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 29th, 2009 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member whether she would agree that the act should create a hot list, similar to that for cosmetics, listing carcinogens, reproductive toxins, neuro toxins; that these substances should be prohibited in products, with temporary exemptions granted only to the extent that the product is essential and only where alternatives do not exist; and that at a bare minimum, any product containing such chemicals should be required to carry a hazard label, as is required in California, Vermont and the European Union? I assume that the member would be in agreement with that list. I know she is a medical doctor, so I would like to get her opinion on that issue.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, we know that we have a lot to learn from the ways that other jurisdictions have dealt with exactly these issues, particularly, around importation and around how we know that what is on the label is really what is in the product and for that we also need resources. We have learned from the FDA in the United States that it may not be able to inspect even 1% of the drugs that come into that country.

I thank the member very much for raising these issues around counterfeit products and labelling. If the member has any suggestions of witnesses who should come before the committee, we would very much like to hear from any of the stakeholders that he has heard from who are concerned. We will do our best to make this bill as good as it can be.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for St. Paul's criticized the government for how it conducted consultations with regard to Bill C-11, and rightly so. She said they were botched, that they were more like information sessions than meaningful consultations, and that the government must ensure that all of the concerns expressed by the witnesses are heard and properly addressed.

My question is for the member as someone who voted in favour of the bill at the report stage here in this House, as well as for her colleagues. Following the committee's examination of Bill C-11, there were some lingering concerns expressed by expert witnesses who work with pathogens and toxins every day. So why did she decide to ignore those witnesses and vote in favour of Bill C-11 at the report stage?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, this bill is called the Canada consumer product safety act. However, in reality, whether we are actually protecting consumers or not will very much depend on whether there are enforcement mechanisms and whether we can actually trigger the kind of decisive action that consumers are counting on us to ensure is in the legislation, so that they can be absolutely assured that products that they are consuming, that they are in contact with, will in fact be safe.

I wonder whether the member would agree that we actually need to include some very specific triggers for government actions and criteria around what should trigger that kind of action and--

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Yes, exactly, Mr. Speaker. The question is also why has the government not acted?

I would like to suggest five of them, just by way of example.

Do we need to decide whether the release of harmful substances from products during use or after disposal, including to house and into air, must be considered?

The potential harm from chronic exposure to the substance itself should be considered, in my view. The potential for harm to vulnerable populations, of course, is another. The cumulative exposure to a substance Canadians receive from the products of concern--

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, these are excellent questions. Whether or not those questions can be dealt within the law or whether they would be dealt with specifically in the regulations or, again, in a framework that the expert advisory committee would have to deal with in terms of advising the minister in a totally transparent way needs to be looked at. What we are saying is that if we are going to have an advisory committee that deals with the science, then we want that science--

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon as the Bloc Québécois health critic to address Bill C-6, an act respecting the safety of consumer products, which was introduced by the Minister of Health at first reading in this House on January 29, 2009.

I will read the summary of this bill.

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.

The very least we can say is it is about time. In fact, we have known since November 2006, because of a report tabled by the Auditor General, that there are problems and that urgent action is needed. Those responsible for the safety of consumer products were not given or no longer had the means to effectively carry out their duties. Nevertheless, we have had to wait more than two years to debate, in this House, at second reading, Bill C-6 on consumer products.

I would just like to give a bit of background. As I said, we waited far too long before we could debate this bill in this House. Canada currently does not require that manufacturers of hazardous products under its jurisdiction, such as cosmetics, cradles, tents and carpets, test their products or prove that they do not pose any threat to consumer health and safety. As a result, consumers would not have any real protection against incidents like the one that forced the recall of a number of products some time ago. Many parents feared the worst and, with the approach of the holiday season and other gift-giving occasions, wondered whether what was on the shelves in stores was safe and what precautions they should take to make sure that what they were buying for their beloved children was hazard-free.

In December, after four months of inertia in the wake of the first toy recall in the summer of 2007, the government finally proposed to introduce a bill early in 2008 and to change its strategy for regulating product safety.

This inaction created a real feeling of insecurity, especially around toy purchases. You could feel it when you listened to consumers talking about product safety on radio and TV and read their letters in the papers.

But it is important to point out that instead of introducing a bill quickly, the government decided last fall to post a survival guide online to help parents protect their children's safety. In late November, it launched a personal test kit consumers could use to determine the safety of consumer products themselves. This is a government that is clearly abandoning its responsibility for product safety.

It made consumers and parents responsible for making sure that the goods they buy are safe for their families and children. The government should be responsible for making sure that consumer products are safe, but it abdicated its responsibilities the moment it put that guide online.

However, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, in November 2006, the Auditor General of Canada warned the government about concerns involving dangerous consumer products. These concerns were expressed by program managers. Chapter 8, Allocating Funds to Regulatory Programs—Health Canada, clearly indicated that product safety program managers could not do their jobs properly for a number of reasons. I will read points 8.21 and 8.22 of the Auditor General's November 2006 report.

Product safety program managers considered many of their regulatory activities to be insufficient to meet their regulatory responsibilities. We found these opinions were confirmed in an internal study of the program's resource needs, documents relating to resource allocation, and in interviews conducted as part of our audit.

The product safety program has requested additional funding, but it received very little funds for special initiatives in 2005-06 to address the shortfalls presented above. Program managers indicated that their inability to carry out these responsibilities could have consequences for the health and safety of Canadians, such as exposure by consumers to non-compliant hazardous products. There is also a risk of liability to the Crown.

Because of the Auditor General's report, the Government of Canada has known since November 2006 about the risk to consumers resulting from inadequate program funding. This raises a number of concerns about the government's real desire and commitment to move forward. However, now that we have Bill C-6, we need to take a closer look and pass it at second reading so that we can hear from stakeholders in committee without delay.

I therefore encourage all of my colleagues to proceed appropriately with the second reading examination of this bill, not only here in the House but also at the report stage in the Standing Committee on Health. As colleagues have done before me, I would encourage all stakeholders, as well as all colleagues here in the House, to give us their views and any clarifications in order to ensure that Bill C-6 is as effective as possible and that lack of consumer safety will be, no longer the rule, but the exception, and a rare exception at that.

Essentially, this bill comprises five measures, which I shall present to my colleagues and to all those listening this afternoon to this debate on second reading.

I will give a brief overview of the five measures aimed at reversing the burden of proof concerning safety.

First of all, there is the safety of consumer products. As I said, currently, no constraints are imposed on manufacturers or importers. They do not have to prove that their products are not dangerous and do not pose a threat to consumer safety. Bill C-6 is intended to reverse this. In future it will be up to the manufacturer to prove to us that the products offered to consumes are without danger.

The bill also proposes forcing manufacturers and importers of consumer products to test the safety of their products regularly, and, most importantly, to disclose the test results in order to ensure maximum transparency.

The bill would also require businesses to report all measures taken or illnesses caused because of their products, whatever the country. This puts the onus on manufacturers and importers, because it forces them to prove that their products are safe,

The second measure has to do with increasing inspectors' powers. As the Auditor General stated in a report, 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, relabelling or a licensing amendment. These inspectors will be the means to enforce this bill's most important provisions.

It is important to point out, however, that increased duties and responsibilities can raise a certain number of concerns and questions. As part of the committee's review of this bill, it will be important to confirm whether there are enough human resources to ensure that the strict measures outlined in Bill C-6 can be properly monitored and enforced across Canada.

This bill 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. This bill 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. In committee, it will also be important to look at how this recall power can be executed.

There are also stricter punitive measures that will provide a greater deterrence. At this time, for instance, the fines imposed are usually around $5,000. With Bill C-6, an offence could lead to a fine of up to $5 million for the company at fault, and people caught red-handed could face up to two years in prison.

Lastly, Bill C-6 will introduce product traceability. The bill includes a record-keeping requirement that could be compared to a traceability process, as I said earlier. With this record-keeping system, we will be able to determine the product's history and quickly track down retailers who have the product, as well as its origin.

In addition, if an incident occurs here or elsewhere in the world, the manufacturer or importer is required to notify the minister, which will allow the authorities to more efficiently remove products that could pose problems.

I would also like to share a few comments, and we will have the opportunity to come back to this in committee and further question the officials who drafted the bill, as well as the Minister of Health. In the preamble—it is unusual to spend any time on the preamble, because we spend much more time on the clauses of the bill—there is a definition that approaches the precautionary principle. It would be interesting to know what the government's real intention behind this statement is, with regard to enforcing the legislation.

I would simply like to read part of the preamble into the record:

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;

The preamble also contains a general statement about the relationship between consumer goods and the environment:

Whereas the Parliament of Canada 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;

Outside of the preamble, the environment is only mentioned in clauses 16 and 17 of the bill in connection with disclosure of personal information. It will be interesting to ask the government about its intentions.

Would the government like to go a little bit further in the regulations and impose more environmental requirements?

We can come back to that. With regard to regulations, Bill C-6 contains a number of measures that can be taken by the minister by regulation. Thus, the regulatory powers are expanded and it will be interesting to see in committee how the minister will use this discretionary power and what limits will be placed on this power.

In closing, I would simply like to say that the industry cannot be allowed to be self-regulated. There have been a number of cases in the food industry, not covered by this bill, demonstrating that self-regulation alone cannot address all problems.

We have to give some teeth to the bill and some powers to the inspectors responsible for enforcing it.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague with interest.

I would like to make a comment and ask a question. He clearly noted that, when it comes to safety, self-regulation does not work. There is virtually nothing in this bill to address imported goods. Two-thirds of all the products purchased in Canada are imported. That is where we have seen one problem after another, without implementing any comprehensive way to look at and inspect these products before they arrive on the Canadian market.

In addition, we have a government that promotes less safety and lower standards in every area, whether it is rail transportation or air travel. We must ask ourselves whether we can trust a government that systematically ignores all existing safety measures and continues to give us substandard safety systems in the area of transportation that put Canadians at greater risk.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the first part of my colleague's comment, it will be important to take an equitable approach. Companies based here that manufacture consumer products here must be subject to the same rules as companies that manufacture their products abroad. Once Bill C-6 is adopted, we need to make sure that all companies are on a level playing field. My colleague is right to raise this issue. We need to have inspectors everywhere in order to make sure that the enforcement measures clearly set out in Bill C-6 can be applied. What good is it to tighten the rules if there is no one in the field to make sure that they are followed?

My colleague was also right to mention that we have seen the negative effects of self-regulation in recent months. Crises have occurred just because funding for the organizations that protect public safety has been cut.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech. He obviously knows a good deal about this bill and is well informed. By the way, what a beautiful name his riding has: Verchères—Les Patriotes. It is wonderful.

I would like the member to explain how he imagines the committee will determine how and where these products will be checked. Will Canada follow the example of Japan, which sends government technicians to other countries to test products and determine whether they meet Japan's standards and criteria, instead of waiting until the products reach Japan? We know that private companies are reluctant to send products back. As a result, hazardous goods sometimes wind up in our landfills instead of landfills in the countries where they are produced. I would like the member to talk about that.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi for his very good question.

It is the kind of question that we will have to put to knowledgeable individuals when we study this element in committee. It is important to know where and how officials will be checking imported products to ensure that they are completely safe for people.

Bill C-6 makes importers and manufacturers responsible for product safety. That is important because they are ultimately accountable for making sure that the products they put on store shelves are safe. That being said, because we want more control over the process through Bill C-6, we must make sure, very early on in the process, that the products that end up on our store shelves are safe.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker for the Liberal Party indicated that the Liberal Party was always interested in safety issues. However, the Liberals were in power for 12 years and were asleep at the switch on this whole file. In fact, by 2005-06, more than 40% of the product recalls were a direct result of U.S.-initiated action. We not only see that there, but we also see it in crime issues and financial issues. The American system is able to prosecute and put people in jail, but we are not able to do that here in Canada.

The Liberals were asleep for all those years. PCs are really free market people and believe in the industry policing itself. Can we really trust them to enforce this act?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

April 29th, 2009 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would urge my colleague to refer to what I said.

The Auditor General recognized the problem in 2006. It is now nearly May 2009, and this is the first time this bill has come before the House. As the saying goes, the members opposite were asleep at the wheel. The Liberals did not do any better, however. The Auditor General discovered these shortcomings in 2006, and they were in power shortly before the study was conducted. As such, both the Liberals and the Conservatives have dragged their heels when it comes to making sure that products on store shelves are safe.

However, now that we know about it, we have to act quickly. That is why I am asking all of my colleagues to move this bill through second reading and to ensure that the committee's review will be both efficient and effective so that we can take a thorough look at all of the bill's consequences. We have to make sure that, if and when it is adopted, the government will do everything in its power to make sure that the legislation has all the teeth it needs to ensure that consumers no longer have to worry as they have recently.