Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement Act

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

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

Sponsor

Andy Mitchell  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of June 22, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides statutory authority respecting the inspection powers of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the enforcement of Acts under its responsibility. It authorizes a number of measures such as

(a) subjecting various activities related to the importation and exportation of, and interprovincial trade in, regulated products, to a licensing regime;

(b) prohibiting, licensing or permitting certain activities related to dangerous things that are subject to the Health of Animals Act or the Plant Protection Act such as pathogens;

(c) permitting the exchange of information with other governmental authorities or prescribed organizations;

(d) permitting the Agency to enter into arrangements in respect of foreign inspections; and

(e) modernizing powers of inspection.

In addition, it creates certain new offences related to those measures as well as offences related to tampering with a regulated product.

It also authorizes the Minister to make orders to respond to natural disasters or urgent situations.

Finally, the enactment amends certain other Acts in consequence.

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.

Safe Food for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again speak to Bill S-11, the modernization of Canada's food safety system. This is, undoubtedly, a timely issue, especially given that we are hardly two months removed from the beginning of the largest beef recall in Canadian history caused by a collapse in monitoring and sanitation measures at XL Foods in Brooks, Alberta.

I also note that there has been no delay in addressing the bill. I last rose and spoke to Bill S-11 on October 22, not even a month ago. In fact, and I will address this through my remarks, I believe we may have proceeded a little too quickly, by only a few days perhaps, for how serious a matter this is.

We know there is widespread support for modernizing our food safety system. When the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was first created in 1997, it was understood that the agency was only the first step in a multi-step process that also involved consolidating its legislative framework. The first attempt to do this was by a Liberal government in 2004 through Bill C-27 and it has been tried a couple of times since.

Witnesses who appeared before the committee generally spoke well of the need to proceed with this legislation but were also sure to voice their concerns, concerns that we share and that are important to be heard because of how serious an issue food safety remains. When it is time to vote, we will support Bill S-11. However, it is important that our concerns and the concerns of stakeholders across the country get raised and discussed.

We all know the context that makes this legislation more potent: the remarkable failure at XL Foods in Brooks, Alberta, where beef left the facility destined for the United States contaminated with E.coli 0157, a harmful pathogen that can cause serious illness when consumed by humans, especially those most vulnerable, like young children and seniors. The facts are pretty clear. Whether the Americans caught it first and let us know or the CFIA discovered it independently on September 4, Canadian officials would have known that day that there was an outbreak of E.coli at Establishment 38. Right then and there, bracketing should have caught any further contaminated meat. It did not.

During testimony by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, he stated:

The initial find, the problem, was that they had a discovery but then had not bracketed properly. That's taking production on either side of the affected batch out of the food cycle as well. They had not done that, and until CFIA was back in there doing the trend analysis, that was not discovered.

The government can argue that none of these shipments that the Americans stopped and that XL Foods tested on September 4 got out, but that E.coli contaminated meat from XL Foods made it to store shelves means it is playing word games and that tainted meat from that batch or not made it to consumers and made 18 Canadians ill. Semantics does not take the meat off the shelves. It was a recall issued on September 16, about two weeks later, that did.

The minister makes it clear in his statement that meat got out because XL Foods was not bracketing, nor was it monitoring E.coli trends. Why not? More still, we ask day after day what the delay was to no avail, until eventually we heard that only under Bill S-11 would inspectors finally have the power to compel conveyors and processors to supply the necessary documentation requested by inspectors. That is curious.

I will remind members that subsection 13(2) of the Meat Inspection Act states quite clearly:

The owner or person in charge of a place or vehicle referred to in subsection (1) and every person found in that place or vehicle shall give the inspector all reasonable assistance to enable the inspector to carry out his duties and functions under this Act and shall furnish the inspector with any information the inspector may reasonably require with respect to the administration or enforcement of this Act and the regulations.

That is the law now.

It also states in paragraph 13(1)(c) that inspectors may:

...require any person to produce for inspection, or for the purpose of obtaining copies or extracts, any book, shipping bill, bill of lading or other document or record that the inspector believes on reasonable grounds contains any information relevant to the administration or enforcement of this Act or the regulations.

That is the law now without Bill S-11.

Moreover, as recently as this past February, the CFIA made its regulations concerning inspectors' powers clear through the processor's guide to inspection, reinforcing the legal requirement to provide information to and assist an inspector when requested.

When I shared this concern with the CFIA president, George Da Pont, he assured me that while the Meat Inspection Act presently does provide these powers for inspectors, the new bill adds phrases like “timely” to the act, which will create an authority to provide documents in a certain timeframe.

Both acts have consequences for non-compliance and the addition of “timely” would not have changed what happened. In fact, much of our concern with Bill S-11 comes from what is not written and what will be incorporated by reference later on. We may very well see the appropriate timelines put in place but there is no way to know that now.

We are supporting this legislation because the language surrounding inspector powers will slightly strengthen and be made more clear but it remains abundantly clear that this bill is not a magic bullet that would have prevented 18 Canadians from falling ill last month.

What we all really require to augment our food safety system is the knowledge that the CFIA is adequately supported with sufficient staff and resources. I am not the sole voice on this issue.The only objective way to achieve this is through an independent comprehensive resource audit, such as the one requested by the independent investigator into 2008's listeriosis outcome, Sheila Weatherill. In her report the following year, which addressed measures necessary to help prevent another outbreak like the one in 2008 that killed 23 people and made many others sick, Ms. Weatherill was concerned with some of the information she received and stated the following:

Due to the lack of detailed information and differing views heard, the Investigation was not able to determine the current level of resources as well as the resources needed to conduct the CVS activities effectively. For the same reason, we were also unable to come to a conclusion concerning the adequacy of the program design, implementation plan, training and supervision of inspectors, as well as oversight and performance monitoring.

A full account of resources is absolutely necessary to not only ensure the adequacy of staffing but the effectiveness of training and allocation. I think members opposite are really concerned that we want to employ hundreds more inspectors. While we were justifiably concerned with their cuts to inspectors and the CFIA in the budget, some $56.1 million in cuts, which ostensibly have an impact on front-line resources, we thought they would like to know, that they need to know, if there are real efficiencies that could be attained once we know if everyone is adequately trained and where there can be redistribution. It is the smart way to run a business.

Given her concerns, Ms. Weatherill went on to recommend:

To accurately determine the demand on its inspection resources and the number of required inspectors, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency should retain third-party experts to conduct a resources audit. The experts should also recommend required changes and implementation strategies. The audit should include analysis as to how many plants an inspector should be responsible for and the appropriateness of rotation of inspectors.

That is pretty clear. We know that the CFIA did not do this because, in 2010, then CFIA president, Carole Swan, indicated that while it retained PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a review, she was very clear when she stated:

They didn't conduct it as an audit. An audit is a very specific process. It was a detailed review .

This means that not all the Weatherill recommendations were complied with. This means that even before the government's cuts in this year's budget, neither the agency nor the government had any clear impression of its resources and how best to allocate them. While cutting blindly may not have led to the E.coli contamination in Brooks, it certainly will not help the already compounded problem of inspectors in facilities who still do not have the necessary training in the compliance verification system, nor will it facilitate the transition of individual meat, fish and other agricultural product inspectors into a consolidated Jack of all trades and masters of none.

This very issue was highlighted during the Senate hearings on Bill S-11 when Bob Kingston, the president of the Agriculture Union of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, told members of that committee:

You will be interested to know that in the XL plant, only a small portion of the inspectors are actually trained in CVS. That is right; for more than four years after CVS was introduced, most inspectors there have not been trained in how to use it. Why, you might ask? The answer is actually simple. The CFIA cannot afford to deliver training any faster and does not have enough inspectors to relieve those away while being trained. As well, resources are often diverted to address crises, which further derails training.

To me, this is a clear statement that the CFIA lacks the resources and support to carry out its mandate.

According to the CFIA's website, the compliance verification system reads:

The CVS is a task-based inspection tool that:

is based on the CFIA’s regulatory requirements,

provides clear and consistent direction to CFIA inspectors,

is capable of adapting to rapidly-changing program requirements, and

can be applied to any inspection activity, in any commodity’s inspection program.

This is particularly important to me because it is not only verification of industry compliance but of consistency in inspection. In fact, a specific example on the CFIA website, and I can provide the website address to my colleagues opposite if they would like to check it out for themselves, reads:

For example: inspectors must regularly check a plant’s sanitation records, employee hygiene, cooking temperatures, ingredient controls, and lab results for pathogens like Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli.

Instead of the authority to request documents within a certain time, which they had, what it sounds like the inspectors really needed to prevent the outbreak at XL was adequate training on CVS and enough staff to cycle them off while training. This revelation strikes right at the heart of the often repeated myth that the Conservative government has hired more inspectors than ever. It can have record numbers of inspectors and even if we believed more inspectors were hired, which no one does anymore, how can they perform their functions fully without adequate training?

It is another clear indication that while the government is willing to build a car, it will not pay to hire a proper driver or, in this case, train one. Instead, it is adding an additional burden to inspectors who are responsible for keeping us safe.

Mr. Kingston continued in his testimony to say:

This situation is not limited to XL. As a matter of fact, ...we found the exact same scenario throughout Quebec.

This is yet another example of industry self-policing gone wrong because the CFIA is not adequately resourced to verify compliance. Does the government even know how many of its inspectors are adequately trained?

Since the beginning of October, when the hon. member for Toronto Centre and our leader, wrote to the Auditor General to commence an immediate audit and our now retired colleague from the other place, Senator Robert Peterson, moved an amendment for an audit function to be placed in the bill, we have argued the absolute necessity of this comprehensive study into the CFIA. Despite all of this, when I proposed an amendment to commence an immediate and comprehensive resource audit at committee, the Conservative members voted it down. All this, despite the fact that there was not one witness who thought it was a bad idea.

They love quotes on the other side. Karen Proud of the Retail Council of Canada said:

I can't see that our members would object to such an audit. It's always a good thing to look internally at whether you have the right resources to match your requirements and your mandates and, especially given a new piece of legislation, whether you've matched up the right resources.

Similarly, during a meeting of the Senate committee on agriculture and forestry, Mr. Albert Chambers, the executive director of the Canadian Supply Chain Food Safety Coalition argued:

It has become very common in the food industry to use an accredited certification body to provide a third-party audit to a food safety management system.

In fact, at the June 21 meeting of the same committee, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food replied in response to a question about a third party audit that he would entertain the idea. In the weeks that followed the E. coli outbreak, he strangely became more and more resistant to the idea.

Sadly, Conservatives on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food voted against every single amendment put forward by opposition members. As a matter of fact, there were not many. We used our opportunities judiciously, hoping to work collaboratively to make good legislation better.

Despite asking us to work with them on a bill that everyone agrees is a good start, the Conservative members refused to follow their own express wishes. In a spirit of mindless partisanship, they even blocked an amendment of mine that would have seen the clock start ticking for the five-year limited review, which is there now and the act does provide for, immediately upon royal assent instead of waiting an unknown number of months until the rest of the act came into effect.

There was not an inch given to improve the bill. Despite our co-operation, Conservative committee members were determined to vote against us at every turn. Towards the end of the study, I requested two additional days for us to speak to departmental officials and get their answers to questions and concerns posed by other witnesses and for us to shape strong, wholesome amendments to further improve a bill that we all support. It was so important to our food security that we needed the opportunity to get it right and to address all of our concerns the first time around. Alas, that never happened.

However, we remain optimistic that on some day, this arrogant, dismissive way of the government will give way to better, more responsive legislation.

Safe Food for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

November 19th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, thank goodness the member for Guelph is asking tough questions because all we hear from the government side are the trained seals on the back benches who take their direction from the parliamentary secretary, which is one of the problems with this place. My colleague from Welland asked pretty tough questions at committee, too.

I have one simple question. We support the bill. In fact, an even stronger bill was introduced by the Liberal government in 2004 or 2005, which was Bill C-27 at the time. The bill has a nice sounding name. Yes, it is good to have all the powers and authorities that the bill recommends, but what about the resources? We know about the budget cutbacks in terms of financial resources. Could the parliamentary secretary tell me the total number of inspectors working within the CFIA to inspect imported food coming to Canada and to the stores, which they are not really doing, and those kinds of areas? Could he give me the numbers?

Safe Food for Canadians ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak to the modernization of our food safety system. It has been a long time coming. If anything has been made clear by the recent outbreak of E. coli at XL Foods in Brooks, Alberta, it is that we need to take a closer look at food safety in Canada. We need to take a closer look because a system that the government recently claimed is one of the foremost in the world has inexplicably failed and left 15 people sick across Canada.

After nearly a month of constant coverage in the media, Canadians are all too familiar with the constantly evolving situation at the XL Foods establishment 38 in Brooks, Alberta, which led to the largest beef recall in Canadian history. It is important that Canadians watching this are not that fooled by the feigned urgency of the minister or his government when it comes to this legislation. The government is simply trying to change the channel on a rather dire issue.

When Conservative senators first introduced the legislation in the upper house in June, there was no urgency to seeing it debated expeditiously. In fact, it did not become a priority until the Conservatives were embroiled in defending their cuts to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in the last month.

Bill S-11 gave the minister an opportunity to claim that inaction on our part would hinder giving powers to inspectors that would prevent food safety breakdowns like XL's in the future. Unfortunately, this is a terrible ruse, an all too familiar tactic by the government.

Let us assume for a second that Canadians were not aware that under the current provisions of the Meat Inspection Act, the inspectors at XL Foods in Brooks were unable to request the documents they needed, which of course is not true. Why would the government let a bill granting these authorities languish for a summer in the Senate if that were the case? This is all to characteristic of the government. There is no willingness to make good public policy for the sake of Canadians. Instead, it waves it around the House like a hammer, scoring cheap political points.

The bill is important, but Canadians need to understand that it is no panacea. Once the bill is passed, Canadian food inspectors will not magically be able to prevent further outbreaks of food-borne illness and will not have that many more tools than they already have at their disposal. In effect, the bill will streamline some of the elements of inspection at the CFIA. Many of the changes are superficial, and all are primarily designed to modernize our food safety and inspection system. While it is nice to build a more efficient and modern vehicle, we need to ensure that we have enough resources to drive it.

This spring the government announced some drastic cuts to the CFIA, including a reduction of $56.1 million in the budget. Only recently did we discover that the government had no clear picture of the resources available to the CFIA before making those cuts, because it had not performed the comprehensive audit of resources that had been requested by the independent investigator into the listeriosis crisis.

We support modernizing our food safety system. After all, it was a Liberal government that introduced Bill C-27 in November 2004, a legislative measure designed as a second step in our modernization process, intended to consolidate and enhance the existing inspection and enforcement powers of the CFIA for food, agriculture and aquatic commodities, agricultural inputs, animals and plants.

Interestingly, the member for Haldimand—Norfolk, now a minister but then the official opposition agriculture critic, complained that the bill might restrict industry too much and noted that her party “supports a less intrusive approach to regulatory policy in Canada”. The bill died the following year upon the dissolution of Parliament. Since then there has been a major food safety crisis, one that killed 23 Canadians and made many more extremely ill.

The first lesson we learned from the 2008 listeriosis outbreak was that once the contaminant is in the market, it is already too late. Food-borne illness targets the most vulnerable of our population: children, seniors, pregnant women and their unborn. The only way to fully protect them is to catch contaminated food before it hits the shelves.

An independent investigator, Sheila Weatherill, was appointed in the wake of that tragedy to determine what went wrong and delivered a series of recommendations on how to ensure that the situation would never happen again.

In responding to her report, the government has made great fanfare about completing all of her 57 recommendations, Bill S-11 included as the final one. Yet the proof of this completion remains to be seen.

Before this House passes another bill on food safety, the government will have to reassure this party and Canadians that if it is to make real and meaningful changes, it will provide independent assurances that the CFIA will finally get the resources it needs and, in that regard, doing a comprehensive resource audit is required to see what it needs.

On its face, Bill S-11 is relatively straightforward. It would consolidate the Meat Inspection Act, the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act into a single act.

Furthermore, it would establish a parallel inspection and enforcement structure for all food commodities, meaning there would no longer be dedicated meat or fish inspectors but inspectors trained for all commodities. This is slightly concerning to me. I have the greatest esteem for our inspectors who work so diligently to ensure we have safe food once it reaches our tables, but I know that even right now they are not given all the tools they need to perform their roles to the fullest. We are asking inspectors to become jacks of all trades, spreading expertise even more thinly than it is right now.

I ask the government, what mechanisms would be instituted to ensure that all inspectors receive adequate training across all commodities, when it has still not, four years later, trained all inspectors on the comprehensive verification system?

This issue was highlighted very recently in the wake of the E. coli outbreak at Brooks. Mr. Bob Kingston, the president of the Agriculture Union at the Public Service Alliance of Canada, made the following comments at the Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture about this bill:

You will be interested to know that in the XL plant, only a small portion of the inspectors are actually trained in CVS. That is right; for more than four years after CVS was introduced, most inspectors there have not been trained in how to use it. Why, you might ask? The answer is actually simple. The CFIA cannot afford to deliver training any faster and does not have enough inspectors to relieve those away while being trained. As well, resources are often diverted to address crises, which further derails training.

This revelation strikes right at the heart of the oft repeated myth that the current Conservative government has hired more inspectors than ever. Moreover, it is another clear indication that while the government is willing to build a car, it will not pay to hire a proper driver or, in this case, train one.

It is concerning to us on this side that we might only be increasing the uphill battles that inspectors are facing while training to keep our food safe.

Mr. Kingston continued in his testimony to say:

This situation is not limited to XL. As a matter of fact, we were just at a conference this weekend and we found the exact same scenario throughout Quebec. This is yet another example of industry self-policing gone wrong because the CFIA is not adequately resourced to verify compliance.

What then happened in Brooks, Alberta? This kind of food safety decay does not happen overnight. A plant does not get shut down for three weeks for a faulty nozzle; a plant gets shut down for three weeks because there are compliance problems from top to bottom.

The minister stated that the Brooks facility boasts 40 inspectors and 6 veterinarians. How many of those inspectors are fully trained on the compliance verification system? Where in the legislation has the government addressed the number of inspectors required for each plant?

Pretending this legislation has the answers that Canadians need is disingenuous and not at all reassuring, because it creates no clarity and gives no answers to the issues I have just raised.

The bill would also establish a number of prohibitions, primarily relating to importing, exporting and interprovincial trade, as well as the manufacture, preparation, and sale of food commodities. It would also bring in tougher penalities for tampering, hoaxes or other deceptive practices. Here, we agree that the CFIA should be given the necessary tools to enforce import standards and to penalize deceptive practices. However, simply giving the CFIA a bigger stick is not reassuring to inspectors.

Since the outbreak of E. coli at XL, the government has tried to claim that the CFIA does not have enough enforcement powers at its disposal. The minister claimed that it took two weeks to issue a recall of contaminated meat because CFIA inspectors on the ground were not given timely access to documents that would have shown that XL was not monitoring trends leading up to the outbreak.

That is a convenient narrative. However, the existing Meat Inspection Act already gives powers, compelling:

[that] any person produce for inspection, or for the purpose of obtaining copies or extracts, any book, shipping bill, bill of lading or other document or record that the inspector believes on reasonable grounds contains any information relevant to the administration or enforcement of this Act or the regulations.

Additionally, the current regulations state:

The owner or person in charge of a place or vehicle referred to in subsection (1) and every person found in that place or vehicle shall give the inspector all reasonable assistance to enable the inspector to carry out his duties and functions under this Act and shall furnish the inspector with any information the inspector may reasonably require with respect to the administration or enforcement of this Act and the regulations.

As recently at this February, the CFIA made its regulations for processors clear on its website in “A Processor's Guide to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Inspections”, which reinforces the legal requirement to provide information to and assist an inspector when requested.

In reading the government's release on Bill S-11 from earlier this year, it is clear that the power to request documents is not new. Question 8 of the FAQ sheet asks if inspectors are getting any new powers. The question is answered as follows:

Under the Safe Food for Canadians Act all inspector powers of the Fish Inspection Act, Meat Inspection Act, and the Canadian Agricultural Products Act have been consolidated into one suite of authorities with a modernized language. The Safe Food for Canadians Act does not distinguish between different food products, as each individual statute did.

So far, the only new thing about this is that the powers are now uniform instead of separated. It goes on to answer:

The main new authority that did not exist in any of the former food safety statutes is the power to request a warrant by telephone. In addition, the proposed legislation provides more explicit authority for an inspector to pass through or over private property to get to a place for inspection purposes or to take photographs.

This new act gives the power to phone in a warrant and to make private property more accessible. Perhaps my colleagues across the way could tell me how that would have helped the 40 inspectors on the ground at XL Foods. Were they somehow unable to monitor the lines? Was it a closed-door facility they were unable to gain access to? It does not seem that way, as the ministers claimed they had a very close working relationship with the XL Foods staff. However, the answer continues:

Many authorities have been updated from their previous version to reflect new drafting conventions and to make them clearer for all stakeholders. Some of these authorities include the power to request that an individual start or stop an activity to prevent non-compliance with the act, the power to ask for documents to be produced, and the prevention of obstruction and interference with an inspector carrying out his duties.

Finally, we have the piece that they claim was missing, except, as the department clearly states, it was already there. This super power that finally will be granted to inspectors was there all the time, but the drafting language just needed to be made clearer. This is information coming right from the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food's own department. I am glad that the language will be made clearer, but it reinforces further that this legislation is not the magic bullet our food inspectors need.

Our inspectors need, and consumer safety demands, that the government includes in this bill a comprehensive third-party resource audit, including human resources like the one our hon. colleagues in the other place attempted to include and which our leader, the hon. member for Toronto Centre, requested from the Auditor General.

In fact, the audit was first called for by the independent investigator into the listeriosis outbreak, Sheila Weatherill, who said:

Due to the lack of detailed information and differing views heard, the Investigation was not able to determine the current level of resources as well as the resources needed to conduct the CVS activities effectively. For the same reason, we were also unable to come to a conclusion concerning the adequacy of the program design, implementation plan, training and supervision of inspectors, as well as oversight and performance monitoring.

Accordingly, she recommended:

To accurately determine the demand on its inspection resources and the number of required inspectors, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency should retain third-party experts to conduct a resources audit. The experts should also recommend required changes and implementation strategies. The audit should include analysis as to how many plants an inspector should be responsible for and the appropriateness of rotation of inspectors.

To this day that has yet to be done. A mere survey was undertaken and the former president of the CFIA, Carole Swan, stated that the review was not the same as a comprehensive audit. The government could not answer who its inspectors were, what their roles were or where they were located. It obviously cannot answer the question of whether there are enough or if we might need more. The members opposite will attempt to observe that the Auditor General already has the power to inspect the CFIA. However, having studied the last omnibus bill closely, all of the members opposite will also have noted that at page 187 the bill removed from the authority of the Auditor General of Canada the power to request that the CFIA provide information about the agency's performance. Certainly, it is within the mandate of the Auditor General to examine whatever departments he or she sees fit, but there are restrictions on how many audits he or she can perform yearly.

Furthermore, if the Conservatives object so strenuously to the Auditor General performing the review, they should open up a transparent third-party, arm's-length process so that we might finally know which resources are required, where they are required and if we have enough, among other things. Sadly, for the government it is all about communications victories, not real assistance for Canadians. In the minister's speech today, he talked more about us in the opposition than his own bill. While this bill contains a number of important measures that we could support, it does not go far enough to ensure there are appropriate resources allocated, and we have given the Conservatives every opportunity to date to add viable and important measures like an audit, yet every time they have refused.

We agree with Bob Kingston when he says:

Generally speaking, the bill is a good start but we need to ensure that the proposed appeal mechanism does not give industry too much power to undermine the work of CFIA inspectors.... The government has made an important policy statement today with the tabling of the Safe Food for Canadians Act. Now it’s up to the government to provide the CFIA with the resources to enforce the new rules and CFIA management to adopt a prevention mindset.

We will be moving this bill to committee next. I sincerely hope that the government will be more amenable to making the necessary changes to ensure that our inspectors have adequate resources. I hope that the members opposite can make this about more than scoring cheap points, and I look forward to the opportunity to take a closer look at the bill in the coming days.

Food SafetyEmergency Debate

October 3rd, 2012 / 11:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, a lot has been said about Bill S-11 tonight, and I want to provide a little history on it.

Bill S-11 encompasses some of what was in Bill C-27 in 2005. It was opposed by members who are sitting over there, now in the government. I will tell members who led the fight to oppose the government in implementing those new safety measures for the CFIA. It was the current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. That is who led the fight, the agriculture critic for the official opposition of the day. Let us get that on the record.

The Minister of State for Finance talks about rhetoric on this side. If he wants to assure people and do away with the rhetoric, then the two ministers responsible, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, should show up and answer questions. They should call a press conference and assure Canadians—

May 8th, 2008 / 9:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Good morning, witnesses.

As has been noted by the chair, this will be our concluding message from witnesses to the committee in terms of our going forward and reporting on this very important matter.

I guess over the past month or so we have heard a lot of things. A lot of things were repetitious from one group to another, but one theme remained consistent: people should have the right to know, and they should have the right to know that the information they believe to be true is actually true.

I guess before this committee we've had a number of issues. A number of years ago we had Bill C-27, where we brought together a number of bills. The bills died in 2006. Where we tried to bring some clarity, where truth in advertising was really the foremost issue, that was on dairy products, where we brought the dairy terms part into that bill. Even though the department felt we shouldn't do that, we did it.

Yet we hear this morning from you that we need to make sure that people have confidence in the system. We know there are things on the shelf today that shouldn't be there. You know they shouldn't be there, particularly the Competition Bureau, the CFIA. It's not a health issue. We're not talking about safety. I think you've made that very clear and I don't think there's anyone here who questions the safety of our Canadian food products.

Given that so much of the product that we buy on the shelves today is marked “Product of Canada”, when in fact the product within the contents of that packaging or containment is not Canadian, and when you ask a Canadian, they believe it to be Canadian, isn't that misrepresentation of fact or truth?

If the Competition Bureau knows this, why do we not have the watchdogs? Why do we not have the people who can go into the stores and make sure that what's on the shelf actually is what it says it is?

I just don't understand why this has gone this far. I have some other comments in terms of what we might be doing in the future, but can I have your comments on that and why we have failed so miserably in the past?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 28th, 2008 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-52, the Canada consumer product safety act.

I was here earlier and I listened closely to the minister's remarks. He did go to some considerable length to make it sound like the government was taking strong action where maybe previous governments had not taken the kind of action necessary. I do think it is important that I set the record straight in that regard. It was several times that we recognized in the previous government that greater consumer protection was necessary and that there needed to be new authorities implemented in terms of the protection for consumers and consumer products and, in particular, in the area of food.

In the previous Parliament, there was the introduction of Bill C-27 which would have moved forward in a lot of those areas, taking strong measures, especially in the area of labelling, of bringing up to date quite a number of bills that required modernization and giving greater authorities for CFIA and other agencies to deal with imported product, hoaxes and threats of putting foreign products into food or threatening that on the grocery store shelves. It was really the Conservative opposition of the day that prevented that from happening.

I am glad the Conservatives have now seen the light and are bringing forward a bill that we very much believe is a step in the right direction.

I agree with many colleagues who have previously spoken that this does need to go to committee. We need to look at the details to ensure there is nothing in the fine print that we should be concerned about. As a party we will be moving this forward to committee. We see it at this stage as a step in the right direction. It is an issue that exploded after, basically, the lead scare on toys from one nation that exports those products to Canada.

In reality, we have to look at both bills. We are here to speak to Bill C-52, but we have to look at both Bills C-51 and C-52 because they are intertwined and both have to move forward to committee.

As I indicated, we are committed as a party to improving the safety and health of Canadians. We believe this debate should occur at committee. We believe it is important to strengthen the regulatory process to ensure that Canadians have access to the safest consumer products that can be made available and to ensure that the products are labelled properly so that consumers do in fact know what they are buying.

As I indicated, we also think it is necessary for these bills to have a proper review and also necessary to ensure that witnesses on both sides of the question, people with the technical and the legislative expertise, be invited to committee to go through the bill in detail.

Currently a lot of the information about consumer products is done on a voluntary basis. I think we know that this is just not as adequate as it should be.

This new bill, then, will prohibit the sale, import, manufacture, packaging, labelling and advertising of consumer products that may pose a risk to consumers. While voluntary recalls will continue to happen, inspectors named under the act or by the minister will now be able to order the recall of a consumer product.

In the past, I have expressed in the House some concerns about the way some of the ministers in the government use their authority. I have just a note of caution. These authorities are there for a purpose, not for an ideological agenda. They are there to protect consumers and to ensure that consumers have the safest products available. They are not there for purposes other than that. I want to point that out at the beginning.

On the area of labelling, we read about it in the press almost daily now, and it relates mainly to food products. With the intertwining of the bills, I think it is important to mention this. I did have the opportunity in December and January, with a colleague, to meet consumers and the farm community on the whole issue of our regulatory system in Canada as it applies to, yes, consumer products, but certainly and mainly to food products that are on grocery store shelves.

One area that Canadian farmers are really concerned about is that a double standard applies to them. They face a tougher regulatory regime than do their competitors, yet their competitors' products end up on Canadian grocery store shelves in competition to those of our farmers, who face that tougher regulatory regime.

Canadian farmers face double standards from their own government regulations by taking on costs to meet high food safety and environmental standards only to watch imports that do not meet the same standards price them out of the supermarkets. There are a lot of examples in that regard.

We have to ensure that with this bill coming in, and with tougher regulations and more inspections, Canadians who are meeting these standards are not disadvantaged. We cannot allow that to happen. I will use a couple of examples that I know well from the agricultural arena.

For the health of Canadians, Canada has established rules to eliminate feeds using specified risk materials from cattle in order to eradicate BSE, yet the United States has not imposed those same rules, and Canadians continue to import and consume those beef products from the United States. We cannot allow that situation to continue.

Gencor, a plant in western Ontario, closed about five or six weeks ago. It was killing 700 older cows a week. The reason it closed was that its cost regime for removing specified risk materials put it at a disadvantage with U.S. plants. It went out of business, with the loss of 120 jobs and a processing plant for Canadian product.

With these new regulations on consumer protection and under Bill C-51 on food protection and labelling, et cetera, we have to ensure that at the end of the day our industry is not put at a disadvantage. We have to be on a level playing field with the United States.

As well in the farm sector, although this bill does not specifically relate to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the bill does relate to Health Canada. It has authority over the PMRA, which is responsible for pesticides in this country. Some pesticides are banned in Canada because they are deemed unsafe for the health of farm workers applying the product, yet Canada allows imports using these pesticides because they meet Canadian food residue limits.

Here is what we have. We do not allow the use of this pesticide or herbicide because it may have an impact on workers. Therefore, even though it may be a cheaper product, a producer is not allowed to use it in this country because of its impact, as I say, on workers. Yet we will allow the product produced with that herbicide and by foreign workers onto our grocery store shelves, and again our farmers are not competitive.

I make this point. As Canadians consume these imported products, Canada is no longer protecting the safety of farm workers. We are simply exporting the problem to foreign workers in exchange for cheaper foods and undermining the potential of Canadian farmers. It is another example of how Canadians are disadvantaged. They are important measures, yes, and they are measures that need to be taken in terms of workers. We should not be exporting--we can, I guess, but we should not be--our moral responsibility to other countries and disadvantaging our own in the process.

What I am saying is that Canada cannot have it both ways. Imported products that do not meet or do not even have to meet Canada's domestic production standards undermine Canada's high domestic standards for food safety. Canadian farmers are not only competing in a regulatory system that impedes them in the international markets, but they are operating in a regulatory environment that gives their international competitors the advantage in domestic markets.

I have to make that point, because with these new bills and these new regulatory authorities, with greater authority for the minister, all of which are important, we have to ensure consumer product safety but we also have to ensure that Canadian producers and, indeed, Canadian importers are not disadvantaged as a result.

The last point I would make is one that we have heard a lot about recently. In fact, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food is holding hearings in this area. The Prime Minister, along with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture, mentioned this issue when they announced the introduction of these bills. It is the whole issue of product of Canada labelling.

I raised this question earlier with the Minister of Health. The fact of the matter is that one can buy product of Canada olives in Canada. One can buy product of Canada grapefruit juice. One can buy product of Canada orange juice. I do not know of anywhere in this country where we grow olives. I do not know of too many grapefruits or oranges being grown in Canada, so why would such a package on a grocery store shelf read “product of Canada” when those products are being sold here?

The fact is that the definition is wrong. When Canadian consumers go to the grocery store shelf, they should feel confident that what they are buying is indeed a product of Canada. Under the current definition, that is not the case. The current definition is that 51% of the total package costs occurred in Canada. It really has nothing to do with what is in the package.

That has to change. As the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, we are looking at it. It has to change and relate to the product that is in the package itself, because I firmly believe that if Canadians are given the choice, they will veer toward buying the product that is indeed produced by Canadians, knowing the kind of regulatory and environmental regime we are under and knowing that it is supporting other Canadians in their economic activities.

Certainly I want to emphasize to the minister and to the government as a whole the absolute urgency of dealing with product of Canada labelling. It is a very serious matter. It has to be dealt with in a comprehensive way.

There has been some suggestion that we could go to voluntary labelling as well and that may be a possibility. The bottom line is that Canadians need a strong regime to define what indeed is a product of Canada and what is not.

We do see Bill C-51 and Bill C-52 as important in that they modernize our regulatory regime for consumer products in Canada. The government has to go further than what is currently stated in these bills. We must get a definition of product of Canada. The bottom line is that there has to be truth in labelling. That is what consumers want and it does not matter whether it is a widget, a computer, an apple, an orange or a piece of steak. People want absolute certainty that there is truth in the labelling on what they are buying. There has to be a regulatory and enforcement regime around that to make it stick.

Our party is committed to improving the safety and health of Canadians. We have attempted to do that in the past. As I mentioned earlier, there was some opposition from members in the Conservative government. We support measures which strengthen the regulatory process to ensure that Canadians do have access to the safest consumer products.

We look forward to reviewing the details in the legislation at committee to ensure that it is as accountable, transparent and effective as possible for Canadians. We do see this as a step forward. We look forward to the discussions in committee, some of the technical briefings, and some of the witnesses who will come forward with information that will be useful to all of us in the House to ensure that at the end of the day this is the best legislation possible for the interests of Canadians and for Canada as a whole.

April 17th, 2008 / 9:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you to both of you.

Bill C-27 was a pretty comprehensive bill. In fact, I spent a lot of time on that. I wonder if there are ways of getting to this licensing of importers without the government having to go to the full measure of very extensive legislation. If either of you have any thoughts on that, I'd like to hear them.

The hearings of this committee are really on the “Product of Canada” definition, and you folks understand the definition is that it is only 51% of the cost. I take it from both your comments that neither of your organizations has a problem with changing the “Product of Canada” designation. I don't know where we'll end up, whether 80% or 70% or somewhere in between, but the definition should actually define the product itself--what's in the package. As long as the guidelines and rules are clear on what that definition is and that it targets the product in the package, would your organizations generally not have a problem with that definition?

April 8th, 2008 / 10:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank everyone for their presentations.

I really dislike having to take 30 seconds to deal with Mr. Lauzon's political malarkey, but it can't be left to stand on the record as if it were true, because it is not.

I'd suggest, Mr. Parliamentary Secretary, that you go back to the debate in the last Parliament on Bill C-27, when we were trying to define the dairy terms. You will find there were two obstacles in defining those dairy terms. One of them was by the name of Mr. Ritz, and the other was by the name of Mr. Anderson. That's all I'll say on the subject, but I don't think the discussion today was the place for that kind of comment.

In any event, we've had a good discussion. It comes down to truth in labelling.

May 3rd, 2007 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Please do.

If fees from farmers are only covering 10% of your costs, could you include in that calculation you're going to give us what the administration cost is for collecting those fees? I wouldn't be surprised if the farmers are just employing people to do the administration and this is not gaining you a whole lot in terms of your overall structure.

I know that with potatoes from Prince Edward Island, for instance, the various fees from CFIA on a truckload of potatoes cost as much and sometimes more than the transportation to get the truckload of potatoes to Toronto. That makes our industry non-competitive.

There's another point I wanted to raise, and maybe this is a question for the parliamentary secretary, Jacques. The previous Parliament had introduced Bill C-27, and it was noted at the time that there was opposition to the bill from the opposition--and that's normal--but it was seen as a very important piece of legislation for streamlining the system. In fact, it would have made us more cost-competitive by increasing our ability in terms of border inspections and harmonization with the United States and other countries.

I don't know whether you're in a position to answer, because I think the direction has to come from the government, but certainly it was a piece of legislation that I still maintain and believe is necessary. I don't know whether you can answer, André, or whether the parliamentary secretary can answer on behalf of the government, but I'd like to know when we can expect to see legislation that will update all the various acts of CFIA and the animal and plant health acts and so on and get us up to modern times, because it didn't get through the last Parliament.

April 16th, 2007 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

The pillars of supply management are fundamentally right, and we cannot lose them.

John, I'll go to you. You talked about truth in advertising. Two years ago this committee--I was then the chair of the committee--with the cooperation of all parties put forward Bill C-27, which was a compilation of eight or nine different pieces of legislation under CFIA dealing with the issues of bringing things in uniform form into legislation. We brought in a piece of legislation that was never there before, and that is truth in advertising, or the dairy terms act, as we would....

Well, Kraft became involved, and that bill is there somewhere in the halls of Parliament, but it likely will never see the light of day, because the politicians are afraid to touch it. I was not afraid to touch it. I think the politicians around the committee table were not afraid to touch it, but I don't think the government of the day is ready to touch it, and that's the problem we have. The Krafts of this world--the multinationals, the large players--are playing into this. There was nothing wrong with the legislation. Simply, we wanted to know that when you advertised something as having cream in it, it had to have cream in it. We needed to know that.

I know where you're coming from, and I'll allow you to comment.

Bob, on the issue of wildlife crop loss, who should pay for this when it's in the common good? We have the same thing in the sealing industry; there are certain people out there protecting the seals, and it may have contributed to the downsizing of our fishing industry. We don't know for sure, but it probably has. There are people out there who want to protect these things, just as they want to protect the elk and the deer and the moose and all these other things that are playing havoc with the industry. Who should pay for that? If is for the common good, should not the common folk pay for it?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

October 25th, 2005 / 6:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to put some comments on the record about Bill C-271, an act to amend the Income Tax Act.

I must applaud the member for Westlock--St. Paul. This very progressive bill has addressed a problem that has been touching on the education of our young people and the lives of our students and music teachers here in Canada. I can tell members from experience that I know well what it is like to have music students come to my home. It is something that I did at one time. I have to say that this private member's bill is long overdue.

First of all, I was appalled at the comments I heard from members on the other side of the House, particularly those from the Liberal Party.

Number one, what was said was that they have no problems with cash credits being given to students who go to formal institutions to get their education, but let me tell members a little about the kind of education that students get from certified music teachers.

A certified music teacher who is giving music lessons out of his or her own home takes the children through grade levels. There are standards. There can be music programs like those from the Royal Conservatory of Music. The music teachers give the lessons. The children do a lot of practice and cannot progress until they actually take the examination at the end of the year. If they pass the examination, they go to the subsequent grade.

This helps a lot of students, particularly students in rural Canada. There are schools of music all over Canada, but I would say that most of them are centred in major cities. Many of our students in our rural areas are at a disadvantage because of the cost of having to leave their homes and get their education elsewhere.

This is about investing in the future of our students. It is lifelong education. Members opposite often talk about lifelong education. Here today we saw a dismal display of the understanding of what education is all about. Clearly, music teachers, 20,000 of them across our country, are watching this and saying, “What are they saying? What are they talking about?” Clearly, there is a high standard of education from certified music teachers.

The downside is the cost to parents. As I say, I applaud the member for Westlock--St. Paul for putting this much needed bill forward because many parents and students cannot afford the cost of extended music lessons. When students go through the public or private school systems, the cost of everyday life is great. The cost of books is great. The cost of education per se is great.

Over and above that, there are a lot of students who would like to become musicians and music teachers. They would like to achieve those kinds of goals. But in actual fact, by the time the cost of the instrument is paid for, whether it is a violin or a piano or another instrument that one wants to play, we find that these are very expensive. Some of them run into hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Qualified music teachers who build a home business of teaching students do much to contribute to the economy in their particular district. What I hear from members opposite is that there are merits in the bill and yet they divorce their support from this bill based on the fact that this is what we call homegrown business. Not only is it homegrown business, but it is formalized education outside the parameters of the bricks and mortars of institutional schools of learning.

Many students have reached very high standards and have gone to Julliard or to extended music schools all over the world. Where did they start? They started at home with a qualified music teacher, teaching them grades 1 through 9 formally, with the counterpoint and the other kinds of educational expertise they have to learn to get to a certain level before they can go further. They have a whole basis of formalized education that opens up a whole new world to them.

I came from a small place in southern Manitoba called Wakopa, a little hamlet, on a farm. My parents never had the kind of money that we needed to get through school. A lot of us took music lessons with the local music teacher.

Members opposite are playing the violin as if this is a story they do not want to hear. However, this is a very serious issue and it is a very progressive bill. I would call on members on all sides of the House to support the bill. It accommodates the education of many students throughout Canada, many students who would otherwise not develop.

Many music students are happy being able to study their music. They are happy to enjoy the music and the development it offers them. Apart from that, it is also a great part of the education of Canadian students. Many students would attest to the fact that. Because of those certified music teachers, their lives have been changed. It has opened up new worlds to them. It has helped them to develop as individuals. It has provided jobs for them.

Having some tax breaks and credits is of paramount importance to the education of our children. Members on all sides of the House have to look carefully at the attributes of music teachers. Music teachers have a one-to-one individualized relationship with their students. That helps the students to have a vision on how they can develop and grow. Once they get their basic music, then they can go on to all sorts of different fields. I know first-hand of students who have taken their basic music degree or music education and then later have gone to higher levels of education.

In some rural areas, as these students get into the higher levels of grades 9 and 10 or into their ARTC music degree, they will teach the beginner students as well.

The bill has a lot of merit. It has a lot to say about understanding the education and lifelong learning of individuals in our nation. We need to build a high standard of education. We need to encourage individuals, no matter what their backgrounds are or how much money they have. We need to give individuals a vision of who they can be. In many places, especially in rural Canada and in our urban areas as well, that certified music teachers provide that opportunity.

We talk about the feel good kind education and the enhancement of the well-being of somebody. However, it also very difficult formalized education. Anyone who has ever studied music would understand that. Anyone who has ever gone through counterpoint would understand the logistics of that kind of education as well.

We need to give a lot of support and credit to the students in our nation and to the 20,000 music teachers who work on a daily basis to help their students reach their highest levels of learning.

Over and above that, across the nation we have festivals where students can compete and understand what it is like to receive an award for their singing or for their playing. Many communities have music festivals that teach other kinds of skills as well, and they have built-in toastmasters.

I fully support Bill C-27. It is an extremely progressive bill that should have been in this House of Commons a long time ago. The Liberal Party has been in power over a decade and this has not come up in the House.

The teachers and the students in music have done very well. If there is anything the government can do to support their lifelong learning, it should be done. I would like to even see some things extended, where the price of instruments, et cetera are also included.

To conclude, the bill would add to the well-being and high educational standards to which every student wants to attribute themselves.

Spirit Drinks Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 5:15 p.m.
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Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

I must thank my colleagues, and even some across the way, for their signs of approval when I raise that point.

So there are some terms that have to be protected: butter, milk, cream and cheese. Strangely enough there is no protection for them at the present time. Changes are, however, in the cards with Bill C-27. Obviously we are in favour of very clear labelling in order to protect our good local products.

Take fruit juices as another example. Strange as it is, “100% fruit juice” on a label must mean that the container has 100% juice inside it. Even if it only says “fruit juice”, that is the only thing that can be there.

That is not the case with dairy products, however. There is no such obligation at this time. So supermarkets can sell something labelled “buttered popcorn” when no butter is listed among the ingredients. It is just a marketing ploy to attract a buyer who thinks he is getting something extra: butter. Sometimes he does, and sometimes he does not. So we need to look at the list of ingredients every time.

We can buy a cream pie that contains no cream. That too exists. It can be found at the supermarket. We know that ice cream can be made using butter fats instead of real cream. The labelling is misleading. Fortunately, this will change thanks to provisions included in Bill C-27, which has yet to be passed.

Obviously, the idea is not to prevent certain products from being manufactured or marketed, but rather to regulate their labelling, so that consumers know exactly what they are buying. Popcorn without butter is still popcorn; but if there is no butter, the label should not say something different. It will no longer be permitted to use the word on a label or in a trademark. Manufacturers will not be allowed to write on the label that the popcorn is buttered if no butter was used. That is what we want and wish for. Bill S-38 on wines and spirits provides for similar protection.

With respect to dairy products, according to a Quebec dairy producers survey, dating back to 2001, when they read the word butter on products at the grocery store, a majority of consumers tend to think that the products contain butter. That is a reasonable assumption, because we are used to reading information and relying on it. But in such cases, as I said earlier, it is simply a marketing ploy to have consumers believe that they are selecting a good dairy product when it is not the case. We must always be wary of what is written on the packaging.

We had another long debate on the labelling of GMOs, genetically modified organisms. Naturally, the Bloc Québécois is spearheading efforts in that area.

Another, more recent survey, conducted by Léger Marketing and released in May 2004, shows that 91% of Quebeckers and 83% of Canadians are in favour of mandatory labelling for GMOs.

Spirit Drinks Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, I am delighted first of all, if what the parliamentary secretary says is true. If it has happened, I am delighted. We wanted to address those issues. They were raised with us by the Association of Canadian Distillers and we wanted to ensure that their voices were heard. It would appear that this has been done and that makes a nice change.

What really concerns me though is what the parliamentary secretary just said. It proves something that this side of the House has been saying for a very long time. The fuss over Bill C-27 is not at all about the dairy labelling amendment. Not at all, and this is what the other side of the House does not get and it would appear the parliamentary secretary does not get.

It is about the same thing that the last election was about and why that party has such reduced numbers on that side of the House. It is about accountability. We have been fighting Bill C-27 on the basis of a lack of accountability that is there. We have been fighting it since day one. We have made numerous efforts to introduce various forms and mechanisms of accountability into Bill C-27. We believe it is extremely important to Canadian producers and processors to have protection from their own government. These protections do not exist in Bill C-27. When we have tried to introduce them, every attempt to do so has been thwarted by the Liberal government.

When the parliamentary secretary says that the fuss is about something else, he is either grossly misleading the public who are watching this, or he still does not get it. That is unacceptable because the government has to learn about accountability. People have to be responsible for their actions and it is time that the Liberal government learned that.

Spirit Drinks Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
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Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to hear that the member for Haldimand—Norfolk and her party will be supporting Bill S-38. She has outlined a number of points in terms of its benefit to rural Canada.

I want to deal with a couple of points with which the member had some concern. One point the member mentioned was the matter of consultations. I do not think a government in Canadian history can be found that has consulted as wide as this one has on so many issues. In fact, Spirits Canada has made it very clear to us that it is supportive of the amendments that were made in the other place. I am not sure whether or not the member is aware of those amendments. I will outline them for the member.

It is clear that when the bill was being debated in the other place, we did receive input from the Association of Canadian Distillers, as well as additional input from International Trade Canada regarding the exact nature of Canada's trade obligations. The Senate acted to deal with those concerns with amendments.

The Senate decided to amend the bill to make a distinction between the type of protection Canada is obliged to provide for the spirit drink names under the Canada-EU wine and spirits agreement and the type of protection for names in the NAFTA and in the food and drug regulations.

The Senate decided to eliminate the blending provisions for Scotch whisky and for Irish whisky, as these provisions would more appropriately remain in division 2 of the food and drug regulations where the rest of the blending provisions for spirit drinks reside. I believe that concern that the member raised has been in fact addressed.

With regard to her second concern on the term “spirit drinks”, the government and the department has undertaken an interdepartmental review of this question related to the provision of Bill S-38 and feels that including a definition for spirit drinks would not be necessary. A general definition is not required as the legislation is very specific as to which spirit drinks are affected.

The proposed legislation does not actually reference “spirits” only “spirit drinks” and those specifically identified in the schedule to the Spirit Drinks Trade Act. We do not see a problem with relying on the definition of spirit drinks as that term would be commonly understood.

I believe we have addressed the concerns that the member raised. We would hope that hearing that, the member will be game for speedy passage of this legislation.

The last point is with regard to her comments on Bill C-27. There will be an opportunity to debate that on another day. Certainly, I hope that the official opposition is not going to start to compromise on that bill. Really, what that bill is all about, where the fuss is at the moment, is the dairy industry coming forward and wanting truth in labelling. I think all parties in this House should be supporting truth in labelling.

Spirit Drinks Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today in support of Bill C-38. The bill respects the implementation of an international trade commitment by Canada regarding wines and spirit drinks.

The bilateral agreement between Canada and the European Union affords the Canadian industry recognition and protection to signature products. This is important because the value of this industry is tied to the inherent value in Canadian brands.

The Conservative Party supports the intent of the bill as an export strategy for the Canadian wine and spirits industry. Conservatives are very supportive of rules based trading systems, especially ones that help secure international markets for Canadian products and that help ensure that Canadian consumers have access to high quality products produced in other countries.

As such, we support the general thrust of the bill and the agreement that it helps implement.

Formal recognition by the European Union of rye whiskey exclusively as Canadian will provide Canadian industry participants the opportunity to invest and grow knowing that their investments will not be undermined.

The bill is good for many reasons; for the wine industry and for the distilleries. It also is good for rural Canada. Why rural Canada specifically? Many of Canada's distilleries, wineries and breweries are based in rural Canada, so they provide jobs which are good. Also it is agriculture which takes place in rural Canada that provides all the ingredients for these beverages. After all I have not seen many corn fields or grape fields in the middle of downtown Toronto. Therefore, this is good for rural Canada.

As our brand names become known on the international stage and through this bill, which would protect the integrity of those products, in other words people from other countries would be unable produce copycat products, the integrity of our products will be preserved. That will encourage our Canadian distillers and wineries to continue using Canadian product that comes from rural Canada.

Rural Canada does not just feed the cities, it also provides power. Rural Canada also provides the key ingredients for all our world famous wines and spirits.

Many people are confused by the bill. I have spoken with different people about it. They are afraid we will be unable to buy Merlot wine again. That is not the case in fact. The bill would is protect Canadian wines on a regional basis and Canadian spirits such as rye whiskey. No matter where we go in the world, if we order rye whiskey, we would be certain that it came from Canada and was made here with Canadian product.

This is a good thing for Canada on the world stage. We have a high quality reputation on the world stage. Our rye whiskey has been available around the world. There has been a demand for it for many years. Our grapes are quality, whether they are from the Annapolis Valley, or southern Ontario including my own riding of Haldimand—Norfolk, particularly the Niagara Peninsula, or the grapevines across the Prairies or the Okanagan Valley. The wines we make in Canada from these grapes are winning first prize awards around the world. It is wonderful for Canadians to be represented that way on the world stage.

I said that there was some confusion. Merlot is a grape, but for many years some thought that was a region. Italy and France have had regional protection of their wines for many years. If we go into a restaurant and order a glass of Bordeaux, we know that it comes from the Bordeaux region in France. Its quality is very carefully controlled. It is the same thing for Burgundy as well as the many great Italian wines. They have regional designations that protect and promote the integrity of the quality that wine.

The proposed bill will open the doors for our wines to have that same promotion and that same protection. This is a good thing. We will be unable to refer to a Bordeaux or a Burgundy because those come from France. We will be able to promote the Niagara Peninsula and the doors will be opened for our great Pelee Island wines as well. There are many other award winning wines produced in Canada, but I do not have the time to go through them all today. I congratulate them for being such ambassadors for us on the world stage

Another benefit of protection and bringing us in compliance is a number of years ago legislation was originally written to protect a product very similar to our rye whiskey, and that is Scotch whisky. Scotch whisky is very special. It is called the water of life. As we know, it comes from Scotland. However, that has not always been a controlled situation.

Many years ago one of the eastern nations decided that it wanted to meet the taste buds of its population by providing a Scotch-like product. The rules at the time on the international stage said that it could only be Scotch whisky if it were made in Scotland. It was a bit loose on the definition. One very ambitious distillery decided to make Scotch-type whisky in a town that it renamed Scotland so all bottles then could say “made in Scotland”. Fortunately the powers that be on the international stage got together and recognized the type of deception that was attempted there. That is why they tightened up the rules. That is why I am so glad that as we proceed with Bill S-38 we are tightening up the rules even more so to protect Canadian product.

Contrary to what the parliamentary secretary said during his speech, we have a few concerns with the bill. When we spoke with Canadian distillers, they indicated that they still had some concerns. While they are generally in support of this bill, there are a few things that they would like to see fixed.

First, they believe that there is a need for the government to eliminate certain provisions currently found within the food and drug regulations that would duplicate provisions in Bill S-38 if passed. Second, they are also requesting, though, that no provisions be deleted from these regulations without a comprehensive and full consultation with the industry.

Quite frankly, that request on the part of the distillers causes me some concern. We have seen all too often in the 12 months that I have been in the House that while the Liberal government has claimed consultations with industry, in fact it has met with maybe one stakeholder, if it is being generous on that given day. However, in terms of doing a cross-spectrum consultation to get the impact of its decisions on others, we have not seen that at all.

We are dealing with this very issue on Bill C-27 these days, where industry has not been considered. The impact of the government's intentions and actions has not been duly considered, and we are looking at a real mess coming up there.

I am not sure that this is the time or place to address it, but my Conservative colleagues and I will be opposing Bill C-27 as hard and as loudly as we possibly can. Someone has to stand up for the producers and processors in our country. Sadly, the Liberal government has not done it. Fortunately, and thankfully, my Conservative colleagues and I are happy to step up and take on that role.

Apart from the elimination of the heavy-handed approach, we would also ask that the government respect the request of the Canadian distillers and this time work in close consultation with them as the changes move forward.

For purposes of due diligence and legislative housekeeping, we are prepared to consider recommendations with regard to improving the legislation, particularly with respect to explicitly defining what constitutes a spirit drink. This is something that is omitted in the bill. Normally in legislation one tends to define what the key subject is and what the parameters are. Nor is there any reference to its definition under things like the Excise Act or whether it is that definition that applies here. We would very much like to see an explicit and unambiguous definition of spirit drink to guide the interpretation of this act for its future and for possible expansion.

Some of the members on the other side of the House are chuckling to themselves as I say that as if to say, “How could anyone not know what a spirit is?”

Let me assure members that definitions change over time. A number of years ago I worked in the wine and spirits industry, and new products came out that caused a lot of concern. Perhaps members will remember the invention and introduction of the cooler. It started out as a wine cooler. Then it moved to become spirit coolers. The industry and the regulating bodies over those industries had real problems. No one could class them as wines, or spirits or beer. They did not fit any of the previous definitions.

There was a great deal of consternation at the time about the tax levels that would apply to them and how they should be priced. The provincial boards that sell their own wines and spirits have different pricing formulas depending on whether the product is classed as a wine or a spirit. No one knew what to apply because these products defied the current definitions. The world moves on. We want to ensure that whatever is in this act is very clearly defined so there can be no ambiguity.

We also will seek clarity on the necessity to reduce legislative and regulatory duplication in the food and drug regulations under the Food and Drugs Act.

We also want to seek assurances from the government about its assumption that there are currently no instances of products in Canada which are non-compliant with the bill, so we can ensure that vendors are not unfairly penalized once the act comes into existence.

The government does not appear to have anticipated what will be done if in fact there are pre-existing inventories of non-compliant spirit drink products once this legislation comes into force. The parliamentary secretary has indicated that he does not believe that there are any known non-conforming products. As we have seen so often, particularly during question period in the last week, just because the government is not aware of something happening does not mean it has not happened and does not exist. We have seen examples all this week where the government claimed not to know anything, and in fact millions of dollars of taxpayer money was being spent. The fact that the government did not know about it does not mean it did not happen.

We want to ensure with this bill that there is a thorough due diligence done to ensure that any pre-existing inventories are dealt with in a proper manner.

Overall, this is a decent bill. It will help promote and protect Canadian wines and spirits. It also will be a boon for rural Canada, both at home and abroad. For that reason, I will be happy to support it. However, we want to ensure that it is done right. For these reasons, we look forward to working on the bill as it is debated in the House.

In closing I would like to add a light note, being that it is the end of the day. I am told this is a true story, and I worked in this industry for a number of years.

The country I mentioned before, which tried to produce a product labelled “made in Scotland”, also did some market research. It decided it wanted to introduce a scotch-type whisky, but it wanted to ensure that it would sell. Therefore, it did a lot of research into popular brand names of the day. They discovered a few. One was Queen Anne. I am sure many members in the House are familiar with that. Another was King George. It thought it would get the best of both worlds so it came out with a product, which it put on the market, called King Anne.

We are trying to ensure that our quality and standards are much higher than that . I believe Bill S-38 will help us achieve that and achieve even more prominence for the quality of our wines and spirits in the world market.