eat healthy food.

How are we supposed to protect our children from unhealthy food when the number of inspectors in the agency is being reduced and the agency's budget is being cut?

I am asking this question of the hon. member opposite. I think we agree that our children must eat healthy food, but I do not think she knows how to guarantee that.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, food safety risks have been addressed, and continue to be addressed, by our government. There were several measures launched in 2009 to enhance surveillance and early detection and to improve response capabilities to food-borne illnesses and emergencies, and to the food safety system itself. In 2012, our government put in $51.2 million over the next two years to continue these measures.

So, there are many things about the food system that have been incorporated. Inspectors are extremely important. Our government is ensuring that all these measures are put in place so the job can be done effectively and food can be very safe for all Canadians.

I know the government's actions in response to the recommendations of the Weatherill report have been outlined in several progress reports to Canadians. I invite the member to look at the final report to Canadians that was released in December 2011. There are very specific things there that will reassure her about food safety in this country. I cannot go over them now because of the shortage of time.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Random—Burin—St. George's.

As a physician, I want to support this motion because evidence-based policy is at the heart of the practice of medicine. We learn from successes and failures. When a patient dies under our care, we do an in-depth post-mortem and find out why and how to prevent future deaths. Government must be similarly responsible. Cuts must be made carefully, to do no harm to those who depend on the government for their safety and health.

Let us look at a cautionary tale. Under Premier Harris of the Ontario government of the mid-1990s, significant cuts were made to health and safety to find efficiencies, which is a word we hear a lot from the Conservatives, by privatizing water safety and cutting the public health system and the environmental system. It promised, as the Conservatives are promising, that these cuts would not affect public health and safety. However, those cuts resulted in the tragic Walkerton incident where water, contaminated with E. coli and Campylobacter jejuni, caused the death of seven residents and serious illness in 2,300 other people who still have many of the remnants of that illness today.

I think it is strange that the current government did not learn from that disaster when three senior cabinet ministers in the current government were senior cabinet ministers in the Harris government at the time. The Minister of Finance was attorney general, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was the minister of community and social services and the President of the Treasury Board was the minister of the environment when those cuts occurred. Justice Dennis O'Connor, who headed the public inquiry investigating the Walkerton disaster, linked it clearly to the cuts and to the privatization of water testing in 1996. Significant “budget and staffing reductions” made by the Harris government “had resulted in reductions in the frequency of inspections, site visits, and contacts” between government inspectors and staff operating the Walkerton water system. The government ignored numerous warnings that cuts and privatization would cost lives, as it is doing now.

If 2000 seems too far in the past, I would like to jog the memory of the three ministers who were in the Harris government at that time and who are now senior ministers in the current government. When people die as a result of poor public policy, government must accept responsibility and learn from its mistakes. If I recall, then-premier Harris had a very long apology to make. The government can recall another incident in 2008, which is closer to home and closer in time, under the watch of the current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, when 22 people died and 57 became ill as a result of a listeriosis outbreak in a factory. Cuts to food inspection meant that inspectors often spent as little as 15 minutes examining plants. CFIA was already understaffed at that time, when those cuts were made in 2008. Yet in this budget, the minister of agriculture cut the already decimated Canadian Food Inspection Agency by $56.1 million and 100 inspectors, on top of the $33 million that was already cut last year. Canadians have the right to expect the food that they buy is safe, especially in light of history.

There is an important thing to remember here. As Albert Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet, the current government in 2014 and 2015 will cut $200.6 million from Health Canada and 840 science-related jobs. The cuts to public health will equal $68 million. A public health agency is supposed to look after the health of the public and protect it from infectious diseases.

The natural health products directorate in Health Canada will also be cut. It looks after the safety of natural health products. Many times, due to poor manufacturing standards, harmful contaminants are found in imported natural food products. The directorate is supposed to ensure that what Canadians are buying in natural food stores is safe. So there is another example of cuts that are going to endanger the lives of people.

We see cuts in the aboriginal health programs: suicide prevention, for instance; maternal and child health programs in the Inuit communities. Suicide rates among the Inuit are 11 times the rest of Canada, yet these cuts are going to occur anyway. There is an unacceptably high rate of infectious diseases due to overcrowding and lack of potable drinking water in aboriginal communities, yet these cuts are going to be made. There is a 40% cut to the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami health budget and this is going to be unacceptable, as we have heard from the leaders there.

It is unconscionable to cut from the most vulnerable and deprive them of the tools they need to improve their lives, especially given the Prime Minister's moving apology, which in hindsight seems quite the performance.

Health Canada, as federal regulator under the Food and Drugs Act, is responsible for assessing and monitoring the safety and efficacy of drugs marketed in Canada. Just last fall, the Auditor General reported that Health Canada had not adequately fulfilled its responsibility for ensuring the safety and accessibility of prescription drugs, often taking multiple years to assess and respond to pharmaceutical drug safety issues which put the health and safety of Canadians at risk.

The Auditor General said Health Canada does not collect information to assess and make decisions. The Auditor General found that targets could not be met due to lack of resources. But again, Health Canada is being cut $200 million this year. The Auditor General said the transparency of clinical trial information is lacking, even after five years of the Conservative government promising to fix it. Why? Because of lack of resources in the food and drug directorate. Yet this is being cut.

Health Canada has become so inefficient and ineffective that Canadians are becoming more dependent on the United States food and drug administration to flag food and drug safety incidents. The Auditor General found that the department of health has not fulfilled most of its responsibilities for assessing pharmaceutical drugs. Yet there are cuts to this department.

Thirty per cent of the budget of the Canadian federal tobacco control strategy is being cut, yet the strategy has been the cornerstone of Canada's strategy to curb tobacco use. Having the amount of adults who smoke lowered by 10% and 60% among youth is an important thing. Tobacco causes lung cancer, heart disease and vascular disease. Yet at the same time the government is cutting 35% of the tobacco control budget. It will collect $480 million more this year in annual federal tobacco taxes.

The lives of an estimated 37,000 Canadians every year are lost due to stroke, cardiac disease, heart disease and vascular disease. Five million Canadians still smoke. Smoking costs our health care system $4 billion a year in direct health care costs, but the tobacco control budget is being cut.

Overall, unconscionable cuts to health care would put the lives of many Canadians at risk. The government made the choice to do so and to put the lives of these Canadians at risk by cutting essential services in health, environment, food safety, and search and rescue operations while investing $10 billion in jails and $30 billion in F-35 fighter jets.

Some cynics have suggested that investing in jails is the government's solution to mental illness and homelessness, but the role of responsible government is to ensure that even in the most difficult times, Canadians can count on essential services that protect their health and their safety.

No one is being a Pollyanna here. Everyone knows that in different fiscal times cuts have to be made. However, when a government places jets and jails ahead of the health and safety of its citizens, it can be accused of incompetence. When a government ignores the evidence of the Ontario government's experience with loss of life in Walkerton and its own experience with the listeriosis outbreak, that incompetence becomes callousness. It can be justly accused of playing politics with Canadians' lives.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have been speaking a lot today about food safety.

While I support the motion, I do it primarily because I am familiar with the cuts to environmental protection and what that will mean for Canada in the future.

I am curious about the member's view of the Weatherill report. I found it interesting in the Weatherill report that her initial conclusion and the climate in which she made her decisions about the listeriosis outbreak was that we live in a world in which large-scale manufacturing and single plants are more likely. By their very nature, producing cold cuts in large-scale factories such as Maple Leaf Foods as opposed to lots of small facilities that support local farming communities was inherently more dangerous than the smaller local producers.

Does my hon. friend have any comments on the benefits of local agriculture as opposed to large, concentrated industrial facilities?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, we all want to support small farms, small businesses and small manufacturing enterprises. After all, these are the people who produce about 65% of the jobs in our country.

However, it does not really matter whether it is a very small enterprise or a very large enterprise, there must be inspection of the sanitary surroundings, whether people are taking the due precautions in terms of washing their hands, wearing gloves, wearing hairnets, wearing masks, and that the food itself is tested before it is packaged and it leaves the store and goes on to the shelf.

This is the only way that Canadians, especially Canadians who are compromised because of their health and chronic disease, who have Crohn's disease and who have other problems, know the food they eat is safe.

That is why Canadians pay taxes.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech on a topic that appears to worry everyone, because the members on the other side spend all their time making decisions without properly consulting the public about issues as important as this one.

We get that feeling over and over. For instance, there was the pharmacy crisis with the closing of the Sandoz plant. Does the hon. member not agree that the government employs a kind of magical thinking regarding self-regulation by companies that are expected to audit their own operations and decide whether everything is in order?

In the pharmaceutical crisis, we saw that the market does not regulate itself all on its own, and that government intervention is necessary. Does she not see a parallel here, regarding the Conservative government's short-term vision?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we see is a bunch of trained seals who stand and clap every time someone speaks across the way and who parrot everything they are told.

However, the way the cuts have been made, 100 inspectors out of the food inspection program when it has already, as a result of lack of resources, as Justice O'Connor said, caused a listeriosis outbreak, what happens?

Canadians are not fools. The government continues to say, “trust us”, when its track record is so terrible, including the F-35 and not telling the truth about that in the House, including assuring people things will be fine and they are not. We have seen E. coli, listeriosis, salmonella in food because of a lack of resources in food safety.

It is okay for the government to say, “trust me”, but I do not think anybody does anymore.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak to the opposition day motion put forward by the Liberals.

Clearly, when we look at this most recent budget and the associated legislation from the government, the Conservatives have proposed drastic cuts to essential services and legislation that protects Canadian citizens, including cuts to Canada's food safety infrastructure, public health, environmental protection and public safety. Conservatives argue that money will be saved by finding efficiencies and deny that the drastic measures they proposed to take will put the health and safety of Canadians at risk.

I find it impossible to understand how the government can cut an entity like a search and rescue facility and not see the danger inherent in that. In fact, if we look at the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, the 12 employees there and the number of lives that have been saved as a result of their work, and we are talking about 600 lives saved annually as a result of the work that has been done, where they have helped take part in rescue missions, how can the government not understand or see that by cutting the maritime rescue sub-centre and the service it provides that lives will be lost? That is what is so serious about this.

We have both a maritime rescue sub-centre in Quebec and one in Newfoundland and Labrador, in St. John's. The Quebec sub-centre has been given a one year reprieve. It has to do with the language issue, and that is perfectly understandable. In fact, it is not a reprieve it needs; it needs to ensure that the centre does not close at all. The same is true for St. John's.

We can point to example after example of where lives have been saved. People will give sworn testimony that if it were not for the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, their lives would have been lost. That is what is so fearful here. The government suggests it will save a million dollars by closing down the sub-centre in St. John's, making it part of the joint rescue centre in Halifax and the one in Trenton. Talk about putting a price on lives. That is what is so serious about this.

The centres should not be closing. What I do not understand is the Auditor General will report in the spring of 2013 on search and rescue. Why is the government at this point in time moving ahead? Why is it not waiting until we get the report from the Auditor General, an independent party, someone who is going to look at this from a non-partisan view? We should be getting his recommendation with respect to search and rescue, instead of taking the chance that by closing down life-saving centres, like the maritime rescue sub-centres in both Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, we end up with the possible loss of lives.

No matter who we talk to it is not conceivable that there will not be loss of lives because we know how dangerous it is to work on the ocean. We know how volatile conditions can be in Newfoundland and Labrador when working out on the ocean. This does not just apply to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. This applies to people who work in the offshore industry who are from all parts of the world. This applies to people who travel on Marine Atlantic who are from all parts of the world. This applies to people in the fishery. It applies to anyone who is on an ocean going vessel who is trading products from other parts of the world. It is not just a Newfoundland and Labrador issue. This issue impacts all Canadians, but it also impacts people in other parts of the world.

This is one aspect of what is so serious about the cuts that the government is making to essential services.

Then we look at what is happening with respect to the hosing down of the vehicles in Port aux Basques and in Argentia. Again, these are both ports in Newfoundland. The vehicles need to be hosed down because the soil in Newfoundland is contaminated. It has what is called the potato wart and it has potato cyst nematode. The problem we have is if that contaminated soil leaves Newfoundland and Labrador, it could ruin the potato crops in Prince Edward Island and in New Brunswick. This is something that no one wants to see happen.

We had an incident several years ago where that very thing happened. Because the contaminated soil got to P.E.I., the U.S. stopped importing potatoes from P.E.I. for a period of time. We do not need to see this happen. We are talking a multi-billion dollar industry. For the sake of what? How much money is the government saving by refusing to continue to do the hosing down of these vehicles?

Interestingly enough, the government has said that it is still going to continue, but it is not going to take responsibility for it. Who has responsibility for the safety of the food that Canadians consume and other people consumer if it is not the federal government?

It is saying that, yes, the vehicles will have to continue to be hosed down, and a power hose is used to do this. They are inspected and hosed down to ensure that the contaminated soil does not leave Newfoundland and Labrador. However, if the government is going to stop taking responsibility for that, whose responsibility does it then become? The government has made reference to the private sector.

I am sorry, but I would like to think that governments would take responsibility for food, not leaving it to the private sector, in terms of the safety of the food that we are eating.

We have a handful of jobs. We have four jobs in Port aux Basques and two in Argentia, and the government has said that it is sorry, but that those jobs will not continue to exist because it does not need them anymore.

I do not understand how the government can possibly look at this and consider it a cost savings, something that it needs to do or anything of the magnitude that it needs to deal with its deficit. There are so many other measures that it could take, in fact, especially when we look at the building of megaprisons and this whole idea of giving corporations of tax breaks.

There is a time for everything, if the government is going to give wealthy corporations a tax break. There is nothing wrong with profit, but at the end of the day, there is a time to do it and how much. This is not the time to do it, especially if, on the other hand, the government has to cut jobs like those at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, those jobs that are so important. These are in rural communities, by the way. Port aux Basques and Argentia are two rural communities. Do members know how important that handful of jobs are in those rural communities? It would the same as if we were talking about 1,000 jobs in a larger community. These are well-paying jobs that need to stay in those communities for the very reason that it ensures the safety of the food Canadians will eat.

When the budget was brought in, the government talked about the 19,200 jobs that would be lost and said that maybe 7,000 or 8,000 would be through attrition. That still means about 13,000 jobs will be cut. If the government is going to cut that many jobs, it is going to impact services, there is no doubt about it, and it is going to impact essential services.

To suggest that the majority of those jobs would be cut from the centre, for example, from Ottawa, is foolhardy. We know differently. Newfoundland and Labrador is today seeing jobs being cut, not just from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, not just from the maritime rescue sub-centre, but also from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Let me give an example. Fishers need to renew their licence. A lot of these fishers do not own computers. A lot of these fishers do not even know how to access the Internet. What do they do? They go in to the rural offices where there is someone at the counter, it is a counter-front service, who will take their money, help them apply for their licence and off they go. It is easy. It is a service among the services that the front-line individual provides.

However, the government is saying that they have to go online, that it will not provide that service anymore. A service, one job in a rural community, again, is very important to that rural community, but is also very important to the people who avail themselves of that service.

We are seeing cuts to Service Canada and cuts to Environment Canada. Everywhere we look we are seeing cuts all in the name of dealing with a deficit that was brought on by the government when it knew better. Now Canadians are having to pay the price.