House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I am rising in the House today to support the motion of the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans. Motion M-319 seeks to find solutions to a serious problem: childhood obesity. The NDP strongly supports this initiative. Obesity rates are skyrocketing and are having a serious impact on the health of Canadian families and on our health care system.

The hon. member has four main points. First, he suggests that the government continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories, health stakeholders, industry and Canadians to promote and maintain healthy weight for children and youth. In short, he is proposing that we continue to talk about childhood obesity.

Second, he recommends that the government encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity, such as social and physical environments, physical activity, as well as the promotion of and access to nutritious food. Once again, he is suggesting that we talk some more.

Third, he recommends that the government encourage individuals and organizations to commit to participating in the promotion of a healthy weight, but he does not suggest any concrete ways of doing this.

Lastly, the motion urges the government to consider the framework for action entitled “Curbing Childhood Obesity” that resulted from the endorsement of the Declaration on Prevention and Promotion by the federal, provincial and territorial health ministers. It calls on all stakeholders to take action to address obesity, particularly in children, promote physical activity and make healthy food choices.

The motion would help increase awareness of this issue among Canadians and would create a dialogue with a view to addressing obesity rates in Canada. This objective is important, but the NDP thinks that we must go further than that.

Furthermore, the NDP has always called for regulations on trans fats in foods, in order to reduce the impact that poor food choices can have on childhood obesity.

In 2004, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre moved a private member's motion to regulate trans fat content in foods. The motion was adopted unanimously, but since then, the government has not followed up with any action. My colleague also introduced Bill C-303, which would limit trans fatty acids. The government has not taken any action since then.

It is critical that we take swift and early action to curb childhood obesity. An obese child is 20% more likely to struggle with weight problems in adulthood. Obese teens are an alarming 80% more likely, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. These numbers are extremely disturbing.

Healthy lifestyle habits must be acquired early on because they are not innate. The best example is enjoyment of physical activity. A child who has active parents and who is encouraged to participate in sports at school will be more likely to maintain those good habits throughout his lifetime.

With all of that in mind, I am worried about how little physical activity kids get in school.

Meaningful steps should be taken to make our environments more conducive to physical activity, to curtail marketing of foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt, and to increase the availability of nutritious foods at reasonable prices.

Childhood obesity affects physical health as well as a child's emotional health and social life. Children with poor self-esteem can be in for a lifelong struggle. We all know how some kids bully others who are different, which can have serious short- and long-term repercussions.

That is why I support my colleague's motion. However, we must go further by calling for meaningful action as soon as possible.

Several reports have made clear recommendations. In 2007, the Standing Committee on Health examined the issue of childhood obesity. I was surprised to see that the recommendations made by that committee were not included in Motion M-319. For instance, in its report entitled “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”, the committee recommends that the federal government establish clear targets to reduce the rate of childhood obesity, suggesting a 2% reduction by 2020.

The report also suggests that the government should present an annual report to Parliament on overall efforts to attain healthy weights for children and on the results achieved. These recommendations were based on evidence from experts in the field, but the member for Ottawa—Orléans chose not to follow their advice.

The provinces have shown that it is possible to take action and really reduce childhood obesity rates. In Alberta, for instance, a program called “Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It!” has really helped reduce children's body mass index and body fat percentages. It has also improved their eating habits, increased their physical activity and improved their confidence and self-esteem.

Nova Scotia has also taken measures to eliminate childhood obesity by establishing a food and nutrition policy for the province's public schools that teaches the students to make healthy food choices and only allows food service in schools that meet specific nutrition criteria.

In Quebec, the organization “Québec en Forme” is working to promote the adoption and maintenance of healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle for Quebec youth from birth to 17 as essential elements of their full development and educational success. To do this, Québec en Forme is present throughout Quebec, to support communities and organizations that promote projects that establish all the necessary conditions to make it fun and easy for young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to move more and eat better on a daily basis.

It is time for the Conservative government to follow the provinces' example and show some leadership. With national standards, such as the Standing Committee on Health report called for, obesity rates could drop across Canada. The motion also calls for dialogue with the industry, but so far the government just bows to industry on matters of health, allowing unhealthy processed foods to go unregulated.

Therefore, I will be supporting the hon. member's initiative, and I hope that the government will follow up with real action soon. It is not enough to talk about the rising rate of childhood obesity; we must do something about it. The time has come. I call on the rest of the Conservative caucus to follow the example of the member for Ottawa—Orléans and address this important issue by introducing a bill that will turn words into action.

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP caucus has decided to vote in favour of Motion M-319, introduced by the member for Ottawa—Orléans, because obesity rates are skyrocketing and they will have a considerable impact on the health of Canadian families and on our health system.

It is important to raise Canadians' awareness of this issue and to create a dialogue that will attack obesity rates in Canada. This is a good initiative and I would like to thank the member for Ottawa—Orléans bringing it forward.

I support the principle of the motion. That being said, and although it is important to make people aware of the impact of childhood obesity, the Conservative government continues to avoid implementing concrete measures that will really attack the problem.

Even worse, some of its new policies, contained in the mammoth Bill C-38, are contrary to this motion. It seems that the government does not have a truly coherent policy to fight childhood obesity. I will come back to that.

As I indicated earlier, I support the principle of this bill because this is a worrisome problem. Obesity is defined as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat, which can be harmful to health. Over 60% of adults age 18 and over—14.1 million Canadians—are overweight or obese. Overall, 26% of Canadian children between the ages of 2 and 17 are overweight or obese. So, it makes sense that this could result in significant costs.

Recent estimates of the economic burden of obesity in Canada range from $4.6 billion to $7.1 billion a year—and I did say “billion”.

The causes of obesity are complex. They can be social, cultural, environmental or behavioural, to name a few. However, two major risk factors for obesity are physical inactivity and poor nutrition. Obesity dramatically increases the risk of many chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, liver and gallbladder diseases, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and more.

In light of these facts, the Conservatives are content to merely table a motion that invites the government to continue its dialogue with the provinces, territories and health stakeholders and encourage discussions to address the factors that lead to obesity. However, everyone knows what these factors are. Instead, the government needs to take active measures to combat obesity.

Instead of simply encouraging dialogue, the government must take real, concrete action, such as establishing obesity rate reduction targets, funding physical activity programs for everyone and regulating processed foods. The government is not taking an active role in fighting rising obesity rates. It simply produces documents entitled, “Declaration on Prevention and Promotion” and “Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights”. These documents have to do with health promotion strategies and focus especially on healthy living awareness campaigns.

In 2007, however, the Standing Committee on Health released a report entitled, “Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids”. Announced by many progressive—

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Ryan Leef

I am sorry to interrupt, we now have to move to the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for his five minute right of reply. My apologies for having to interrupt you at this point.

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again today to speak to my motion, Motion No. 319 regarding childhood nutrition. This motion is important to me, and I realize it is important to members from all corners of the House.

I want to thank the members who have participated in this debate, including the hon. members for Mississauga South, Don Valley East, Okanagan—Shuswap, Beauharnois—Salaberry, Halifax West, Beaches—East York, Etobicoke North.

The member for Berthier—Maskinongé made a particularly eloquent speech. I also thank the members for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

The member for Vancouver Centre had a bit of an angry tinge in her speech and blamed the government for doing nothing. I thought that was pretty rich coming from a member who has been here for nearly 20 years. She had good statistics on the increase in childhood obesity. Unfortunately, she did not mention that the increase in childhood obesity happened mostly on her watch, especially as she is a physician.

Canada is facing this problem, which, over time, has become an epidemic. We can no longer turn a blind eye to it, but instead we must begin an open discussion on childhood obesity.

Over the past 25 years, rates of obesity and overweight have nearly tripled.

The reality is startling. Today, over one in four children in Canada is overweight or obese.

Children who are obese are at increased risk of being overweight or obese as adults.

Childhood obesity is now a challenge to the health of Canadians and the Canadian economy.

We know that childhood obesity increases the risk of chronic conditions, such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. We are seeing more and more of these chronic conditions in Canada and worldwide. Chronic disease has a devastating impact on individuals and families.

In addition, it is estimated that health care costs directly related to obesity are as high as $6 billion per year.

Reversing the trend is a complex challenge.

Several factors are at play and may be contributing to the increasing rate of overweight and obesity. For example, biological, behavioural, social, psychological, technical, environmental, economic and cultural factors may tip the balance toward obesity.

That is why many sectors of society have a role to play in promoting healthy weight.

As members can see, Motion No. 319 is about encouraging the promotion and maintenance of healthy weights for children and youth, building on Curbing Childhood Obesity, the federal-provincial-territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. It encourages dialogue across sectors and also among individuals and organizations to address the factors that lead to obesity.

Engagement and collaboration are essential to mobilizing action to promote healthy weight, so they are fundamental to this motion.

It encourages the federal government to continue to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles as well as engagement and collaboration in the promotion of healthy weights. Our children need to live, learn and play in health-promoting and supportive environments where healthy choices are the easy choice. The federal government is on the right path. It has undertaken a number of significant initiatives in collaboration with others to promote and maintain healthy weights among children and youth.

I encourage all members to support this motion so that our children can live in a world where good health and good lifestyle habits are a priority.

I thank the hon. members on both sides of the House for supporting this motion.

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The time provided for debate has expired.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Children's Health
Private Members' Business

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, a recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 19, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, An Act to enhance the financial accountability and transparency of First Nations, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that the question be now put.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing has two and a half minutes left to conclude her remarks.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, we are extremely concerned that this bill not only ignores a simple solution, but is overly punitive as well. The punishments spelled out in Bill C-27 are extreme and as bitter as the prescription itself. Consider that bands which do not comply with the demands could have their funding withheld or have a funding agreement terminated by the minister. How would that improve education, housing or the infrastructure challenges that many of these communities face? New Democrats do not see the need to divert more money to a new level of bureaucracy to reproduce much of what has already been done in a new format.

One of those demands is that information be made available online on a website. As someone who represents a northern rural constituency, I can tell members that this is not always possible. People in my riding know that it is enough of a challenge to get service to relatively accessible areas like Manitoulin Island and can see that website reporting could become a hurdle that some bands might not pass.

As we already know, non-compliance could see a funding agreement terminated or funds withheld. We see this as an overly harsh punishment that would do nothing to help those first nations who depend on these funding arrangements to provide safe water, keep their schools operating and pay social assistance for individuals who need it. When viewed that way, the punishment is far too extreme.

Again, New Democrats believe that there are already sufficient reporting processes in place and funding agreements could be modified to address the handful of worst-case scenarios the government seems to be intent on basing this heavy-handed, red-tape-filled legislation on. The government would do well to go back to the drawing board with Bill C-27, beginning with the full consultation of first nations, which is the biggest and most glaring omission in the entire process to date. The government should consult, reflect on the advice of the Auditor General and remember the more pressing needs of Canada's first nations communities.

We have heard over and over again on this side of the House that this is a piece of legislation that should not be implemented. There are already safeguards in place to address this issue and this is just duplication.

First Nations Financial Transparency Act
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in listening to the member's comments, one could easily jump to the conclusion that the NDP will be voting against this piece of legislation. Is that a fair assessment at this point?