An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act

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

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

Sponsor

Colin Carrie  Conservative

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

Status

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

Elsewhere

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 3rd, 2004 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition today on behalf of the people of Saskatchewan from several ridings, including my own, a petition about the modern scientific evidence for mitigation and prevention of disease through the use of natural health products. The petitioners call upon Parliament to support greater freedom and choice in their personal natural health care products. In particular, they are calling for support for the legislation introduced by the hon. member for Oshawa, Bill C-420.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2004 / noon
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Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S.)

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about this bill.

I believe, having read Bill C-420, that it does not, as it is written, meet the needs of Canadians and would in fact require the development of a new framework for natural health products as foods. This would come at a considerable cost for government and industry alike, but also for the consumers.

Indeed, as the parliamentary secretary who spoke before me mentioned, this bill does not ensure the same degree of safety and access to product information as the current natural health products regulations.

Passing this bill would go against the wishes of Canadians and the Standing Committee on Health, which, in 1998, held sessions on how to regulate such products.

The Natural Health Products Regulations, which came into force in January of this year, are the result of recommendations made in 1998 by the Standing Committee on Health which identified a need to draft a new regulatory framework just for natural health products.

Canadians have asked for suitable regulation of natural health products that are used for therapeutic purposes in order to ensure safety. Comprehensive public consultations were held in preparation of the current regulations, and more than 150 witnesses appeared before the Standing Committee on Health. Health Canada held its own consultations by handing out more than 21,000 workbooks, responding to 2,300 phone calls and visiting 11 towns from one end of the country to the other, giving some 2,100 participants the opportunity to express their opinion on this matter.

The current regulations reflect the opinions and concerns expressed by Canadians during this process, and these regulations take into account the various points of view expressed by consumers, industry representatives, doctors and specialists in the field and other stakeholders.

The regulation has only come into effect in January of this year. That regulation is the result of extensive consultations, both by the health committee in 1998 and by Health Canada. I would ask the members of the House not to support this private member's bill, and to allow the regulation the time to show its worth.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2004 / 11:25 a.m.
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West Nova Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address the House on the subject of this private member's bill, Bill C-420. The bill requests that the Food and Drugs Act be amended to classify dietary supplements, herbs and other natural health products as foods.

Furthermore, the bill seeks to revoke section 3 of the Food and Drugs Act, which prohibits the advertising to the general public of any food, drug, cosmetic or device for the treatment, prevention or cure of any of the diseases listed in schedule A of the act.

The bill attempts to use a very simple approach in dealing with a very complex issue and does not consider all the ramifications which would result. This bill would not ensure the safety, quality and efficacy of natural health products to the same degree as the current regulations.

The current natural health product regulations came into force on January 1, 2004. These regulations were developed after extensive consultations with Canadians, consultations which demonstrate that Canadians want a regulatory framework that ensures an appropriate level of safety and provides accurate information upon which to make informed choices about products. The natural health products regulations meet these demands.

Furthermore, these regulations support consumer confidence in the natural health sector and provide an appropriate and safe regulatory framework for natural health products.

Furthermore, revoking section 3 in schedule A without completing a comprehensive review and analysis of its impact would not be consistent with this government's commitment to ensuring the health and safety of Canadians in a manner that respects their views and opinions.

If this bill is passed, the regulation of natural health products in this country will be worse than at present. At the moment, there are more than 50,000 natural health products on the Canadian market covered by regulations which make them easily accessible and safe, effective and of optimum quality while at the same time providing for freedom of choice and cultural diversity.

Bill C-420 would result in natural health products, which are now regulated as subsets of drugs, being regulated as foods. However, natural health products are taken for therapeutic reasons and not for purposes of caloric intake or hunger. For this reason, natural health products are more appropriately regulated as a subset of drugs, but with their own set of regulations appropriate for products of this class.

The reclassification of natural health products as foods would not ensure the appropriate regulation of these products. Treating natural health products as foods, as proposed by Bill C-420, would not address the true differences between therapeutic products and food products and would not ensure the safety of Canadians in the same manner as the natural health product regulations.

As members are aware, foods, with very exceptions, are not subject to pre-market review and food labels do not provide treatment, dosage or warning information. The natural health products regulations require products to receive pre-market review and market authorization for sale in Canada. They also require site licences and adherence to good manufacturing practices for the manufacturing, packaging, labelling and importation for sale of natural health products.

Equally important, the natural health product regulations contain provisions regarding clinical trials and adverse reaction reporting. Bill C-420 does not address these safety requirements.

The regulations as they stand guarantee that such products are manufactured in keeping with strict safety and quality standards. They also allow natural health products to make numerous health claims, provided these are substantiated.

Pre-sale assessment and good manufacturing processes are measures aimed at ensuring that pertinent information is included on the labelling as well as stipulating exactly what must be on the label. In short, the regulations ensured that natural health products are both safe and effective.

This bill will, for all intents and purposes, eliminate the natural health products regulations, as well as product licences already issued under those regulations, not to mention the ten thousand or so drug identification numbers attributed to products now to be classified as natural health products.

As written, Bill C-420 does not meet the needs of Canadians and would require the development of a new framework for natural health products as foods. This would come at considerable cost for government and industry alike. Indeed, as members have seen, this bill does not ensure the same degree of safety and access to product information as the current natural health products regulations.

The passage of this bill would also not fulfill the manner in which Canadians and the Standing Committee on Health have requested these products be regulated. The natural health products regulations were developed based upon the 1998 recommendations of the Standing Committee on Health that a new and appropriate regulatory framework be developed for natural health products.

Canadians have asked that natural health products be regulated in an appropriate manner that ensures the safety of these products. In developing this framework, extensive consultations were undertaken in order to ensure the regulations take into account the full range of input provided by consumers, industry, practitioners and stakeholder groups.

Just as the natural health products regulations were developed only after extensive review and consultation with stakeholders, any changes to section 3 in schedule A should only be undertaken after considering the views of Canadians.

Section 3 in schedule A was introduced into the act as a mechanism to prevent fraud in advertising and labelling, to prohibit the advertisement and sale of treatments for conditions where self-treatment was not considered safe, and to encourage Canadians to seek medical attention for serious conditions.

In this area science and medicine are evolving. While there is still no known cure for many of the diseases listed in schedule A, such as arthritis and diabetes, modern therapies allow these chronic conditions to be successfully managed.

For example. a product could reduce the discomfort resulting from a specific health problem or slow down the progression of a disease. It is possible as well that new products might successfully treat diseases against which today's medicines have not been effective, without in any way diminishing the importance of the role played by the diagnosis , treatment and medical management of serious illness.

In its 1998 report “Natural Health Products: A new vision”, the Standing Committee on Health concluded that the present provisions of section 3 and Schedule A might unduly restrict health promotion advertising from which the consumer might benefit, and prevent self-medication where this might be justified.

However, the committee also found that many Canadians felt that section 3 in schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act still served a useful purpose, but needed to be modernized to reflect current concerns. Canadians continue to express these views.

Health Canada has undertaken significant efforts to review this issue in order to find solutions to ensure the health and safety of Canadians. In 2003 Health Canada initiated a review of section 3 in schedule A through an external working group consisting of representatives from academia, industry, media groups, government and consumer groups.

Consistent with the Standing Committee on Health recommendations, the working groups unanimously agreed that section 3 in schedule A needed to be amended to meet the needs of Canadian society. However, there were differences in opinion as to what would be the best manner to make such changes.

From the outset, the working group recognized that the issues before it were many faceted and would encourage much debate. Health Canada continues to move forward on this issue. The department is currently considering all proposals made by the external working group. For the reasons mentioned and many others, the Government of Canada cannot support Bill C-420 as proposed.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2004 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to congratulate my colleague on presenting Bill C-420. It is a very important bill for Canadians.

In the 37th Parliament a similar bill made it to second reading with the help of members from all sides of the House. It was at committee stage when the House folded for the election, but during that interval we have already had over 150,000 signatures on petitions in support of the bill. We are still receiving signatures in favour of the bill, which would change the way natural health products are regulated.

I think it is important for Canadians to understand that the bill would still allow for good manufacturing practices and for office and site inspections. We want to make sure that what is on the label is in the bottle and that the appropriate part of the product is still in the product, that is, the active ingredients and so on. That is part of the bill.

Because the member did not have time to bring it up in his speech, I want to draw attention to a study done by the Fraser Institute on this very thing. They discussed Canada's proposed regulatory framework on natural health products in light of international evidence. The study was called “A Cure Worse than the Illness”.

The report talks about the safety of natural health products and points out, as the member has, that the risk factor is so low with natural health products. With the some 60,000 natural health products that Canadians consume, there are fewer serious adverse reactions than there are to Aspirin or Tylenol alone.

The member mentioned melatonin. I know that with his experience as a health care practitioner he would be aware of the benefits of chromium picolinate for diabetics and folic acid for cardiovascular disease. Would he care to comment on the safety of natural health products and some of the benefits that he has observed in his own practice as a health care practitioner?

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2004 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

moved that Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to reintroduce Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

As we know, the bill was originally introduced by the member for Nanaimo—Alberni in the 37th session of Parliament. In the last Parliament, the bill passed second reading by a vote of 124 to 85, with support from all sides of the House. It was sent to the Standing Committee on Health where the bill was enthusiastically debated. It ultimately died when the House recessed for the last election.

Bill C-420 was a response from Canadians to Health Canada's attempt to regulate natural health products under a drug directorate. Approximately one million Canadians voiced their displeasure toward having natural health products being regulated as drugs. Health Canada has a long history of bias against natural health products. The response to natural health products has been called “bureaucratic obstructionism” by some.

In the 36th Parliament, the minister of the day called on the health committee to look into this. The committee tabled its report, “Natural Health Products: A new vision”, in November 1998, now over six years ago. “A new vision” brought forth 53 recommendations, including:

  1. Natural health products be allowed to make health claims, including structure-function claims, risk-reduction claims and treatment claims.

  2. Health Canada immediately initiate a review of the diseases listed in Schedule A to ensure that only appropriate diseases are included and, where relevant, specific diseases be exempted by regulation from the broad terms found in Schedule A.

  3. Health Canada, subsequently, conduct a study with the participation of representatives from consumer groups, the food, natural health products and pharmaceutical industries, and health practitioners to determine whether subsections 3(1) and (2) of the Food and Drugs Act or all of the diseases listed in Schedule A should be deleted.

In the opposition's minority report, drafted by Dr. Grant Hill, Reed Elley and the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, it was stated that the committee's overall report recommends a continuation of the existing situation of a paternal federal government that must protect Canadians from the unknown evils of natural health products. This is inconsistent with Canadians' experience that shows overwhelmingly an incredibly safe historical pattern of use of natural health products.

Canadians universally recognize natural health products as basically foods, certainly not drugs, especially when consumed in the dosage and form recommended. The existing overemphasis on government control, licensing and regulation of mostly benign consumer products could be greatly simplified.

By regulating natural health products under the purview of Health Canada's Food Directorate, the opposition believed we could ensure that these substances are viewed within the culture most familiar to them and thereby never again fall victim to the intimidating practices and procedures of the Drugs Directorate.

The opposition still believes Canadians deserve and will continue to demand much more freedom of choice over natural health products. The opposition, the Reform Party at the time, “believes an informed Canadian consumer will always be a better judge of what is best for them and their loved ones than some distant bureaucrat in Ottawa”.

The NDP minority report also expressed concerns about the reclassification of herbs as drugs, the inability of the Health Protection Branch to regulate in a fair and balanced way, and the need to respect the expressed wishes of Canadians for freedom of choice and access to natural health products.

Minister of health Allan Rock accepted the report's recommendations on March 26, 1999. The government then set up an office of natural health products transition team and accepted their clarification and expansion of the 53 recommendations of the health committee. In its final report, the transition team stated:

Sections 3(1) and 3(2) and Schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act are no longer relevant. They do not serve any purpose that cannot be accomplished adequately by other sections of the legislation or regulations.

More importantly, the schedule does not reflect contemporary scientific thought. The weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders listed in Schedule A through the judicious use of natural health products. It is time that the legislation and regulations reflect the prevailing science.

Section 30(1)(m) of the Act grants the authority to add anything to, or delete anything from, the Schedule of Act.

The transition team recommended that subsection 30(1) of the Food and Drugs Act should be invoked to remove all diseases listed in schedule A, and that subsections 3(1) and 3(2) should be revoked through the legislative renewal initiative.

All Canadians are concerned with the safety of herbs, dietary supplements and other natural products, and all Canadians want to ensure that there is accountability in any health claims made by the sellers of natural health products. These safeguards already exist in the Food and Drugs Act:

  1. No person shall sell an article of food that

(a) has in or on it any poisonous or harmful substance;

(b) is unfit for human consumption;

(c) consists in whole or in part of any filthy, putrid, disgusting, rotten, decomposed or diseased animal or vegetable substance;

(d) is adulterated; or

(e) was manufactured, prepared, preserved, packaged or stored under unsanitary conditions.

  1. (1) No person shall label, package, treat, process, sell or advertise any food in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to create an erroneous impression regarding its character, value, quantity, composition, merit or safety.

Similar clauses exist for both food and drugs and devices.

By bringing herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products under the umbrella of food by definition, consumers are protected from false or misleading claims, and product safety is ensured.

While the Department of Health stated that “the regulatory regime for drugs under the food and drugs regulation is viewed as far too rigorous for these products, given the history of safe use that most of these products have enjoyed”, it still chose to regulate natural health products as a subset of drugs. This was contrary to the opposition's minority report and the wishes of many Canadians.

The bill is basically taken from the committee's recommendations and further work done subsequently. As I previously stated, the bill seeks to bring herbs, dietary supplements and other natural health products under the purview of Health Canada's Food Directorate by amending the definition of both food and drugs in the Food and Drugs Act and to implement the recommendations of the office of natural health products transition team by repealing subsections 3(1), 3(2) and schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act.

Section 3 and schedule A of the Food and Drugs Act were adopted in 1934 when there were no known treatments for many diseases. Things have changed a lot since 1934 and it is long overdue that these changes take place.

The diseases listed in schedule A include alcoholism, arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, diabetes, diseases of the prostate, heart disease, liver disease, et cetera. This means that there is an outright ban on advertising, even if there is scientific evidence supporting the claim.

ASasThe act unintentionally restricts the dissemination of information to the public. Is it beneficial to the consumer and in the interest of good health?

It is generally agreed that natural health products have minimum to no risk associated with them. In the absence of scientific evidence to the contrary, a long history of human usage is generally sufficient evidence to suggest a product's safety.

For example, most people consider aspirin to be safe. When it was first introduced to the public in the late 1800s, little was known about it and there was no standardized testing for safety. Still today every year patients die from taking aspirin, often in the correct doses for the correct ailment. In 1998, 45 people died from reactions to aspirin.

Does the House know that aspirin was originally manufactured from white willow bark, a natural health product commonly used by the country's aboriginal peoples? White willow bark is still a popular natural health product used today. Does it make sense to restrict information on a natural health product but not on the drug made from it when the natural health product is cheaper and safer?

In the standing committee's report of 1998 it was stated:

Although we feel that the government has a responsibility to protect public health and safety, this should not be applied in a way that unreasonably denies consumers access to products that they perceive to be necessary for their well-being.

Health Canada has a history of enforcing and regulating these harmless products as if they were strong and often dangerous drugs. There are already too many enforcement officers barging into health food stores, raiding shelves, escorted by the RCMP. Why do we need to spend so much time and so many of our resources taking harmless products, such as melatonin and stevia, off the shelves? Does the Government of Canada not have better uses for Canadian taxpayer money?

Let us take, for example, a product developed in Alberta: Empower Plus. This product has been helping patients with bipolar disease and manic depression. People with these problems are at a high risk of suicide and are sometimes not very productive in their lives. There are over 3,000 Canadians finding a benefit from this product.

The Province of Alberta initiated a scientific response to this product and the Alberta Science and Research Authority approved and funded a $544,000 study. Preliminary results have already been published in at least four peer-reviewed psychiatric journals. Amazingly, Health Canada interpreted news of this success as a subsection 3(1) violation and shut down the study. Last July, Health Canada, while accompanied by the RCMP, raided the company's offices and began obstructing access to the product. This makes no sense at all.

Many of my colleagues here today are aware of Bill C-420, as it has had a great deal of discussion. I am specifically making reference to the 1998 report to the Standing Committee on Health.

Most Canadians recognize natural health products as low concentrations of foods and, recognizing this, Bill C-420 would regulate them as such. For example, garlic has been used for centuries not only to season foods but for its health properties. Garlic has a number of health promoting benefits, including being recognized for having well known antiviral properties. It would not be far off to say that most people would consider garlic a food.

Another example is the purple coneflower, more commonly known as echinacea. This readily available herb is vastly popular, especially during flu season. It is known to decrease the duration and severity of colds.

Last night I took a well known and researched sleep aid, melatonin. This product cannot be sold in Canada, but it is allowed into this country for personal use. It is ludicrous that this product can be imported for personal use but cannot be sold here.

Because of the way our present laws are written, we cannot advertise or label the effects of well known, researched products.

Bill C-420 is designed to rid us of antiquated laws that were made in the 1930s when little was known about natural health products. It is time that our laws reflect this new reality of the science we now have.

Bill C-420 was also designed to bring Canada into the 21st century. In my own career as a health care practitioner, I saw first-hand the benefit of natural health products.

John L., a patient who suffered from arthritis for years, relied on Aspirin to take away his pain. After years of taking Aspirin, his liver and kidneys were damaged and he developed an allergy to Aspirin. What could he take then? The answer for John was a common natural health product, glucosamine sulphate. This product worked well for John and helped him maintain a reasonable quality of life.

Another patient, Martin K., was told he would have to take cholesterol lowering drugs for the rest of his life. After reading about the serious side effects and the possibility of death, he decided to research an alternative. After several months on an exercise program and a vitamin and mineral regime, he was happy to report that he no longer required the commonly prescribed dangerous drug and his cholesterol levels were normal.

Patients like these deserve the right to have access to information and products to make educated decisions in regard to their own health. Canadians need to be able to make informed choices when it comes to their own health.

I encourage all members to support this bill because Canadians are demanding better access to natural health products in a number of ways. We want better access and more comprehensive information and labelling so that Canadians will know how these products can make them healthy and keep them healthy.

SupplyGovernment Orders

November 23rd, 2004 / 11:50 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Chair, a lot of serious concerns have been raised about what is causing this escalating epidemic, really, of autism; that is probably not the right terminology, but the numbers are escalating unbelievably.

There are concerns about the repeated use of antibiotics for childhood ear infections. That may be a root cause. There are concerns about the vaccines that are administered, about the thimerosal or the mercury that is used in the vaccines. Some states in the U.S. have demanded that they start producing vaccines without mercury derivatives, which are highly neurotoxic.

I hope that there is someone, and why should it not be Canada, leading the world in actually addressing these issues, finding out if there is a root issue, doing some proper studies and making sure we get appropriate intervention for these children. Why should it not be Canada?

That being said, I want to go on to another issue that I believe is very important. We had a little talk today about health promotion and prevention by the member for Brampton—Springdale and the member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.

I want to say on the Food and Drugs Act, subsections 3(1) and 3(2) and schedule A, which continue to obstruct delivery of natural health products, that we understand the justice department has indicated that these sections are not constitutional, that they will not stand a constitutional challenge. There is a private member's bill that would change this.

The transition team asked for changes to this law. Is the minister prepared to acknowledge these sections are not constitutional and adopt the provisions of Bill C-420 to change the way we regulate natural health products?

Food and Drugs ActRoutine Proceedings

October 21st, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to have the bill numbered Bill C-420?

Food and Drugs ActRoutine Proceedings

October 21st, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

Mr. Speaker, the bill I rise to introduce is an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act. In the 37th Parliament the bill was known as Bill C-420 and was sponsored by the member for Nanaimo—Alberni.

The bill is about freedom of choice in personal health care. It is about changing antiquated clauses in the Food and Drugs Act which have had a perverse and adverse effect on the way we regulate natural food products.

In the last Parliament the bill passed second reading by a vote of 124-85 with support of members on all sides of the House.

I know the importance of the bill to Canadians who want access to safe, natural alternatives that help to build healthy bodies and reduce health costs. I know it is a matter of much interest to Canadians and I hope it will receive support from all sides of the House.

I have spoken to all parties and I would like to ask for unanimous consent to retain the designation of the bill as Bill C-420.

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

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 14th, 2004 / 12:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Canadian Alliance Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present three petitions on behalf of the people of Edmonton Southwest and the surrounding communities.

The first petition deals with natural health products. These petitioners call upon Parliament to provide Canadians with greater access to non-drug preventive and medicinal options, as well as information about these options, and to sanction the personal choices of Canadians by clarifying the currently vague definitions of food and drugs in the outdated 1927 and 1952 Food and Drugs Acts.

They also call on Parliament to pass Bill C-420.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 13th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have about 1,000 signatures on a petition from people right across the country from Cape Breton Island to Vancouver Island. They call upon Parliament to implement my private member's Bill C-420.

The petitioners are protesting subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the Food and Drugs Act that say: “No person shall advertise any food, drug, cosmetic or device to the general public as a treatment, preventative or cure for any of the diseases, disorders or abnormal physical states referred to in Schedule A”.

The petitioners say that is unscientific, antiquated, and it is from 1934. They ask Parliament to update that so that Canadians can have access to safe natural health products.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

March 23rd, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition involves my private member's bill, Bill C-420, involving natural health products.

The petition contains some 600 signatures, in addition to the more than 120,000 that have already been presented. The petitioners come from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, across the nation actually, and many communities in my own riding.

They are calling upon the government to make sure that natural health products are made available and that they are properly classified as foods and not as drugs. These are low cost, non-patentable items. People want access to the products that they have relied upon. They do not want them regulated, as the government has proposed and has started to implement, as drugs, which makes them unavailable and restricted unnecessarily.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

February 17th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition with nearly 900 signatures. It is on the subject of private member's Bill C-420.

The petitioners are calling on the government to respect the freedom of choice of Canadians in health care products. They suggest that herbs, dietary supplements and other traditional natural health products should be classified as food and not arbitrarily restricted as drugs. They also remind Parliament that the weight of modern scientific evidence confirms the mitigation and prevention of many diseases and disorders through the judicious use of natural health products.

We hope that all members will support that bill.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech From The Throne

February 5th, 2004 / 10:40 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure to respond to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the people of my riding of Yellowhead and as Conservative Party senior critic of health as well as intergovernmental affairs.

We really have to ask ourselves a question before starting out. We have to get a sense of where the throne speech is going because it is a document that looks into the future. We have to first talk about where we are at in health care today. We then have to talk about how we got there and where we are going, as laid out in the throne speech.

I would like to point out, as aggressively as I possibly can, the dysfunctionality of the throne speech in moving us forward into the 21st century in this area. Where are we in health care today? That is a question we all need to ask ourselves, because any day we pick up a paper we find massive problems in health care. We find waiting lists becoming extreme to the point where over a million people are on waiting lists right now waiting for serious surgeries and operations for problems they have. Many of them are dying while on these waiting lists before they can even get to the system that we cherish so much in Canada, this cherished health care system.

We have patients dying in emergency rooms. Hon. members should see the turmoil in Nanaimo, B.C. or Saskatchewan where we have doctors actually mutinying. We have never seen this before in the history of this country. When we talk about health care in Canada, we have never seen so much disunity, but more than that, people hitting the end of the rope and saying that enough is enough and they cannot handle it any more.

I saw the Minister of Health the night before last on television saying that there were no waiting lists in this country, that if people have an emergency problem they will be looked after. He should tell that to the lady who had a miscarriage while waiting over five hours in an emergency room. He should have said that to individuals before they died of heart attacks while on waiting lists or in emergency rooms. These are cases that are not just specific. These things are happening right across this nation as we speak today. They have to be addressed. We have to look at where we are going in health care.

To understand some of the difficulties and how we got here, we also have to look at the human resources problem, the shortage of doctors and nurses. It is interesting that my colleague, who is a doctor, spoke, in response to the Speech from the Throne, about his training. While he was training, another individual, who was an immigrant, was also being trained. That individual came up to the standard of the United States qualifications and was to go back to the United States, although he was trained here. We would not accept him with those same training qualifications here. There is something wrong when we have such dire shortages that we have individuals dying in this country and we are not opening our arms to these highly trained individuals from other countries. We have to do something about the human resources problem. There are two fundamental problems: the waiting lists and human resources. I will talk more about those things shortly.

We had the SARS outbreak that told us an awful lot about what was happening in this country and how we lacked in preparedness for these kinds of situations. We also have looming on the horizon a potential influenza virus. It is to be hoped that will not mutate into human to human contact, but we are watching that with great interest because it could become so serious it would make the SARS outbreak hardly worth mentioning. Nonetheless, are we prepared? Are we ready? What lessons have we learned?

The federal-provincial strained relationship is something I am also very concerned about because of what has happened in the past on health care. Never before have we seen such a situation as we have in health care today in Canada.

How did we get here? That is a pretty good question. Let us look at the legacy of the Prime Minister. He says that health care is a number one priority of this country. That is what the Prime Minister is saying. Yet I wonder if that is true when we really look at what he has done in the past. If we want to know where an individual is going, we only have to look at where he has been. That will tell us where he is about to go. We have seen from the Prime Minister in the past the massive unilateral cuts in 1995. When we talk of unilateral cuts, these are not cuts where we sit down and negotiate and then decide that this is in the best interest of everybody before we cut. These were unilateral cuts, cuts that came just because one individual said that he wanted to balance the budget, and it was on the back of health care.

It is really interesting when we look at the numbers and the priorities. We say maybe at that time the finance minister had no options. Maybe he had to do something with a deficit budget, which he did. It is all about priorities and obviously health care was not one of those priorities, $25 billion. It is unbelievable.

At that same time it is interesting to note that subsidies to businesses rose $700 million or 20%. At that same time the increase in bureaucracy spending was $1.3 billion or another 6% added to the additional budgets.

That was not at the same time that health care was put on back bench. Health care was exploited. That destroyed the fifty-fifty arrangement we had with the provinces with regard to health care. That was something that had been cherished for a number of decades as medicare came into being in the provincial-federal relationship as a national project.

That was destroyed by the unilateral cuts. It destroyed the relationship of the provincial and federal governments. Worse than that, it drove nurses and doctors out of our training institutions because they closed down those training slots and anyone who was working in the system had to go for employment south of the border. Our brightest and best were driven out of this nation.

At that time the country's medical and nursing associations said that in 10 years we would pay a price. Well, here we are, 10 years later and we are paying that price. We do not have the human resources to deal with the problems. What are we going to do about it?

Let us look at our health care system. It is amazing that every time we talk about the health care system in an intellectual dialogue about health care, everyone thinks that the American system is coming. That is absolutely false. There is not a provincial government or a party in this House that is advocating the American system.

In fact, the Americans rated 37th in the world as far as how good their health system is. We should not be bragging much either because ours rates 30th. We should be looking at who are the 29 above us and what can we learn from them to develop the health care system in the 21st century that will meet the needs of Canadians. That is where we need to go.

It is amazing when we look at the Speech from the Throne. We see now what we have. We talked about how we got here. Are we looking ahead? Is the throne speech truly a window into the future as to where the government and the Prime Minister want to take this country as far as health care is concerned? It does sort of look ahead but it does not look back or talk about the past and the failures because it is not a very pretty picture at all. The Prime Minister is the cause, not the cure, for many of the problems we are dealing with in health care.

The throne speech is long on generalities and recycles many old pledges but it is very short on any specifics. There are some specific failures. It failed to mention last year's health accord. It was the first time that we had the provincial and federal governments sit down, hammer out a deal and agree upon it. We could debate whether they got everything they wanted, but they agreed with it. We should be saying there is an agreement and let us at least achieve what both levels of government agreed upon at that time. There is no mention of the failures in the throne speech on that front at all.

There is also a failure to outline a timetable for the creation of a Canadian public health agency. We saw what went on with SARS. We know the potential pandemic that will come some day. All we have is supposedly the appointment of a chief medical officer. I will talk more about that later.

There is also a failure to include the pledges for stable, long term funding for health care. It is really interesting. Why would that be? We may say that the throne speech does not do that sort of thing but that is not true. That is exactly what was announced for the cities. In fact, it was retroactive from the throne speech. Yet looking ahead, health care is not getting any stable funding.

I have to mention the stable funding. I challenge the government to stop playing the numbers game with the provinces. In 2000, just before going into an election by the way, the Liberals announced $21 billion to go into health care, but not a nickel of that money, which is the foundational money that goes into health care, went in until April of the next year. Then it was a five year allotment of money after that period of time.

Then the Liberals came out in 2003, when three years were still left in the original agreement of 2000, and reannounced that same money. They ran around the country saying that they were putting another $34.8 billion into health care.

Why would the provinces sit there and not believe the government? They know the numbers are wrong and they know that old numbers have been reannounced. They know that the government is just playing politics with the numbers. I challenge the government not to play politics with the numbers. That may work for the average citizen out there, but it does not work with the relationship with the provinces which have the mandate to deliver on health care. It just destroys their credibility.

That is what has been done with the $2 billion that was announced in the throne speech. There is not a government in the land, certainly not a Prime Minister that is going into an election, that would not have announced that $2 billion. It would have been political suicide if he did not. Why play coy for the last month on whether that $2 billion was going to be announced this month or not? How ridiculous that would be. There was not a reporter in the country, not a party in the country, not a person in the other party who believed that that $2 billion was not going to go in, so why play this game? It destroys credibility. Credibility is absolutely paramount if we are going to work together in the 21st century on health care.

It is very important that we understand some of the things that should have been talked about in the throne speech but were not. They should have been talked about in the first ministers meeting on the Friday before the throne speech, the failures of the health accord.

If we look at the health accord, there are a lot of things that are good, that reflect some of the views we have and are agreed upon by most people in the House. Those are restoring funding to the core health services, the flexibility of provinces to implement those new services, the flexibility of delivering the options of a new public health care system, and the dedicated health transfers which is to stop the nonsense about what money goes where, to clear that up. All of those things were agreed upon in the health accord. We agreed with those.

There were a lot of things that were agreed upon in the health accord and were not accomplished in the last year. There was supposed to be a minimum basket of services for home care. There was a date in the accord and that had to be accomplished by September last year. Also in September last year, the health services performance indicators were not there at all. They have not taken place to date. It was promised that they would be looked after by last September. Also, the health council was supposed to take place last May and did not actually happen until December. Why would that happen? Even when it was in December and the health council was announced, there were two provinces saying that it was not what they had agreed to at the health accord.

When the government sat down and met with the provinces again, which happened last Friday with the Prime Minister, we would think that the first thing on the agenda would not have been the $2 billion but would have been the issues that were not dealt with which both sides had agreed to just the year before. None of those were even talked about.

There was no talk of the aboriginal health reporting framework which was supposed to be talked about. There was the catastrophic drug coverage for all Canadians. In fact when the minister was asked about that here in November, she said, and this is a quote, “The work there really at this point has not begun”. That is what she said and that is actually the truth.

The reality is that money alone will not save our health care system in the 21st century. What we have to realize is that we have to get serious about dealing with the problems on health care, stop the bickering in the relationship between the provincial and federal governments and those things that destroy the trust. We have to start working on putting the interests of the patient ahead of the system as we move forward in the 21st century. That is what has to happen. That is not what happened when it came to the health accord.

One of the things that should also have happened, and the first thing that should have been in the health accord in looking at the Prime Minister's legacy, is that he should have written in the throne speech “I am sorry” as the first thing he said about health care and apologize to the nation for the way he has treated health care and put us in the state we are in. Then he should have moved forward with a vision of how we are going to fix that situation.

That is not what happened. We should have put a sixth principle into the Canada Health Act which we fought for in the last election so that never again could a Prime Minister unilaterally destroy this nation's number one priority, which is health care.

Do we believe the Prime Minister when he stands and says that health care is his number one priority? I think we really have to question where we have been, where we are at and where we are going in light of those words. I really have some serious concerns about where that should be.

Let us talk about the public health agency that was announced.

Look at the failure of SARS, and I say the failure of SARS because we were absolutely not prepared. When tragedy strikes our nation, whether it is militarily or an infection in a pandemic situation, or a health threat of any kind, we absolutely have to have leadership. It has to come from the leaders who are charged with that leadership in the House. It has to come from the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister of the day. That was not the case when SARS hit the nation.

Do we need a CDC north, an infectious disease centre as in the United States? Perhaps we do. Perhaps we already have that and it is just not coordinated. I think that is more likely the truth. Now we have a new ministry that is charged with that but the government actually was warned by the Auditor General as well as the deputy minister of health who said that we are vulnerable to this kind of an attack in Canada and that we have to do something about it.

The alarm bells went off over the last decade and we failed to deal with it. It is unfortunate that we see what the throne speech had to say about that. It said that we are going to appoint a chief public health officer but there is no timeline on the agency. There is no budget for it. We do not really know if we are prepared today.

Let us say that the bird flu which is in Asia right now happens to move to human to human contact, to mutate to that degree. Are we prepared? Absolutely not. Should we be prepared? Absolutely we should and we should be working a lot harder and more aggressively toward preparing ourselves for that.

That is not in the throne speech. We would have thought there would have been a timeline and a budget for it. Neither is the case. All we are doing is playing politics.

Mark my words. The chief officer will be appointed before the next election. It will appear to Canadians that everything is looked after and nothing will have happened except the hiring of one person who is going to run to the media and communicate how well the government is supposedly doing in case something happens. That is what will happen and it is unfortunate.

We do not need this game of politics when it comes to health care. We cannot afford it. We do not have the time and we do not have the money.

Another thing that should have been in the throne speech but was not there was a bill that the House has been working on very aggressively for the last three years. It is Bill C-13. We need a bill that deals with the threat that is there. Doctors are actually saying that they are going to clone the human being in the next year. We need that legislation but not the Bill C-13 that was so flawed. It had flaws on surrogacy, on gamete donor anonymity, on research using the human embryo and a host of other things, including no accountability for the agency that was going to be set up, the in vitro fertilization clinics and authorization of what should or should not be allowed under the legislation.

We said originally what we need. We would split the bill in half, bring forward a bill that would allow the prohibitions that everyone in the House would agree to, which is therapeutic reproductive cloning, germ line alteration, chimera and a host the others. They are all named in the bill. That would pass in a blink of an eye. We could pass that this month. We could pass that next week if it was brought forward. That is what we should be doing and that is not what happened. In fact there was not even a word of it in the throne speech.

Another thing that really bothers me in the throne speech is that it was a golden opportunity for the Prime Minister to right his wrongs in the past on the hepatitis C file. There is $700 million left in the court agreement to look after those who contracted hepatitis C through blood transfusions through absolutely no fault of their own. The government is liable for this. It arbitrarily chose the period 1986-90 which is false and it knows it. Many of the members on the other side of the House know that every member on this side of the House knows it full well. The money is there but the will is not.

What a golden opportunity for the Prime Minister to correct his wrongs and to do the right thing and to compensate everyone who should have been compensated for the wrongs of the country. As a Canadian I feel badly that the government of my country is not looking after its wrongs.

The other thing that bothers me is when it comes to natural food products and the ability for individuals to choose how they look after their bodies and how they have alternative medicines. There was absolutely nothing on that.

A colleague of mine, the member for Nanaimo—Alberni, has brought forward a private member's bill, Bill C-420. We should have had some commitment in the throne speech from the government to allow freedom of choice in that area, something on natural food products.

I would like to conclude by saying that the throne speech was very deficient. We have a health care system that is in dire straits. We all know how it got that way. I just described it.

Where are we going to go from here? Number one, we have to put the patient first and build a system around the patient in the 21st century. We have to get the relationships right between the provinces and the federal government and agree upon our mandates equally so that we can do what is in the best interests of Canadians.

Business of the House

February 2nd, 2004 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

Members will recall that on October 29, 2003, the House concurred in the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which had the effect of extending provisional Standing Orders in relation to private members' business until the earlier of June 23, 2004, or the dissolution of the 37th Parliament.

To ensure that private members' business will be conducted in an orderly fashion, the Chair wishes to clarify some of the provisions resulting from Standing Order 86.1, the Standing Order that deals with the reinstatement of all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons.

First of all, the List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business, established on March 18, 2003, continues from last session to this session notwithstanding prorogation.

This list is available for consultation at the Private Members Business Office and on the Internet.

The items themselves, either in or outside the order of precedence, whether Motions, Notices of Motions (Papers) or Bills, will keep the same number as in the second session of the 37th Parliament. However, considering that he is no longer a member of this House, all the items standing in the name of Mr. Harb will be dropped from the Order Paper.

Ministers and parliamentary secretaries who are ineligible by virtue of their office will be dropped to the bottom of the list for the consideration of private members' business, where they will remain as long as they hold those offices. Consequently, the item in the name of the member for Don Valley West is withdrawn from the order of precedence.

Standing Order 86.1 states that at the beginning of the second or subsequent session of a Parliament, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that have been listed on the Order Paper during the previous session shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation and shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper or, as the case may be, referred to a committee and the list for the consideration of private members' business and the order of precedence established pursuant to Standing Order 87 shall continue from session to session.

So, pursuant to this Standing Order, the items in the Order of Precedence are deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation. Thus they shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper in the same place or, as the case may be, referred to committee or sent to the Senate.

There were five private members' bills originating in the House of Commons referred to committee. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-231, an act to amend the Divorce Act (limits on rights of child access by sex offenders), is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-338, an act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing), is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Bill C-408, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (oath or solemn affirmation), is deemed to havebeen introduced, read the first time, read the second time, and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.

Bill C-421, an act respecting the establishment of the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada and to amend other acts in consequence thereof, is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bills deemed introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to a committee)

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

October 22nd, 2003 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-420 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)