House of Commons Hansard #131 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was changes.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

No. The time allocated for the business of supply today ended at 5:15. The vote was deferred by a motion made a little while ago rather than at this time. If the clock is not seen at 5:30, then we suspend.

Is there consent to see the clock at 5:30?

Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from April 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-313, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (non-corrective contact lenses), be read the third time and passed.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I continue to support Bill C-313 from the member for Sarnia—Lambton. Bill C-313 has received support from all parties.

As we all know, the bill is aimed to classify non-corrective contact lenses according to subrule 2(1) of part 1 of schedule I of the Medical Devices Regulations, which states:

Subject to subrules (2) to (4), all invasive devices that penetrate the body through a body orifice or that come into contact with the surface of the eye are classified as Class II.

I also thank the hon. member for being very open to amendments and suggestions at the committee stage of the bill. In fact, there was an amendment that very much improved her bill, which was that it would be best to classify the non-corrective contact lenses as a device under the Food and Drugs Act as opposed to a medical device. The member agreed to that.

I want congratulate the member and her bill has the support of the Liberal Party because we believe in sound, evidence-based policy, and this bill would do exactly that. I thank the member for continuing to pursue this. I look forward to its passage.

I had hoped that it would have been in the budget but, alas, that was too much to hope for.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and not only speak to Bill C-313 but also to offer the support of the official opposition, the New Democratic Party, to the proposed legislation.

This enactment will amend the Food and Drugs Act to deem that a non-corrective cosmetic contact lens is a medical device for the purposes of the act. This enactment will ensure that non-corrective contact lenses are subject to the requirements of the Food and Drugs Act and the medical devices regulations.

Corrective contact lenses are classified and regulated as medical devices under the Food and Drugs Act and are regulated as class II medical devices by Health Canada. Despite the fact that the health risks are identical to corrective lenses, cosmetic or non-corrective contact lenses are not classified as medical devices and are not regulated by Health Canada. In other words, under federal and provincial law, it currently is permissible to sell cosmetic lenses in any retail establishment without a prescription.

There is, however, an abundance of evidence and research concerning the potential dangers of using cosmetic contact lenses improperly and without professional involvement.

Bill C-313 would amend the Food and Drugs Act to classify cosmetic contact lenses as class II medical devices, the same category as regular corrective lenses. This is a first step that would require all cosmetic lenses sold in Canada to be licensed through Health Canada and for distributors of the products to require a medical device establishment licence.

The bill, however, would only be the start of regulations of cosmetic contact lenses. Prescribing and dispensing regulations are provincially controlled. The next step would be for the provinces to also change their regulations to treat cosmetic lenses the same as corrective lenses.

The hope is that the passage of this bill will bring the issue to the attention of provincial health ministers, and it is essential for governments to establish a firm timetable for achieving effective regulations of these devices.

By way of background, what are cosmetic contact lenses? These are lenses that are usually used to change the colour and/or appearance of eyes. They have become increasingly popular, being marketed as fashion or Halloween accessories, at beauty salons, novelty shops, flea markets, convenience stores and through online businesses.

While it is difficult to estimate the exact size of the cosmetic contact lens market in Canada, all available indicators point to a growing market in recent years. It is also mostly young people, who are often less informed and more prone to taking risks, who are wearing cosmetic contact lenses more frequently.

There is no essential difference between cosmetic contact lenses and corrective lenses because both are inserted in and interact with the eye. Moreover, some cosmetic lenses cover a larger portion of the eye, known as the sclera lens, and do not have the same oxygen permeability as corrective lenses and may be more dangerous.

Cosmetic lenses can be worn safely, just as is the case for corrective lenses, provided they are appropriately prescribed and dispensed by a licensed professional. However, problems arise when they are not suited for the particular purchaser or are an improper size and are not fitted correctly. Each eye has its own unique shape and curvature. Also, if they are of questionable quality from an unknown supplier, they can be dangerous.

It is often the case that critical information and proper instructions are not provided to consumers concerning how to use the lenses safety, for instance, concerning insertion, removal and cleaning. Again, it is mostly youth, who are more prone to taking risks, who are wearing these devises and risking damage to their eyes.

Although cosmetic lenses appear harmless, serious eye injuries can occur, as an allergic reaction, bacterial infection, swelling or inflammation of the cornea may result. In serious cases, ulceration or scratches of the cornea, impaired vision and even blindness or eye loss can be the result. Some of this damage can occur in as little as 24 hours, can be difficult to treat or there can be permanent damage caused. The risk of potential harm for any type of contact lenses has already been proven.

There is an abundance of evidence and research concerning the dangers of using cosmetic contact lenses improperly and without professional involvement. By way of international comparison, until 2005, the U.S. also exempted cosmetic contact lenses from regulation under its food and drugs act. At the urging of eye care professionals, of course, a bill was passed to ensure that all contact lenses, corrective or cosmetic, are regulated as medical devices within the United States.

Now, according to the FDA in the United States, it is against the law in the U.S. to sell cosmetic contact lenses without a valid prescription or note from an eye doctor.

In October 2000, Health Canada issued a health warning about cosmetic lenses because of their being obtainable without a prescription, being improperly fitted and not being subject to health assessment as corrective lenses. It highlighted the risks and potential for injury associated with cosmetic lenses and recommended that they only be used under the supervision of an eye care professional.

In September 2003, Health Canada commissioned a third party risk assessment, entitled “Human Health Risk Assessment of Cosmetic Contact Lens”. In it, it concluded that the available evidence suggests “that the level of risk associated with the use of cosmetic contact lenses is comparable to that associated with corrective lenses and may be potentially higher”.

Given these risks, it recommended that cosmetic contact lenses be regulated by Health Canada and that they require a prescription for their use and that their sale be restricted to regulated health professionals.

In March 2008 a motion passed unanimously in the House called for the development of a regulation that cosmetic contact lenses be regulated as medical devices under the FDA or the Hazardous Products Act. It received all-party support and was passed unanimously.

After the motion, the government incorporated the motion's recommendation into one of its omnibus health bills, Bill C-51, as it was known then. Unfortunately, that legislation died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued.

The NDP believes that the vision health of Canadians should be protected and that this is a simple measure that would help reduce the incidence of eye injuries. As both types of lenses have the same set of health risks, the regulations for cosmetic contact lenses must be the same as those for corrective contact lenses.

This bill addresses an issue that optical health professionals have called on the government to fix for years. It has taken a Conservative member of Parliament, to her credit, independently suggesting regulations for cosmetic contact lenses to bring this issue to the government's attention. It is regrettable that it requires a private member's bill. This is something that should be implemented by the government immediately. The NDP recognizes that this is an important first step for the federal government to take to finally establish an effective regulatory regime for cosmetic contact lenses.

There is broad, unanimous and widespread support for this measure in the stakeholder community. The Canadian Association of Optometrists, the Canadian Ophthalmological Society and the Opticians Association of Canada all have been publicizing the risks associated with this product and asking Health Canada to regulate them under the Food and Drugs Act.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists, talking about people's eyesight and, in most cases, young people's eyesight, stated:

There are daily news stories from around the world about the complications that can arise due to ill-fitting cosmetic lenses or improper use and handling. It is an important vision health issue and the optometrists, opticians and ophthalmologists of Canada are asking for unanimous support from the House, Senate and Health Canada to adopt this amendment and enact it with haste.

There has been increasing activity in Europe, Asia and, as I said, North America by associations calling for exactly that.

According to key facts and figures, it has been estimated that the rate of injury and complications for this use is around 1% of all users. This is an alarming rate, considering the number of contact lenses in use. Recent studies in France and by the FDA in the United States make it clear that this is a potentially dangerous object that should be regulated.

Finally, these regulations are to protect Canadians' vision health, especially in young people, who may not appreciate the consequences and risks associated with cosmetic contact lenses.

One of the first responsibilities of government should be to protect Canadians from potentially dangerous products. This bill would ensure that corrective and cosmetic contact lenses would have the same protection from the same health risks and would be regulated in the same way by government. This bill is a simple measure that would help prevent eye injuries in Canada, and the New Democrats are proud to support this logical, reasonable measure that is long overdue.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand here this evening as we go through the final second hour of third reading of my private member's Bill C-313.

This has been a fairly long process. It started back in 2007 with the introduction of my private member's motion, which as the member across has alluded to, was passed unanimously but then died on the order paper. It is greatly gratifying to see that the bill has reached this stage.

I want to thank the members who have spoken not only tonight in favour of this bill but all the way through this process. Whether it was through second reading or whether it was at committee stage, there has been wonderful support for the bill. All members and all parties have shown support, and I thank them for that.

There has been support through two ministers of health, as well, and Health Canada. The bill has been very well supported.

The industry has been 100% supportive. I have received a great deal of assistance from it in getting the correct medical facts. I have received wonderful support from everybody involved.

We know that this bill would help improve and protect the eye health of Canadians, as has been said in many cases, affecting our young people more than others.

I am pleased to see the bill at this stage. I look forward to its being passed through the House and sent on to the other place.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

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

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Food and Drugs Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Housing
Adjournment Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, before the budget was tabled, I asked the minister what she intended to do when a number of financial agreements between the federal government and housing co-ops and non-profit housing organizations expire.

She replied that the government was making investments in new social housing, including renovations for 21,000 seniors and 415 projects for persons with disabilities. However, I have still not been given an answer about existing social housing.

Almost all social housing built before 1994 was covered by long-term financial agreements with the federal government. These subsidies ensure that low-income renters can pay rent that is geared to income. With the expiry of these agreements, many renters will suffer because their rents will double or even triple.

There is nothing for social housing, nothing for affordable housing and nothing for the renewal of operating agreements for housing co-operatives and non--profit housing organizations in the 2012 budget or the famous Bill C-38, which is a real Trojan Horse.

There is nothing to help the more than 1.5 million households, or 13% of all Canadian households, that have core housing needs or that do not have access to decent housing that they can afford. The 21,000 people who received help from the government represent just 1.4% of all households that do not have access to affordable housing.

I have a hard time believing the government when it says it is investing in social housing. What is more, the budget makes no mention of social programs, including homelessness and housing, although there is a real need.

The City of Montreal, the Union des municipalities du Québec and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities all made requests of this budget, but all those requests were ignored. Unfortunately, there is still no long-term investment plan for housing. A petition was tabled in the House of Commons two weeks ago calling on the federal government to provide the necessary funding to renovate, improve and modernize all social housing.

I would like to know why the federal government did not allocate any funding to social housing in its budget, in order to help renters affected by the end of these subsidies. At the same time, I would also like to respond to the parliamentary secretary's question about why the opposition never supports the government's initiatives in the area of social housing.

I would answer that it is impossible for us to support initiatives that will help only 21,000 people, when there are over 1.5 million households that need assistance. Conversely, why does the government present initiatives that do not meet the needs of more Canadians?

Housing
Adjournment Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot for asking the question to explain the government's approach to affordable Housing.

Hon. members on this side of the House are deeply committed to ensuring that Canadians have access to affordable housing. We have backed up this commitment by supporting unprecedented investments in this area. As I've noted previously in this House, the government believes that everyone in Canada deserves a stable, safe and affordable place to call home. We recognize that not everyone can achieve this on his or her own, which is why our government, the provinces and territories and other stakeholders have looked to address the housing needs of some of Canada's most vulnerable citizens.

Canada's economic action plan delivered on more than 14,000 projects for vulnerable individuals including low-income seniors, people with disabilities and first nations people living on reserve.

Our track record is very impressive. Since 2006, our government has invested approximately $12.5 billion in housing. This funding has helped support households living in existing social housing, create new affordable housing and revitalize the stock of social housing for future generations.

The hon. member is particularly concerned that some long-term agreements with social housing are expiring. This is the normal course of business. These agreements that are expiring were put in place many years ago and are ending on schedule as the mortgages on housing projects are paid off. Many other long-term operating agreements are ongoing and will remain in place for the next number of years.

As the hon. member knows, the federal-provincial-territorial working group has been created to examine the financial liability of the existing social housing stock as these agreements expire. In the meantime, our government continues to spend $1.7 billion a year to ensure that almost 615,000 households living in existing social housing can continue to afford their homes.

Furthermore, through Canada's economic action plan, our government invested $1 billion over two years for the renovation and retrofit of existing social housing. In addition, through bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories, a combined investment of $1.4 billion is being made under the new investments and affordable housing framework to continue to reduce the number of Canadians living in housing need. I am pleased to say that the agreements have been signed in every province and territory.

Under these agreements, federal funding is matched by the provinces and territories that, with the exception of P.E.I. and the Yukon which have opted to extend their previous agreements with CMHC, are responsible for program design and delivery in their jurisdictions.

In addition, I want to emphasize that we will continue to invest heavily in housing. This year, through CMHC, the Government of Canada will invest approximately $2 billion in housing.

I will say again that our government has made record investments in housing programs over the past number of years. Unfortunately, the NDP has voted against every one of these initiatives.

Housing
Adjournment Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, given the government's track record of distancing itself from housing issues, I am surprised to hear my colleague say that the government cares about access to housing. That is definitely not the case right now.

As I said before and will say again, 1.5 million Canadian households have an urgent need for housing. These people are living in housing that is unsanitary, too expensive or too small for their families. There are also between 150,000 and 300,000 homeless people in Canada right now.

I do not think that ending subsidies will solve these problems. Rather, it will lengthen the list of people who need better housing, and more people will end up homeless.

Why is the government offloading responsibility for social housing onto the provinces?

Housing
Adjournment Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do find it a bit rich that NDP members continue to demand funding for social housing when their voting record is crystal clear. Every time, they vote against the greatest investments that we have made in social housing in our nation's history.

Again, I would like to draw the hon. member's attention to our record on affordable housing.

Since 2006, our government has invested an estimated $12.5 billion in housing. This funding has benefited low-income Canadians and the communities they live in across the country. There were 97,000 renovation projects and 21,000 seniors have benefited from improvement in their housing. There were 430 projects that helped Canadians with disabilities. This year alone, the government will spend more than $2 billion on housing, which includes $1.7 billion in subsidies to support 615,000 households living in existing social housing on and off reserve.

As members can see, our government is working hard to ensure Canadians across the country have access to safe, suitable, affordable housing.

I encourage members opposite to support these initiatives that support those Canadians in need of housing.