An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session and the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Colin Carrie  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of March 9, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, to give the member a bit of my history, I was one of the members who brought forward Bill C-420, which was a natural health products bill. I continue to be involved with that community.

In the original writing of the bill and in the past version, Bill C-52, there was some confusion in the language and stakeholders from the natural health products community required some clarification of it. The minister has written to the chair of the health committee. We will be putting forward an amendment to clarify that exactly so that the stakeholders from the natural health products community know that this bill excludes natural health products and food and drugs under the Food and Drugs Act.

RESUMPTION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLYSpeech From The Throne

November 24th, 2008 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, since you are presiding this evening, let me offer my congratulations to you on joining the Speaker's team and being appointed to assist members of the House not just in this important debate but in managing our House affairs. It is great to see members from Vancouver Island playing a bigger role in the House.

It is a great privilege to take part in the debate in response to the Speech from the Throne, the first debate in Canada's 40th Parliament.

I begin by thanking the voters of the great riding of Nanaimo—Alberni for returning me as their MP for the fourth consecutive term. I am very mindful of the great honour and of the great responsibility that I have to them and so I would begin by thanking them.

I would like to acknowledge my supporters and campaign team who put a lot of effort into our re-election effort. I acknowledge the leadership of my campaign manager, Paula Peterson, who co-ordinated a great effort and ensured that we had a great time working together, and my financial agent, John Ward, who ensured we not only got the job done but given the complexities of financial obligations, that we did it right.

I know the families of every member here make a sacrifice so that we can come from our ridings across this great diverse country to participate in this House. I certainly have to acknowledge the great encouragement, and constant never ending support above and beyond the call that my wife Helen makes in order to make it possible for me to serve as the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

The Speaker, the member for Kingston and the Islands, has done a remarkable job of not only being re-elected but for the fourth time being elected as the Speaker of the House. I certainly want to extend my congratulations to him. I think one of our members made reference to this today. It is certainly a historic event, being elected as Speaker for the fourth time and with the different sides of the House it is quite a remarkable achievement that is worthy of recognition.

It falls to each and every member, to our respective parties, to our leaders, to participate in this 40th Parliament at a time when our country is facing the challenges of a very troubled world economy and uncertainties unprecedented in modern times.

My riding is one of the most beautiful in the country. It covers both the east and west coasts of mid-Vancouver Island. From the rugged majestic heights of Mount Moriarty or Mount Arrowsmith in the Beaufort Range, one can look down across the oceanside communities to the east with their shallow, sandy warm water beaches, or west to Port Alberni and beyond to the world renowned Pacific Rim National Park with its famous Long Beach, favoured by surfers, and surf and storm watchers. This majestic place we call home is recognized by being the only federal riding to encompass not one but two federally recognized and UNESCO recognized biospheres, the Clayoquot Sound reserve on the west and Mount Arrowsmith biosphere reserve on the east, where we live.

That said, like other regions, the west coast is caught in a time of transition that has engulfed the forest sector, the fishing industry and greatly impacted our resource based economy.

The Speech from the Throne delivered in this chamber just a few days ago, on November 19, is very different from any I have heard or debated in the past four parliaments. The government has laid out its intentions to manage the economy in this challenging time.

The Speech from the Throne is entitled, “Protecting Canada's Future”. The government is committed to ensuring Canada's continued economic success at this time of global economic instability. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the Government of Canada has laid out a five-pronged plan to protect Canada's economic security. I shall briefly summarize those points.

First, there is reform of global finance by working with our allies and trading partners to re-examine and renew the rules that underpin the global financial system. This process has already begun with Canada's participation in the G-20 meetings on November 15 and the recently concluded APEC meetings in Lima, Peru.

It is probably appropriate at this time to mention that the World Economic Forum rated Canada's banking system as the best in the world.

I hear someone applauding. That is worthy of note and applause. I appreciate that enthusiastic response.

However, at a time when the world itself is reeling, it is good to know that while we face challenges we have some strong attributes to bring into these unstable times.

Measures taken to allow the Bank of Canada greater latitude in responding to world shifts and economic shifts allowed the Bank of Canada to respond quickly with nearly $20 billion to improve liquidity at a time when the credit crunch was having a devastating effect elsewhere and certainly challenging our economy here at home.

Further measures to protect our mortgage system, with shorter terms and mandatory down payments, helped to prevent the type of meltdown that precipitated the current U.S. and worldwide financial crises.

We want to ensure sound budgeting so that Canada does not return to ongoing unsustainable structural deficits while putting all federal expenditures under the microscope of responsible spending.

I think the operative word there is “all” government spending. It is a time when we need to examine how we are spending. As any family would when times get tough, we need to look at how we are managing our finances and determine that we are making the best investments and strategic investments at a time when times are leaner.

We need to secure jobs for families and communities by encouraging the skilled trades and apprenticeships, supporting workers facing transition and providing further support to the automotive and aerospace industries.

On that point, I was asked to respond to criticisms from the forestry CEOs in my own community objecting to this commitment. Of course they are facing a crisis of their own with an industry in transition. I will return to this point shortly to address their concerns.

Further, we need to expand investment in trade by modernizing investment, competition and copyright laws while working with the United States to address shared challenges and pursing trade agreements in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Canada just recently signed a trade agreement with Colombia that will need to be ratified. Negotiations continue with other countries in Europe, Asia and the Americas, but we must expand our markets beyond our dependence on one large market south of the border. About 85% of our trade is currently going south and, as we know, at a time when our largest trading partner is in big trouble. It is a good time to be looking to other markets to diversify, stabilize and share our financial opportunities with other nations and to reduce our dependence on one factor. It seems a very appropriate thing to do and I think it is absolutely essential that we do this.

Further, we need to make government more effective by reducing red tape, fixing procurement, improving program and service delivery and improving the management of federal agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations.

Again, I think “efficiency” is the key word in tough economic times. It will be appropriate for all levels of the Canadian economy to examine their efficiency in delivering services and ensure we are doing so without waste.

Returning to the issue of assistance to industry, I think it is fair to say that while details of any assistance to the auto and aerospace sectors are in the process of being worked out, it is important to mention that many steps have already been taken to help all sectors of industry and business. It is a very competitive and challenging time, which is why, in addition to measures to help all taxpayers, measures were brought in to help students, seniors and, indeed, to lower taxes for every Canadian.

However, the government acted in the previous budget and in the previous economic update to lower small business and corporate taxes.

We acted earlier to resolve the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., bringing more than $4 billion back to Canadian forest companies. I think it is a very good thing we did that. Given the challenge that we face now with the U.S. caught up in its own challenges, it is a very good thing that we had that resolved when we did. Even though it is not perfect and there are still challenges for sectors in transition, the fact that we made those provisions beforehand was very helpful to the current economic status of those industries going through transition.

We provided a billion dollar community development trust to help communities with economies in transition and incentives for companies to purchase new machinery and to upgrade equipment.

For the mining industry, the government will extend the mineral exploration tax credit. Further, for the forest and fishing sectors the government has o acted to extend support for international marketing efforts and to provide incentives for creating energy from biomass.

I can assure persons concerned from the coast, particularly those in the forest industry, that there will be no blank cheque to any industrial sector. I am sure that any support offered by taxpayers through the government to the aerospace or the auto sector will only come after all stakeholders also contribute in the transition to a sustainable future. I think an example of that might be the $82 million commitment to Ford to develop an energy efficient engine.

This is not about helping industries that are not producing something that will be of value in a competitive and changing market. It is about creating sustainable opportunities for the future and creating a sustainable auto industry.

An example in my own riding of a company that has made heroic efforts in transition to a cost effective and sustainable future is the Nanaimo Forest Products Ltd. that took over the Harmac pulp mill in south Nanaimo. This company bid on a court ordered sale of the mill. It as an ownership structure that is quite unique in the industry. It has 200-plus employees, each of whom made significant personal investments in the mill to the tune of $25,000 each for a 25% stake in the business, partnering with other business interests. Pioneer Log Homes is a tremendous corporate citizen. Totzauer Holdings and the Sampson Group are successful private companies. They each took 25% shares in the company.

With both employees and management having a stake in the success of the business has led to a very collaborative approach to labour relations. No labour contracts will need to be renegotiated until well into the future.

This mill is in a great location. It has a deep sea port, water resources and water treatment facilities. It has the potential to diversify into energy production. I use this as an example of all the stakeholders collaborating in a tough competitive market to make something happen and to sustain an industry that was in big trouble. We might have lost the mill. I think the community is extremely proud of its effort and we certainly want to see heroic efforts like these rewarded with success.

In a time of transition, we do need to collaborate and work together to ensure opportunities for success emerge from challenging times.

The Speech from the Throne addresses a whole range of other issues. We have a commitment to Canada's environment. We will continue with our process to reduce greenhouse emissions 20% by 2020. I am pleased to see that we are working toward continuing with alternative energy incentives to develop alternative energies.

We will be recommitting the ban on bulk water exports, which I know is an important issue to many people in my riding, and I am glad to see that mentioned in the Speech from the Throne.

Further, our government will be helping all Canadians participate by improving the universal child care benefit, increasing access to maternity and parental benefits under employment insurance and helping Canadians who care for loved ones with disabilities. That is a very important step the government can make, even in difficult times, to help those families who are working with a disabled child or a disabled adult at home and who are giving up other economic opportunities to look after a loved one in challenging circumstances.

We will be continuing to work on keeping Canadians safe by strengthening the sentences for serious criminal offences. We will be putting in place new rules for food and product safety and we will be introducing a new national security statement. We are also continuing to contribute to global security.

I will come back and talk about food and product safety in just a moment but perhaps I will go on to talk a little bit about sovereignty in the Arctic.

I am personally very pleased to see Canada's commitment to the Arctic moving ahead. It is a time when there are unprecedented not only changes in the Arctic but also challenges to our sovereignty and to the wealth and economic opportunities that northern Canada represents.

I am glad to see the commitment to assert our jurisdiction over lands and waters in the Arctic archipelago under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to further expand our jurisdiction over the region under the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act requiring mandatory notification of any foreign vessels entering Canadian territorial waters. That will be asserting our control over a 200 mile limit into the Arctic.

I am glad to see that we are also proceeding with a new polar class icebreaker named in honour of the late great Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker.

I have already mentioned the bulk water exports and that is important.

I will now return to efficiencies. It will be important for us to visit every sector of the economy to ensure we are actually producing the best product in the most efficient manner. One of my big concerns is in the area of health care. If we look back to the 1990s, British Columbia's budget for health was about 30% of its expenditures. When I first ran for office it was 40% of the provincial budget. It is currently about 44% or 45% of the provincial budget. Even though we are spending more and more of the provincial budgets on health care, it seems the demand is unceasing and the perception is that somehow the government is not delivering on health care.

We have been encouraging innovation in every sector but health care has been slow to embrace innovation. About 30% of our health care is already delivered outside of the public system. I am not talking necessarily about parallel systems. I am talking about efficiencies. I am talking about services that are currently available but perhaps underutilized and not funded by provincial plans under section 2 of the Canada Health Act, extended services.

There are tremendous opportunities. However, in our zeal to regulate I hope we do not become overzealous to the point where we take opportunities away from advancing health care opportunities for Canadians. I would suggest that perhaps status quo forces have been slow to pick up advances in low cost alternatives like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and the way we regulate our natural health products. I think we need to take a very good look at that.

I know a lot of concerns have been expressed in the House not only in the last Parliament but going back to the 37th Parliament when I introduced Bill C-420 addressing issues on how we regulate natural health products. Those concerns were discussed early in the 38th Parliament with the aid of the member for Oshawa and I know there were lots of discussions in the last Parliament under Bill C-51 about how we regulate these products.

I am concerned that opportunities for Canadians to purchase low cost, low risk, non-patentable products are currently being restricted by regulatory practices. I imagine legislation will be coming forward to address a whole range of health product safety issues. I hope that in this Parliament, when we review these issues, that we will get this right and that we will deliver an outcome that will ensure Canadians have access to low cost, low risk and non-patentable forms of medicines that promote wellness and address the prevention of illness and disease in the first place.

Those are some of my concerns and they are in the Speech from the Throne. I know members have been debating issues for several days now and a lot of ideas have come forward. I am pleased with the Speech from the Throne. It gives us the opportunity to move ahead on a whole range of issues that are of concern to Canadians. We will have efficient spending in our government. We will be addressing safety concerns and crime issues. We want ensure we create safe communities so Canadians can live safely.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2008 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is fair to say that Bill C-51 has attracted a fair bit of attention. We have been debating it again today.

Bill C-51 is an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts. Needless to say, the Food and Drugs Act definitely needs updating. It is an old act. It goes back to about 1934. It has had a few tweaks along the way, but certainly it is time for some updates to the Food and Drugs Act.

There are some good provisions in the bill, that is for sure, including life cycle monitoring of pharmaceutical drugs and mandatory reporting of adverse events. These are very positive things that need to be done because there are serious concerns about these products.

The public response overwhelmingly on the negative side has been over concerns about what will happen to the natural health products industry under the regulations.

In illustrating some of those concerns, I wish to make reference to a letter that I received recently from a number of very distinguished and concerned scientists, which illustrates the concerns that are out there. I received this letter on May 4. It is a copy of a letter to the minister and states:

We, the undersigned, are physicians, scientists and practitioners of international origin with considerable experience in the use of natural health products. We are gathered in Vancouver at the Fairmont Hotel to attend the 37th Annual International Conference on Orthomolecular Medicine...

We are most concerned that the Bill will lead to loss of access to valuable food supplements and other nutritional products for our patients and for many others, who have often found such products to be essential in maintaining their health.

Another point they make is this:

Nutritional products are qualitatively different from pharmaceutical products and carry an undetectably small risk of harm....

They provide a reference from the journals about that. They continue:

There are therefore no grounds to impose on them the same risk-benefit analysis structure that is proposed for all therapeutic products under this bill.

The majority of organizations and commercial bodies operating in the natural product field are run by individuals or are small businesses. The regulatory hurdles proposed will be too high for many of them to achieve, and the penalties proposed for infringements of this bill are grossly disproportionate and unnecessarily severe.

They go on to state:

We are also concerned at the potential impact on the regulatory climate in our own countries, given the international trend to harmonization.

We encourage your department to open dialogue with our Canadian colleagues in the hope we can find a workable solution.

This letter is signed by scientists from around the world. They are from the Netherlands, Japan, the United States, Finland and Norway. There is a PhD neurochemist from the U.S.A. Others are from Switzerland, Spain, Mexico, and other countries. There is Professor Harold Foster, PhD, from Victoria.

I use this only by way of illustration. This discussion we are having in Canada about Bill C-51 to amend the Food and Drugs Act is being noticed by health care practitioners from other countries. They are concerned about the impact it will have on regulations in their own countries.

One of the points they raised at the end is that they encourage the department to “open dialogue with our Canadian colleagues in the hope we can find a workable solution”.

I know that since the bill has been introduced most of my colleagues here in the House have had a fair bit of representation from concerned citizens. I am sure that most members have heard from constituents. At the latest count in my office, I have had 380 responses raising concerns about the bill. I am sure that others have had dozens if not hundreds of representations and I know there has been a fair bit of concern and discussion.

In response to that, the Minister of Health has launched some consultations with industry across the country. The minister and his team were out in Vancouver for consultations and in Toronto and other major centres as they consulted with industry leaders about how to remedy the concerns that are out there. I know that he is working on some amendments and I look forward to seeing them presented in the House shortly.

At this second reading stage of the bill, it is certainly not possible for the minister to introduce amendments, but I understand that there will be a forthcoming indication of some amendments that our government members will bring forward at the health committee if and when the legislation passes second reading.

Therefore, I welcome those amendments. I look forward to what I understand will include an attempt to create a legislative third category. That is something that people have been interested in. That is one of the major concerns that have been expressed and there will be other substantial amendments to alleviate the way the bill would be applied as well as to clarify concerns that have been raised. We look forward to those amendments coming forward and being able to go over in detail what those changes mean.

The minister stated that it is not his nor the government's intention to restrict natural health product availability in Canada. I am sure and I have every reason to believe that he is very sincere in making those statements. I have no reason not to believe him or the government in their intentions.

The problem is that, given the history of actions by Health Canada over the past several years, the increased powers and the changes proposed by Bill C-51 give informed Canadians a very great cause for concern. In that regard, I would like to review some of the history and illustrate a couple of the concerns related to the bill as it stands.

Going back over at least four previous health ministers, there was an effort to regulate natural health products as drugs under the Food and Drugs Act. By the way, I think everyone recognized that there was a need to bring in regulations for natural health products. Everyone wants to make sure that we have good manufacturing practices, we need office inspections and some quality control measures there, and we certainly want to make sure that what is on the label is actually in the bottle.

So, certainly regulation is necessary. Everyone is in support of regulation. It is the type of regulation that is being considered here and the concerns about whether those regulations are appropriate for the low risk and the natural character of these products. By nature they are low risk, they are low cost, they are non-patentable items, they are more akin to food, concentrated food items, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, which are components of protein, and that is the stuff we are made out of, and therefore by nature it is low risk and well tolerated in biological systems.

Going back through a bit of the history, there was a huge public response out of the attempt by former minister David Dingwall to regulate natural health products as drugs. It was followed up by Allan Rock. Allan Rock, as minister, put the brakes on the process and commissioned the health committee to investigate and produce a report. There were widespread consultations and a report was tabled in 1998, making some 53 recommendations.

That was followed by the creation of a transition team of experts. Some 17 experts came together to try to organize how would this new office of natural health products come together and what form it would take. They made recommendations that were published in a report in the year 2000.

I note that the transition team, in their report, had a vision that they articulated there. They hoped that the minister would be a champion for a new era for NHPs, natural health products; that vitamins and minerals would take their place in improving the health of Canadians and the health care system in Canada, that the minister would be a champion for helping natural health products find their way to taking their rightful place in strengthening Canadians, improving prevention of disease, promoting wellness, and helping keep people off the waiting lists that are so troubling to anyone trying to access health services for serious health failures.

In the 37th Parliament I introduced Bill C-420 which was to move the natural health products department office, which changed names from the office of the ONHP to the natural health product directorate, under the food side of regulations. So we had food and drugs, and we would take it from the drug side and move it under the food side because it was more akin to foods than it was to drugs.

That bill died when the election of June 2004 was called and it reappeared in the 38th Parliament with the help of my colleague, the member for Oshawa, who tabled the bill and we got agreement to keep the name.

The outcome of that was that NHPs were placed not where we wanted them under food, but they remained as a subclass under the drug side of the regulations. So, this is where are we since that day.

Currently, natural health products are regulated as a subclass of drugs for regulatory purposes, although they have their own regulations. That has been the status since 2006. When we started this process there were some 50,000 to 60,000 products on the market. What has been happening in the interim is that there are about 6,000 products that have been approved.

I notice the member for Yukon, who is still with us in the debate, in his speech earlier mentioned there were some 33,000 to 40,000 products backlogged and that is probably accurate. There are about 6,000 that have gone through the approval process of that huge number that were out there a few years ago.

About half of the products applying do not make it through the regulatory process. A lot of good products are dropping off the shelves in Canada under the current regulatory regime. Those that are approved are the simple ones. They are single monograph products, not the combined products. Many of the more effective well-known and popular remedies that are out there are multi-ingredient products. Most of those have not even started into the process yet. So a lot of products are not making it through.

Complicating it further is the fact that many good products that come from outside the country from the United States, for example, are not being shipped into Canada because the producers find the regulatory regime is too onerous and the market is too small. They have just stopped shipping their product to Canada, so we are losing products that way. That is the current situation.

People in the industry are frustrated at the lengthy delays in receiving an NPN and lengthy requests for more information. It seems products like Red Bull or an energy drink gets an NPN fairly readily. They will never have a hope of impacting anybody's health, but they might give people a kick or a little better high, or keep them awake if they are mixed, as some young people do, with alcohol which we would not recommend. We would end up with a drunk who is a little more alert.

Those products seem to make it through the regulatory process in a flash, but natural health products that could have a real impact on serious illnesses seem to be having a hard time getting through.

I want to return to the letter from the scientist. Speaking at a conference just a month ago, so we are not talking ancient history, Dr. Bonnie Kaplan from the University of Calgary spoke about her experience with the product Empowerplus. I know others in the House have mentioned this product already and probably most members have some knowledge of this vitamin and mineral product produced in Alberta. It had a profound impact on people with bipolar disease.

This product attracted some attention in Alberta. The government of Alberta said whoa, there is a huge problem, a lot of people seem to be taking this. It had the Alberta Science and Research Authority examine the product and it commissioned a study at the University of Calgary with some $544,000 in funding. The initial results were very promising. In fact, there were some four peer review articles published.

About this time, Health Canada moved in to shut down the study under the regulations of the day. It called on the RCMP to raid the company and contact 3,000 Canadians, and order them back on their psychiatric drugs even though many of them were taking the product with the knowledge of their physician and many of them had been well for years by simply taking vitamins and minerals.

I want to use that as an illustration of why people are alarmed at the regulations in Bill C-51. It is not simply what is in the bill, it is the behaviour of the department in the last number of years that has people alarmed. Given the tools that are in Bill C-51, it is concerns that with the wrong attitude this could ensure that a lot of very good products will never see the light of day in our country given this response. I mentioned: thousands of Canadians were taking the product, the Alberta response, the early results, and that Health Canada shut down the study, and sent in the RCMP.

Just to go on with Empowerplus for a minute, there was a researcher from Harvard, Dr. Charles Popper, a world renowned psychopharmacologist. He testified at a court case just after the last election. I unfortunately missed it, but I did read his testimony. He testified that he learned how to help people get off drugs from the lay people in this company who have accumulated a lot of experience trying to help people with their condition by taking these vitamins, minerals and amino-acids, and improving their mental health.

I wish members could have been there to hear testimony from a woman named Sabina from Renfrew. She had been on psychiatric drugs for 18 years and in spite of that, in and out of hospital.

Sadly, with the condition she was afflicted with, when she was not trying to take her own life, she was trying to take her husband's life. She had been on vitamins a year and a half, when I met her, and had not had a single failure. That is something that, I think, would attract some attention. Some people may say this is helping, although it is anecdotal evidence, but she was one of about 3,000 Canadians who had improved.

By the time I met her, a year and a half after taking these products, she was no longer trying to kill herself. She was working and paying taxes. I have to admit as a Conservative, I like that. She is also volunteering. She is not on the high needs list but back out in society and producing. When I saw her at the court case, where she testified for this company against Health Canada, she had lost 60 pounds, was off all her medication, and taking nothing but vitamins.

The company she worked for was so impressed with her that it sent her to get a university degree and she is volunteering to train horses on the side. She is a tremendously productive lady, a lady with a tremendous sense of humour. I wish everyone could meet her.

I wish everyone could have met no less than the former deputy prime minister of Norway when he was in Ottawa. He came to meet with Health Canada officials about this product because he had a child that was out of control and nobody in Norway had been able to help him. He heard about this product and ordered it for his child. His child improved so much that he wanted to import this product to help other people in Norway, but he could not because there was a warning on the Health Canada website, which is still there to this day, that says this is an untested and dangerous product. Therefore, even with his connections, he was not able to import the product.

When I had lunch with him, he was later scheduled to meet with Health Canada officials. When they found out why he was here, they cancelled his appointment. It seems, sadly, that no one at Health Canada was willing to meet with Sabina or with this gentleman or with thousands of Canadians. The minister of the day was not willing to meet with them.

Everyone taking the product was concerned when Health Canada was trying to shut down this product at the border because the minister of the day had the attitude or the approach that this was an untested. The minister said, “It could be thalidomide”.

That is disappointing, but that kind of attitude seems to be what is prevailing at Health Canada, even to this day, and that is why people are concerned about the implications in the bill. This is the same Health Canada that could be handed extraordinary and, some might say, draconian provisions by the bill.

There are some concerns. People would like to know that the vision of the transition team would come to pass and that the regulatory regime would be a friendly one that helps natural health products, which by nature are low risk, become more available.

One of the concerns is subsection 15.1(4), which says simply that the minister has the power to put any product or class of products under prescription only status. The challenge is simply that vitamins and minerals, nutritional products, amino-acids are what we are made of. They have always been in the public domain, but under the powers in the bill the minister could simply move something from the natural health product class over to a drug class in certain potencies. The minister has those powers. That is one concern.

Another concern is in regard to clinical trials. The bill says that clinical trials must be approved for designated therapeutic products. We depend on most of the research on natural health products to understand how they work. We found out a little while ago that vitamin D has a big impact on people with multiple sclerosis and now the recommendation is that we should be taking vitamin D to reduce a whole host of other conditions, including many cancers.

We are concerned about the availability of these products. University research could be put at risk. Some would argue that universities could be asked if they applied for a clinical trial for basic research.

Finally, the definition of government has people concerned. I will finish with this simple remark. The government, under this definition, could be another international government or agency that could bring in regulations from the World Health Organization or Codex, for example, and impose them on the Canadian public without due consideration or consultation here at home. Those are some of the concerns.

May 8th, 2008 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Ross Creber President, Direct Sellers Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman and honourable members, on behalf of the 45-member companies of the Direct Sellers Association and our 600,000 independent sales contractors across the country, I want to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this consultation.

Our independent businesspeople represent such well-known names as Avon, Mary Kay, Shaklee, NuSkin, and Quixtar, whose retail sales in 2007 approached $2 billion. Some of the products sold include those regulated as natural health products, and as such, the efficient and effective regulation of these products is of great importance to our industry.

I last appeared before this committee three years ago as it studied Bill C-420. At that time, I suggested that the bill was a product of the frustration of Canadians who wanted ready access to natural health products and of the companies who wanted to market those products to Canadian consumers.

Three years later, the frustration continues, with long delays in the approval process and a significant application backlog. However, there have been improvements, and NHPD has certainly made real efforts to increase efficiency in product approvals. These are laudable efforts, but the situation remains bleak.

So what has caused the backlog? We believe that Health Canada was never prepared for the number of applications that came in, and we believe that the directorate is optimistic to think it will have the backlog cleared by April of 2010. To date, the directorate has received product licence applications for approximately 27,000 products.

The reality is that the backlog has led many companies to delay submitting product licence applications or even to pull out of the marketplace altogether.

Let me give you a snapshot of our NHP experience. Our member companies have submitted 380 applications. Of these, 369 have been acknowledged and only 131 completed. However, “completed” does not mean approved; it means dealt with. In this case, 70 of the applications are now licensed, 34 have been refused, and 27 have been withdrawn. So far, only 18% of member applications have been approved and licensed.

Part of the backlog has to do with the standards of evidence required by NHPD. While compendial applications do increase the efficiency of the process, they only work for single-ingredient products, whereas the market is largely made up of multiple-ingredient products. And the evidence required is, in our opinion, excessive. The directorate's statistics confirm that their biggest challenge is dealing with non-compendial, non-traditional product licence applications for multi-ingredient products. Without improvements in this area, all available products will have the same materials, dosages, benefits, and wording on the labels. There will be no perceived difference from one company to the next.

I want to focus now on the thousands of product licence applications that have been rejected by the directorate. While the regulations provide for appeals, the actual process is, seemingly, known only to Health Canada. The directorate continues to promise that this policy will be released, but it has been almost four and a half years since the regulations took effect. Given the lack of transparency about the appeals process, it is no wonder that the industry is frustrated.

I want to offer you one more illustrative example of how deep the problems have become for the direct selling industry. The distribution channel of our industry, multi-level marketing, is regulated by the Competition Bureau under sections 55 and 55.1 of the Competition Act. Some provinces in Canada require a written opinion from the Competition Bureau on the marketing plans of a company before they will issue a licence to the company to operate in their respective province. The written opinion covers all of the provisions in the act pertaining to the operation of an MLM plan.

The bureau is now invoking its powers under other sections of the act to review all materials and product claims relating to product performance, and in order to provide the written opinion it is requesting similar evidence to that required for licensing of NHPs. This is new and troubling for an industry sector that is already regulated in a number of different areas, both federally and provincially. In our discussions with the bureau on this matter, we asked if they were aware that Health Canada regulated these products under similar criteria. The response was that, in their opinion, the process at Health Canada was not working and that they were fulfilling their mandate under the act.

Of course, it makes no sense whatsoever to have two agencies of government duplicating the work of each other. But the inadequacies of the process at the NHPD have driven our industry to this point, and as such, I can see no greater proof of a problem than this.

The DSA is encouraged by the recent activity on Canada's food and consumer safety action plan. The frustration of our industry is matched only by our willingness to work with the government and this committee to effect constructive changes to the Food and Drugs Act and the natural health product regulations.

Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the Direct Sellers Association and its members, I want to thank the Standing Committee on Health for the opportunity to participate in this consultation process.

October 17th, 2006 / 4 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I have three specific questions. Let me read them out, because I'd like you to answer them, if possible, in order.

One is a Health Canada issue. I had a private member's bill in the last session, Bill C-420. There were problems with the bill, but we had a compromise solution whereby they would change schedule A and subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act and modernize the regulation. It's been over a year and they still haven't come forward. I've been on the phone with them just up to last week. They're still not moving on it.

So I was wondering specifically who you are dealing with over there and whether you had some information I could ask for. I'm very curious about this, because I've been approached by natural health food producers, herb producers, food producers who are really concerned about trade issues with the United States and how this is going to affect their industry if we don't get it solved.

The second question is on free trade agreements. We're talking about markets overseas. We've had some concern here about Korean free trade, especially with some manufacturing—the auto industry, for example. How would you say a free trade agreement with Asian markets would...? Would they help? Would they hinder you? Do you have any impact studies on where this issue is? That's question number two.

The third one is, what did the previous government do to help fix the regulatory regime, what should we continue with, and are there more suggestions for where we could move ahead as a new government?

Thank you.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition containing close to 100 signatures. Again these signatures come from various towns and cities in my riding of Crowfoot, Rosebud, Stettler and Huxley to name a few.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to natural health products and to restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting private member's Bill C-420.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 17th report of the Standing Committee on Health. The committee has considered Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act regarding the definitions of drug and the definition of food. Pursuant to Standing Order 97.1 the committee recommends that the House of Commons do not proceed further with this bill.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 27th, 2005 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table two petitions on behalf of the residents of Windsor West. The first relates to Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. The petitioners support that bill because they want Canadians to have greater access to natural health products and to restore freedom of choice in personal health care by enacting Bill C-420.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 23rd, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties and believe you would find consent for the following. I move that the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health, presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420, be concurred in.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 23rd, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second series of petitions contain 2,500 signatures from people across the country who are concerned about Bill C-420. Most of the petitions are from British Columbia but there are others from Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec on the subject of Bill C-420, the motion by the hon. member for Oshawa that was just denied.

Bill C-420 refers to natural health products and the way in which we regulate them. The petitioners call on the government to ensure that natural health products are regulated as food and not drugs and remain available as low cost and low risk options for Canadians to protect their own health.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 23rd, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all parties and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following. I move that Report No. 13 of the Standing Committee on Health, presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, 2005 requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420, be concurred in.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 21st, 2005 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, my fourth petition asks that Canadians b e provided with greater access to non-drug preventive and medicinal options. The petitioners support Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 20th, 2005 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I understood I had the agreement of the House to present a motion at this point, in spite of the ongoing debate, because it is a procedural motion: Discussions have been held among all parties, and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Health presented in the House on Wednesday, June 1, requesting an extension of 30 sitting days to consider Bill C-420 be concurred in without debate.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 8th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to Standing Order 36, I table a petition signed by many residents of my riding of Manicouagan. The petitioners call on Parliament to adopt Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act to clarify the present definitions used for the words “food” and “drugs”.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 7th, 2005 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition entitled “Health Freedom”. Canadian constituents, primarily from the south Okanagan, desire to have an updated Food and Drugs Act created by Parliament that is consistent with the inherent rights of Canadians to informed freedom of choice and access to non-medicinal drugs products of their choosing as protected by sections 1, 2, 7 and 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They call upon Parliament to repeal outdated prohibitions against making truthful health claims for the prevention, treatment and cure of health challenges with non-drug approaches by enacting Bill C-420. They are right to be concerned. It has been a constant battle to keep access to these natural health products.

I hope Parliament, and particularly the government, will stop this attack on people's freedom of choice and agree to the speedy enactment of the private member's bill.