Canada Consumer Product Safety Act

An Act respecting the safety of consumer products

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Tony Clement  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of May 1, 2008
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment modernizes the regulatory regime for consumer products in Canada. It creates prohibitions with respect to the manufacturing, importing, selling, advertising, packaging and labelling of consumer products, including those that are a danger to human health or safety. In addition, it establishes certain measures that will make it easier to identify whether a consumer product is a danger to human health or safety and, if so, to more effectively prevent or address the danger. It also creates application and enforcement mechanisms. The enactment makes consequential amendments to certain Acts.

Elsewhere

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

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are now at third reading of Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products. We were debating it at second reading not even a month ago. My colleagues in committee really worked together to properly study this bill and to agree on amendments that would clarify certain aspects related to the protection of personal information. Clarifying these aspects is absolutely necessary, since the public expects the government, institutions and the legislation to ensure that their personal information is protected.

I cannot help but smile though. We went through the whole process two times already, the first time with Bill C-52 and the second time with Bill C-6. I have to wonder whether, now that we are so close to the goal, the Prime Minister will call an election or prorogue Parliament. That is what he did the last two times.

The members opposite find that funny. I think that the Minister of Health will talk to the Prime Minister to ensure that nothing like that happens and that Bill C-36 will make it through. The minister keeps saying, as we have been doing, that the current act is 40 years old and that it is time to update it. The Auditor General produced a report four years ago that revealed several problems and also highlighted the risks related to consumer products. We cannot wait any longer to move forward with this bill.

Canada is not the only country to be tightening up its legislation. I want to talk about what happened south of the border, in the United States. On August 14, 2008, the then president, George W. Bush, signed the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act. This act set new, modern standards and strengthened the legislation on toy safety. Thus, the American agency responsible for overseeing the safety of consumer products was given measures that enabled it to have better control over toys. This legislation assigned more responsibilities, expanded authority and granted related powers to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the CPSC.

Since 2009, the agency has gradually been requiring that manufacturers and importers certify that their products meet the new standards, requiring that companies have their products tested by an independent third party and imposing harsher sanctions for non-compliance with product safety requirements. The law also proposed an increase in the agency's budget every year until 2015, as well as an increase in staff of at least 500 employees by 2013 in order to effectively enforce the new safety standards.

On September 10, 2009, the chair of the CPSC, Inez Tenenbaum, testified before the Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, saying that she intends to make her agency a world leader in consumer protection.

With that statement in mind, I hope that it is also the government's intention, following the passage of this new bill, to see to it that we, too, are leaders in terms of consumer protection by ensuring that our consumers are buying safe products.

Throughout my speech, I will refer to elements that have been included in the American legislation to ensure that there is no shortage of money or inspectors to enforce this law. That is what we also need to see on this side of the border to ensure that we can do the important work of strengthening the current law, which dates back 40 years.

Now I would like to read the bill summary because it serves to explain the scope of this new legislation, which I hope will be passed quickly.

This enactment modernizes the regulatory regime for consumer products in Canada. It creates prohibitions with respect to the manufacturing, importing, selling, advertising, packaging and labelling of consumer products, including those that are a danger to human health or safety. In addition, it establishes certain measures that will make it easier to identify whether a consumer product is a danger to human health or safety and, if so, to more effectively prevent or address the danger. It also creates application and enforcement mechanisms. This enactment also makes consequential amendments to the Hazardous Products Act.

That is the scope of the bill.

At second reading, I made several statements and asked a number of other questions that must be answered by meeting with officials and talking to the minister so we can be sure this bill really meets the needs and expectations we expressed when we supported Bill C-52 in principle a few years ago.

Speaking of what led to Bill C-36, there was Bill C-6, and before that, Bill C-52. The same bill has come up under three different numbers. I would invite those watching to reread my speech at second reading because I reviewed all of this to explain why the Conservative government took so long to bring this bill forward.

As I said earlier, the committee members worked well together. At this point, I would like to thank my colleague from Repentigny, who worked with me to ensure the Bloc Québécois' presence in committee and who asked excellent questions. Among the answers to the questions the committee had are some questions from the member for Repentigny and the answers provided by officials who appeared before the committee.

When we discussed Bill C-6, a number of people wrote to us to express their concerns about whether Bill C-36 was constitutionally acceptable. I will read the answer provided by Diane Labelle, general counsel, legal services unit, Health Canada, during her appearance before the committee:

As you are well aware, the Minister of Justice is tasked with reviewing each bill in order to ensure that it properly reflects the government's obligations pursuant to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That review was done by the minister and the Department of Justice. Moreover, a bill is also examined to see whether it is well founded, i.e., whether Parliament does indeed have the power to adopt such a bill. In fact, we can confirm that we have conducted such a review and that the bill falls within Parliament's authority regarding criminal matters and properly reflects the government's charter obligations.

Another concern that some of our constituents had a number of questions about was the fact that Bill C-36 could apply to natural health products. They did not want the bill to regulate natural health products any differently. That is clear in subclause 4(3) of the bill, which I referred to in my speech at second reading. I would like to quote it again:

For greater certainty, this Act does not apply to natural health products as defined in subsection 1(1) of the Natural Health Products Regulations made under the Food and Drugs Act.

I thought that was relatively clear in the bill, but I asked the government officials about this anyway. I will now quote myself, which is unusual, but I will in this case:

Could there be a way around this provision so that the bill applies to natural health products?

I was referring to Bill C-36. This is the reply from Athana Mentzelopoulos, the director general of consumer product safety directorate at Health Canada:

No, there is no way. There is a way, but it would have to come back before Parliament to be amended so that the scope of the legislation would be changed—for example, to remove the provision in subclause 4(3). So yes, there is a way, but certainly it would be the purview of parliamentarians to do so.

In response, I asked another question.

But the version we have before us, i.e., Bill C-36, in no way affects natural health products. Is that correct?

In response, Diane Labelle added the following explanation, addressing the chair of the Standing Committee on Health:

...evidently, neither the Governor in Council nor the minister could amend the wording of the legislation. Parliament alone has that authority. Therefore, the wording of the legislation cannot be amended as regards natural health products.

What we can deduce from this is that if Parliament wanted the bill to apply to natural health products, a new bill would have to be introduced in Parliament to amend subclause 4(3), as Ms. Mentzelopoulos indicated.

Another question we raised a number of times during consideration of Bill C-6 and Bill C-36 is whether the number of inspectors is sufficient. As I was saying earlier, the U.S. has truly taken responsibility and considerably increased the number of inspectors. They want to ensure that their legislation has enough teeth to be properly enforced. To the Bloc Québécois, it is clear that we cannot leave it up to industry alone to ensure that the products it puts on the market are safe within the meaning of the law. In committee, we asked whether the number of inspectors was sufficient, and this is what Athana Mentzelopoulos said:

Essentially, there was a recognition that we needed more resources amongst our cadre of inspectors. We have done the analysis to ascertain, for example, where we have.... We want to go where the work is, essentially.

In my own travels recently, as the new DG, I visited with the regions. We do not necessarily have a uniform number of inspectors associated with each region. In British Columbia there is a lot of volume with imports, and we need to make sure we are resourced appropriately. It is the same in Ontario; a considerable extent of industry is found in Ontario. Obviously we would have—and this is the case—more resources in Ontario than we might find in areas where, for example, there is less industry, less import activity. In Quebec as well we have obviously larger numbers; it correlates to going where the work is and making sure that we are addressing the need.

Robert Ianiro, Director of the Consumer Product Safety Bureau, Health Canada, provided the following information in response to our question.

I think part of the answer also is that we've been focusing a lot around solely increasing our capacity of inspectors, which is clearly very important. We are doubling that capacity. By the fifth year of the action plan, 2012-13, in fact we will have overall doubled the entire complement in consumer product safety. We actually will have increased by about 125 employees.

I think it's important to recognize that we also are hiring more analysts to do testing and verification at our laboratory. With the introduction of the general prohibition, there's going to be a lot more research, hazard evaluations, hazard assessments, risk assessments. We're bringing in mandatory incident reporting. We need to have people sitting behind computers triaging the data, analyzing the data. These are all individuals beyond and in addition to the inspectors.

So it's a fairly broad complement of new employees. Inspectors are obviously very critical. We have those who would be devoted to risk assessment, those devoted to standards development. I think also a very critical piece, given the post-market regime of consumer product safety in Canada and worldwide, is the critical importance of outreach. There are also resources and new staff devoted to outreach. That includes outreach to industry in terms of understanding their obligations, as well as outreach to consumers, since we all have a role to play. As regulator, obviously, as government we have a role to play. Consumers have a role to play. Obviously manufacturers and industry have a role to play.

So it's much, much broader than just inspectors.

Based on Mr. Ianiro's comments, it is clear that we will stay on top of this issue. We will make sure that it is not government funding that determines the number of employees responsible for inspections and for proper implementation of the bill, but vice versa. And once we know what is needed on the ground in order to do the work correctly, we need to ensure that the division carrying out the organization and implementation of inspections has enough staff.

As I said earlier, the entire burden cannot be put on the industry. It is obviously in the industry's interest to not have any products recalled or any nasty incidents reported, but the government has the primary responsibility to ensure that this legislation is adopted by Parliament—and quickly, I hope—so that it can be correctly enforced.

I will not have time to talk about two other questions that we had asked about the government's interpretation of the preamble, notably concerning the precautionary principle.

In any case, I would invite citizens who wish to enquire about these answers to do so by visiting the parliamentary website and consulting the transcripts of the committee debates concerning Bill C-36.

October 21st, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Robert Simonds President, Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I'm the fire chief in Saint John, New Brunswick. I am appearing before you today in my capacity as the president of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, a national organization representing 1,000 fire chiefs located in every province and territory.

CAFC estimates there are almost 3,500 departments in Canada; of these, 91% are volunteer departments. Of the 108,000 total firefighting personnel in Canada, almost 79% are volunteers.

A significant percentage of responses of every fire department have important consumer product safety implications. Stove-top fires, electrical fires or electrocutions, accidental poisoning and strangulations, and the careless use of candles as well as matches and lighters are a few examples in this regard. Special mention, however, should be made of the increasing use of chemical compositions in residential furnishings and in clothing.

We support the CCPSA because it will better protect Canadians from unsafe consumer products. There are several provisions that we regard as particularly beneficial. They include the ability to recall dangerous products, as this will allow the government to respond rapidly when the need arises to address unsafe consumer products; the provisions for the mandatory reporting of incidents, as these reports will be a key source of information about consumer products that are defective or have caused serious incidents or near misses, including fire-related incidents; the ability of the minister to request that manufacturers or importers submit test results to demonstrate that their products are safe; and the prohibition against false or misleading labelling of consumer products, which gives consumers the inaccurate belief that the products they purchase and use are safe.

We have seen a number of examples of counterfeited certified marks for consumer products such as electrical cords and light bulbs. They were falsely labelled as being compliant with Canadian requirements. Bill C-36 would make this an offence.

We ask the standing committee to send this bill back to the House unamended so that it can move quickly to third reading. It was in April 2008 that Bill C-52 was initially introduced. Since then, more than two years of improved product safety protection has been lost, despite all-party support in the House for the bill, for which all of you are to be congratulated.

Consumer product safety problems fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable elements of Canadian society: the young, the disabled, and seniors. That all Canadians, particularly those most at risk, are not protected by the best possible law is difficult for the Canadian fire service to accept. We hope that all MPs and senators will agree that Bill C-36 must become law prior to the Christmas break.

Thank you for your attention to my presentation. I look forward to taking part in the question-and-answer portion of this session.

October 21st, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you for being here today, Minister.

This really is paradoxical. You're telling us that it's time to pass this bill, that it has to be done quickly and that time is running out, but the government has dragged its feet. In November 2006, the Auditor General tabled a report revealing that the Government of Canada knew the risks to consumers as a result of a lack of financing. In 2007, the Bloc Québécois suggested that the minister take immediate action and tighten those safety requirements for hazardous products. In December 2007, you announced an action plan to ensure the safety of food products. One year after the auditor's report, you tabled Bill C-52, one and a half years later. Then, in September, your Prime Minister decided to call an election despite the fact, as you will recall, that there was an act providing for elections on fixed dates. In deciding to call an election, the Prime Minister automatically killed Bill C-52.

You came back and tabled Bill C-6 in January 2009, and that took us up to the prorogation that the Prime Minister requested in December 2009, as a result of which the bill was derailed again.

Minister—

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActOral Questions

October 7th, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Yes, as the member for Outremont said, the Prime Minister is quite stubborn. He always wants his own way, and does not want to get to the bottom of things or find an efficient way of adopting bills that are deemed important, as the minister herself said in her speech earlier today.

Now we have Bill C-36. As I said earlier, this bill is essentially a carbon copy of Bill C-6, but they have already incorporated—and it would have been silly not to—the amendments already made in parliamentary committee when Bill C-6 was being studied. Members will recall that Bill C-6 was itself a carbon copy of Bill C-52. The only difference—people will perhaps remember—was that when the government introduced Bill C-52, a number of our constituents had a problem with the fact that natural health products would be subject to this bill.

However, there was a proposal to amend and modify the bill so that natural health products would be exempt. I would like to read subclause 4(3) of the bill:

For greater certainty, this Act does not apply to natural health products as defined in subsection 1(1) of the Natural Health Products Regulations made under the Food and Drugs Act.

This clarification having been made, I would, for the benefit of the House, like to raise some questions and ideas that would be interesting to study during the meetings of the Standing Committee on Health that will be dedicated to studying Bill C-36.

First of all, the preamble to the bill proposes a definition that approaches the precautionary principle:

Whereas

the Parliament of Canada recognizes...

that a lack of full scientific certainty is not to be used as a reason for postponing measures that prevent adverse effects on human health if those effects could be serious or irreversible;

After having read the preamble, we would really like to study compliance with this bill in more detail. What does the government mean by this statement? That is the question we will try to answer during the committee meetings that focus on studying Bill C-36.

The second point I would like to make is about the complementary system regarding the environment. The preamble also gives an overview of consumer products and the environment:

...recognizes that, given the impact activities with respect to consumer products may have on the environment, there is a need to create a regulatory system regarding consumer products that is complementary to the regulatory system regarding the environment;

That is only found in clauses 16 and 17. The Fertilizers Act and the Seeds Act are excluded from this bill. There is one link with the environment in this bill and it deals with disclosure of personal information. We could ask the government if it intends to develop environmental requirements as part of the regulations.

The third aspect, which is fundamental, is self-regulation of the industry. Following the many cases of unsafe food products on our supermarket shelves, the media have exposed some worrisome phenomena, namely the lack of quality control and insufficient labelling on food products imported into Canada. On April 1, a number of newspaper articles reported that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was inspecting barely 2% to 5% of food products and that this low percentage represented nearly 98% of the risk. These statements opened the debate on deficiencies in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's tracking system and on the labelling and food inspection regulations.

When Canada's new food and consumer safety action plan is being reviewed, the Bloc Québécois will ensure that the federal government does not delegate food inspection entirely to the industry and that the federal government fulfils its mandate to ensure the safety of food, therapeutic and consumer products.

The recent listeriosis outbreak that has shaken consumer confidence is another example. We have to rectify this immediately for everyone's sake. The Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to implement stricter food safety standards in order to restore people's confidence in the food they eat. The same standards should apply to consumer product safety.

We completely reject the notion that the industry should regulate itself entirely when it comes to food inspection, as we saw last summer with the listeriosis crisis that resulted from a self-regulation pilot project. We do not want the industry to be wholly in charge of consumer product safety. That goes without saying. Health Canada must continue playing a role in ensuring public health, for instance, by making sure it has enough inspectors to fulfill its mandate.

On that last point, back in 2006, the Auditor General indicated that Health Canada did not have sufficient financial and human resources to carry out its inspection duties. We can have the best possible bill, the best legislation to prevent the public from purchasing products that could be unsafe for themselves or their loved ones, but we still need to take every possible action to ensure that the law is obeyed. We must not allow the industry to be both purveyor and inspector of the same goods. That would be absurd, although, I must admit, no company wants to see its name in huge bold letters splashed across the front pages of newspapers, saying that it put unsafe products on store shelves.

Clearly, all stakeholders know that for everyone's sake, consumer products that pose a risk to public health must not find their way onto our store shelves. The fact remains that we need ways to ensure compliance with the law and to make sure that the industry does not put the people who provide consumer products to the public in charge of overseeing the safety and security of those products.

The fourth point I would like to discuss, and which we will address in committee, pertains to the regulations. Bill C-36 frequently refers to measures that the minister may take with respect to regulations. Broad regulatory powers are also mentioned in clause 6, as well as clause 37. The Bloc Québécois has questions about several aspects of the regulations provided for in the bill.

We must ask some important questions. Given the minister's discretionary power, how would the recall be carried out and for what reasons could she decide to not recall a product in certain cases? How will the minister decide that a product is dangerous? It is a matter of common sense, and we must have an answer before the bill is brought into force. On a few occasions when considering a bill, the members of the Standing Committee on Health agreed that the minister would have to provide a certain number of regulations to convey how she intended to interpret, through the regulations, the bill to be passed by Parliament.

Also, what parameters would the minister use in deciding to recall one product but not another? In this regard, we still have questions, and we hope that the minister or the officials will explain their intentions to the committee, and that the officials will also be able to provide more information about the pending regulations.

It is clear that this bill will receive quick passage through second reading since we have unanimously agreed to it. My colleagues on the Standing Committee on Health and I are looking forward to a more in-depth study of Bill C-36 in the days to come.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActOral Questions

October 7th, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, as most hon. members here know, when a government bill is introduced, the same member cannot deliver a speech more than once at each stage. Therefore, at second reading stage, like today, it would normally not be possible to speak more than once to this bill, an act respecting the safety of consumer products. In the present case, it will be possible because this is the third time this bill is being introduced by this same government. Why is this so? Because the Prime Minister said so. He decided, through various manoeuvres, to draw out the debate on this much anticipated and necessary bill.

That is why, when I read the Minister of Health's press release that was printed and distributed on June 7, 2010, I could not help but laugh. I will read an excerpt:

“The safety and well-being of Canadian families and children remain a top priority for our government,” said [the Minister of Health]. “Canada's current product safety law is now over 40 years old and we need to do more to update and improve this law to help protect our families from harmful products.”

About four years ago today, the Auditor General pointed out the problem and emphasized that we should redouble our efforts to modernize this old legislation going back 40 years. She submitted a report in November 2006 that showed the Government of Canada was aware of the risks that consumers were running as a result of the lack of funding for the product safety program and knew that managers could not comply with their mandates. That was in November 2006. So what happened after that? Let me summarize the period of time since November 2006.

In the summer of 2007, thousands of toys made in China were recalled by their manufacturers because of the lead they contained. The Bloc Québécois said at the time that the minister should act without delay to tighten the safety requirements for dangerous products in order to prohibit the manufacture, promotion and marketing of any product entailing an unacceptable risk of harmful effects to health.

Although the Auditor General made her determination in November 2006, it was not until December 2007 that the government announced—not that a bill was being introduced—but that an action plan had been created to ensure the safety of food and consumer products. The government promised a bill in the days or weeks or months to come. It finally appeared in April 2008. A year and a half had passed, therefore, between the Auditor General’s findings and Bill C-52.

You know something about this, Mr. Speaker, because you were affected like all of us. The bill was prevented from continuing through all the stages of the legislative process and becoming much-needed legislation because in September 2008—despite the fine fixed-date election bill the Prime Minister had decided to introduce and get passed—he decided, because he was the Prime Minister and could use his prerogative, to call a general election and slam the doors on Parliament. Never mind the very necessary and important bills that are pending, let us have an election. That was in September 2008. So the process for passing this bill on the safety of consumer products was dragged out even longer.

In January 2009, once the election campaign and the Christmas holidays were over, C-6, essentially a carbon copy of Bill C-52, was introduced.

The only thing that happened at the end of January was that the bill was introduced. Actual debate began only in April 2009. Once again, there were delays. I can tell you that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health was not where the process was dragged out, because in five meetings we were able to hear all the people involved and all the people with an interest in the issue. Amendments were presented and we managed to find common ground among all the parliamentarians on the committee. However, we did not make it to the end of the legislative process for the bill, because in December 2009, Parliament was prorogued. The Prime Minister, again because he is the Prime Minister and he has the power to do it, decided to shut down Parliament, to leave us in our constituencies and not to allow the House of Commons to complete the entire legislative process then underway, and in particular the process of passing the consumer products safety bill, a bill that, I repeat, is necessary and one that people are waiting for.

In March 2010, Parliament returned. But did the government introduce the bill? No, it waited a few months. In June 2010, Bill C-36 was introduced, the one we have before us and that we will be debating today and in the days that follow. And since June, have we been debating this bill, a bill that is needed and that people are waiting for? No, we have been waiting, we let the summer go by, and here we are on October 7, debating it at second reading.

It is somewhat odd that we had to wait four years and still not have passed it, and be starting, once again, to consider passing the bill, a bill that has, in general, the agreement of the parliamentarians in this House. This is cause for concern, to say the least. That is why I smiled a little when I read this paragraph from the minister. A little farther on in the same news release, the minister tells us that she looks forward to speaking with us about the bill in greater detail in the coming days. We have had to wait until October for her to address the subject in this House.

Furthermore, we are falling behind, and everyone knows it. Earlier, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons had to rise and ask for unanimous consent to have only one round of speeches. Everyone knows that we are behind, but if the government, headed by the Prime Minister, truly—

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6, an act respecting the safety of consumer products, which I support. This bill is long overdue. Last year and the year before I stood in the House and asked the minister a question about toxic toys. I mentioned how a lot of the toys available for children contained lead and other kinds of very dangerous chemicals in them. Therefore, it is a great pleasure to see a bill that begins to make consumer products safer.

I want to focus particularly on several of the chemicals. We note that the U.S. has tested some of the popular toys and have found that a third of them have medium to high levels of lead, cadmium, mercury and other dangerous chemicals. Why are these chemicals particularly hard on children? We know their brains and their bodies develop the most during that first six years. Children under the age of two tend to put whatever their hands can grab into their mouths. Imagine what would happen if the products they put in their mouths contained dangerous chemicals. The impact is hardest on kids are under six, especially children two years old or under.

Two or three years ago in the U.S., a four-year-old child swallowed a heart-shaped charm and subsequently died. That charm was made almost entirely out of lead. Therefore, last year the U.S. took action and passed a bill similar to this one, which takes effect this year.

When there are high levels of lead, it causes brain damage, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioural problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing and kidney damage. Some of the symptoms could be vomiting and, if severe, as I said earlier, even death. Therefore, parents desperately want to know that the toys and the products around their children are safe.

We have seen that it is not just lead, it is also cadmium. Cadmium can have an impact on children and pregnant women. It can cause bone losses, increased blood pressure, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and, if serious, even death. It could even cause lung and prostate cancer.

Another kind of chemical, phthalates, especially DIMP, which is most often found in rubber ducks and bath toys, has an impact on the kidneys, liver and blood. There are all kinds of chemicals. In fact, 80,000 of them are used in the products that surround us. The European Union has banned phthalates since 1999 because of their impact.

The United Steelworkers, for example, has been asking parents to go around and check products, especially toys, to see whether they are safe for children and household use. For a while last year and the year before, before this act was finally in front of us for approval, I told my constituents to go leadcheck.com where they could purchase a pen that they could use to test products.

I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I forgot to mention that earlier on.

The United Steelworkers have this campaign. If the government is not checking these things, it is encouraging ordinary Canadians to do it.

I am glad we are finally seeing some aggressive regulations. For regulations to be successful, they require three elements. They require legislation, enforcement and education. We need to carefully ensure there are enough funds in the budget for enforcement. We know that 65% of consumer products are imported into Canada. We need to ensure the products are safe and importers should be required to prove they are.

In the past everything has been voluntary. The checking, enforcement and recall were voluntary. We did not know if a product is off the shelf. The item could be recalled by Health Canada, yet some of the product could still be on the shelves. We need to have mandatory recall and the kind of enforcement to ensure the item is off the shelf if it is dangerous.

Finally, an element of the bill includes natural health products, which has caused us some concern. However, I am glad it has now clarified. Last year we had Bill C-51 and Bill C-52. Bill C-51 especially dealt with natural health products. At that time, there was a great deal of concern over that kind of legislation because natural health products were lumped into the Food and Drugs Act. I am glad the bill did not pass. People who sold natural health products were extremely concerned that if the bill had passed, they would have been thrown in jail.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6 this morning, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products. I think this is a very important bill.

We certainly still have reservations about the bill, but by and large we are in support of it. This is evidence once again that collectively we can make this chamber work and I think that bodes well. If the parties continue to cooperate a little more than they have in the past, we can get some good legislation out of this minority Parliament and perhaps extend the minority Parliament for some time into the future.

I have had some experience with a minority government in Manitoba a number of years ago. We worked with the Gary Filmon government in Manitoba for a period of 18 months and got through a lot of very good pieces of legislation.

As a matter of fact, I am a very big fan of minority governments. When we look back to 1972-74, that was a very productive period in our politics, and as well when Mike Pearson was the Prime Minister in the sixties. We had several minority Parliaments and they worked very well too. That is when we got the flag. We had a number of issues that were resolved in a very good way.

I want to say at the beginning that our critic for this area did a tremendous job on the bill, as she does on pretty much everything she touches. She and I go back a long way. We were both elected to the Manitoba Legislature March 18, 1986. I have had a lot of experience watching her over the years in various capacities, and she takes a very aggressive and very thorough approach to her duties. When she makes a recommendation, we know that it is well-researched, well thought out and there is really nothing given to chance.

Bill C-6 follows a previous bill, Bill C-52, the original piece of legislation that was intended to strengthen the Hazardous Products Act of 1969, which is quite a long time ago. It has been proven increasingly ineffective in identifying and removing dangerous consumer products.

Let us look back to the period of 1969 when the original legislation was brought in. This was at a time when consumer products and so on were coming on the market in large numbers.

Ralph Nader was essentially the father of consumer protection in North America. Most of us were around in the 1960s. Some here probably were not, but most of us were. Most of us actually grew up with Ralph Nader and we know that he challenged the North American auto industry on the basis that consumer products, when they are produced and sold to the public, should be as safe as possible, and that the onus should be on the company producing the product to be liable if its product is defective.

Our thinking in Canada has always been the opposite, that somehow it is the purchaser and end user's responsibility and fault if something goes wrong with a product. Over the years, through people like Ralph Nader driving this envelope, we have seen consumer protection rise greatly. The man has done a terrific service for all consumers in North America by his actions.

We remember the Ford Pintos. I believe he called them rolling Molotov cocktails. These were cars built in the sixties that had gas tank problems and were subject to catching on fire in accidents. There was a statistically large number of these. Any time something like this happened, the car companies blamed the driver. It was never the car company's responsibility; it was always the driver's responsibility. Ralph Nader collected statistics to show that these accidents were happening in large numbers and only with that particular type of car, the Ford Pinto.

He took action against the companies and was able to get compensation for many Americans. He later went on to deal with the rusty Ford issue and a number of other different areas. When he did get settlements for people, at the end of the day, the settlements were always done on the basis that the settlement had to be private because the car company would always want to keep it out of the public view.

The reality is that the public view of how dangerous these consumers products were was enhanced by Ralph Nader's actions. However, that was only the tip of the iceberg. When people did have problems and took action against the car companies, in this case, there was always a settlement, but the people receiving the settlement had to sign a release that they would not talk about it. The public is literally totally unaware that there were probably hundreds of thousands of settlements made that people could not talk about by virtue of the fact that they had signed confidentiality agreements in order to get their settlement.

That is the beginning of how and why legislation such as this was developed. In the 1950s there were not a lot of consumer products to begin with. In those days, people never thought that their children were going to be poisoned by toys. It was something that was never even contemplated. In those days, people were not dealing with consumer products like cellphones, which some people feel are linked to brain cancer. I do not know if there is a link or not, but it is certainly being studied.

A member of my family was found to have a brain tumour just a few weeks ago. It was removed and it has been determined that it was cancerous. He evidently spends a lot of time on a cellphone. The family is certainly questioning as to whether or not there is a connection. Over time, I think that we will have to do studies to show whether or not cancers are in any way connected to cellphone use.

However, these were issues that we never had to deal with in the 1960s because we did not have products like this. In the 1960s the wiring in houses was probably 60 amp and one was lucky to have a refrigerator, a television and maybe a radio. That was all one would have in a house. Today, when we go into our bedroom or any other room in a house, I am sure we all agree that the whole room lights up at night. There are all kinds of consumer items plugged into the wall.

People have suggested that these products are generating electromagnetic radiation and they provide concerns in some cases. I know that we have had some studies done on people who live around power lines. There is a demonstrated suggestion that cancer rates are somehow increased for people who live around power lines. When we are looking at issues like that, it makes sense that we in this country have to come up with very strong consumer product legislation just to deal with the unknown and unforeseen health effects of consumer products.

We have another whole area of involvement here, with producers of products who are less than ethical in their manufacture. Years ago, products were manufactured in Canada. They were done under some sort of quality standards. When producers were in Winnipeg, Saskatoon or Ottawa, producing for the Canadian market, they would know that if they did not produce a good quality product, it would not be purchased any more. Eaton's would not buy it from them. They would be out of business and there would not be any other place to sell their product.

With a huge amount of consumer products today, it seems that almost everything is being outsourced and made in Mexico, China, Indonesia and other areas. I am sure that a lot of those products are of good quality, but there certainly is a temptation, when a supply source is so far away and the competition is so extremely fierce, for quick solutions and shortcuts becoming the order of the day.

That is what has happened. Children's toys have been manufactured inappropriately, and we are paying the price. We have to deal with this essentially because of multinational corporations and their free trade deals that have led to a race to the bottom for the lowest possible cost of production. We see that as a positive thing in society, but we do not tend to look at the negatives. The long-term liabilities and responsibilities come back to bite us at the end of the day.

For example, 90 consumer products were recalled last year, and there were 37 more in this year already. Many of these products were not made in Canada; China was identified as the frequent country of origin. The original act, as has been pointed out, has not been effective in identifying or removing these dangerous products, leaving Canadians dependent on product alerts and recalls by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission instead of Health Canada.

We see the same thing in the financial services area. Legislation and enforcement in the United States are tougher. There are almost no convictions in Canada under securities violations, for example, with the Ontario Securities Commission, whereas there are a couple of thousand in the United States. I have mentioned before that Conrad Black committed his white-collar crimes in Canada, and he was not touched by any Canadian authorities at all. It was under American laws that he was picked up; it was the American system that cornered him, eventually convicted him and put him where he belongs and where he is now, in jail, at least for the next few months.

Clearly, Canada is not in a very strong position relative to other countries. This bill will help deal with that to a certain extent. However, once again we have left out some very important areas that should have been dealt with.

One of the areas that was left out, and it is certainly an issue that is near and dear to me, is the issue of smoking. Presentations were made in committee. It was a very big disappointment to me and others that cigarettes were exempted from this bill. I cannot think of a better example of a product that should be covered by this type of legislation.

I want to read a letter from the Canadian Cancer Society, which was sent to the chair and members of the committee on April 21, 2009. I know there are people watching the debate today who would not be aware that this was the case. I think it is important for them to know that the Canadian Cancer Society wrote a letter to the members of the committee regarding Bill C-6.

While it says it strongly supports the bill and commends the Minister of Health and the government for bringing forward the legislation, at the same time it recommended “the removal of the permanent exclusion for tobacco products found in the bill. The proposed amendment is short and simple but very important. In particular, we recommend the exclusion of subsection 4(2) to be deleted and that tobacco products instead be listed in Schedule 1, along with pesticides, cosmetics, explosives and other indicated products.”

If the majority of the public were aware of this bill and that this exclusion was in the bill, I am sure MPs' phones would have been ringing off the hook. We would have received a lot of feedback from the public on this issue, from both sides, I am sure, because there are still avid smokers who would defend their right to smoke.

I know at least one colleague, who may or may not be close to me at the moment, is a smoker, but I do not know how tough she would be in defending her right to keep smoking.

I am an ex-smoker, so I guess we are the worst people to be talking about this issue, but even people who do smoke tend to take a different view today of that issue. Even 20 years ago, when a member of my original caucus had a party at his house and announced that people had to smoke outside, we all shook our heads and thought there was something wrong with him.

Today it would be the absolute opposite of that. Even the smokers walk out of their houses and smoke on the front steps. If they recognize it is doing damage to their houses, it makes me wonder why they keep smoking in the first place.

I recall that people years ago would not have had a problem purchasing a car that was owned by a smoker. Today it is very difficult to sell a car that was owned by a smoker, so smokers are smoking outside their cars.

Would anybody in this Parliament believe us if we told them that only a few years ago we could smoke on airplanes? It was very, very common, and now that is past history.

We are making progress. It has been reported that smoking rates have dropped, but it is still a big problem. We have legislation before the House right now dealing with the whole area of tobacco and trying to find ways to reduce the number of smokers in the country. I really believe we are going to have to go a step further at a certain point and offer some sort of financial inducement to people who embark on a non-smoking program supervised by a doctor.

I draw the analogy between that and what we did in Manitoba with the car immobilizer program four years ago. We offered it as a voluntary program, with a reduction on insurance if people put immobilizers in their cars. Even though it made imminent sense, very few people took the government up on the program. We made the immobilizers free, and as a reward we gave people the reduction on their insurance anyway. We made them free but we mandated that people had to install these immobilizers or they could not insure their cars anymore.

There was a bit of grumbling, but by and large people complied with the program. We had our auto theft rates drop to the point where we had one day last month when we had zero. We went from the number one car theft capital of Canada three years ago down to having one day with no thefts.

That is a perfect example of how providing a free product and making it mandatory actually has solved a lot of the problem. We may have to do the same thing with smoking to get those final smokers. I am looking at another smoker down the aisle here.

At the end of the day, if the advertising does not work, all the other prohibitions do not work and the social stigmas do not work, we may have to look at offering some sort of a program, administered by the Canadian Medical Association, where we offer financial incentives to people if they quit smoking. They already have financial incentives to stop smoking through their home and life insurance programs, and other programs. I am sure it works in a few cases, but not in all.

The letter goes on to say, “Tobacco products cause more damage to public health than any other consumer product, killing 37,000 Canadians a year. It makes no sense that Bill C-6 in section 4(2) would permanently exclude tobacco products under virtually all circumstances from any of the bill's provisions. The following rationale further supports the proposed amendment. Adopting the amendment would mean that in the future the government would have the flexibility to deal with the tobacco epidemic in a rapid manner should the need arise and the Tobacco Act be inadequate.”

There would be an escape valve available to protect the public interest if necessary—

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I had not yet been elected when Bill C-52 was before the House. However, I have to say that we worked very hard with the NDP to ensure that some of the clauses in Bill C-52 were included in Bill C-6, and most of the amendments were passed.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 5 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues over disclosure by the minister was reintroduced. There was an NDP and a Bloc motion that brought that back. Perhaps the member could briefly discuss the issue of ministerial disclosure and why it is important. It was part of Bill C-52, the precursor to this bill, and is now part of this bill.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and congratulate all members of the Standing Committee on Health, on which I sit, for all their work on this bill.

I believe this is proof that, when we have a good bill, one that is well drafted and one we can work on, when the amendments proposed by the opposition are adopted by the majority, and when the committee operates under good discipline, all of these elements move things along even more quickly and solid common sense always prevails. That is what has led to the bill we have before us which will have the support of the Bloc Québécois, the NDP, the Liberal Party and the government, or so I understand. That same solid common sense is what makes me a sovereignist.

Getting back to Bill C-6, according to an Auditor General's report, the government had known since at least 2006 that the current legislation, the legislation amended by Bill C-6, did not protect the public properly.

It was not until the incident in the summer of 2007, when toys containing lead were recalled, that the government indicated its intention to amend this legislation. Three months later, it made the official announcement of its action plan to ensure food and consumer product safety.

At that time, the Bloc Québécois had called on the minister to tighten up safety requirements for dangerous products so the manufacturing, promotion and marketing of any product that might present an unacceptable risk or be harmful to health could be banned.

We also called upon Ottawa to put the burden on manufacturers to inspect their products and prove that they are not hazardous to consumer health and safety. This is included in the amended Bill C-6.

We also insisted that the approach taken by the government should not put the industry wholly in charge of the safety of consumer products, thereby leaving the public's health in their hands.

One of the amendments I proposed called for beefed-up financial and human resources in order to ensure there would be enough inspectors to enforce the law that Bill C-6 will eventually become.

This bill is a good one and is based on fine principles. We all agree with this bill in principle. However, the problem we come up against every time is the number of inspectors. The Bloc Québécois often raised this issue in committee, because if we implement this bill without having the necessary inspectors or the financial and human resources that are needed, it could quickly become useless.

The Bloc Québécois succeeded in getting an amendment through calling for beefed-up human and financial resources so that the law is properly enforced.

We cannot leave it up to the industry to regulate and manage itself. That could create problems. It is not that we assume that any industry is acting in bad faith, but a company could unfortunately make a mistake in its data or in its research on toys, food or something else.

We want to ensure that the government makes good on a promise it has made many times but unfortunately never kept. It was to ensure that it had enough inspectors.

In committee, we heard from Mr. Burns, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. He told us essentially the same thing: if we do not have enough inspectors to enforce the law, the bill will do absolutely nothing.

The Auditor General had also pointed out that Health Canada did not have enough inspectors to do the work properly. Her findings were consistent with what Mr. Burns said and the questions I repeatedly asked in committee.

Even though the bill requires that companies ensure that products are harmless, the government will have to ensure that there are enough inspectors, as I said.

We support Bill C-6 as amended. I would like to provide some background. This bill is the old Bill C-52, which was tabled on April 8, 2008, and passed at second reading in May 2008. It is part of the food and consumer safety action plan, which the Conservative government announced on December 17, 2007. Budget 2008 allocated $113 million over two years to implement the plan. We have yet to see what kind of structure will be put in place and whether more people will be hired to ensure consumer product safety.

Currently, the federal government's primary legislative instrument regulating consumer product safety is the Hazardous Products Act, which was enacted in 1969. Over the past 40 years, technology and inspection systems have advanced tremendously in the industry, Health Canada and the federal government. The new Bill C-6 has come not a moment too soon and may in fact be a little too late. The government could have done a course correction a long time ago. Unfortunately, frequent elections have killed various bills, including Bill C-52, which was at second reading.

Part I of the Hazardous Products Act deals with regulated consumer products or those prohibited from being advertised, sold or imported into Canada. Some 30 products and categories of products are regulated, including toys, chemical products and about 25 other prohibited products, such as baby walkers, lawn darts with elongated tips, and products containing toxic materials, such as jequirity beans, which contain a resin-like toxin. The manufacture, import and sale of these products may also be regulated and restricted by other laws.

Bill C-6 repeals Part I of the Hazardous Products Act and replaces it with:

At present, in the event that a consumer product that is not regulated or prohibited poses a health or safety risk, it is up to industry to voluntarily issue and manage a product recall. The federal government’s authority in this regard is limited to issuing a public warning and, in the event that it is deemed necessary, subsequently taking steps to regulate or prohibit the product under the HPA.

Bill C-6 appears to tighten up the safety requirements for hazardous products. It creates prohibitions with respect to the manufacturing, importing, selling, advertising, packaging and labelling of consumer products, including those that are a danger to human safety. It also makes manufacturers and importers accountable, and requires them to ensure that their product is not a danger to human health and safety.

However, although clauses 7 and 8 are more strict concerning the responsibilities of manufacturers, importers and anyone selling similar consumer products, clause 6 refers to requirements set out in the regulations. Clause 6 states:

No person shall manufacture, import, advertise or sell a consumer product that does not meet the requirements set out in the regulations.

So, just how some of the requirements for consumer products will be tightened up will be stipulated in the regulations, but the committee will not have any details.

Still, we believe that the government is acting in good faith, and as proof we have the creation of an advisory committee on labelling, for example. It is now in the hands of the government, which plans on discussing with the opposition parties how the issues of labelling and potentially hazardous products will be referred to the committee. We are putting our faith in the government on this. It is very rare, but in the case of the advisory committee on Bill C-6, we are going to give them a chance.

The bill defines an “article” as a consumer product, which is a product, including its components, parts or accessories that may reasonably be expected to be used for non-commercial purposes, including for domestic, recreational and sports purposes. This definition naturally also includes its packaging, any object used to manufacture, import, package, sell, label, test or transport a consumer product or advertise it, or the documents pertaining to these activities or any consumer product.

The bill contains five measures to reverse the burden of proof regarding safety. First, let us examine the safety of consumer products. At present, there is no constraint whatsoever imposed upon manufacturers or importers. They do not have to demonstrate that their products pose no danger or threat to consumer safety. Bill C-6 proposes to reverse this burden of proof and to impose it on manufacturers in future, under the supervision of federal inspectors from Health Canada and other departments.

The bill suggests that manufacturers and importers of consumer products will be required to test their products for safety on a regular basis and, significantly, to disclose the results of these tests. As I mentioned earlier, we cannot allow only the manufacturers to examine these tests. Far be it from me to doubt their good faith, but independent government inspectors should conduct surprise tests from time to time. It is extremely important to me that we ensure that the studies are conducted properly and that there are no irregularities in these reports. I would have to say that, in the committee proceedings, based on what I heard and the questions I asked of Option consommateurs representatives—who were very well received and kindly answered our questions—and businesses or groups of businesses, having surprise inspections did not pose a problem. Many companies encouraged us to do so and to have enough inspectors, as did Mr. Burns, the vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

Inspectors need to be given greater authority. As I have already indicated, the Auditor General stated in a report that in order to ensure that this bill is implemented and effective, inspectors on the ground will have more powers when Bill C-6 comes into force. For that to happen, consumer products will have to be subject to recall or a licensing amendment. These inspectors will be the means to enforce this bill's most important provisions. However, such an increase of duties and responsibilities can raise a certain number of concerns and questions, which is why we hope to pass an amendment to ensure more human and financial resources

Bill C-6 also gives the minister new powers concerning recalls. At this time, health authorities do not have the power to recall consumer products found to be dangerous. Recalls are issued on a voluntary basis by manufacturers and importers themselves. Bill C-6 corrects the inadequacy in the current legislation. That is why we want this bill to pass quickly, since at this time, industries recall products on a voluntary basis, and that goes for toys and all other consumer products. We must ensure that the minister has the means to recall products herself, instead of simply leaving it in the hands of the companies.

Bill C-6 would give the minister the power to recall any products that are defective or endanger consumer safety. However, the regulations will stipulate the requirements and the conditions under which the minister can act.

Stricter punitive measures will also provide a greater deterrence. The fines imposed on manufacturers were usually around $5,000. Now, with Bill C-6, an offence could lead to a fine of up to $5 million and the guilty party could face up to two years in prison.

Issuing a $5,000 fine to a company that might make millions or billions of dollars a year is rather laughable, especially when we are talking about safety, and we could jeopardize the safety or even the lives of the youngest members of society: our children.

We have already seen extremely hazardous products with lead toys. A simple $5,000 fine means nothing to these large and multinational companies. I think that it is an excellent idea to make the fines higher.

With a fine of $5 million and the possibility of imprisonment, at least companies will pay much more attention during their research, to ensure that products will not cause problems, as well as during recalls.

Bill C-6 proposes the creation of a system for preparing and maintaining documents, similar to a product traceability system. The bill states:

13. (1) Any person who manufactures, imports, advertises, sells or tests a consumer product for commercial purposes shall prepare and maintain

(a) documents that indicate

(i) in the case of a retailer, the name and address of the person from whom they obtained the product and the location where and the period during which they sold the product, and

ii) in the case of any other person, the name and address of the person from whom they obtained the product or to whom they sold it, or both, as applicable.

(b) the prescribed documents.

(2) The person shall keep the documents at their place of business in Canada or at any prescribed place and shall, on written request, provide the Minister with them.

(3) The Minister may, subject to any terms and conditions that he or she may specify, exempt a person from the requirement to keep documents in Canada if the Minister considers it unnecessary or impractical for the person to keep them in Canada.

This requirement to keep the product provenance documents for a set period as determined by our studies in committee will make it possible to quickly trace merchants who are in possession of the product, as well as its origin. What is more, should an incident arise concerning this product, in Canada or anywhere else in the world, the manufacturer or importer has an obligation to notify the minister.

Returning to the text of the bill:

14(2) A person who manufactures, imports or sells a consumer product for commercial purposes shall provide the Minister and, if applicable, the person from whom they received the consumer product with all the information in their control regarding any incident related to the product within two days after the day on which they become aware of the incident.

I am getting the two minute signal, but I could have gone on for hours. I will just say quickly that we examined similar legislation on the international level. We checked with companies in committee. So we did a good job.

I would like to congratulate the chair of our committee for her extraordinary job of keeping us on track. Not that the members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP are an unruly lot, far from it. She did, however, do an excellent job of making sure everything moved quickly and in an orderly manner. Once again, my congratulations to her on that.

I also wanted to point out that we have worked extremely hard, we listened to both consumers and businesses, and I believe we have here an excellent bill, which, as amended, will receive the assent of the entire House.

June 2nd, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

So you would be supportive of our intention to introduce an amendment to put back into this bill what was in Bill C-52 before, requiring the minister to report publicly information about any problems pertaining to consumer products?

June 2nd, 2009 / 6 p.m.
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Andrew King Department Leader, Health, Safety and Environment, United Steelworkers

Thank you very much for the opportunity to present today.

I have provided a copy of my comments. I apologize to you that they are not also available in French, but I should let you know that I found out yesterday about noon that I would be here this afternoon.

I appreciate the amount of work you've been involved in with regard to this very important legislation and have taken the time to review the comments of people who have come before you.

By way of background, the United Steelworkers is an international union, with members across Canada and the United States. In Canada our union is very diverse, with members in almost every sector of the economy.

As our name implies, we have a long history in mining, steelmaking, metalworking, and manufacturing. From that history, we have a lot of experience with toxic chemicals and the diseases they cause. We were involved in bringing WHMIS, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, into Canada in the 1980s, and to this day we are still dealing with the impacts of chemical exposures on our members and their communities. Recent occupational disease clinics in Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury attracted hundreds of people. We are supporters of the recent Ontario Toxic Chemicals Reduction Act, currently in third reading, as well as community right to know at the municipal level.

The toxicity of many of the chemicals we are concerned about in the environment and consumer products today was originally demonstrated in the lives of workers and the damage it did to their health. Many of the strategies that speak of controlling exposures, limiting risk instead of advising hazards, and personal protection responsibility were tried and failed in the occupational setting. Years ago we were told there were safe limits of exposures to most chemicals. Since then exposure limits have become lower and lower, as studies continue to show there is no safe level of exposure to toxic chemicals, especially if the exposure is repeated and over a lifetime.

We need to talk about the total burden of chemicals in our bodies from all sources, including the environment. This government's and the Ontario government's investment in green chemistry innovation at Queen's University in Kingston is recognition that we have to find a better way to produce the chemicals we need.

Our membership was deeply moved in 2007 when a wave of toxic toys hit Canada, many of which were contaminated by lead. After a decade of fighting in North America to have lead removed from paints and gasoline, after decades of controlling the exposure in smelters, mills, and other industries, something is wrong when the system allows lead to be used in consumer products.

Some of us still remember that it was the impact of our children originally being exposed to lead in communities in Canada in the 1960s that gave impetus to the regular reform that reduced those exposures and gave us the legislation we're reviewing now.

It did not seem right to us that such a well-known hazard should be allowed back into Canada by trade. Our activists became involved in a Get the Lead Out campaign across Canada and the U.S., adding our voice to others who felt that something had to be done. Product safety must not be left to voluntary systems and the luck of the draw.

I might say in parenthesis here that we were quite astounded at the response we got from our members. We have a long history and involvement in occupational health and safety and activists who are trained to deal with those issues, but it wasn't those activists who responded to the problem of toxic toys. It was the average member, the member who had children, particularly women, who were at the forefront of making this an issue for our organization and making it a key point in a campaign that led us to distributing information and becoming part of what was originally the movement toward Bill C-51 and Bill C-52, and now Bill C-6.

We are also encouraged to be here by our environmental partner, Environmental Defence. Aaron Freeman, the research director, has already addressed you. Our alliance with Environmental Defence focuses on the impacts of toxic chemicals and climate change. Environmental Defence's “Toxic Nation” campaign has shown that the challenge we face is much bigger than we think. It confirms the experiences of workers that the chemicals are in our bodies now. We are here to support their efforts and their position--and of many of the other environmental groups that I note have already spoken to you--that we need to reduce exposures through consumer products.

To quote the title of the book that Environmental Defence's chair and executive director recently co-authored, we must prevent Death by Rubber Duck,, a book that I highly recommend to each of you if you have not had a chance to review it.

To the point of our remarks regarding Bill C-6, like many others who have appeared before you, and most of the people here this evening, we support the goal and objectives of the bill. It is important that there be a mandatory reporting system for toxins and hazards in consumer products and a clear system for enforcement. While the bill has a number of these important features, it needs to be strengthened in order to achieve its goals as described in the preamble.

In particular, we support amendments suggested by Environmental Defence. Strengthening the bill now will benefit us all in the long run. The bill provides strong language regarding prohibition, but is weak in identifying the problems proactively and sets the bar for action too high.

The bill needs a proactive system of inspection and verification. In this regard, I note the previous evidence that was given by Mr. Glover on behalf of the government in regard to this bill. He in fact spoke about the bill having a proactive nature to it. I must confess to being surprised that he characterized it that way, because it seems to me the system, with all the improvements proposed, is still fundamentally reactive. Until someone discovers a problem--inadvertently, if something has happened, or if a group of doctors notice it in their patients--nothing is done. There is no system through which to go and get proactive information. And that, particularly when you're dealing with imports, which, as was previously noted, are a key part of this problem, needs to be part of the system.

What is needed is an administrative system to ensure that manufacturers and importers--and I emphasize them in particular--are testing their supply chain to make sure toxic chemicals are not getting into the products. The government needs a system of independent verification through random reviews. A testing protocol is required to protect consumers and to raise the bar for company testing. Without that protection, the legislation is at risk of encouraging "Don't ask, don't tell".

We strongly believe that there needs to be the policing function as outlined in the act. In addition, however, we believe there needs to be an administrative review program to ensure that the highest levels of performance and protection are being followed.

June 2nd, 2009 / 4:20 p.m.
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Senior Researcher, Canadian Environmental Law Association

Kathleen Cooper

Are you talking about Bill C-52 last year?

May 28th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
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Head, Research and Representation Department, Option consommateurs

Geneviève Reed

We are concerned, however, by the non-inclusion or rather, the disappearance, of section 18 of the previous Bill C-52. This section stipulated:

18. The minister may disclose information to the public on a danger to health or human security that any consumer product poses.

We would like this section to be reinstated. To allay the fears of certain stakeholders that the scope of this section could have an adverse impact on the ability to protect commercial information, we recommend that creating a new clause entitled “Communicating with the public” and inserting it in the texts of section 18 of the former Bill C-52.

Canada's main trading partners, the U.S.A. and the European Union have both opted for proactive disclosure on recalls related to health and safety of consumer products. We recommend that a similar system of reporting recalls and the corrective measures taken by government be implemented in Canada. Such a move would go far to bolster the confidence of Canadian consumers. In order to make such a system more user friendly and easily accessible to Canadians, it should be constructed as a single Internet portal where one could, with minimum effort, find information on recalls of all types of products sold in Canada, whether it be consumer products, food, medicines, cosmetics or cars. See, for example, the U.S. government site, www.recalls.gov, for a model.

Inasmuch as Bill C-6 allows the minister, through regulation, to adopt the measures necessary to implement this law, we believe that at least the two above-mentioned measures should be acted upon without delay.

You may recollect that there was a flood of recalls of Fisher-Price toys by Mattel in the summer of 2007. Option consommateurs conducted a flash survey of the retailers and the manufacturer to find out how these recalled products could be returned. We discovered then that there was total confusion all round and that all consumers were not treated alike.

We trust that, with the passage of Bill C-6 on consumer product safety, the minister will be able to quickly focus on setting up a recall system that would reflect the interests of consumers, particularly those most vulnerable. Any recalls policy should clarify the steps to be taken to compensate and properly inform consumers of the product that was subject to recall. It should also be accompanied by a guide for manufacturers and distributors so that they could undertake the necessary corrective measures, including recalls, to ensure the safety of products. This guide should be developed in close collaboration with consumer associations, as in Europe.

Toys represent the largest proportion of recalled products in both Europe and the United States. In fact, very strict rules governing toy safety have been adopted across the world in recent years. These include: legislation on chemicals potentially harmful or carcinogenic, lowering of the permitted thresholds for certain hazardous substances, such as lead or mercury, and strengthening the rules regarding the use of tiny parts in toy manufacture.

In 2004, we conducted a study on noise levels in toys for children between zero and three years of age, and we recommended that a stricter standard than the existing one be adopted. Canada can benefit from the experience of other states when creating regulations which are both tailored to the realities of the market but at the same time are effective in protecting consumers.

We hope that the minister will use the power of regulation granted to her wisely and make Canada a safer place for children and for consumers.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention and we will be happy to take your questions.

May 28th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Thank you.

First, I would like to ask a question and I'm interested in each panel member's response. Did you have an opportunity to be part of the consultations for Bill C-52 when that was first being put together, and did you feel you were adequately consulted?