Mr. Speaker, sadly, there is only a few minutes left for me to point out the concerns I have with Bill C-52. I will cut to the chase and build on the comments of my colleague from the Bloc Québecois, who pointed out, quite rightly, that the root of our problem today can be found in the laissez-faire capitalism associated with free trade, which has led to further and further deregulation and, in fact, a reluctance for governments to regulate in the sense that it would have and should have to protect citizens of our country.
I note the Hazardous Products Act was put in effect in 1968 and has been virtually unchanged since then. That was a period of time when we made things in Canada. We were not worried about the import situation quite as much. We could control, modulate and regulate the input into the products. When it had the stamp “made in Canada” on it, we could assume it was probably fairly safe.
We have yielded that control now. The globalization of capital has made that irrelevant. In fact, we are condemned when we raise these issues. We are told that we are trying to put up non-tariff barriers to trade whenever we say that we should at least harmonize our standards, so the expectations are that we are not being poisoned by our trading partners.
However, my colleague is right. We are poisoning another generation of children in our zeal, in our enthusiasm to close down the last manufacturing plant in Canada and export every last job. We are in such a hurry to do this that we are not even being careful enough to ensure it does not have health consequences to the point where we are pickling the innards of our kids with some toxic super-chemicals that they are being bombarded with in this post-war era.
The petrochemical industry has gone nuts in our country and in the world in the post-war years. Mark my words, in the very near future one in two Canadians will die of cancer. It never used to be that way. Fifty per cent of all the people will die of cancer when my kids are my age. That is absurd. That means we have done something terribly wrong.
If anybody watched Wendy Mesley's show on television, the very sensitive investigative journalism done about her personal struggle with breast cancer and the questions that were not asked about what happened when we ingested chemical A and chemical B and it turned into chemical C inside our internal organs, those are the questions that are not being asked. We are being far too casual.
The one thing we are being extraordinarily casual about is the biggest industrial killer the world has ever known, which is asbestos. Canada not only allows the import of asbestos, it is the world's second largest exporter of the world's greatest industrial killer. Asbestos kills more people than all other industrial toxins combined, but yet in Canada not only exports it with great and wanton abandon, it heavily subsidizes the production and export of asbestos.
We can be critical of allowing toys coming in from China with asbestos and lead in them. When I said that there were toys with asbestos coming in to Canada, the Minister of Health stood and said that I was exaggerating, that the government would never tolerate it. A few short weeks later we found toys with asbestos in them, 5% tremolite asbestos in the CSI fingerprint game, which was such a popular seller last Christmas.
We are so cavalier about asbestos, we are not only mining it, producing it, selling it, exporting it, we are importing it as well. I believe the government is afraid to condemn the use of asbestos because it does not want to offend the province of Quebec, from where asbestos comes, the last remaining asbestos mine in the country.
The asbestos mines that I worked in are all closed. They were closed by natural market forces. Nobody will buy this toxin any more unless, for some magic reason, it is the benign asbestos that they mine in that province when all of a sudden it is subsidized and its export is promoted.
We send Canadian Department of Justice lawyers around the country like globe-trotting propagandists for the asbestos industry to find new markets and new places to pollute with Canadian asbestos.
We are just as guilty of that but we are not taking the steps to protect our own people from the import of toxins because, unlike Europe and the United States, Canada does not even have the power to issue a mandatory recall of a product. The United States can. In California and in a number of states they clearly take their hazardous materials more seriously. In a properly functioning public health protection system, when a problem comes to light about a product on the market there should be an obligation on the part of the government to inform consumers and remove it from the market. However, under this new law, the government may do this but there is nothing to require it to do this. It is still optional. The word “may” is used throughout.
Bill C-52 is inadequate on a number of levels, one of which I was just illustrating. I believe it should require the government to take positive action when it comes to light that a product on the market is harmful.
In the current context of the bill, if the government is made aware of a toxic chemical in a children's toy there would be no legal requirement for it to even make people aware of it. In the case of the asbestos in the CSI fingerprint toy, it was denying it. It would not even suggest that asbestos was bad for us. I made the government aware of it but there was no attempt by the government to recall the toy. We had a press conference downstairs in the 130-S room. To this day, the government has done nothing about it because for it to say that the asbestos in that children's toy is bad, it would need to admit that the asbestos it is subsidizing and exporting around the world is bad for people. It would be caught and hoisted on its own petard, as it were.
There is no legal requirement in the bill for the government to make people aware of a bad product and I think that is wrong. I suppose there would be political consequences if we exposed the government, which I did in the CSI thing, but it is hard because, as we know, after the fact accountability relies on the government getting caught.
Similarly, the minister would have the power to order companies to conduct studies to ensure that a product is safe but nothing in the proposed law would ensure that products are regularly tested for toxicity. This is the subject of another bill, Bill C-225, in my name, a pesticide bill where we believe there should be a reverse onus on the companies that want to sell pesticides, herbicides and fungicides and that it should not really be up to us, or even the Government of Canada, to prove beyond a doubt that the product is absolutely safe. It should be the company that must prove the chemical is safe before it is sold. There is no such obligation now. The company can sell anything and only if someone does all the testing and determines it is unsafe will the company be curtailed in the sale of products.
That is completely arse backwards. That is clearly the lobbyists and the petrochemical industry. The pesticide producers have done a very effective job in tying the government around their little finger. This reverse onus notion would put the burden of proof on the manufacturers that the products they are selling are safe and the precautionary principle should surely apply, especially when we are dealing with children and pregnant women who are that much more susceptible and vulnerable to chemical contamination. The cell walls of a developing child, as the cells are multiplying, are so thin that they are like little sponges for these chemical pesticides.
We cannot put a tonne of pesticides on our lawns and let our children go out to roll in the grass and not expect them to be affected and affected permanently.
We also believe and are calling for the nationwide ban on the cosmetic, non-essential, non-agricultural use of pesticides. The provinces of Ontario and Quebec have now done it but that is only in the absence of leadership and direction from the federal government that should have done it without having to wait for other jurisdictions to do its regulatory job for it.
I want to simply say that there are a number of independent agencies in civil society that are critical of the bill. I seem to have misplaced my press release from the United Steelworkers of America but it is certainly one that has had a campaign on toxic imports partly because of the job issue. I would be happy to continue this at a later time.