House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was changes.

Topics

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

June 18th, 2012 / 8:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, following up on my colleague's question, with all the committee hearings and all the debate in this place, could the member tell us why there was not one good idea they heard, not one single amendment that the government put forward in terms of how this bill would affect those people who came before you to testify? And why, including the Speaker's riding, were members of your caucus not listened to in terms of the devastating changes to the ridings bordering on the Trent-Severn and what a shortened year and shortened day would mean in each of those towns that only has one economic development? That is their lock.

You think you consulted, but consulting is sending—

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I would remind hon. members to direct questions through the Chair.

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that many good ideas were taken. I know that because I received feedback from the Department of Finance that it received some of my ideas and implemented them in the budget. So what could be better than that for me? Clearly, they had some great ideas.

However, I assure the member that we heard, loud and clear, from the Liberal Party in Alberta. I mentioned the national energy program which shut down every business in Fort McMurray, except for probably two. We listened, loud and clear, and that is why we will never vote for a Liberal government again. That is why it is in third place and that is where it is going to remain for a long time if it is able to hold onto that particular place.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member from beautiful Fort McMurray to expand on some of the changes that have happened in the oil sands that are largely because our government committed to a cleaner, more environmentally friendly development of our natural resources. Could he enlighten us on what has been happening over the last four or five years? Have there been any dramatic changes in the oil sands?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is a bit outside of the topic, but I assure the member that I am proud to say there have been some tremendous changes.

I talked to an aboriginal chief from northern Alberta two days ago about some of the changes that have taken place in northern Alberta, including more air and water monitoring and initiatives by the federal government in co-operation with the provincial government.

One thing that I am proud of is this. In 1967 when I moved to Fort McMurray it had what was called tailings pond number one. Many people over the last 35 to 40 years said that could not be cleaned up. Well it is cleaned up today. Suncor Energy has done a tremendous job in environmental performance. It has done a tremendous job with the community. In fact, I would suggest the oil sands companies that are currently in Alberta and northern Alberta spend more money per capita for environmental integrity than anywhere else on the planet. That is the truth and I stick with that.

As far as what is happening in the oil sands regarding employment insurance, though, we clearly need more workers. We need more people to take those great jobs With the highest household income in the country of $185,000, I am proud to say that Canada's economy is created in Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca for sharing his time with me today. I look forward to visiting his riding this summer, and seeing the resource development of the oil sands and the great things that are happening in Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

It is a pleasure to rise and speak at third reading in favour of Bill C-38, jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act, and the many economic action plan 2012 initiatives that it enacts.

In particular I want to highlight how today's bill reduces pointless bureaucratic red tape to help jump-start Canada's economy. I should note that the measures I will speak to today flow from the work of the Red Tape Reduction Commission.

For over five decades, the Food and Drugs Act has served to protect the health and safety of Canadians by providing them with one of the safest and most rigorous food and drug regulation systems in the world. It has served us well, and continues to serve us well. However, it is reasonable that in over 50 years certain aspects of that act may need to be updated from time to time, especially those that do nothing but harm Canada's economy.

Before I begin, let me clearly state that the changes to the Food and Drugs Act proposed in Bill C-38 do not change the scientific assessment process in any way. I repeat, we are maintaining the current high standards of the act.

What we are targeting is the pointless, antiquated and often times bizarre red tape that presented itself after the scientific assessments were completed, red tape that increased the regulatory burden and creating lengthy delays for businesses to get approved food and drug products to consumers.

At present, once a scientific assessment is completed and a food safety decision is made by the experts at Health Canada, be it concerning the safety of a new food additive, setting the limit for a chemical contaminant or approving a new health claim for food, it can take years to circumvent the red tape required to implement that decision. These delays, between decision and implementation, can impede the entry of safe new food products to the marketplace. This disadvantages Canadian businesses and workers by harming the food and consumer manufacturing sector of the Canadian economy that employs 300,000 Canadians, the largest employer in the manufacturing sector in every region of our country.

It can also limit Health Canada's ability to protect the health and safety of Canadians. For example, under the current system, Health Canada determined that a food additive used to combat harmful bacteria in certain processed meats was safe, but it took 36 months for the required regulatory change to enable the use of this product in Canada.

The targeted amendments to the Food and Drugs Act would eliminate these types of delays. They would improve Health Canada's ability to protect the health and safety of Canadians while cutting red tape. More specifically, these amendments include new authorities that would shorten the time it takes for safe food products to be put on the Canadian market.

Streamlining the regulatory process would significantly reduce the approval time for food additives. These new regulatory tools are marketing authorizations and incorporation by reference. I should note that these amendments have received widespread support.

Food and Consumer Products of Canada has voiced its strong support, saying:

This legislation will give Canadians access to the new and innovative products they are demanding, protect product safety and help our manufacturing sector grow.... We strongly support the federal government's move to address these regulatory delays. [This] will bring Canadians more of the products they have been asking for, support innovation and jobs in our sector, and uphold Canada's exemplary safety standards.

The Retail Council of Canada has also added its voice of support, saying:

These amendments will reduce delays and red tape while maintaining the highest level of food safety in Canada...

...in the past, Health Canada would have to seek a regulatory amendment each time a new use was requested for a food additive that the department had already deemed to be safe; this process could take years. Now, the same process will take a matter of just a few months allowing industry to keep pace with growing and changing demands from consumers...

They also demonstrate the government's ongoing commitment to do away with red tape.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association has also noted that the changes “support efforts to reduce regulation and simplify the process by which new products can come to market”.

Bill C-38 also proposes amendments to reduce the regulatory burden associated with managing Canadians' access to safe, approved drugs. These changes would give Canadians a more responsive drug safety system. As the Red Tape Reduction Commission reported, the current process is burdensome.

Let me take a minute to illustrate exactly what these amendments would and would not do. Currently, for instance, once Health Canada scientists make a decision, the process used to make a simple regulatory change to remove a drug from Schedule F of the Food and Drug Regulations can take years. Implementing a decision to change a drug status from prescription to over-the-counter can be delayed by as much as 24 months after the scientific review. What does this delay between decision and implementation mean? It means a great deal to Canadians and their health care system. Delaying timely access to effective and affordable treatments costs the health care system money. It also costs Canadians.

Under the current system, they must continue to take time off work, go see their doctors, get written prescriptions and then fill them at the pharmacy long after Health Canada's scientists have determined that a particular drug is safe and effective for over-the-counter use. I should note that the science used to assign prescription status would not change at all. As is the case today, the scientific criteria, together with the new process for making changes to the web-based list, would continue to be regulated.

Without a doubt, this portion of Bill C-38 would help replace costly and outdated red tape around drug prescription status. In the words of Consumer Health Products Canada:

Without changing the scientific review process, this measure will eliminate the 12-18 month regulatory delay that currently holds up access to new over-the-counter medicines after Health Canada approval. These consumer health products reduce consumer costs and have been shown to save provincial health care systems money...and this measure will quicken access to those savings.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage all members of the House to support Bill C-38 and its measures to reduce red tape and grow the economy while advantaging Canadian consumers.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will advise my hon. colleague that I will not be supporting Bill C-38. Liberals have a great concern about what is taking place. For example, Bill C-38 would tear the EI program to pieces. A lot of people would have to work for 70% of their salaries. It would make changes to the Fisheries Act. Over the years, when there were changes to the Fisheries Act, it was always felt that members had to go from coast to coast to talk to fisheries groups in order to find out what they felt should be changed in the Fisheries Act.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would comment on why there was no consultation on the east coast or the west coast of people who are involved with the fishery and the EI program. Why did the government unilaterally decide on what was going to take place? Does my hon. colleague realize the enormous hardship that it is going to create among people?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, economic action plan 2012 is geared to jobs, economic growth and prosperity for all Canadians. With regard to consultation, the finance committee and subcommittee that were formed spent over 70 hours in consultation with Canadians from industry and consumer groups right across the spectrum. They spent more time than any consultation process in the past 20 years for any economic bill of this nature. Quite frankly, the consultation process has been thorough and extremely fair.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech about expediting the approval of medicines or pharmaceutical drugs in the country. I have a friend who just received her Ph.D. at Dalhousie University, lauded as the best Ph.D. of the year. Her analysis was the input of the public into the review of drugs for breast cancer and the difference in the end analysis when organizations were given the opportunity to have input or not. We need merely refer to the issue of Oxycontin and the disaster that resulted when there was no proper review of what its implications might be given the form in which that medicine was allowed to be released.

I am giving the member the opportunity to rethink whether or not it makes sense to always short-circuit and fast-track the approval of drugs.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. There has to be serious consultation and consideration in every one of these cases. Short-circuiting for the sake of short-circuiting is not the answer.

The Red Tape Reduction Commission reviewed a number of avenues by which redundancy occurred and impeded the development or the sale of products over the counter in the health care system. My understanding is that the commission achieved a reduction in redundant costs and redundant steps in processes that keep the appropriate medications from getting to market on time and on budget.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the government member talk about the scope of the consultations that took place. It is not the first time I hear this. They talk about 70 hours in committee. That is 50 hours at the Standing Committee on Finance and 20 hours at the subcommittee.

However, we have to keep in mind that some 70 acts were either added, abolished or amended. If we had followed the usual process and spent about five hours in committee to review each piece of legislation—usually, it is much more than five hours—the various committees would have spent 350 hours reviewing the scope of these changes.

I wonder if the member for Don Valley West could elaborate on this. Does he not agree that 70 hours to review this bill is much less than the minimum of 350 hours that would have been required to review these changes in an appropriate fashion?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government did its job in recruiting consultation and input on the bill, whether it was through the Red Tape Reduction Commission or the hours of study that went into the consultation process. Finance committee and a special subcommittee studied this bill for nearly 70 hours. That is the longest consideration of budget legislation in committee in decades and likely ever.

It is one thing to try to extrapolate an arbitrary number. The reality is that 70 hours of consultation went into the bill. There were 70 hours of solid input. This government has done an exceptional job in bringing the right bill to the House.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, my question is regarding the changes to OAS. This is an area which will affect all seniors across Canada when the time comes. Seniors and soon-to-be seniors from across our country, as well as organizations such as CARP and others have spoken out.

How does my colleague respond to the concerns of his own constituents? How can he stand up for what his government is doing when it comes to cutting back on the dignity of seniors across Canada?

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

Conservative

John Carmichael Don Valley West, ON

Madam Speaker, I have had the opportunity to hold quite a number of sessions with seniors in my riding to discuss this issue. Seniors hear our news. They talk to their friends. They hear the information that is coming from the other side and they become terrified that their economic security is going to go away. That is not the case. That is not what--

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity Act
Government Orders

9 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but his time has elapsed.

The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas.