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 cuts.

Topics

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

4:35 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that my colleague spoke so passionately about the budget, but I would like to ask her how her party failed, profoundly, to provide any meaningful climate change action while in government? While her party was in government, greenhouse gas emissions rose by 30%.

We are hearing a lot of rhetoric today about environmental protection. Could the member please explain that dichotomy?

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

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the issue we are dealing with here impacts a number of fronts, including the environment.

All we need do is listen to the Minister of the Environment and the parliamentary secretary to know that what we did was way and above what the government is doing with respect to the environment and the measures that were put in place.

The reality of the situation is that the government is doing absolutely nothing. It has the worst record so far in terms of any government when it comes to the environment. We see jobs being cut. We see scientists being muzzled. The reality is that, as far as the government is concerned, there is nothing to worry about in terms of the environment.

The government should talk to the scientists and the environmentalists, the very people the government is trying to muzzle, and it will hear first-hand how important it is that we pay attention to the environment.

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

April 30th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague what she thinks of the government's decision to scale back environmental processes.

I do not see how the government can scale back environmental processes and expedite them without missing information. If there are 100 criteria to assess as part of an environmental impact assessment, and the government decides to speed things up, there are two ways to do that: either increase the number of people doing the assessments or assess fewer criteria.

Take airplanes, for example. If 100 points must be inspected to assess the condition of a plane, and inspectors decide not to inspect 50 of those points, then the plane crashes, maybe the problem was with one of the 50 points not inspected.

I think it is dangerous to apply that logic to the environment. What does my colleague think?

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

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I think it is common sense. If the government is going to talk about a regulatory process, whether it is with the environment or some other aspect of society, the reality is that if it is inconclusive, if it is not all-encompassing, something will get left out.

When the government is trying to shortchange or shorten a process, something will get overlooked. What is what is so fearful is that we have a government that is quite prepared to shortchange this, to cut corners in order to move things through quickly without any respect or consideration for the environment. Instead, it responds to big business and oil companies when, in reality, we should be working hand in hand.

Everybody should recognize the importance of ensuring we have a comprehensive environmental process that can work hand in hand with the businesses that are concerned and certainly with Canadians.

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

4:40 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, we have heard speaker after speaker from the Liberal Party talk about all the great things they have done.

The reality is that the Liberals had 13 years in government and accomplished absolutely nothing when it comes to the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions actually increased under the Liberals' watch. They signed the Kyoto protocol but then admitted that they never had any intention of actually implementing it. They just thought it might be a good policy thing to win some votes for them.

On this side of the House, of course, we have invested in parks. A beautiful new park in my riding is coming online, the Rogue Park.

We have invested over a billion dollars in securing our natural heritage around this country, working with our partners, Ducks Unlimited for example.

I wonder if the hon. member has actually taken the time to read the budget and look at all the wonderful announcements contained in this budget to help people with jobs and the economy. If the member has done that, will she stand in her place and actually vote with this government, because that is what the Canadian people--

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

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's, a short answer, please.

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

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the member's commentary, there is a lot that could be debated there. The reality is that I cannot get passed the negativity in the budget in terms of the cuts to see anything positive worth talking about. Jobs are being lost, essential services are being cut and it is the government that is doing it.

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

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Pensions; the hon. member for Davenport, Housing; the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Pensions.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Barrie.

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

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the distinguished member for Calgary Centre-North who tells me that her home is referred to as awesomeness.

I am glad to rise in the House today to join my colleagues in this important debate. I am here to speak to what our government is doing to ensure that first nations and Inuit receive the nutrition they need to lead healthy lives.

We recognize the link between access to healthy food and the promotion of health, well-being and the prevention of chronic disease. One of the reasons we are modernizing our food regulations is to keep up with the needs of Canadians. The changes put forward will not only help our government maintain a high level of scientific rigour but they will allow decisions to be implemented faster, cutting red tape and delays for the approval process in providing Canadians with safe products. They will help our government respond more quickly to the pace of change in science and innovation and play its role in continuing to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

These changes will not just help all in Canada but will specifically be of benefit to first nations people and Inuit. We are making strategic investments to promote nutrition and improved access to healthy foods in first nations and Inuit communities.

Food security is linked to a variety of factors, and meeting these challenges requires the contributions of multiple sectors working together. Our government is working with aboriginal partners, provincial and territorial governments, and other sectors to look at how to best address these factors and help improve food security.

With an annual investment of $60 million, the nutrition north Canada program is one response to the complex issues facing the challenge of healthier foods for northerners. The program provides a retail subsidy that helps northerners living in isolated communities access healthy food at lower cost. The program focuses the subsidy on perishable healthy foods that have to be flown into isolated northern communities all year round.

I remember two years ago when the health committee, of which I am a member, toured Nunavut and looked at some of the health challenges. The cost of perishable goods was enormous in some of these isolated northern communities. Obviously, this is something the federal government assists with and it is a very important issue that we are addressing.

Preliminary program data demonstrates that nutrition north Canada is supporting improved access to healthier foods for northerners. Between April 1 and September 30, 2011, more than 80% of the subsidy went toward healthy foods, such as produce, milk and dairy products, meat and alternatives, and grain products.

As part of the nutrition north Canada program, Health Canada receives $2.9 million annually to support culturally appropriate retail and community-based nutrition education initiatives. These activities increase the knowledge of healthy living and eating habits, develops skills for selecting and preparing both healthy store-bought foods and country foods, and strengthens retail community partnerships.

Community activities include the promotion of healthy foods, cooking skill classes, school-based projects, in-store taste tests and grocery store tours. Health Canada has also supported communities with planning, training and developing partnerships with local stores and other community partners.

Early success is reported for the nutrition education initiatives 2011-12, which include stronger linkages with local stores, stronger nutrition and healthy eating education, cooking skills development and coordination with other community programs. Over 300 community-based activities were offered in 2011-12 and over 50 community workers were trained.

The nutrition north Canada program also subsidizes country or traditional foods when available through local stores or when bought from processing plants that are registered with the program. Even though this is a first step for nutrition north Canada, it shows that the government recognizes the importance of country foods to the health and well-being of first nations and Inuit.

A healthy way of eating that includes traditional or country food has been associated with lower levels of heart disease and diabetes. These foods contain less fat and sugar than many store-bought foods and contribute important nutrients needed for good health. Other benefits of traditional food include physical activity during harvesting and have cultural and spiritual significance.

Our government also recognizes the importance of quality nutrition in enabling children to reach their fullest developmental and lifetime potential. We are working with first nations leaders, other levels of government, partners and stakeholders to ensure access to high quality health programs that promote a healthy start in life for first nations and Inuit children.

Maternal and child health programs, like those supported by Health Canada, have been shown to have a positive effect on the physical, psychological and social development of all family members.

The aboriginal head start on reserve is one of the programs supporting the healthy growth of approximately 9,000 first nations children and their families living in over 300 first nations communities across Canada by funding community-based early childhood intervention programming that addresses the developmental needs of children from birth to six years of age. Health Canada's aboriginal head start program promotes the health and wellness of first nations children and their families through culture, language, social support, education and parental involvement programming, health promotion and nutrition.

In the aboriginal head start program, children learn how to make healthy food choices through snack programs or meals using Canada's food guide. They may go on field trips with staff, parents and other family members and participate in traditional food-gathering activities.

The maternal child health program supports home visiting by nurses and family visitors for first nation pregnant women and families with young children.

Health Canada is helping to address factors that impact maternal and infant mortality in first nations and Inuit communities by providing information on maternal nutrition and supporting the programs that aim to promote healthier lifestyles and behaviours, such as the reduction of smoking. The program also helps by increasing access to quality prenatal care and regulated birth attendants. The maternal child health program provides a co-ordinated approach to maternal and child health services with strong links to elders, nursing and other community-based programs.

Together with the maternal child program, the Canada prenatal nutrition program is working to improve the adequacy of the diet of prenatal and breastfeeding women; increased access to nutrition information services and resources to eligible women, particularly those at high risk; increased breastfeeding support; and increased knowledge and skill-building opportunities in maternal and infant nutritional health programs among those involved in this program.

The brighter futures program provides funding to first nations and Inuit communities for activities supporting improved physical and mental health, child development, parenting skills and healthy babies. Funding facilitates community-directed and designed programming that addresses local priorities. As such, communities may choose to use the funding to promote linkages among social and health programs, including education, health, child and family, and provincial systems.

With the goal of supporting healthy childhood development and overall mental health, communities may choose to use brighter futures funding to support activities such as in-school breakfast programs, traditional food cooking classes and healthy eating and nutrition workshops.

Through these programs, this government is also supporting the work to address the challenge of childhood obesity. This issue is of particular concern for aboriginal children and youth as rates of obesity are significantly higher among this group than among the general Canadian population, and aboriginal children are becoming obese at a very young age. Obesity is strongly linked to high rates of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. First nations people are three to five times more likely to experience type 2 diabetes than non-aboriginal Canadians.

Since 1999, the aboriginal diabetes initiative's main objective is to reduce type 2 diabetes by supporting health promotion and disease prevention, including healthy eating and active living, through activities and services delivered by trained community health workers and health care providers. More than 600 first nations and Inuit communities have access to health promotion and diabetes prevention activities through the aboriginal diabetes initiative.

I hope I have helped to inform this important discussion today by outlining the efforts and partnerships that our government is undertaking to build healthier first nations and Inuit communities. The issues I have outlined today point to the needs that we as a government must focus on and work together with first nations and Inuit leaders and provincial and territorial partners to support first nations and Inuit communities in having the healthiest lifestyle possible.

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

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his concern about health. We are concerned about the health of all Canadians across Canada but particularly our first nations people. We are concerned about obesity and diabetes.

Nutrition North Canada is helping to provide good-quality foods, the kind they cannot grow in the north, by providing a subsidy to retailers and wholesalers for perishable and nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, milk and eggs.

I am just wondering if my colleague could expand a bit more on what Health Canada is doing to make sure the support for these communities to choose healthier foods is made available.

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

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is wonderful to have a Minister of Health who is a former health minister in Nunavut. She is well aware of some of these challenges, and Health Canada is addressing these with vigour.

In terms of Nutrition North Canada, Health Canada has received $2.9 million annually to support culturally appropriate retail and community-based nutrition education initiatives in 76 fully eligible first nations and Inuit communities to deal with just that. The initiative increases northerners' knowledge of healthy eating and improves their skills in selecting and preparing healthy store-bought and traditional or country foods.

To support retail and community partnerships at the local level, Health Canada is working with retailers who operate in isolated northern communities on initiatives that promote healthy choices within stores that are affordable.

As I mentioned before, I remember being just shocked when I went into a grocery store in Iqaluit at the cost of some of the perishable items. They are sometimes five or ten times the cost it would be in Ottawa or Barrie where I live.

Obviously this is an important program. The $2.9 million is very well used to support this in ensuring that healthy foods are available in these remote communities.

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

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was laughing when you gave me the floor because I had just asked my colleagues if the subject had changed.

The member talked about a number of first nations health policies. That is fantastic, but that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the fact that the government opposite says that Health Canada is a bit like home insurance: you can insure for half the value of the home because there will never be a problem and the house will not burn down.

My question is: what is the member talking about?

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

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, my opposition colleague finished up by talking about insurance and asking how this is relevant to our discussion on the Food and Drugs Act. Obviously the nutrition of Canadians is central to the Food and Drugs Act. The fact that some Canadians are in more vulnerable situations is incredibly relevant. Health Canada has always played a leadership role and under our current Minister of Health has increased its leadership in this area. I am incredibly proud of the work she and this government have done. Nutrition is of critical importance to Health Canada.

We need to ensure we do our best to protect these individuals by providing them with access to healthy food and healthy lifestyles.

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

4:55 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for the extraordinary work he does in his community, especially his local hospital. He has been an incredible champion for his local hospital and for the health care of all the people of Barrie. He was a mentor of mine when I was elected.

I wonder if he might comment on how devastating the unilateral Liberal government cuts of 1995 were on his local hospital and the growing community. That followed five years of NDP government in the province of Ontario where no investments were really made in health care. I wonder if he could reflect on how the two opposition parties have really let down his riding in the past.

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

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, what an appropriate question from such a wonderful MP for Oak Ridges—Markham. Obviously, the cuts to Ontario medical schools during the NDP government in Ontario had a devastating effect across Ontario. We still face doctor shortages today because of it. The 40% slashing to provincial transfers for health had a devastating effect on health systems across the country. I am just so happy that we have a Conservative government in Ottawa that has put a focus on the health of Canadians and done incredible work in enhancing Canada's health care system, not like the slash and burn days with the provincial NDP and federal Liberals.