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.

March 16th, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Right. Okay.

When you get a bill that is reintroduced from one Parliament to the next, does it get re-costed? In asking this question, the bill that comes to my mind--although it's not one that's under consideration here, it's just one that I've followed with interest--is Bill C-6, an act respecting the safety of consumer products, which came back as Bill C-36. I think I have it backwards. It started off as Bill C-36 and wound up as Bill C-6. But at any rate, for a bill like that, would there be a re-costing that would go on?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2010 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

It is true that when we were studying Bill C-6, some witnesses appeared before us to discuss that particular aspect. During the health committee's work last spring, we spent only one meeting examining the whole issue of nanotechnology, its growing use and the repercussions this new technology can have on human health. This is definitely something that needs to be examined further in committee. I did not get the impression that any parliamentarians, from any of the parties, were against the idea of examining these matters further.

Of course, when we were studying Bill C-6, some people expressed certain concerns that were not addressed in the bill, but at that stage, it was important to update the 40-year-old legislation. So this bill updates the legislation. The committee and this Parliament will have every opportunity, I have no doubt, to make other improvements through other means. For instance, the member mentioned counterfeit products. There is also the question of labelling, in order to ensure that when consumers purchase a product, they know exactly what is in it. I think all parliamentarians agree on that issue.

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.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

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

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite and the minister have failed to acknowledge is that the problems pointed out by the Liberal senators on the previous Bill C-6 have been adopted in the renewed legislation, Bill C-36. If it had not been for the Liberal senators there would still be these gaps of not understanding that products in people's homes would still be at risk, even if they were stored for personal use.

On the idea of permission to get into people's houses, there is no question that Bill C-36 is better than Bill C-6 only because of the scrutiny of the other chamber.

The minister can wave her hands all she wants, but she has to acknowledge that she accepted the changes that were proposed by the Liberal senators.

In speaking with Liberal colleagues in the Senate, we have applauded them for their due diligence and the fact that the government is taking most of their recommendations with respect to the Privacy Act as well. It would behoove the government to thank the other chamber for its due diligence in making the bill better than it was before. This is the best of Parliament. We can protect Canadians and the companies that are producing these goods even better because of the good work of the other chamber.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today in support of C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

It is an honour for me to speak on behalf of my party, since the government has finally listened to the questions raised by the stakeholders and by parliamentarians and has created a bill that will protect Canadian consumers without causing harm to Canadian companies.

The point I want to focus on today is that, by taking a quick look at the evolution of Bill C-36, Bill C-6 and others, we can see that in some cases the government said one thing and did another. I wanted to point out some of the flaws we encountered in the development of this bill. The Minister of Health was publicly outraged at the end of last year, and assumed that this bill, then called C-6, would held up by the Senate. I completely disagree with that claim, since I think that many of the suggestions made by the Senate to amend Bill C-6 were incorporated into Bill C-36. That seems a bit odd to me.

As Liberals, we recognize the value of the Senate, which acts as a chamber of sober second thought. We appreciate the Senate's analysis of this bill.

I too recognize that the senators' due diligence identified some problems with the legislation that we in the House of Commons had missed. Again, I believe it is important for the government to recognize that indeed in this second, Bill C-36, they have incorporated virtually all of the problems that were identified in the Senate and that we will perceive.

It is very rare that one is provided, as a member of Parliament, exactly the discourse, the content that one wants to be able to deliver, and it is on that basis that I am pleased to read to the House today the letter sent to the hon. minister on October 6, 2010, by our leader in the Senate, Senator Jim Cowan:

Dear Minister [of Health]:

I am writing concerning several comments that you made on Thursday, September 30, during an interview with Evan Solomon on the CBC Newsworld program, Power & Politics.

That interview concerned the cross-border recall of more than 10 million Fisher-Price toys. Mr. Solomon asked why your Government has not moved faster with legislation to protect Canadians. You replied:

“As it is right now, we don't have the right tools to do massive recalls of this nature, which is what we've been saying for the last year, two years, that we need the tools to respond.... This has been an issue for us in terms of recalls of cribs even last year. That was held up at the Senate. And so in this -- in this sitting I am working with the House Leader to move this legislation forward.”

I was surprised to hear you blame the Senate for your Government's slow action to protect Canadians, and especially Canadian children, from dangerous consumer products.

In fact, Bill C-6, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, was not “held up” at the Senate. It was studied in each of the House of Commons and the Senate for almost exactly the same amount of time: six months. It was amended and received third reading in the Senate on December 15, 2009. There has been ample time between December 15 and today for those amendments to have been dealt with and the legislation brought into force. However, on December 30, 2009, [the] Prime Minister...chose to prorogue Parliament, killing the bill.

Bill C-6 was highly controversial legislation. As you are well aware, a number of Canadians were deeply concerned about certain provisions contained in the bill as passed by the House of Commons. They considered that the bill went too far, for example in granting relatively low-level government officials the power to enter any private home where a consumer product is “stored”...in order to “verify compliance” with the Act or regulations--which could include verifying compliance with labelling requirements. There was concern that the bill allowed inspectors to enter or pass over private property without any liability for damage they negligently caused.

These provisions seem particularly strange in view of your Government's recent position on the supposedly intrusive nature of the mandatory long-form census. I suspect most Canadians would consider an inspector demanding the right to enter their home more intrusive than completing a census form.

The Senate did its constitutionally mandated job. We closely scrutinized the provisions of the bill, listened to the views of those experts and other interested Canadians who took the time to come before our Committee to testify about the bill, and considered various amendments to address the concerns and improve the bill. In the end, the Senate voted to pass the bill with several amendments.

The amendments were serious, honest efforts to make the bill the best it could be for Canadians. Under our parliamentary system, the bill was returned to the House of Commons with a message about our amendments. We fully expected the House to consider our amendments on their merits, and then accept or reject them, in whole or in part.

It was well within the Government's power to recall the House of Commons for this--in the past, these kinds of messages have even been addressed in one day. The bill could have been passed by both Houses and brought into force well before Christmas.

The imminent holiday season was an issue you yourself had raised. When the bill was still before the Senate, you told Canadians in a press conference--

This is a letter I am reading. It is not you, Mr. Speaker.

--that the bill was needed before Christmas if Canadian children were to be protected against potentially dangerous toys. You said, “Canadian mothers and parents should be worried. They should be worried that this legislation is not there to protect them.” Yet your Government did not recall the House of Commons to consider the Senate’s amendments before Christmas. As a result, nothing further happened, and Canadians remained without the added protections of the bill.

As we all know, [the Prime Minister] chose to prorogue Parliament on December 30, 2009, causing this bill--along with many others--to die on the Order Paper. Evidently the Prime Minister did not see the need to protect Canadian children as the priority issue that you had expressed in your press conferences.

I was then completely surprised when you failed to move promptly upon Parliament’s return to reintroduce any bill to address this serious issue. Indeed, you waited until June 9, 2010 even to table new Bill C-36 in Parliament--and that is where this matter has sat, at first reading. To date, you have not even brought the bill forward for debate.

This is, again, a letter dated October 6.

As a result of these actions by your Government, it has now been almost ten months since the Senate passed Bill C-6, and the bill remains at first reading in the House of Commons. Let us be clear and honest: your Government’s inaction has delayed the bill longer than the study in either the House of Commons or the Senate. Yet you continue to tell Canadians that it is the Senate that held up this legislation.

Such false assertions are surely beneath the dignity of your high office.

That would be the Minister of Health.

The letter goes on:

Once again your Government has sought to avoid responsibility for its actions--in this case, the serious failure to position the Government to be able to protect Canadians from threats to the safety of Canadian children.

In the interview with Evan Solomon, you even tried to avoid responsibility for your department’s failure to adequately inform Canadians about the recalled toys. Mr. Solomon told you of the problems he encountered when trying to find the necessary information on the Health Canada website. He contrasted the United States Government’s website, which listed the recall as breaking news in a banner headline. He asked you why, when you know about recalls of consumer products like the children’s toys, your Government does not get the information right out to consumers. You replied:

“We have an outdated legislation. We have difficulty getting the information to investigate when incidents do happen. But, you know, we're hoping with the passing of this legislation that we'll be able to make--implement the new legislation to make the necessary improvements to protect the health and safety of Canadians.”

In fact, the poor quality of information alerts on the Health Canada website relating to this recall had nothing to do with Bill C-36. Indeed, when my office checked the website on Monday, several days after the Solomon interview, the website had been changed. The recall notice was now prominently displayed on a banner headline, on the home page, with ready access provided to more information. Legislatively, nothing had changed since your interview; the outdated legislation proved no constraint on more effective use of the Internet. Why, then, did you tell Canadians that the fault lay with the outdated legislation (whose timely amendment had been “held up” by the Senate)?

I should perhaps not be surprised. In a press conference on December 3, 2009, you said that under the amendments that had been passed by the Senate Committee that studied the bill, “a child, a baby has to die before we can do a recall”. Minister, this too was a false statement. No amendment passed by the Senate Committee required any Canadian – baby or adult – to die before there could be a recall. I suspect that this was little more than fear-mongering, designed solely to pressure the Senate. Yet you were prepared to strike fear in the hearts of Canadians with a false allegation of this magnitude. As a Parliamentarian and as a parent, I must tell you that I was shocked by what I consider to be a flagrantly inappropriate use of your office.

As Minister of Health, you have a heavy burden of responsibility. Canadians have entrusted you with powers and duties to safeguard their health and safety. Partisan politics and gamesmanship have no place when speaking to Canadians about potential threats to their infants and children.

I noted with interest that your new bill, Bill C-36, in fact incorporates several of the changes that were the subject of Senate amendments in December. I was happy to see that despite your voracious attacks on our amendments, upon reflection you agreed that the concerns we raised indeed had merit, and changed your bill accordingly.

However, I was surprised that your new bill did not incorporate any of the so-called “technical” amendments to the bill that were passed by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. These amendments corrected a number of errors that Committee members found in the bill.

For example, the bill contained a number of provisions that required the Minister to table documents in both the House of Commons and the Senate. This is a technical impossibility, as no Minister is simultaneously a member of both Houses. The Senate Committee corrected this mistake. To my surprise, your new bill, Bill C-36, contains the same error. I assume that amendments will be required once again to correct this mistake which unfortunately will no doubt further delay the legislation.

Canadians need a new Consumer Product Safety Act. This legislation has been in preparation for a number years, beginning under the Liberal government. This should not be a partisan issue, but rather, a matter of parliamentarians of all political parties and both Houses working together constructively to ensure the best law for Canadians. This is the best of our Canadian parliamentary tradition. We in the Senate sought to do our part, working to improve your proposed legislation for the benefit of all Canadians. Evidently you agreed with some of the flaws we discovered, and your latest bill incorporates changes to address them.

I look forward to your correcting the record, and finally accepting responsibility, as a senior Cabinet Minister in the [Conservative] Government, for your actions. The real reason Canadians still have outdated legislation on consumer product safety is not because your government's bill was “held up” by the Senate. Rather, it is because your Government has failed to place the necessary priority on this bill.

I hope that with the recent massive recall of children's toys, your Government will realize the importance of this issue and bring C-36 forward for second reading debate and scrutiny. If amendments are proposed, whether in the House of Commons or the Senate, I hope you will now consider them seriously and on their merits. The best interests of Canadian children is the goal we all share. The health and safety of Canadian children is surely too important to use as a pawn in a political chess game.

Since the minister has received this letter, we now have this urgent debate to bring this forward.

I thank Senator Cowan for his extraordinarily important letter, which I have now read into record of the House of Commons. As the critic for democratic renewal, the Conservative government's ongoing reluctance and contempt for any proper consultation on any bill and its continued track record of a so-called consultation being an information session with one-way information going out to people who can take it or leave it has again delayed much needed legislation.

We need the government to understand that consultation can prevent all of these problems and that means not writing people off as contempt for special interest groups. Civil society has huge expertise in these matters and it would be very much more efficacious to go and talk to those people before the Conservatives present such shoddy legislation.

The other embarrassing piece of information is that, although the government said this bill was a useful part of its product safety strategy, it took the government six months to reinstate the bill after prorogation. Once again, it appears that the process the government described does not make sense. The other thing that seems strange to me is the fact that this bill would make an unprecedented change to the state's powers over citizens.

This bill would authorize searches of private property with no prior evidence of criminal wrongdoing and includes the power to seize property without a court ruling. This measure could only come from a government that ignored virtually all stakeholder recommendations and repeatedly opposed the long form census, claiming that it wanted to protect individual privacy.

The government's refusal to use the long form census is all the more embarrassing given some of the provisions in this bill. Liberals believe that the existing legislation to protect Canadians from dangerous imported goods is no longer appropriate. I am pleased to note that the Minister of Health finally has the power to unilaterally recall products that pose a risk to Canadians' health and safety.

Yet again, it is so sad that the government continues to campaign instead of govern. This week it has come to our attention that yet another huge hole in the protection of Canadians has been left totally not dealt with by the government.

That being said, all Liberals believe that we must ask the Conservative government to do extraordinary things and close the loopholes in the system. This week, our thoughts are with Olivia Pratten and her mother, Shirley, who are fighting to end sperm donor anonymity and prevent the destruction of records.

Since 2004, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, an organization whose mandate is to apply regulations that do not even exist, has been in control.

Section 2 of the act has principles that are hugely important in terms of the health and well-being of children born as a result of AHR technologies, ensuring that the women who are significantly affected by these technologies have free and informed consent.

It is absolutely unacceptable that the government continues to leave these huge holes in the protection of the health and safety of Canadians and their children, particularly women. It is inexcusable that the government has wasted huge amounts of money on the reproductive technology agency in Vancouver, which has no law, no regulations to enforce, and that women are left completely unprotected because the government refuses to govern. It refuses to deal with the tough issues and hides behind a Supreme Court appeal for one tiny part of the law, one tiny part of the protection of Canadian women and their children. It has refused to act.

The federal government's excuse in response to the Province of Quebec and the Supreme Court is ridiculous. It cited only a tiny part of the regulations. In fact, the government did not review the bill within three years, as required. The Conservative government must acknowledge that, even though an issue may be controversial, that is no excuse for failing to act.

Today, we will finally get work on consumer protection with the all party agreement on Bill C-36. However, we now call upon the government to act on so many other issues, where it wraps itself in a constitutional cocoon, pretends that the health and safety of Canadians is not its issue and sits and does nothing, while Canadians, particularly women and children, are left without protection.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

October 29th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health

moved that Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House for third reading of Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

I know, from discussions with my colleagues, that we all recognize the need to modernize product safety legislation in this country.

The Hazardous Products Act is 40-year-old legislation that was developed at a time when consumer product marketplaces were very different. At the time, a greater number of products were produced domestically. Today, many of the products available for sale to Canadians are imported, supply chains are complex and innovation drives rapid product change and development.

Our current legislation requires us to develop regulations and prohibitions as a basis for ensuring product safety. Because of this, Health Canada has remained focused on particular products or product classes that are reviewed through a targeted sampling and testing program. New regulations continue to be developed to address risks as they emerge.

The regulatory process is a lengthy one. It leaves us with few tools to quickly address serious product safety issues as they emerge. My department has not had the tools to act quickly to prevent product-related incidents. In Canada, we have a post-market consumer product safety regime, which means that we do not certify new products coming into the market. A post-market regime makes sense for consumer products and helps ensure a free flow of goods but it demands a modern legislative framework.

Where we have regulations in place, products must meet the requirements they describe, but there are thousands of products that are not regulated. We do not have the mandatory incident reporting in Canada. There is currently no obligation for industry to report product-related problems. We have no authority at this time to require testing or that test results be provided to ensure compliance with our legislation. When we do identify a serious risk with a product, we do not have the powers of mandatory recall.

While it is true that we have a very co-operative industry in Canada, an industry that strives to be compliant, the fact that we cannot rely on mandatory powers of recall frequently requires us to undertake lengthy negotiations for volunteer recall, even if the severity of the situation demands swift action.

My colleagues in this chamber know that this legislation is close to my heart. I have travelled throughout Canada to discuss product safety with parents and stakeholders. I have travelled internationally to promote our work on product safety with foreign jurisdictions. I am a member of a government that recognizes the need to increase funding for product safety and put our money where our mouth is with the food and consumer product safety action plan.

Through the food and consumer safety action plan, we are doubling the number of inspectors throughout Canada. We are increasing our funding for outreach to ensure that industry understands its obligations and that consumers have the information they need to make good product choices.

We are also building an efficient system to support the requirements in this legislation for mandatory reporting of serious product-related incidents and we are increasing our work in the development of standards. Standards will be an important tool in the future for ensuring product safety and for helping industry to address risk.

These tools are putting us on a strong footing for a system built on active prevention, targeted oversight and rapid response. They will support the hard work that has already been done by Health Canada in the areas of product safety and bring us up to date, not only with what is required in the modern global marketplace, but also with the product safety regimes of our major trading partners. This legislation is an important part of that plan.

What would this legislation help to achieve? The proposed act focuses on three areas: active prevention, targeted oversight, and rapid response.

I will first speak to the active prevention. The proposed consumer products safety act would introduce a general prohibition against the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety. The new legislation would allow Health Canada to address consumer products in Canada that pose an unreasonable danger to the health or safety of the public.

When I appeared before the Standing Committee on Health, we discussed the emerging problem of cadmium in children's jewellery and examples of how the general prohibitions might be used right now if they were in place. Health Canada has worked hard to address product safety in Canada. The work that has been done to help ensure that children's products are safe is one of the best examples of this.

As many of my colleagues in the House know, Health Canada currently has some of the strictest limits in the world on the use of lead in children's products. It is a toxic if ingested. My department regularly enforces these lead limits, and officials are also on alert for the presence of other heavy metals in children's products. That is how we discovered the presence of cadmium in children's jewellery.

Cadmium is also toxic. Because it is cheap material, it is being used to make children's jewellery. If we could be certain that these items were only going to be worn by young people there might not be a problem. However, as many of us know from our own children, it can be a challenge to keep items out of their mouth. When swallowed, cadmium can cause a range of ill health effects.

Because there are currently no regulated limits on the use of cadmium in children's jewellery, the department has exercised the limits of its authority under the Hazardous Products Act by releasing advisories to alert parents about these items and by asking the industry for a voluntary ban on its use.

It is worthwhile to consider how we might be managing this emerging problem with cadmium if the Canada consumer product safety act were in place. The knowledge that under certain circumstances cadmium causes an unreasonable danger would provide us with the basis to use the general prohibition that is included in this legislation. Our inspectors could be working right now to remove unsafe cadmium-filled children's jewellery from stores. The department would not necessarily have to wait up to two years for the development of regulations in order to have the ability to act. We could be issuing recalls for these products if we found that industry was not willing to act swiftly on a voluntary basis. The general prohibition is an important provision for helping to prevent consumer product incidents before they occur.

In terms of active prevention, another important provision in this legislation is the updated fines. Compliance and enforcement would be strengthened through maximum fines of up to $5 million for some of the worst offences or more for offences committed knowingly or recklessly.

The current fines under the Hazardous Products Act could easily be perceived as simply a cost of doing business. The new maximum fines are a step up from the current maximum penalty of $1 million. They will be an important deterrent and they will bring us into step with other major trading partners.

What about targeted oversight? Targeted oversight is especially important in the context of products where the risk may not yet be fully understood or that pose the greatest potential hazard to the public.

The proposed act would give the minister of health the authority to order a manufacturer or importer to conduct safety tests and to submit results to the ministry in order to verify compliance with the act. It would also require suppliers to notify Health Canada of defects and of serious product-related incidents. These would include near miss incidents where injury has been averted.

Let us consider cribs. At the moment, as many colleagues know, my officials are consulting on whether we should ban traditional drop-side cribs in this country. We have developed this proposal and we are talking to Canadians about it because we know from mandatory reporting in the United States that these cribs can cause safety risks.

Our colleagues in the United States have been very generous with information they gather through their mandatory reporting. They have worked co-operatively with us on recalls and they assisted us in determining whether problematic products have been sold in Canada. We work with them on a daily basis.

We look forward to having access to our own incident data generated as a result of the provisions for mandatory reporting. This is a provision that will be critical for us as we transition to product safety programs built on the strategic intelligence it generates.

The proposed legislation also includes measures to allow for a rapid response to problems once they are identified. We must not forget that we always hope to avoid problems and prevent injuries related to consumer products, and that is why we are investing in active prevention and targeted oversight. However, we have a post-market regime for consumer products in Canada and we have almost as many entry points for products into this country as we have products. They are coming to Canada from around the world.

Under the proposed new act, Health Canada would be able to move quickly and decisively when a problem occurs. This would be done through the ability to order recalls of unsafe consumer products and by requiring suppliers to maintain accurate records to enable quick tracking of products.

Health Canada will work closely with industry to ensure this legislation is understood and properly implemented. Workshops and other information-sharing opportunities will be used to promote awareness of the new provisions and requirements.

Through Bill C-36, our government is demonstrating its commitment to consumer product safety. We are demonstrating our desire to meet Canadians' expectations by proposing action Canadians want and need.

The bill before us today reflects a cumulative wisdom of both Houses of Parliament and extensive long-term consultation on the part of Health Canada. When it came before this House previously as Bill C-6, the standing committee heard from government witnesses and from 33 other witnesses representing over 24 organizations. In total, five separate sessions were devoted to review and discuss former Bill C-6, two of which were extended. In those sessions, all voices were heard and all opinions were closely considered. The results of the committee's hard work was an amended bill that reflected the underlying policy intent of the bill, as well as other key aspects of concern to some witnesses.

Our government's amendments included delivering on a commitment to make it crystal clear that natural health products would not be regulated by this act. The opposition amendments address two key areas: consultation and information-sharing. When the government reintroduced the bill, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, in June of this year, it retained those amendments.

In its previous form as Bill C-6, Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, it was subject to considerable scrutiny in other places. Our colleagues were concerned that perhaps the legislation provided too broad a scope for inspector powers. Before we reintroduced this legislation last June, we worked hard to analyze those concerns.

Of the six changes incorporated into Bill C-36 before its reintroduction in June, three spoke to concerns about the perceived scope of inspector powers and four spoke to concerns raised by opposition senators. We removed the words “and they are not liable for doing so” from the provisions that allow inspectors to pass over private property. We defined storage so that it would be clear that it would not apply to goods stored by individuals for personal use.

In Bill C-36, the minister is now made expressly accountable for the authority for recalls and other orders. And, in responding to concerns about the review of orders, the bill now sets out a 30-day review period.

The government also adjusted the legislation to improve the wording in the bill, “provisions for an advisory body”, in order to clarify what is meant by public advice. Last, the government added the prohibition on BPA and baby bottles.

We heard from colleagues in the upper chamber that these changes largely address their concerns, but after the legislation was introduced in June, they remained concerned that some of the technical amendments they had made to the bill, when it was before them as Bill C-6, had not been incorporated into Bill C-36.

We want this legislation to pass, and so we have again worked hard to address these concerns. That is why the government introduced four amendments at clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-36.

Some colleagues have asked that the requirements of the Privacy Act be made explicit in this legislation. We have done this with the amendment to clause 15.

We have also incorporated a series of technical amendments to address and distinguish the two Houses of Parliament. Some of these amendments address the unique nature of each place and the fact that their committees are structured differently. We have amended clause 38 to address those concerns.

We have also amended clause 39 to ensure that a timely rationale is provided in cases where certain regulations are made without being laid before Parliament.

We have amended clause 60 to address the concerns raised in the other place that clause 60 lacked clarity about the role of the minister in reviewing a notice of violation. This change required a further technical amendment to subclause 56(1).

Given these changes and the committee's previous close scrutiny of this legislation, I am pleased to see the bill reported back to this House with only a small number of amendments.

It is my sincere hope that this House will pass Bill C-36, and that it will reflect the efforts many people have made to address all the concerns. As I stand at third reading today, I feel optimistic that we will soon have dramatically improved consumer product safety in this country.

As I speak today, I remain hopeful that this House, in its wisdom, will pass this legislation. I am hopeful that this legislation will rapidly become law. It is my wish that this bill be afforded a smooth passage.

I would like to address one last issue pertaining to this legislation. It is critically important to make the distinction, as this legislation does, between administrative proceedings and proceedings in the criminal courts. Under the administrative monetary penalty system, a person or supplier that has been found to be out of compliance with the act or regulations could be issued an order to take an appropriate corrective measure. If that person or supplier does not take the appropriate action, he or she may be subject to a notice of violation. If a notice is issued, the person or supplier will be subject to the monetary penalties under the administrative monetary penalty system.

This system encourages compliance and addresses non-compliance with orders for recall and other corrective measures. These measures can be an effective tool for gaining cooperation from regulated industry. Violations can result in an administrative process that is more responsive and less expensive than prosecution in the criminal courts. A criminal record would not result from a violation.

I will be watching the progress of this bill closely. I will continue to meet with parents and stakeholders to talk about the importance of having a consumer product safety regime. I set high standards on officials to develop effective, efficient, reliable systems to support the new provisions in the bill.

As I wrap up my remarks, I would like to pause to consider the hard work that has gone into this legislation and into getting it to this point in the legislative process. The parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Oshawa, has worked tirelessly to support the goal of passing the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. To him I extend my thanks.

I would also like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Health for their hard work on this bill. Every member of the Standing Committee on Health voiced support for this legislation, and demonstrated this support by making the bill a priority and focusing on its swift passage.

I therefore want to thank my colleagues on the committee for their support, collaborative approach, and shared concern for the safety of consumer products in Canada. I also want to thank all the Canadians and stakeholders I have met who share my desire for new product safety legislation and the many benefits it will bring. I look forward to their ongoing support for bringing this bill through the full legislative process to full implementation.

To conclude, I want to stress that Canada's current consumer product legislation is 40 years old. We have fallen behind other jurisdictions. An update is overdue and the bill before us today benefits from a wide diversity of experts' views.

Canadians can be assured that the government—

October 21st, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Michel Arnold Executive Director, Option consommateurs

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Good afternoon, committee members.

This is the third time that Option consommateurs has appeared before you. We are here to support Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products. As was said earlier, the present Hazardous Products Act dates back to 1969 and lacks the tools to provide adequate consumer protection in 2010.

As the minister said this morning, the world has changed since the Hazardous Products Act was passed 40 years ago. The products that Canadians buy today, toys in particular, come from around the world. By adapting the legislative framework for consumer product safety to the realities of the 21st century, Canada is aligning with its main trade partners, such as the United States and Europe. It is also providing the government with tools to order product recalls, combat counterfeiting and guarantee the quality assurance of products sold in Canada in order to increase the trust of Canadian consumers.

Thanks to Bill C-36, which incidentally constitutes an improvement to Bill C-6, stakeholders, from manufacturers to merchants, will be responsible for the safety of the products they market in Canada.

This new act will also enable the Minister of Health to intervene quickly for the purpose of withdrawing hazardous products from the market through better monitoring and quality control by the manufacturer, wherever products are sold.

In addition, the clauses concerning information disclosure are essential to enable the minister to react quickly where there is a danger to Canadians.

The obligation to inform authorities about hazardous products is an important aspect for improving market monitoring and risk management.

October 21st, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Thank you.

I think that's an extremely good difference. I think any time we can be proactive rather than reactive we are on the right track. I'm glad to hear that. I think that's very important.

I know that when we had the debate on the former Bill C-6 there were some who were concerned about the scope or the reach of the powers that this bill would give Health Canada. I just wondered if you could comment a bit about that and what you feel about the powers that Health Canada will have under this new Bill C-36.

I think one of the other issues when we talked about powers was the inspectors. Perhaps you could touch a bit on that as well. Do you have any concerns that inspectors might have too much power under this new bill?

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 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to speak to this legislation at second reading.

My colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes mentioned that this was the third time he was able to speak to this bill in the House. I have to say I am just so happy to be able to speak to a bill that is not about locking people up and putting them in jail for crimes that have been unreported.

We have been waiting a long time for this bill, as we have heard. As we have also heard, previous versions of this bill have been killed twice by prorogation. Frankly there has been an inordinate delay getting it through first and second reading here in the House since we returned from prorogation in March.

Considering it is the government's own legislation, one has to ask why we have waited so long. Again this week, yet again, we saw another recall of children's products, this time a recall of 11 million toys by Mattel. This follows recalls on children's drugs, cribs and drinking glasses, and the list goes on and on.

Each time this happens, consumer advocates call for reliable product safety information and a law that gets these unsafe products off the shelves. Ideally, dangerous products would not actually get on the shelves in the first place.

My colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes mentioned that the minister has been silent on this issue, not even speaking about this issue in the House until October, but actually I would like to correct that record because we have been asking questions in question period, waiting, asking when this will happen, asking when we will get to actually move this forward to committee. She has answered those questions, although I do not think she said the words “Bill C-36”.

We are happy we are here. Finally we are here. I do think it also needs mentioning that the Liberals have been asleep at the switch for 12 years on this issue. By 2005-06, at the end of the Liberals' decade of missed opportunity to improve product safety in Canada, more than 40% of recalls were ordered as a direct result not of us but of U.S.-initiated action. The Liberals were happy to promote and applaud corporate trade but not to police it.

The legislation this bill replaces is part I of the Hazardous Products Act that was enacted in 1969. I will say that again, 1969. To say that this bill is a long time in coming is an understatement. In 41 years technologies have of course changed. The nature of business has changed. The ethics of production have advanced. We need legislation that reflects the realties of a globalized world, which aims to be health conscious and also to establish a more equitable society.

It goes without saying that dangerous products touch the lives of people who are socio-economically disadvantaged more than the rest of society. Cheap products rely on cheaper manufacturing processes, and they are wreaking havoc in the lives of people who cannot afford to make better choices, who are poorly positioned to deal with the health consequences and potentially the lost wages that are due to time off work to care for loved ones who are hurt.

Product safety should not be the right of the rich. It goes very much to equality principles and it is a central piece of moving towards economic justice.

Unsurprisingly, plans to revamp product safety legislation have developed some resistance from industry and from importers due to high costs and the perceived intrusion into their design and manufacturing processes. However, the onus should be on them. Consumer product safety is the cost of doing business in Canada.

The safety of Canadians and particularly the safety of children cannot be balanced against corporate costs. Manufacturers and importers must prove that their products are safe. It is unacceptable to allow products to be negligently introduced onto the market in the absence of much-needed and precise enforcement tools.

We cannot allow tort law to be the enforcement tool, because court remedies may come too late, as consumers or their family members will have already been injured. There may not be an adequate compensation system through tort law that is available for the injuries suffered, and certainly not for the emotional trauma that arises in the worst case scenarios.

We need to catch things before they happen. In reality, strong product safety laws are good for companies because they dissuade them from going down a path that may have widespread consequences to them later.

Product safety laws protect both the health of the nation and the economy. Therefore, I am happy to note that Bill C-36 in its current form contains many of the amendments the NDP pushed for in its predecessor, Bill C-6. For example, the bill would exempt natural health products from its purview. The NDP was proud to support the natural health product industry by advocating for an exemption with Bill C-6. Natural health products contribute to the health and well-being of Canadians and play an important role in Canada's health care system.

I note that other NDP concerns have been addressed. For example, a clause that indicated inspectors were not liable for entering private property has been removed and the inspectors can no longer order a person to take measures for non-compliance. Only the minister can do that.

There are some improvements that can be made to this bill and the NDP looks forward to addressing these concerns at committee. The NDP consumer advocate, the member for Sudbury, has been working hard to identify potential improvements to product safety in Canada and I will outline some of these proposals for the House.

It is worth mentioning that protection is given to tobacco products under Bill C-36. These products have been given a permanent statutory exemption and only the propensity for ignition is included in the act's regulatory framework.

Many stakeholders, including the Canadian Cancer Society and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, have pointed out that this is a major failing in the legislation. In April 2009, when the bill was known as Bill C-6, the Canadian Cancer Society submitted a formal request that the permanent exclusion of tobacco products from the act be deleted in order to improve the overall health of Canadians.

There is also an issue of whether there will be adequate resources to enforce the legislation. We cannot allow the bill to exist without the adequate tools for enforcement. The bill implies a more proactive and aggressive approach to product safety, which is completely out of character with past government performance. Therefore, the NDP is considering an amendment to the bill to hold the government responsible for maintaining an adequate inspection capacity and staff to process, investigate and respond to complaints.

Tied to this is the need for stiffer punitive financial penalties. Industry monitoring shows that stiffer penalties improve product safety. Unfortunately, while the Hazardous Products Safety Act already contains fines of up to $1 million for violating its provisions, these fines are rarely imposed, something that we really need to work on at the enforcement end. It is essential that the government change this trend and adequately and consistently enforce the act.

The government also has to get serious about establishing clear and consistent rules for what constitutes a danger. This cannot be allowed to remain as a subjective judgment. We really need a test about what is a danger and how we will decide what is a danger. It is important not just for consumers, but for the industry as well. We need to ensure that industry understands what its obligations are.

Also in the world of enforcement, we need a better system for filing public complaints and the creation of a database that will track product safety issues. This is what the U.S. is moving toward and we need to follow suit. We have an opportunity now not just to make the Hazardous Products Safety Act better, but to be bold, visionary and move forward, not just catch up to our friends around world but maybe even surpass them when it comes to product safety. Right now a product can sometimes be on the market for more than 10 years before a recall happens.

As an example of that kind of delay, the most recent Fisher-Price recall involves products that were on the market for five years. The longer the delay, the less these products will be able to be recalled. In fact, only 10% to 15% of recalled products are ever recovered. That is a shockingly low statistic. This means we need to ensure that the public gets the information when a product poses a danger to people's health through regular announcements that a recall is in effect and to the widest possible audience.

Bill C-36 also focuses on the back end of production, mostly manufacturing, but the vast majority of product safety issues are at the front end with design. Product safety issues result because of design flaws. We need the tools that will catch these flaws before a product goes to a manufacturing plant. Design is so important. Better design leads to fewer accidents and fewer injuries. One way to improve the entire production process is to ensure that third party testing is mandatory, that it is consistent and that it is utilized throughout the entire production process.

We have also heard concerns that Bill C-36 lacks a formal independent review board. An appeal to the board of review under the hazardous products safety act is like an appeal to court. Bill C-36 does not have a review board and these kinds of procedural safeguards.

Currently the wording of the act suggests that reviews of decisions would be made by other Health Canada officers who were not part of the original investigation. Frankly, that is not quite far enough removed. There needs to be some indication of independence. The reviews really need to be done by third parties when a property owner asks for a review of an inspector's order. However, that review is not conducted by a board of review with court powers to ensure a fair hearing. It is only fair to think about it that way and to have those sorts of arm's-length procedures put in place.

In summary, we are pleased that the government has finally introduced this bill. I am getting some smiles from my colleagues on this side of the House. We are pleased that it has been moved for debate, I will note finally. We are also very happy to support it so it gets to committee. The NDP is very much looking forward to discussion of the bill at committee.

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 ActOral Questions

October 7th, 2010 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, survey results show that the vast majority of Canadians believe that a product is safe simply because it is available on the market. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case as children are particularly vulnerable to product-related injuries. In fact, there are more than 18,000 annual emergency room visits for children as a result of product-related injuries.

As well, recalls on child products have significantly increased in recent years from 28 voluntary recalls in 2006 to 118 in 2008. That is a 235% increase over just three years. Just this last week, one company recalled more than 10 million tricycles, high chairs and toys over safety concerns. The trikes have a protruding key that has caused 10 reported injuries. The high chairs have seven reports of children hurt on pegs on the chairs' rear legs. The infant toys have faulty parts that pose a choking hazard.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to support Bill C-36, formerly Bill C-6, the Canada consumer product safety act, on which our health committee worked collegially for extended hours. We heard testimony from consumer product organizations, environmental defence organizations, and toy manufacturers. We struggled through challenging issues for both consumer health and well-being and for industry.

Reducing risk to human health has been a preoccupation of people, physicians and politicians for the last 5,000 years. Virtually every major advance in public health has involved the reduction or elimination of risk, with the result being that the world is a safer place today. It is safer from accidents and deadly or incurable diseases and safer from hazardous consumer goods.

Therefore, it is government's duty to do all it reasonably can to accurately assess and reduce risks, such as making sure that food, medicines and other products are safe. Although government can rarely hope to reduce risks to zero, it can aim to lower them to a more acceptable level and it should openly and transparently communicate risk and risk reduction strategies to the public.

Bill C-36 is needed as the laws on consumer safety have not been thoroughly reviewed in over 40 years, and chemicals, technology, and trade have all changed significantly.

Canadians could question why the government was slow on this bill, a bill to improve Canada's out-of-date product safety laws, given that consumer safety was to be a top priority and the bill was first introduced a few years ago. Every time there is a high-profile recall and questions arise over Health Canada's reactivity, we hear the message: if only we had our consumer product safety bill in place.

However, parents need to be confident that the products they buy will be safe for them and their children.

It is important to note that the government has been in power for four years, has tabled the bill three times, and enjoys unanimous support from opposition parties, as well as strong support of major Canadian children's organizations, consumer advocacy groups, and other key stakeholders who share the conviction that Canadians need better protection from unsafe consumer products.

The bill overhauls existing legislation that proved inadequate to deal with high-profile safety scandals in 2007 and 2008 involving lead paint in children's toys and melamine in infant formula. The new proposed Canada consumer product safety act would improve consumer product safety with actions that would include the following.

It would prohibit the manufacturing, importing, marketing, or selling of any consumer product deemed or proven unsafe to human health or safety.

It would require industries to quickly inform the government when they discover one of their products is linked to a serious incident, death, or product safety issue.

It would require manufacturers and importers to provide test or study results on products when asked.

It would empower Health Canada to recall unreasonably dangerous consumer products.

As well, it would make it an offence to package or label consumer products that make false or deceptive health or safety claims.

The proposed Canada consumer products safety act builds on Bill C-6, which the government previously introduced,and takes into account concerns raised by stakeholders and parliamentarians through specific amendments.

The amendments include the following. The term “storing” has been defined in order to clarify that Health Canada inspectors' authorities would not extend to products that individuals store for their personal use.

The original bill stated that product safety inspectors could pass through or over private property while carrying out their functions without being liable for doing so. The amendment to the trespass provision addresses concerns by removing the phrase and they are not liable for doing so.

An amendment has been made so that the Minister of Health and not a product safety inspector would be accountable for ordering product recalls and other related measures.

An amendment has also been made to further define the timeframe for the review of orders. Under the previous bill, a review officer was required to complete the review within a reasonable time. This has now been further defined to say “no later than 30 days after the day on which the request is provided to the minister”.

I think it is important to mention a concern raised by one of Canada's leading law firms this week, namely, that the proposed legislation would place a major burden on Canadian businesses and is likely to lead to a surge in class action lawsuits.

One law partner warns that, “while the proposals have the support of consumer groups and political parties, they are likely to have a dramatic impact on many players in the chain, including suppliers, importers and retailers”.

“Bill C-36 will introduce a revolutionary upheaval in product regulation in Canada”, the partner reports. “For the first 140 years of Canadian history, these things have not existed from a regulatory perspective”.

It would give Health Canada the power to order a recall or carry out a recall itself, as well as dole out penalties. These include a fine of up to $5 million, two years in prison or both for indictable offences. This is up from $1 million. It would no longer be the cost of doing business. The partner warns that this could result in more litigation, including class action lawsuits that tend to follow recalls.

Suppliers and manufacturers may need to start thinking about organizing their businesses to ensure that people responsible for dealing with safety monitoring reporting to Health Canada and offering legal advice.

The legislation is important and has backing across Canada. We are, however, once again at the early stages of the parliamentary approval process and we must hope that this does not fall by the wayside as was the case when Parliament was prorogued.

Finally, Bill C-36 would significantly improve the product safety regime in Canada which would translate into improved health and safety for Canadians. Product safety is in everyone's best interest and everyone has a role to play: Canadians, government and industry.

September 21st, 2010 / 7:30 p.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, better product safety legislation is needed in the country. It seems like every few weeks there is a new report about some dangerous or faulty product. Many of these products are products for children. In 2010 we saw children's toys, cribs and medications all being subject to safety concerns.

Unfortunately Health Canada does not have the tools it needs to ensure the safety of the public. For example, it cannot issue mandatory recalls. In 2009 Health Canada posted more than 300 voluntary recall notices, a third of them for children's products. Lots of these products were not made in Canada, but still the government did not have the power to make the recalls mandatory.

The Hazardous Products Act of 1969 has not been effective in identifying or removing dangerous products. This has meant in the majority of cases Canadians have been dependent on the product alerts and recalls issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission instead of Health Canada. In 2005 and 2006 more than 40% of product recalls were ordered as a direct result of U.S. initiated action.

Successive Canadian governments, this one included, have been happy to promote and applaud corporate trade over the last few decades but not to police it. This is unacceptable. It is putting people at risk.

We need Health Canada to be taking the lead in these instances, identifying and removing dangerous products in a timely fashion. This is why I have asked this several times in the House since becoming health critic for the NDP, just as my colleague Judy Wasylycia-Leis asked before me. When will the government get serious about product safety legislation?

We have been asking and asking and finally the government did introduce Bill C-36 last spring. What an amazingly drawn out process. Delays have been due in part to the government's habit of proroguing when it suits its needs. It has been repeatedly terminating legislation designed to keep Canadians safe.

Here is a summary of what we have gone through. The first attempt was Bill C-51 in 2008. The NDP opposed Bill C-51 because instead of strengthening safety, it was a continuation of the previous Liberal government's interests and permissive attitudes toward big pharma. Fortunately Bill C-51 did not become law, but this was not due to political courage or insight from the government but because of Conservative prorogation after the federal election of 2008.

The next attempt to respond to the needs and requests of Canadians came when the government introduced Bill C-6, the Canada consumer product safety act in February 2009. Again, Bill C-6 did not survive because of prorogation in December 2009.

We have this current legislation, but we have seen more delays. The House convened on March 3 and Bill C-36 did not have its first reading until June 9, three months later, despite the government's repeated statement that the legislation was as important to it as it was to Canadians. Bill C-36 does not seem to be on the House's legislative agenda for the next few weeks.

My question to the government is this. When will the government continue the legislative process for a bill for which so many Canadians have been asking? Will there be more delays?

June 15th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Conservative Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Madam Chair.

To the committee members who participated in last night's debate, I want to say thank you for the very important initiative that's now being undertaken in partnership with a number of agencies across the country as it relates to MS.

Going back to the question on Bill C-36, we have reintroduced that legislation, as we stated in the throne speech. In Bill C-36 there were four amendments made to further clarify the legislation and to address some of the questions that had been raised through stakeholders and the Senate. Basically, changing from Bill C-6 to Bill C-36 does not change the intent of the bill.

There are four areas where there were minor amendments made to further clarify a couple of points. The first is the further clarification of what we mean by personal property. That was a concern that had been raised by a number of stakeholders. The definition could be interpreted quite broadly, so we narrowed that. The legislation does not apply to individual personal property.

Another area in the legislation is that it was felt that the inspectors had too much power to initiate recalls. We made changes to that. The minister would be authorized to do recalls for any unsafe products that might be in the market.

Another area of change was related to trespassing and liability issues. Again, that was further clarified.

One more point was related to the timeframe in terms of investigating unsafe products. There was concern there would be prolonged delays that would not be useful to the retailers and manufacturers. So within that legislation, we've now included a timeline when we're doing an investigation to get back to the industry or the retailers within 30 days. Again, that's to further clarify and address the concerns that had been raised by stakeholders in December.

Thank you.