An Act to amend the Criminal Code (eliminating conditional sentencing for violent offenders)

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

Sponsor

Jim Gouk  Conservative

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

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 13, 2004
(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.

Telecommunications ActGovernment Orders

October 24th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Kelowna--Lake Country for sharing his time.

I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton--North Delta to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-37. This bill addresses telemarketing calls by enabling the CRTC to establish and enforce a do not call registry similar to ones already found in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Specifically, Bill C-37 would amend the section of the Telecommunications Act that deals with telemarketers by adding the power to establish databases and to make any order with respect to these databases.

It would also also give the CRTC the power to levy substantial penalties against telemarketers and to contract with a private sector third party to operate the service. Penalties of $1,500 per offending call for individuals and $15,000 per offending call for corporations would be imposed for telemarketers who do not respect the list.

Previous to this bill, Canadians have had access to privately operated do not call registries. The Canadian Marketing Association, CMA, would register consumers for their do not call list. However, not all telemarketers are members of the CMA, so this registration did not eliminate all unsolicited telemarketing calls.

In addition, the CRTC required that each telemarketing company maintain their own do not call list. Consumers could ask to be placed on the list, but only after receiving a call. The list was maintained by the telemarketing company for three years.

We have all received unwanted calls from people attempting to sell goods or services. It could be a telemarketing pitch from the local newspaper, a credit card company, a cleaning service, a charity, or even a politician wanting one's vote.

Sometimes we may welcome these calls because they would provide useful information or a product that we are interested in, but other times, they are nothing but an annoyance.

The Conservative Party supports the establishment of a Canadian do not call registry within parameters clearly defined by this Parliament and with reasonable exemptions provided for charities, political parties, polling firms and companies that wish to contact their current customers. In the original version of Bill C-37, these exemptions were not laid out by the government.

Furthermore, the power to determine these details was delegated by the Liberals to the CRTC and its regulatory powers rather than to the elected representatives of the House. In fact, before going to committee, the bill was almost an empty shell, with most of the details left to the regulations.

The bill is extremely light on details. There are no exceptions to the list. There are no details about how the list would be maintained, what information would be required from consumers, how telemarketers would check the list, how often they must check the list, and who would have access to the list or any reporting on how the list would be run.

As a result, we did not know if there would be any exclusions to the list, how much it would cost or who would operate the list and so on. Maybe it would be like the gun registry fiasco, costing $2 billion rather than $2 million. Those things are not clear.

The government habitually introduces shell bills that lack substance, are written in, often, incomplete, general terms and are very vague in intent. So, no substance, no nitty-gritty, no details, but only a shell.

Much of the law that affects Canadians is not found in the Statutes of Canada but in the thousands and thousands of regulations made pursuant to powers granted by acts of Parliament. This leaves the door wide open to put through regulations that define our laws, without the proper checks and balances.

To curtail that, to plug that big black hole in the regulatory process, I introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-205, which in fact was the only private member's bill to receive royal assent. That bill was introduced by the Canadian Alliance. It restored some accountability to the regulation making process because it brought under the umbrella of the government all the quasi-government organizations like the CRTC and many others. They used to make the regulations but they were not under the purview of parliamentary scrutiny.

I plugged that black hole in the regulatory reforms, but still the government habitually introduces legislation without any detail. It leaves all the details to the regulatory process. In doing so, the Liberal government has effectively gutted the parliamentary process of accountability and transparency in the formulation of laws. Parliament is no longer at the centre of the law making process.

The Prime Minister can talk all the talk about regulatory or democratic reforms, but his track record is the weakest in the history of Canada for democratic reforms existing in this House the way that democracy exists in Canada. In fact, in this minority government, I do not see any real democracy in existence, as the House leader of the Conservative Party said earlier.

During second reading debate I outlined all of these concerns. I concluded my speech by saying that:

—the registry, if established, must be “within parameters clearly defined by Parliament and with reasonable exemptions provided for charities, political parties and companies that wish to contact their current customers” and that we must craft a more detailed piece of legislation so both consumers and telemarketers are clear as to how the do not call registry will work.

After second reading, at committee, the Conservative Party members worked to amend the bill and to add several new clauses to the Telecommunications Act. The following are among the amendments passed at committee.

Three years after the do not call list comes into force, it will be reviewed by Parliament.

Next, any person making a telecommunications call must, at the beginning of the call, identify the purpose of the call and the person or the organization on whose behalf the call is being made. This was a Conservative amendment.

Exemptions are being granted to the following: charities, political parties, candidates, the riding associations, et cetera, and surveys, or calls made for the sole purpose of collecting information for a survey of members of the public.

As for individual lists, all the parties that have been made exempt must still keep individual no not call lists. If a person is called by a charity and asks to be placed on the do not call list held by that charity, the charity is forced to comply and is not allowed to call that individual for three years, which is the current time limit. Of course, the length of time could be changed by the CRTC through the regulations once the bill is passed.

All of these were Conservative amendments.

As I have only one minute left, I will summarize. Seniors are not protected under the bill. Telemarketing companies scam seniors, selling gambling, lotteries, et cetera to them. The bill also does not address unsolicited ads on the Internet, the pop-ups. As well, young children, when learning on the Internet and doing their homework, are bombarded with vulgar and pornographic ads. Nothing has been done about this.

To conclude, I would like to say that a centrally administered national do not call list provides the means for consumers to avoid unsolicited telemarketing calls. A well-run do not call list will provide consumers with choice and protection.

The Conservative Party supports the establishment of a do not call registry within the parameters I have clearly defined. I personally still have many concerns. I have tried to allude to them, but my time is up, so let me close by saying that I will be watching closely and will protect the best interests of my constituents of Newton—North Delta and all Canadians.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2005 / 10:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-28, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Regulations that have no basis in legislation are a constant problem that only recently have been addressed in any significant way. Often when legislation is made, the regulations that allow for the implementation and enforcement of the law are made after the fact by the relevant department or ministry.

Essentially, Parliament confers upon the minister the power to create regulations, provided they do not exceed the parameters of the legislation. What often happens, however, is that the lengthy and convoluted process required in creating regulations results in regulations that are technically not legal. Powers that have not been confirmed by law are given through regulation to the minister. Not only does this situation violate the supremacy of Parliament, it effectively allows law to be made without any accountability or oversight.

While some irregularities are due to simple mistakes, others are deliberate attempts to ignore the intent and alter the outcome of legislation. Thanks to the rare passage of a private member's bill, Bill C-205 in 2003, which I might add was the result of much hard work by its sponsor, the Conservative member for Newton—North Delta, Parliament now has greater powers to ensure that law by regulation is curtailed.

This bill is a direct result of five years of pressure by the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations on Health Canada. The irregularity of the regulation was first pointed out in 1999 and it is only now, after years of resistance, that the department has finally brought this bill forward.

The bill is an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act. Currently, a regulation allows the director, in this case the deputy minister of health responsible for health products, to issue notices of interim market authorizations. This regulation gives the director administrative discretion that exceeds the legislative authority granted by Parliament to the governor in council. In other words, the regulation contradicts the authority of the original legislation. This bill seeks to correct this discrepancy.

The regulation was created in 1997. Since that time, 82 interim market authorizations have been made, but because the regulation violates the legislation to which it applies, all of these authorizations have technically been illegal. The amendment seeks to fix this irregularity by giving the minister the authority to make interim market authorizations.

The bill also seeks to exempt any food that contains an agricultural chemical at or below a limit specified under the new Pest Control Products Act. Those foods containing these safe levels of substances can be sold because their sale poses no harm to consumers.

The bill applies to the immediate sale of food products that contain pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals, added vitamins, minerals and amino acids at or below the specified maximum limit. The bill is not creating from scratch a new practice, but simply is making legal or enshrining in law a practice that has been taking place for years.

The Conservative Party supports this amendment because regulations that violate the letter and/or intent of the law should not be tolerated. Any action that eliminates irregularities should be encouraged. We also support writing into law the interim market authorizations. As long as the safety of Canadians is accounted for, there is no reason that food and other products should not be allowed for sale if the substances they contain do not exceed a specified safe level.

These measures allow Canadian food producers and manufacturers to quickly bring their products to market, increasing their availability to compete. Canadian consumers also benefit by gaining quicker access to new and modified products.

Like other smart regulations, interim market authorization creates a level playing field for Canadian businesses, especially within the U.S. market. Currently, the U.S. government allows food products in the approval stage to be marketed, given that they are not harmful or restricted by other laws.

That being said, caution is needed. Although interim market authorizations have been common practice since 1997 supposedly without incident, that is not to say that unsafe food products have not been prematurely authorized for sale. Not only might their sale pose a health risk, but the government may be liable for damages in the event of unsafe food, causing problems.

Interim marketing authorizations are necessary and welcome, but must be used only when it is known beyond doubt that whatever substance is in a food product is at or below the approved safe level.

In summary, Bill C-28 is a corrective measure to bring an existing regulation in line with the legislation to which it applies. We want to reduce the number of regulations that contradict the authority of legislation. This will take years, but it is a necessary undertaking and is worth the effort. We support this change as a small step toward making better law and law making.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James, MB

Madam Speaker, regulations that have no basis in legislation are a constant problem that only recently has been addressed in any significant way.

Often when legislation is made, the regulations that allow for the implementation and enforcement of the law are made after the fact, by the relevant department or ministry. Essentially, Parliament confers upon the minister the power to create regulations, provided they do not exceed the parameters of the legislation. What often happens, however, is that the lengthy and convoluted process required creating regulations results in regulations that are technically not legal. Powers that have not been conferred by law are given through regulation to the minister.

Not only does this situation violate the supremacy of Parliament, it effectively allows law to be made without any accountability or oversight. While some irregularities are due simply mistakes, others are deliberate attempts to ignore the intent and alter the outcome of legislation.

The Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations is responsible for the line by line analysis of regulations. It is charged with the often thankless and tedious task of ensuring that regulations made outside of Parliament adhere to the intention and letter of the legislation made by members of Parliament.

Thanks to the rare passage of a private member's bill, Bill C-205, in 2003, which may I add, was the result of the hard work of its sponsor, the Conservative member from Newton—North Delta, Parliament now has greater powers to ensure that law by regulation is curtailed.

The Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations was given the power to disallow any regulations made pursuant to authority delegated by Parliament. Canada's elected officials now have a greater ability to ensure that Parliament, and not unelected bureaucrats, have the ultimate law-making authority. Democracy has been strengthened.

The bill is the direct result of five years of pressure by the Standing Joint Committee of Scrutiny of Regulations on Health Canada. The irregularity of the regulation was first pointed out in 1999, and it is only now, after years of resistance, that the department has finally brought the bill forward.

The bill is an amendment to the Food and Drugs Act. Currently, a regulation allows the direct, in this case the deputy minister of health responsible for health products, to issue notices of interim market authorizations. The regulation gives the director administrative discretion that exceeds the legislative authority granted by Parliament to the governor in council. In other words, the regulation contradicts the authority of the original legislation. The bill seeks to correct this discrepancy.

The regulation was created in 1997, and since that time 82 interim market authorizations have been made. Because the regulation violates the legislation to which it applies, all these authorizations have technically been illegal.

The amendment seeks to fix this irregularity by giving the minister the authority to make interim market authorizations. The bill also seeks to exempt any food that contains an agricultural chemical at or below a limit specified under the new Pest Control Products Act. Those foods containing safe levels of substances can be sold because their sale poses no harm to consumers.

Interim market authorizations are made to allow, by providing exemptions from the Food and Drug Act's requirements, the sale of foods that contain substances at or below specified levels. This will allow Canadians faster access to food products. The bill applies to the immediate sale of food products that contain pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals, added vitamins, minerals and amino acids at or below the specified maximum limit.

This bill is not creating from scratch a new practice, but is simply making legal or enshrining in law a practice that has been taking place for years.

The Conservative Party supports this amendment because regulations that violate the letter and/or the intent of the law should not be tolerated. Any action that eliminates irregularities should be encouraged.

We also support the writing into law of interim market authorizations. As long as the safety of Canadians is accounted for, there is no reason that food and other products should not be allowed for sale if the substances they contain do not exceed the specified safety levels.

These measures allow Canadian food producers and manufacturers to quickly bring their products to market, increasing their ability to compete. Canadian consumers also benefit by gaining quicker access to new and modified products.

Like other smart regulations, interim market authorization creates a level playing field for Canadian business especially within the U.S. market. Currently the U.S. government allows food products in the approval stage to be marketed, given that they are not harmful or restricted by other laws.

That being said, caution is needed. Although interim market authorizations have been common practice since 1997 supposedly without incident, this is not to say that unsafe food products have not been prematurely authorized for sale. Not only might their sale pose a health risk, but the government may be liable for damages in the event of unsafe food causing problems.

Interim market authorizations are necessary and welcome, but must be used only when it is known beyond a doubt that whatever substance is in a food product is at or below an already approved safe level.

In summary, Bill C-28 is a corrective measure to bring an existing regulation into line with the legislation to which it applies.

We want to reduce the number of regulations that contradict the authority of the legislation. This will take years, but it is a necessary undertaking worth the effort. We support this change as a small step toward better laws and better law making.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

December 14th, 2004 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the first instance, I think it is a serious concern for all members in the House when some regulations are contradicting the authority given by legislation. Second, safety and security are at risk in many issues when the departments are dragging their heels and not dealing with the issue.

In general, I think we have to work a lot in this place on regulatory reform. There are many regulations that overlap and duplicate. In various departments, some of the regulations completely contradict each other. They need to be taken care of, and as well, I think harmonization of regulations is a serious issue.

The government has been dragging its heels on the harmonization of regulations, even with our largest trading partner, and even in east-west trade that is taking place in our country from province to province. There is a lot of overlap and duplication. Harmonization is needed to correct those mistakes.

I will say that as a first step we could identify the regulations and put them in three categories: good, bad and ugly. We need to keep some good regulations, which ensure safety of food, protection of the environment and provide us with security, but we need to get rid of the ugly regulations, which should not be in place.

I think regulatory reform becomes an integral part of parliamentary reform, about which there has been a lot of talk but little action.

I take some credit for this for having my bill, Bill C-205, pass in the House. That is not a very common occurrence. It is very rare that a private member's bill becomes law. It brought various regulations by various quasi-government agencies and organizations under the umbrella of Parliament. It restored parliamentary democracy and accountability to a great extent. It did plug the regulatory accountability black hole that had existed for so long.

I believe that Parliament should take the direction of bringing about regulatory reform as an integral part of parliamentary reform so that such issues are dealt with more effectively and efficiently.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

December 14th, 2004 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta and the official opposition of Canada to participate in the debate on Bill C-28, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

This enactment would amend the Food and Drugs Act to provide the Minister of Health with the authority to issue interim marketing authorization for foods that contain substances at specified levels, and to exempt those foods from the applicable requirement of the act and its regulation relating to their sale.

The proposed amendments are in response to concerns raised by the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations regarding an administrative process put in place by Health Canada under the regulations of the Food and Drugs Act to allow Canadians faster access to food products under specific circumstances. All members of the House want our food supply to be safe, efficient and effective.

The bill proposes to amend the Food and Drugs Act to achieve two purposes. First, to provide the Minister of Health with the authority to issue an interim marketing authorization for the early sale of safe food and safe food products that contain certain substances; and second, exempt any food that contains an agricultural chemical, at or below the maximum residue limit specified by the minister under the new Pest Control Products Act, from the prohibition in the Food and Drugs Act of the sale of foods containing these residues because the sale of these foods would not pose harm to consumers. We are talking about safety.

The bill would give the minister authority to issue interim marketing authorization for food products wishing to enter the market earlier or that have previously entered the market and have added or modified contents since initially approved by Health Canada.

Currently, the deputy minister of health responsible for health products has the authority to issue interim marketing authorization, IMA. The minister is arguing that the authority to issue the IMA is a power of Parliament granted by the Crown and therefore the responsibility for the IMA should rest with the minister.

The bill would also allow for food products which contain pesticides, veterinary pharmaceuticals or added vitamins, minerals or amino acids at or below the maximum residue limit to be exempt from the FDA regulations while in the approval process.

Briefing material provided by Health Canada argues that Canadian companies are currently at a great disadvantage because of the lengthy approval time for new or modified food products. Canadian companies are not on a level playing field with their trading partners, particularly in the American market. This is because the U.S. government allows food products in the approval stage to be marketed, given that they are not harmful and not restricted by any other law or legislation.

The amendment that we are debating would put Canada on a par with the United States and give our food producers a level playing field when it comes to new products entering the market.

We would not be here today were it not for the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations. Bill C-28 is a direct consequence of concerns first raised by that committee in April 1999. At that time, over five years ago, the committee identified the regulations of the Food and Drugs Act permitting interim marketing authorization as illegal. In other words, it was not supported by legislation.

Much of the law that affects Canadians is not found in the statutes of Canada, but in the thousands of regulations made pursuant to powers granted by acts of Parliament. Each year the federal government introduces about 1,200 new regulations. Since 1975 the federal government introduced over 28,000 regulations. That is 122,000 pages of regulations. About 20% of the laws in the country stem from legislation debated and passed in this legislature. The remaining 80% of the laws that we see are made up of regulations; just 20% is what we passionately debate in the House.

After a debate, we vote yea or nay, depending on the merit of the proposed law. The media and the general public focus on the 20% component. However, the 80%, which is coming through the back door by way of regulations, is not debated nor are other parliamentary democracy principles applied to those regulations.

Regulations on the other hand, receive virtually no debate in the House or even the other place, no public policy input, no studies or media scrutiny. This is an affront to democracy. Under parliamentary reform, this is the one the main issues at which we must look.

My private member's Bill C-205 passed in the House. I thank all members for their support. What will the bill do? We all know the government rules, but does not govern through the complete parliamentary democracy and practice. Some 80% of the regulations, which comprise the law, are made under the authority of Parliament. Various agencies, bodies or quasi-government organizations are delegated the authority to make regulations. However, when they make regulations, Parliament does not have the authority to scrutinize or review those regulations.

Therefore, a big chunk of our laws have been completely ignored. There is a big black hole in accountability and democracy which has been ignored for so long until Bill C-205 passed. With the passing of the bill, Parliament now has the authority to review regulations of those agencies through the Standing Joint Committee for Scrutiny of Regulations. They will now be scrutinized and if need be, disallowed.

My bill restored some of that democracy. It was a huge step in parliamentary reform. We talk a lot about reform, but little action is taken.

The Standing Joint Committee for Scrutiny of Regulations does the only scrutiny. Very limited scrutiny of regulations is done in Parliament. Our new regulations are permanently referred to the committee pursuant to the provisions of section 26 of the Statutory Instruments Act. Members of Parliament and Senators are on the committee. Legal counsel and staff work diligently, scouring through thousands of papers on dry, technical, legal subject matter as part of their thankless task of reviewing regulations.

This committee is generally misunderstood and ignored. This committee is considered to be not a very high profile committee, despite the hard work it does. In fact, talking about parliamentary democracy, this committee should be considered a very important one. It is an essential watchdog, protecting democracy, controlling bureaucracy and holding the government to account.

The standing joint committee does not judge regulations on the basis of policy measures, general merit, or necessity. Its study of regulations is instead limited to the questions of validity and legality. Members follow uniform and clearly defined criteria in their examinations. Compared to most committees, this committee is non-partisan and we build consensus in the committee.

The committee judges whether or not an statutory instrument: is not authorized by the enbabling legislation or is not in compliance with the conditions set forth in the legislation; does not conform with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Canadian Bill of Rights; purports to have retroactive effect without express authority being provided by the enabling legislation; imposes a charge on public revenues, imposes a fine or imprisonment without express authority; excludes the jurisdiction of courts; has not complied with the Statutory Instruments Act with respect to transmission, registration or publication; appears to infringe on the rule of law, trespasses unduly on rights and liberties, make rights and liberties unduly dependent on legislative discretion, makes some unusual or unexpected use of powers conferred by the enabling legislation; amounts to the exercise of power that should properly be the subject of parliamentary enactment; and is defective in its drafting, including the translation.

These criteria deal with matters of legality and procedural aspects of regulation, not the merits of the regulations or policy.

The committee works meticulously, and with the complex nature of its undertaking, work proceeds at a slow pace. The long delays in dealing with particular items are largely related to the large number of regulations which the committee has to review relative to the number of meetings it can hold each year. All this considered, the committee, with the able assistance of its long-time legal counsel, Mr. Francois Bernier, is remarkably productive. Consider that over the period from November 7, 1997 to December 6, 2001, the committee dealt with 1,133 pieces of subordinate legislation in the course of 45 meetings.

I am a seven term co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, representing all members of the House and I speak from personal experience. The work of the committee members can be extremely frustrating. We in effect hold ministers accountable for the legality of subordinate legislation, primarily regulations, sponsored by their departments.

However, this task is at times almost impossible. When the scrutiny of regulations committee finds a regulation that it deems in conflict with the legislation, our first step is to inform the respective department in writing. It should be a simple process. We identify a problem regulation, inform the department and then it fixes it. Instead, what we usually encounter is foot-dragging that can carry on for years or even decades.

The Food and Drugs Act regulations are an example of this foot-dragging. For five years, the department argued that there was nothing wrong with the regulations concerning the notice for interim marketing authorization. We are debating this today. Finally, after so many years, the department abruptly informed the committee last April that it was proceeding with the legislation before the House today. For over five years, the department has been using illegal regulations. Those are the regulations we are trying to correct today.

In a democracy that prides itself in the rule of law, this is unpardonable, but it is not the least bit unusual. Recently, my committee finally closed another file that had been opened for 27 years, more than a quarter of a century.

The committee's usual practice is to deal with a problem regulations informally by letter to the relevant officials. This allows the minister involved to amend the regulation with minimum fuss. The committee can also prepare and issue a disallowance report, but this is usually done only after the department has failed to address our previously identified concerns. Disallowance reports are very rare.

Let us consider the sequence of events surrounding the Food and Drugs Act regulations concerning interim marketing authorizations. I want to give this example so that the members in the House, the public in general, and our media scrutiny can also understand and comprehend the problems facing this committee.

On April 7, 1999 counsel for the scrutiny of regulations committee wrote to the DIO and questioned the legality of provisions of food and drug regulations that provided for notices of interim marketing authorization. The objection was that these provisions provided for unauthorized exemptions and also involved an illegal sub-delegation of powers.

On November 25, 1999, 232 days later, the department responded that it considered the provisions to be a valid exercise of regulation-making powers conferred by the Food and Drugs Act.

On December 23, 1999, the committee counsel reviewed the arguments put forward by the department and sent a letter countering those arguments, asking for reconsideration.

On March 8, 2000, now 355 days, almost a year after the initial correspondence and over three months since the last letter, the department replied indicating that generally it was committed to the policy, but that it might review the regulatory provisions in question with a view to making a “clarifying amendment.”

Exactly seven months later, on September 28, 2000, the committee was forced to again write to the department to inform it that it wished a detailed response to its letter of December 23, 1999.

Nothing more was heard from the department until October 17, 2001, over one year since the last correspondence, when a comprehensive reply to the letter of December 23, 1999 was finally received by the committee.

On December 12, 2002, the file was re-submitted to the joint committee with a 13 page note on the October 17, 2001 response.

On March 3, 2003, myself, as co-chair of the standing joint committee, wrote to the Minister of Health to restate the committee's position and explain why the response from the department was not accepted.

Over a year later, on June 24, 2004, the committee was informed that:

It is the intention of the Department to bring forward legislation in the early Fall 2004 that will amend the Food and Drugs Act to allow the Minister of Health to issue NIMAs and provide for a limited power to exempt food products from the application of the Food and Drug Regulations and paragraph 4(d) of the Act.

Finally, on November 29 Bill C-28 was introduced. There was a little over five years between the time the issue was first raised with the department and the introduction of remedial legislation. As I said earlier, when compared to other files that stretch on for decades, this issue was resolved rather quickly. However, five years is still five years. That is far too long for illegal regulations to remain in place.

Departments and their ministers take far too long to respond to concerns of the committee. There is no good reason for the department to go over a year without responding to a letter from the committee. It is an affront to the rule of law, it is an affront to Parliament and it is an affront to democracy. That is why we need Parliament to be reformed, including scrutiny of regulations issues.

I support Bill C-28. The amendments to the Food and Drugs Act are years overdue. I give full credit to the members, the staff and the counsel of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations for identifying the drawbacks in the system, bringing that to the fore, and following and chasing it through until remedial action is taken by the department to correct this parliamentary affront that has been going on so long.

I will conclude by asking members of Parliament to look into the regulatory process so that the regulatory process in this country is fair, efficient and effective.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

December 10th, 2004 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-27, which is an act to regulate and prohibit certain activities related to food and other products to which the acts under the administration of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency apply, and to provide for the administration and enforcement of those acts and to amend other acts in consequence. The short title of the bill is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act.

The intent of this proposed legislation is to consolidate, modernize and enhance the inspection and enforcement powers of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The bill seeks to provide the CFIA with the basic inspection and enforcement tools that it needs to continue protecting Canada's food supply and animal and plant resource base. It is intended to allow CFIA inspectors to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently and to provide Canada with modern border enforcement tools that will be more consistent with recent American legislation.

Bill C-27 consolidates inspection and enforcement provisions from the eight acts that form the current legislative base for the CFIA. Those eight acts are: the Canada Agriculture Products Act; the Fish Inspection Act; the Meat Inspection Act; the Seeds Act; the Feeds Act; the Fertilizers Act; the Health of Animals Act; and the Plant Protection Act. These acts were introduced by different departments over the course of many years. Some date back as far as the 1940s and 1950s. These acts have been around for a long time, and the department thought it would try to integrate, consolidate and modernize the food inspection legislation.

Government responsibility for food in Canada is divided among the federal, 10 provincial, three territorial and numerous municipal governments. Some 77 pieces of legislation govern Canada's food inspection among the three levels of government.

Federal responsibility centres on export and interprovincial trade, protecting and expanding export markets for Canadian food products and facilitating interprovincial trade. In addition, the federal government sets food safety, quality and grading standards for products sold interprovincially and internationally. It administers regulations aimed at preventing the production or sale in Canada of dangerous, adulterated or misbranded products.

Provinces and municipalities are responsible for the intra-provincial aspects of the food industry, including local food processing, the food service industry and the food retail industry. They decide whether and how to inspect local operations, including restaurants and grocery stores, as well as dairies and meat plants whose products are sold within the province.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the result of the amalgamation in 1997 of food safety and inspection programs from three federal departments: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Health Canada and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The establishment of a single agency followed a long history of discussions about the benefits of consolidating the federal food inspection system.

Following are some of the reasons for creating the CFIA. Industry and government favoured harmonized standards and streamlined inspection to ensure the competitiveness of the Canadian food industry domestically, as well as internationally. Canadian producers and processors were vulnerable to trade challenges in a fragmented system. Closer integration of the U.S. and Canadian markets under free trade agreements made the industry anxious to reduce the costs and inefficiencies resulting from differing provincial standards. Canadian exporters were concerned about being denied access to external markets on the grounds that Canadian food safety standards and inspection systems were not equivalent to those of the markets into which they were shipping.

The agency's main activities focus on inspecting the food supply, but it also conducts activities related to animal health and plant protection. The agency is responsible for delivering federal inspection programs that enforce these policies and standards. Bill C-27 is basically a housekeeping bill, but that does not mean it is without fault. It has flaws.

My main concern is that the bill does not incorporate any aspect of accountability for fair and effective enforcement on the part of the CFIA.

Food inspection is absolutely essential to Canadians. We want to have faith in the food we eat.

Large quantities of foodstuffs, for example, rice or some indigenous foods, are imported into Canada by Canadian firms from China, India and many other countries. Many of the foods are from different communities in their country of origin.

Some of these foods are accepted into the United States but normally they are not accepted into Canada. The criteria used in decisions often appear to be arbitrary and unfair. The importers or business people are catering to a huge multicultural market in Canada and are unable to import foods which are easily imported into the United States of America, our neighbour and largest trading partner. We need to look into that aspect.

The root cause is the regulatory process. Since my election to this chamber in 1997, I have taken a particular interest in regulatory reform and in reducing red tape. I have been the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations and have succeeded in passing a private member's bill, of course with the cooperation of all members in the House.

That bill provides parliamentarians with an opportunity to disallow any federal statutory instruments that are illegal, redundant or that are not supposed to be there, even ones that originate from government agencies like the CFIA which we are talking about today. I also organized a conference on regulatory reform and have authored numerous op-eds on the issue.

Let me talk about Bill C-205 which was one of, I think, 1,700 bills that have been introduced in the House since I was elected. I was lucky to have the cooperation of some members from the opposite side as well.

Prior to the passage of my bill, Parliament was powerless to revoke hundreds of regulations written by government agencies like the CFIA, the CRTC and many other agencies. In other words, the quasi-government organizations or agencies have been delegated the power to make regulations. When Parliament delegated the power to them to make the regulations, parliamentarians did not have the power to review, scrutinize or disallow the regulations which many times contradicted the original intent of the legislation.

There was a big black hole in the accountability for many years before the passage of this most important private member's bill. As a result of the passage of that bill, all the regulations that are made in Canada by different agencies now come under the purview of Parliament. The Standing Joint Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations has demanded to review and scrutinize some of those.

I am therefore interested to see that Bill C-27 seeks to support the government's so-called smart regulation strategy by providing more consistent inspection and enforcement powers; providing a wider range of regulatory instruments; simplifying and streamlining the regulatory process; and contributing to the increased harmonization of legislation and regulations, to reduce overlap. Sometimes regulations are not consistent with those of our largest trading partner. The bill seeks to contribute to the regulatory cooperation with the United States, our largest trading partner.

This bill is long overdue. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was created in 1997 to combine all federal food inspection, animal, plant and health services into a single inspection agency. The legislative basis for the agency should have been updated at that time or shortly thereafter, not after seven years.

Even though the government has had more than ample time to prepare the legislation, it is still not without flaws. Therefore, I am concerned that the bill does not incorporate any aspect of accountability for fair and effective enforcement. It fails to address accountability for frivolous or false detainment and destruction of products and materials. Without such accountability, I will not be able to support the bill. I look forward to meaningful amendments to the bill.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 11 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the constituents of Newton--North Delta to participate in the debate on Bill C-11, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoing in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoing.

It has taken more than a decade for the government to accept the need for whistleblower legislation. It took a lobby by the whistleblower community, public outcry, official opposition pressure, highlights by the media, my Bill C-205, and a series of scandals including the George Radwanski affair, the gun registry cost overruns, the HRDC scandal, the scathing report by the current public service integrity officer, and the sponsorship scandal, for the Liberals to finally make good on their 1993 red book promise. Even now it is obvious that their hearts and souls are not in this legislation.

Up to now it seems that the Liberal government's policy has been to control occupational free speech rather than permitting it. They have bullied whistleblowers, intimidated and harassed them, fired them from their jobs, and have ruined their professional and personal lives rather than rewarding them as is done in the United States and other countries.

The Liberals have always believed in secrecy, confidentiality and cover-ups rather than transparency, accountability and corrective action.

Bill C-11 fails to respond to the cynicism of public servants and lack of confidence. It fails to provide adequate protection. It does not promote a climate in the federal public service that encourages bureaucrats to expose wrongdoing and corruption in government.

The biggest problem with the bill is that it authorizes the president of the Public Service Commission to report through a minister rather than directly to Parliament. The minister will then have 15 days, five more than in the previous bill, to table that report in Parliament, more than enough time to plan his counterspin.

For over a decade the PSC has been the third party. It had a mandate to deal with harassment complaints, but was given no authority or mandate to provide any restitution for damages. The public interest is served when employees are free to expose mismanagement, waste, corruption, abuse or cover-ups within the public service without fear of retaliation and discrimination.

Under Bill C-11 only those who make disclosures through the prescribed channels and whose disclosures meet specific criteria are protected. That is not good enough. If whistleblowers want to safely make a disclosure under this legislation, they must report to a supervisor first or ensure they have reasonable grounds for going directly to the president of the PSC. This disclosure must not be deemed unimportant, frivolous or vexatious, and the person must not go public. That is shameful. These provisions describe a process for containing disclosures, not encouraging them.

The scope of Bill C-11 has been somewhat improved from the previous bill when it was first introduced. Some crown corporations have been included. However, the legislation still excludes the RCMP, military personnel, CSIS, CSE and others. This means that a whistleblower, like RCMP Corporal Robert Reid, who had to go public when the authorities covered up his investigation of visa selling in the Hong Kong immigration office, would have no protection under this proposed legislation. What good is a whistleblower protection bill when it cannot provide protection to whistleblowers?

Aside from these important exclusions, the bill includes several other government agencies listed in the schedule to the act; however, cabinet may amend the schedule at any time even after the act is passed in Parliament. That gives blanket power to cabinet. As a result the government could create roadblocks anytime as it deems itself embarrassed and federal government employees may find themselves without whistleblower protection.

Bill C-11 prescribes no punishment, fines or sanctions for those who make reprisals against a whistleblower. Reprisals must be reported within 60 days of the time the whistleblower knew or ought to have known a reprisal was taking place. Although this is twice as long as the time allowed in Bill C-25, the timeline is still far too restrictive.

As I mentioned earlier, three years ago, in the face of government opposition, I introduced legislation to protect whistleblowers. That was a time when many members and many people did not know what whistleblower protection was all about. Last year the Liberals refused to support my bill. They simply lacked the political will to provide protection to whistleblowers. When I blew the whistle on whistleblowing, the Liberals had their ears plugged. They did not even want to go there.

Next week I will be introducing that legislation again because the present legislation is not capable of providing legitimate protection to whistleblowers.

My bill is unique and comprehensive. It is unique because whistleblowers like Brian McAdam; Joanna Gualtieri, founder of FAIR, Federal Accountability, Integrity and Resolution; and Louis Clark, executive director and founder of GAP, Government Accountability Project in the U.S. were consulted to take advantage of their experiences. I thank them for their input and help in drafting my bill.

Let us compare my bill and the government's bill. My bill would permit public servants to disclose alleged wrongdoing to public bodies, including the media, whereas Bill C-11 attempts to keep allegations within the department and restricts the person's right to go to the public.

In my bill an employee who has alleged wrongdoing and suffers from retaliatory action as a consequence would have the right to bring civil action before a court, whereas with Bill C-11 employees must take their claims of reprisals to an applicable labour board whose deliberations could be a very long and tedious process.

In my bill every employee would have a duty to disclose wrongdoing, whereas Bill C-11 warns that disclosure must not be unimportant, frivolous, or vexatious.

In my bill a supervisor, manager or other person of authority who harasses a whistleblower would be subject to criminal prosecution and face a fine of up to $5,000. As well, they would be subject to personal liability for any resulting damages that may be awarded to the employee pursuant to any civil or administrative proceedings. Bill C-11 prescribes no punishment for those who make reprisals against whistleblowers. Where is the protection?

In my bill, an employee who successfully blows the whistle would be recognized with an ex gratia award, whereas Bill C-11 makes no reference to these rewards, even though the current public service integrity officer states that rewards are essential. The government forgot about that.

In my bill, written allegations would be investigated and reported upon within 30 days of receipt, whereas in Bill C-11, no deadlines are set. That means it is open ended, maybe there would be an investigation or maybe not. It only says that investigations are to be conducted as informally and expeditiously as possible.

When I drafted my bill, public service whistleblowers were consulted extensively, whereas the Liberals bullied the whistleblowers and they have not even talked to the whistleblower community.

Whistleblowers should be praised, not punished. They should not pay for their public service by putting their jobs on the line. In fact, I would allow the government to steal from my whistleblower bill and put it into its bill. I am a small l liberal as far as my bill is concerned.

I will ensure that the government definitely looks at my bill in committee. I will allow it to liberally steal from my bill as much as it has been stealing part and parcel from the platform of the Conservative Party.

I believe the bill will be amended in committee, otherwise I would be forced to vote against the bill and force the Liberals, as well as all members in the House, to pass my bill and not the government's bill.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

October 13th, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-205, an act to amend the Criminal Code (eliminating conditional sentencing for violent offenders).

Mr. Speaker, when former justice minister Allan Rock introduced conditional sentencing, judges started giving it to violent offenders such as people who had committed crimes like rape. The public was outraged andwe raised it in the House. The minister said that he never intended that it should apply to violent offenders, yet the government, after all these years, has still not made that correction. Schedule I and Schedule II offenders should not have access to conditional sentencing.

Surely the government will support this legislation. Its own minister who brought it in said that it was never intended to apply to violent offenders. This is the government's opportunity to correct that mistake.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)