Canada Consumer Product Safety Act

An Act respecting the safety of consumer products

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Leona Aglukkaq  Conservative

Status

Considering amendments (House), as of Dec. 15, 2009
(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. This enactment also makes consequential amendments to the Hazardous Products Act.

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

April 30th, 2009 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague could talk about the importation of what we have seen to be toxic substances, indeed toxicity in general with respect to the products that come to our shores. Canada imports a lot of things. I understand the food aspect is not in the bill and we are looking at that from a different perspective.

Should we be looking at this in a risk management sense as to the risks involved, how those risks could be mitigated, and the cost of those risks in an economic sense? Or should we be looking at this strictly in a health protection sense to make sure that kids, parents, grandparents, in fact all consumers know that when they buy products, those products are truly safe and there are regulations to enforce that?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the member's first point, 65% of consumer goods sold in Canada are brought in from China. I rhymed off a list of the latest recalls of products from China, such as toxic drywall and imported jewellery.

We need to make sure that products are safe before they even enter our country. We need to protect Canadians before a product gets on the shelf. Rather than being reactive, we need legislation that is proactive. We should not let unsafe products into our country nor create products in our country or in North America that we know would hurt consumers.

I appreciate the work the hon. member has been doing on this file.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a short comment to make with respect to my hon. colleague's comments. Natural health products, NHPs, are not included in the bill, but there is still a fear out there from some folks for whatever reason. My understanding of the purpose of the amendment is to make it crystal clear that that is not the case.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am taking part in this morning's debate as the former health critic and to support my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes, who is now the Bloc Québécois' health critic. He is doing an excellent job with the portfolio. I would like to read the bill's summary so that everyone listening will understand what it is about.

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.

I would like to start with a little bit of background to explain how this legislation came about. Manufacturers of dangerous products, such as cosmetics, cribs, tents and carpets, fall under federal jurisdiction. The federal government does not currently require manufacturers to test their products or prove that they are not a danger to consumer health and safety. In the summer of 2007, thousands of toys made in China were recalled by the manufacturers because they contained lead. The Bloc Québécois urged the minister to take immediate action by tightening up safety requirements for dangerous products and banning the production of dangerous products and the promotion or marketing of any product posing an unacceptable risk.

Bill C-52 was introduced when I was the health critic. It was never passed in the House of Commons because the Conservatives decided to call an election. The bill was set aside. Now we are being offered a new bill, Bill C-6, whose purpose is to ensure that people have access to safe products. People wanted Ottawa to require manufacturers to inspect their own products and to prove that they were not endangering consumers' health and safety. Other countries do not have the same level of monitoring or the same product safety standards.

In December 2007, after four months of inaction, the government finally said it would introduce a bill, sometime in early 2008, to change its strategy for regulating product safety. The newspapers ran stories about all sorts of products arriving on our store shelves, whether it is foodstuffs or products for children. These products were dangerous to the health and safety of our young children. Many family members, including grandparents, were wondering if a certain products were harmful to young children's health.

The Conservatives' inaction in this federal jurisdiction has caused growing concern among many Quebec parents about health and safety issues when buying toys. Moreover, and this shows the government's inability and inaction, in the fall of 2007, it put a survival guide for parents online, so they could ensure their children's safety. This is yet another example of this government's inaction. It could have acted and solved the issue that was being reported in all the newspapers, and also on radio and television. The bill had already been introduced when I was my party's critic on health issues. Immediately after being re-elected, the government could have proposed a bill to move forward on this issue and to reassure the public.

So we waited and, at the end of November 2007, the government brought out a personal analysis kit for consumers, so consumers themselves could make sure that consumer products are harmless.

Producing a survival guide on products that are available in stores shows how this government is not assuming its responsibilities. Indeed, this meant that it was up to consumers to ensure that a product did not present any risk. What a lack of responsibility on the part of this government!

The government had shifted to consumers the responsibility of ensuring that consumer products were safe. This meant that every parent should have a testing kit to ensure his or her child's safety. That responsibility now lay with the parent. The government also wanted consumers to be product safety watchdogs. It was utterly ridiculous to see the government shirk its responsibilities like that.

The government was off-loading the problem onto the parents and asking parents themselves to ensure that products are safe. However, it did not put any constraints—and this shows how the government shirks its responsibility—on manufacturers of potentially dangerous products, such as toys, cosmetics, cradles, tents, carpets and drugs, among others.

We called on the Minister of Health at the time to set hazardous product safety requirements. It was his duty to prohibit the manufacture, promotion and marketing of any product that could present an unacceptable danger to health. The minister needed to decide how he could enforce Canadian standards so as not to endanger consumer health and safety.

That is what I said in 2007. Now it is 2009, and we are already several months into the year. In 2006, the Auditor General at the time had made the government aware of concerns about hazardous consumer products. Moreover, when the Conservatives came to power, we had been warned about this danger, and even the managers of the program had warned this government.

The Auditor General of Canada had sounded the alarm in November 2006 and had released a particularly interesting report. Chapter 8 of her report was entitled “Allocating Funds to Regulatory Programs—Health Canada.” That chapter clearly indicated that the product safety program managers could not carry out their duties for a number of reasons.

I could list all the deficiencies the Auditor General pointed to in her report. There were consumer products, cosmetics, consumer and clinical products that emit radiation, such as lasers and sun lamps, and new substances such as fabric dyes and fuel additives that were hazardous. Speaking of fabrics, a few weeks ago, some people who purchased chairs had a severe allergic reaction to the fabric, which affected their quality of life.

As well, serious problems came to light recently in connection with products that likely came from China. We know that China and South Africa were involved. Tubes of toothpaste, something we use every day, contained harmful substances. We are very concerned these days about cancers that are often caused by the quality of the environment or products of questionable quality. We also know that some substances could have an effect on cancers.

The government did not act. Now, the government has introduced this bill. The United States also addressed this issue in 2008 and is tightening its toy safety requirements.

Legislation has been passed to provide more resources to the American agency that monitors consumer product safety.

The United States Senate passed legislation to reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission. That was done last year, following a record number of recalls of potentially dangerous products. That legislation is called the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. It increases the commission's budget—the money must be provided—and enlarges its scope.

Out of 413 different products recalled last year in the United States, 231—or a little less than half—were toys. Europe also moved forward on this. It is interesting to see that the government is now introducing a bill. It will be supported by the Bloc Québécois at second reading, so that we can go over every article with a fine tooth comb in committee. A number of witnesses will perhaps suggest certain nuances, not about the objective we wish to achieve, but about how we will achieve it.

I return to the position suggested by the Bloc Québécois. The government has been aware of the situation since 2006. We are happy to see that they are now going ahead with Bill C-6. We hope the other two opposition parties will do their best to improve this bill in committee after hearing what the various witnesses have to say.

The government has definitely been influenced by what has been written in newspapers and by the various pieces of legislation passed in other countries. Earlier I mentioned the United States and Europe. We can draw inspiration from their bills and see how certain countries have invested the necessary money. In order to conduct all the appropriate checks concerning the safety of some of the products on our shelves, we must have the necessary resources. The root of the problem must be addressed.

It is unthinkable that foreign products would not be subject to all the constraints for the manufacture of certain goods that must be met by our own retailers. They have to comply with standards. We have to be strict with products that originate abroad, where the standards are not the same. We have had to recall certain toys and products. We demanded that they be removed from our shelves and no longer be sold.

It is also our hope that, when a government is advised that a product is dangerous, that it be very proactive and that it not wait for newspapers, television or radio to bring the situation to light. The government must be transparent and should, of its own accord, contact the newspapers to tell them that such and such a product poses a health risk, in order to warn citizens against purchasing the product.

Therefore, as I was saying, we support the bill in principle and we will vote to send it to committee. We are pleased to see that the government is bringing forward this legislation. We hope that there will not be another election in the meantime and that this government will be open to the proposals of the various opposition parties. It is in a minority position and it must take that into account. Bill C-6 will not be adopted if there are early elections, in the fall for example. That could happen, for example, if this government continues to ignore the Bloc Québécois' economic recovery plan, a plan that has support across Canada.

Bill C-6, like former Bill C-52, is part of an action plan to ensure the safety of food products. The 2008 budget allocated $113 million over two years for its implementation. It remains to be seen what structure will be put in place and if the number of employees will be increased to ensure the safety of consumer products.

I will discuss a few technical aspects that this bill would implement. Clause 69 of Bill C-6 repeals Part I of the Act. At present, if a consumer good that is neither covered by regulations nor prohibited poses a risk to the safety of the population, it is up to the industry to impose a voluntary recall and manage the situation.

The federal government's powers in this respect are very limited. The new bill, Bill C-6, is aimed at creating more stringent 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 health or safety. It also aims to increase the responsibility of manufacturers and importers and to require them to ensure that their products do not represent any danger to human health or safety.

Although the responsibility of manufacturers, importers and any person selling consumer products seems more strict than before, according to clauses 7 and 8, clause 6 refers to the regulations, stating, “No person shall manufacture, import, advertise or sell a consumer product that does not meet the requirements set out in the regulations.”

Thus the tightening up of certain requirements for consumer products will be stipulated in the regulations, without the committee being able to know the direction they will take.

Very often we find bills filled with great principles, but here we have no debates about the regulations. That is the responsibility of the public servants, whom I respect a great deal. It will not be up to parliamentarians to draft the body of regulations, to monitor what goes into the regulations, and to find solutions to achieve the objective.

There are a number of definitions in the bill, and I quote:

“consumer product” means a product, including its components, parts or accessories, that may reasonably be expected to be obtained by an individual to be used for non-commercial purposes, including for domestic, recreational and sports purposes, and includes its packaging.

This is good, because the product may be safe, but its packaging may not be.

The bill also covers:

(b) anything used in the manufacturing, importation, packaging, storing, advertising, selling, labelling, testing or transportation of a consumer product;

(c) a document that is related to any of those activities or a consumer product.

The bill contains five measures with the intent of reversing the burden of proof with respect to the safety of consumer products. At present, as I said already, 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. I think this is a step in the right direction. It also 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.

That is important because a manufacturer or seller could claim that his product is just fine even if he were aware of problems with the materials in the product or its safety. It would be his responsibility to disclose test results. Currently, the burden of proof is the opposite. This bill would require companies to reveal any issues or illnesses caused by their products, regardless of where they were made. That is good, because right now, the toxic effects of certain products remain undisclosed.

This is a far cry from the survival guide and the government's suggestion that parents should be responsible for product safety. Giving that responsibility to manufacturers and importers is a step in the right direction. It is a good idea, and the Bloc supports this initiative. Once again, this is good news. It remains to be seen how the government goes about giving inspectors greater authority. I introduced a bill today to make people feel safer by requiring a durable life date on food packaging.

These days, whenever people buy food and other products, they often wonder if what they have purchased is safe. Even some pharmaceutical products sold in pharmacies do not have a durable life date. After two years, such products could be dangerous, could contain bacteria or could be toxic to humans. Giving inspectors greater authority is therefore—

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity to work with the hon. member on the health committee in a number of areas.

My question has to do with the natural health products issue and former Bill C-51. In the last Parliament there were companion bills, Bill C-51 and Bill C-52. Bill C-6 is the replacement for Bill C-52, but there were companion bills in the last Parliament, and now the natural health products industry and the users of natural health products are expressing some concern.

It would appear there are some implications with regard to natural health products in the current bill or they will be coming forward. I am a little confused. The member may have some insight as to whether another bill will be coming along, which would make it a little difficult to fit into the regime set up under former Bill C-52. I would have thought there would be some clarity with regard to the applicability of Bill C-6 to Bill C-52 on the natural health products issue.

I wonder if the member has some concerns or if her constituents have expressed concerns about the regulatory framework being proposed with regard to health products.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, although I no longer sit on the Standing Committee on Health, this is certainly one of our concerns regarding natural products. As my Liberal Party colleague said, if there are negative consequences or a negative impact on monitoring the safety of certain natural products, that will be decided in committee. I am sure that my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes who now sits on that committee will call witnesses who will explain things.

In fact, this bill is being debated today at second reading so it can be sent to a committee where we will hear from witnesses who can explain the various facets and frustrations of the bill, which could then be improved. We can say, however, that many principles have been proposed today with which the Bloc Québécois agrees. We will have to see how it is done, however. There is also the question of the regulations, which I mentioned earlier, in which we will have no voice.

For the moment, therefore, I understand my colleague’s sensitivity about natural products and I am sure that my colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes will be very alert to the concerns raised.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the way made some very good points.

As my colleague knows, Canada's consumer product legislation is 40 years old and has fallen behind other jurisdictions. Bill C-6 will empower Canadians to make safer choices. It will provide the tools we need to act swiftly to help protect Canadians. It will also level the playing field for reputable companies.

I would ask my esteemed colleague across the way, what are some very important aspects that are of particular interest to her in terms of Bill C-6 that she thinks would be very beneficial if they were added?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, although I no longer sit on the Standing Committee on Health, I was always concerned about this. The member asking the question was the chair of our committee and she is well aware of how concerned I was about this entire issue. We developed an openness and an approach to achieve certain objectives to ensure the safety of the products on our shelves. For example, we want to give more powers to inspectors and make sure that the burden of proof is on the manufacturers or retailers so that they are responsible for the products they sell. This is an important principle that the Bloc Québécois was calling for.

I am very happy to see that we will be able to pursue these questions in detail in the clause by clause study of the bill in committee. If the bill is well put together overall, given that there are many aspects to this bill, I am sure that the witnesses will be able to explain things. I hope the government will accept the amendments. A bill is never perfect. That is why it is discussed in committee. We do hope this government will be open to amending certain clauses in the bill. I am sure that our former chair on the committee will be open to that.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would refer the hon. members to subclause 36(1) of the bill, entitled “Regulations”. Much of my speech will relate to my concerns about this item. This subclause says that the cabinet, the government, can exempt, “with or without conditions, a consumer product or class of consumer products from the application of this Act”, and it goes on.

Think about it. The government can, through cabinet decision, exempt or not exempt, with or without conditions, any product or class. That is a concern to me because it is so broad and so fundamental. How would anyone understand the scope or intent of this bill unless they knew what was covered? To me, this is a serious flaw in the bill and I hope the committee is going to look at it.

However, let me put on the record some of my thoughts with regard to the bill overall. First, as we know, Bill C-6 is the latest effort with regard to a bill from the last Parliament: Bill C-52. Bill C-52 had a companion bill, Bill C-51, which had to do with natural health products. I know hon. members learned an awful lot about that from the lobby and their constituents, because there are millions of people who rely on the availability of natural health products. Their argument is not whether there are proven health benefits; the fact is that they want the choice, they are comfortable with it, and as long as those products are safe they should be available.

So I am rising to remind all the nice people who have written to me over the last months and in the last Parliament and asked me to help in doing something about this that I am going to stay involved in this bill. I will support it to go to committee. However, I do want to make it crystal clear to all Canadians that there will be no implications with regard to natural health products in regard to Bill C-6. I expect there is going to be another bill coming to deal with natural health products, to the extent that there were two companion bills in the last Parliament. I certainly do expect that to happen and we will have to be very vigilant at that time.

Bill C-6, respecting the safety of consumer products, is referred to as the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. Thus, members will often be referring to it as the CCPSA. It is very similar to Bill C-52 from the last Parliament. Bill C-52 did pass at second reading and was referred to committee. However, it died on the order paper because of the dissolution of Parliament and the call of the 40th general election.

To remind members of what Bill C-6 is doing, it is repealing and replacing part I of the current Hazardous Products Act. It is creating a new system to regulate consumer products that pose or might reasonably be expected to pose a danger to human health and safety. I do not think anybody is going to argue about the necessity.

Specifically, the bill has a number of key impacts. First, it prohibits the sale, manufacture, import and advertising of certain listed products and provides for testing and evaluation of consumer products. Second, it makes it mandatory for manufacturers, importers and sellers of consumer products to report dangerous incidents associated with these products to the Minister of Health. It also obliges manufacturers, importers and sellers of consumer products to report product or labelling defects that result, might result, or are reasonably expected to result in death or serious adverse health impacts, including serious injury, and report that to the Minister of Health.

It requires the same group to report recalls of consumer products initiated by governments and government institutions in Canada or elsewhere to the Minister of Health. It provides for the inspection and seizure of consumer products for the purpose of verifying compliance or non-compliance with the bill's provisions.

It empowers the federal government to institute interim and permanent recalls of products that pose or might reasonably be expected to pose a danger to human health and safety, and it establishes both criminal and administrative penalties for those who violate the CCPSA or orders made under it.

Under the current act, the Hazardous Products Act, if a consumer product that is not regulated or prohibited poses a health or safety risk, it is up to the industry to voluntarily issue and manage a product recall. So it is a voluntary system of sorts. It is not as robust, obviously, as Bill C-6 is proposing to be. The federal government is limited to issuing only a public warning in that regard under the current legislation.

Obviously this is a very serious step, given the changes in the way that products move, the technology, and their production and distribution. This is basically a bill to modernize our approach to product safety.

To give members an idea in terms of these voluntary product recalls, in 2006, there were 32 product recalls; and in 2007, there were 90. The number went up to 165 recalls in 2008, and 27 recalls already in 2009.

So the number of product recalls by even the manufacturers or distributors of these has been going up. Clearly it is urgent that the bill be dealt with expeditiously. There are problems out there. There is a risk posed to Canadians, and I know all hon. members will want to work diligently to make sure that Bill C-6 gets urgent attention at the rest of its stages.

This bill and the former bill, Bill C-51, was described as having a three-pronged approach to food, health and consumer safety. I do not have any specific comments to make on the approach. I think the approach is sound.

That said, I do have some concerns with regard to the regulations. For a long time I have been a member of the Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, between the House of Commons and the Senate. By way of background, the committee has a mandate to ensure that regulations made to statutes after they are passed by Parliament have been properly enabled in the legislation.

The reason we want to review that is that there is a history of where governments, and they refer to order in council but that is basically cabinet, where cabinet makes regulations that do much more than was contemplated in the bill or requested or required by the bill. It is referred to often as being backdoor legislation. It is where we do not see it.

In the bill that is before us, members will see in clause 36, the clause that I referred to concerning the regulations, 16 paragraphs listed that require regulations to be made.

When we have a bill to deal with, we know the areas in which regulations may be promulgated by the government, drafted, gazetted and issued. In our case, we operate under the presumption that the full intent of the bill is transparent in the bill itself and that nothing happening after that will change our understanding of what the bill really wanted to do.

We have to rely on that because at the end of second reading, we are going to have a vote to approve this bill in principle, which will pretty well lock in what the bill is intended to do. At committee, members may fix some errors and fine-tune the bill here and there, and perhaps do a few other things. We will be able to move report stage motions later, but at second reading, we are going to approve it in principle. The bill will go to committee and we will do some fine tuning and hear from the experts to see if there is a problem. As long as there is no major fundamental problem in the understanding of the bill or no errors have occurred, the bill is going to pass at committee. It is going to pass at report stage. It is going to pass at third reading. It is going to go to the other place where it will go through a very similar process. Then the bill is going to get royal assent, but it is not going to be proclaimed until the regulations are drafted, gazetted and promulgated. We will not even see the regulations until after the bill gets royal assent and we will not be able to do anything with it.

That is why the Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations exists. There has to be a mechanism in which we can look at the regulations once they come out to ensure they are properly enabled in the legislation and that they are not doing things beyond what would reasonably be contemplated in the bill.

I started off my speech and read clause 36(1)(a), which basically says that the government, the cabinet, may make regulations exempting, with or without conditions, a consumer product or class of consumer products from the application of this act. It gives extraordinary power to the cabinet about what is in and what is not. It poses an extraordinary risk because now it is cabinet members, who may be lobbied not to put an item in there, who can say they are out.

I would much prefer, and I know there are precedents in other legislation, that it state that these are the things that are there and these are the things that are not there. We have seen it, for instance, in the reproductive technologies legislation. There was a royal commission on reproductive technologies I think 15 years ago. We passed a bill at all stages in 2004 I think it was. We were told at the time it was going to take about two years to draft the regulations and for them to be put in place, gazetted and promulgated.

I said earlier that it is extremely important, given the product recalls, that there be some velocity to this bill. I do not see that there is a sense of urgency. I do see there are 16 areas in which regulations have to be drafted. These will not be drafted probably until after the bill goes through all stages. Even then there is no obligation for any scrutiny before those regulations are done and issued. That concerns me because another important act, the reproductive technologies act, also had many regulations to be made. We were told it was going to take two years. On top of that, the health committee got the concession that all of those regulations must be passed by the health committee. It was important to ensure there was not any backdoor legislation being made, that the intent of the bill was not modified substantively through regulations which would not be caught by the scrutiny regulations committee until after there was a complaint or we did a review of them which may be too late.

I am very concerned about the velocity of the bill. I am concerned about the fact that there are so many regulations here. I am concerned that even the first one tells me there maybe is going to be too much discretion by order in council or by the cabinet, i.e. the government, unilaterally to say what is not included. It puts a lot of risk and onus there and I do not know whether or not that can be dealt with.

People have been asking me about the health products aspect and, because there is no companion bill, whether there is something in this bill. In fact, there is.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health responded to a question expressing that concern. I might as well read the response into the record. This was at the beginning of second reading. He said:

In the original writing of the bill and in the past version, Bill C-52, there was some confusion in the language and stakeholders from the natural health products community required some clarification of it. The minister has written--

I want to emphasize this. The parliamentary secretary said:

The minister has written to the chair of the health committee. We will be putting forward an amendment to clarify that exactly so that the stakeholders from the natural health products community know that this bill excludes natural health products and food and drugs under the Food and Drugs Act.

It basically says that the Minister of Health has written to the chair of the health committee to give notice that a little change is going to be made to say that natural health products are excluded from the bill. That is wonderful, but we have a regulation. The regulation says that the governor in council may exempt, and I stress the word “may”.

What kind of amendment is the parliamentary secretary referring to? Are we going to say that now the bill is going to include some sort of a clause providing a specific amendment for natural health products and then everything else is going to be subject to a cabinet decision about exemptions? Some classes are obvious on their face. It should be in the bill. If the case is that they are going to say that regulation 36(1)(a) is where we will give the exemption, but it is not specifically in the bill, we will never know. How long is this going to take? How long is it going to take before those regulations are drafted? How long is it going to take before they are gazetted and promulgated and they become part of the law and the provisions in the bill become law?

If the reproductive technologies legislation is any indication, it could be months or maybe years. We are already four years past the drafting stage of regulations on the reproductive technologies legislation.

This causes me concern. I have seen this time and time again from Health Canada. Health Canada has a track record of patterning these bills in the way it wants to handle them, in a way which allows it a lot of latitude to change things or to move forward with things, or in fact to delay things.

I can say right now that the fact that those 200 regulations on reproductive technologies have not been drafted and presented to the health committee yet, a bill which received royal assent back in 2004, means that all of those provisions, all of the work and all of the things that we were doing in the areas that require regulations are not in force right now. They are not the law. In other words, all of the things that we approved and we accepted in Parliament to be the law of Canada are not the law of Canada today, four or five years later, because the regulations have not been done. What does that mean? It reverts to the law and continues as it was.

In that particular case, it is the Canadian Institutes of Health Research that unilaterally decides what is going to happen on reproductive technologies, about sperm donations, about the buying and selling of gametes and the like. What is even worse is that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is not even subject to parliamentary review. It is the largest organization of the Government of Canada that provides funding for research. It is the one that decides and it is not even subject to any review by the Parliament of Canada.

I know this because I put forward a report stage motion to put in the bill that created the CIHR that it be subject to a three year review so that parliamentarians knew what the CIHR was doing and could ask its officials questions about how they were doing it and make sure they did not have pet projects, which is the reason the CIHR was created in the first place. The body it was replacing was found to have some problems. There was too much bias within the system. It is going to happen again.

I hope I have raised some questions. I want to encourage members of the committee certainly not to just listen. I do not know why the health minister is writing to the chair of a committee before second reading is over. I am not sure why the government did not anticipate that the health product industry was going to have some problems with the legislation. We have some things to correct but I want those things to be corrected quickly. I want the bill to be dealt with quickly because the health and safety of Canadians is at stake.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague showed a lot of insight in his comments and suggestions on Bill C-6. It is an extremely important and timely bill.

I thank the member for pointing out that natural products are exempt from this bill and are not part of what we are considering. However, as my colleague knows, there are very big considerations in terms of cribs, toys and other products that have to be addressed. I felt that his experience and concerns in this area contributed much to this morning's discussion.

With all the issues that were brought up, particularly regarding the regulations and some aspects which the member feels are missing from the bill, in a very short time could the member please inform the House what he thinks would be very prudent and necessary to add to the bill in the form of an amendment or in the form of an idea around his comments this morning?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill should be reviewed to ensure that it includes all the clarity necessary in the body of the bill itself, rather than leaving it to the regulations.

There should be a requirement that the regulations come before the health committee. The committee should see the draft regulations to be absolutely sure. If the committee is overly cautious or concerned about the regulations, it should require that the government permit the committee to suggest changes to the draft regulations. On the reproductive technologies legislation, we could make comment but propose no changes. The current bill is important enough, and people and stakeholders are going to be engaged enough, that we should make sure that absolutely everybody is comfortable that the intent of the bill is being delivered.

Finally, I would ask the minister and the officials from Health Canada to provide to the committee a report on the status of the drafting of the regulations at this point. If they have not started yet, then they are not serious, because we had the same bill in the last Parliament. If they think they are not going to start doing their work until after the bill gets royal assent, that is unacceptable. If they are serious about it, they should show us the draft regulations now.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with the member that we should see the regulations. We should tie the government down as much as possible, because Conservatives are not known for bringing in tough regulations when it comes to business. I would not trust them too far on this issue. That is why I would like to see strong measures put in the bill. Most of the regulations they would like to put in I would like to see in the bill from the very beginning.

There is one area we should probably look at, and I ask the member for his opinion. Perhaps in deciding whether a danger to health or safety exists, the legislation should require that the government consider the release of harmful substances from products during use or after disposal, including house dust and indoor air, the potential harm from chronic exposure to the substance, the potential for harm to vulnerable populations, the cumulative exposure to a substance Canadians receive from the products of concern and other environmental exposures, and the last one is the substitution principle and whether safe substitutes would exist for certain products.

I wonder if the member has any comments about these as possible additions to this bill.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in fairness, my first-blush reaction would be that the member may have gone beyond the scope of the current bill and it would gut the bill.

Having said that, I want to reiterate one point. In that last Parliament, Bill C-51 dealt with natural health products. That bill was in the middle of second reading. It came out that the minister had written to the chair of the health committee indicating there were going to be some changes proposed to address the concerns of the natural health products industry.

My argument at the time, which remains today, is that at committee substantive changes cannot be made to legislation that has received passage at second reading. If there is anything like that being contemplated right now, I would ask the chair of the health committee that if such a letter is written with regard to this or any other bill, that the chair send it back to the minister with instructions to withdraw the bill and reissue it, or indicate another manner in which to amend or correct the bill, because it cannot be done at committee.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that we have to get the bill through quickly to protect the safety of Canadians. Also, I have received a lot of feedback from the natural food products people, so I will be watching that very closely.

However, in regard to regulations I also have a constituent, Mr. Fekady, who constantly reminds me that we should not govern by regulations. Because they are outside Parliament, regulations should be more minor in nature. It seems to me that if there are powerful interests, a regulation that could exempt some major class of products from a bill is fairly major, that might want the scrutiny of Parliament. As the member knows, the scrutiny of regulations committee cannot deal with policy or change a bill.

The other issue I would like the member to comment on is the safety of Canadians and the disastrous results we have had from the government in relation to inspections, taking meat inspectors off the floor to do desk audits related to listeriosis-type of potential that people are very worried about, and putting forward a bill that would reduce the grain inspectors. People can get very sick from diseases in the grain that comes from wheat.

I wonder if the hon. member would like to comment on any of those items.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2009 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, my thanks to the hon. member for Yukon who is a tireless worker in the House on a broad range of issues.

The member has identified that there is some breadth and some detail. The two keys for members who are not on the committee, who are not going to get totally engaged, would be twofold. First, is to find out if regulations are required to a bill and if so, how many and if there are a whole bunch, start asking questions about why they are not in the bill, why do we need these, because there is a purpose for regulations.

If it says in the Income Tax Act that tools qualify for the tax credit, the regulation would list the tools, but it does not change the fact that tools get a credit. That is a simple example of a right.

The other area I would look at would be the definitions in the bill. If a definition includes a list of anything, the red light has to go on because if there is a list, something must be left out. I would refer members to the definition of what is a consumer product. I think we will find very little clarity in the bill and it may have to be looked at.