Child Health Protection Act

An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children)

Status

Third reading (House), as of Sept. 17, 2018

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit food and beverage marketing directed at persons under 17 years of age.

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.

Votes

June 6, 2018 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children)
Feb. 14, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children)

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

moved that Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to stand here today as a sponsor of Bill S-228, the child health protection act, at its third and final reading in Parliament.

I would like to begin by thanking my fellow colleagues on the Standing Committee on Health for their thoughtful review of the legislation. It was an honour to work with all of them and I look forward to continuing to work together on issues affecting Canadians.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic of such a magnitude that it is a matter of national concern. Today, one in three Canadian children is either overweight or obese. We know that obesity is linked to chronic conditions and illnesses, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers, and its effects are compounded if the onset is premature.

During my career as a physician, I noticed more of my patients were overweight or obese and I was seeing instances of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in younger and younger people. According to the World Obesity Federation, if current trends continue, more than 10 million adults in Canada will be obese by 2025 and treating health problems caused by obesity will cost Canada nearly $34 billion per year.

In its final report presented on January 25, 2016, the World Health Organization's Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity found that there is unequivocal evidence that the marketing of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages has a negative impact on childhood obesity. The report recommended that any attempt to tackle childhood obesity should include a reduction in the exposure of children to marketing. This bill takes concrete steps to address this public health issue by eliminating the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children.

During the committee stage of this bill, I introduced two consequential amendments to the legislation. The first was to alter the definition of a child from 17 years of age to 13 years of age. During Health Canada's consultation with stakeholders, it became clear that any regime built on restrictions aimed at older teenagers would be subjected to considerable legal risks associated with a restriction on freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Currently, there is a strong precedent for defining a child as under 13 in the context of advertising restrictions in Quebec and the province has withstood a charter challenge that was fully upheld at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Recognizing there is evidence concerning the vulnerability of teenagers to marketing, as well as the experience in Quebec where industry shifted marketing efforts to teenagers when restrictions were imposed on younger children, I moved a second amendment that requires Parliament to conduct a mandatory review of the legislation, with a focus on the definition of children within five years of the act coming into force. Through the parliamentary review of the legislation, the government would also be obliged to report publicly on compliance with the bill and on progress toward our common goal of healthier children of all ages. This work would ensure that, if necessary, we will have the data needed to support a broadening of restrictions at a future date.

During this bill's second reading and committee stage, there were also questions regarding the regulations that would be established. Recently, Health Canada released the document, “Restricting Marketing of Unhealthy Food and Beverages to Children: An Update on Proposed Regulations”. In this document, Health Canada stated that the new regulations would define “unhealthy” food, set out factors to determine if an advertisement is directed at children and set out exemptions to the prohibition, such as for children's sports sponsorship.

There has been much discussion as to what qualifies as unhealthy foods and beverages. As such, Health Canada is considering a model to define “unhealthy” food as foods having a front-of-package symbol, as proposed in draft regulations, or exceeding the threshold for the nutrient content claims, such as low in sodium and salt, low in saturated fatty acids and/or low in sugars. The Specific Nutrient Content Claim Requirements, such as the ones previously listed, are used by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to quantify food claims made by manufacturers. I encourage my colleagues to review the Specific Nutrient Content Claim Requirements for salt, sodium, saturated fatty acids and Health Canada's proposed requirements for sugars, for the exact quantities under the proposed regulations and for what amounts of sodium, fats and sugars would qualify a food or beverage as being unhealthy.

With regard to the factors to determine if an advertisement is directed at children, we need to consider that the impact of marketing to children is a result of both exposure to unhealthy food ads through settings and media channels and the power of the marketing techniques used.

As such, the proposed approach addresses both by considering three primary elements: settings, media channels and advertising techniques. Settings would include places, events or activities, and could include day cares, schools and children's clubs, as well as children's concerts and festivals, among others.

Health Canada would determine certain factors related to the settings, such as whether the setting is one where children are generally or frequently in attendance, and the nature and purpose of the event or activity determining whether unhealthy food advertising is child-directed.

Under the proposed regulations, marketing to children would be prohibited in child-directed settings. Where the audience has both adults and children, the marketing of unhealthy foods would be restricted only if the advertisement itself is found to have child appeal and would be prohibited if the characteristics of the ad, such as colour, theme and/or language, were clearly directed at children.

Children are also exposed to advertising through a variety of media channels, including digital applications, Internet, television, films and print. Health Canada is currently exploring the use of factors such as the nature and purpose of the media, whether it was intended or designed for children and whether children constitute a significant portion of the audience when determining whether unhealthy food advertising is child-directed.

With regards to the audience portion, Health Canada is considering a prohibition of marketing to children when the proportion of children in the viewing audience is over 15%. For media channels where the proportion of children in the viewing audience is less than 15%, the marketing of unhealthy food will be restricted only if the advertisement is found to have clear child appeal. With regards to determining advertising techniques with child appeal, it must be understood that a wide range of powerful techniques are used to advertise foods to children. Therefore, Health Canada will need to determine whether the design, technique or characteristic of the advertisement target will influence or appeal to children. For example, an ad for confectionery treats depicting child-appealing elements such as cartoon images and/or children's toys would be prohibited.

Over the past several months, there have been concerns that there could be a negative impact on access to community sports if sponsorships were prohibited. In its proposed regulations, Health Canada will exempt children's sport sponsorships to address these concerns, with only specific techniques designed to appeal to children under 13, such as mascots or product giveaways, being prohibited.

Marketing to children would be allowed for community sports teams, sporting events, sporting leagues and associations, and individual child athletes. For example, in the context of a sporting event where a company is supplying sports jerseys to the team, its logo can appear on the sports jerseys.

Working on this legislation has been a long yet rewarding process. When I was practising medicine, I would too often treat patients suffering from the numerous medical complications due to obesity. While I am not in the emergency room to treat patients suffering from these illnesses now, I am here, in the House of Commons, as a representative of my community, to address the preventable issues that are hurting our society and burdening our health care system.

We now have an opportunity to address childhood obesity, which should frankly be a non-partisan issue. That is why I am calling upon all members of this House to show their support and prove we are united in fighting this epidemic.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Bill S-228, the Minister of Health stood in the House and promised that sports scholarship programs would be exempt from this legislation in order to ensure that activities promoting healthy lifestyles and choices would continue.

I brought to committee an amendment mapping exactly what the minister had committed to and it was rejected. Could the member comment on why the Liberals did not keep their promise?

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her valuable help on the health committee in reviewing this bill.

The issue was clarified, in that the Minister of Health agreed that under regulations through Health Canada, sports sponsorship would not be affected. One of the reasons to keep this in Health Canada regulations as opposed to the actual bill was that this would allow Health Canada to respond to any changes in industry practices in a judicious, quicker manner than bringing it back to the House for amendments.

Therefore, the minister's promise was kept by agreeing in the regulations that sports sponsorship will not be affected.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for introducing this important bill because we do need to fight childhood obesity. My NDP colleagues and I are pleased to support this bill.

As my colleague pointed out, Quebec was the first to address advertising aimed at children. Quebec's law applies to children 13 years of age and under. I have concerns about the fact that we are considering applying this legislation to people 17 years of age and under. As my colleague said, ads target teenagers too, but as Canadian restaurant owners told us, teenagers are also employees. That means they are exposed to advertising at work in the restaurant and food service industry. The issue for me here is setting the age at 17 and under versus 13 and under.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was a matter of debate whether to leave the definition of children as those aged 17 and under or 13 and under. There was an extensive review by legal staff and of the precedent set in Quebec. It was feared that if the definition of child were of those under the age of 17, there would be a significant chance of the entire bill being brought down in a legal challenge.

By the precedent set in Quebec, it was agreed that the bill in this form would withstand a charter challenge, and as a safety measure, we have put in the mandatory five-year review to address if companies are shifting their marketing to undermine the effectiveness of the bill.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the efforts of my colleague and friend from Winnipeg on this very important matter. The general acceptance of the legislation has been very encouraging. People recognize that our young people do need to have legislation of this nature. It is in the long-term best interests of their health, and if it is in young people's best interests, then it is in society's best interests as a whole. Could the member provide his thoughts on why this is important legislation for our young people?

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is a public health matter. Obesity is rising at an alarming rate and the patterns leading to obesity often start in childhood. A number of years ago before I was in government and practising medicine, I lobbied very heavily for anti-smoking legislation. Among the criticisms made was that doing so was all well and good, but why was I not also attacking obesity, which is actually a bigger problem? This is one of the first valuable steps to address this at a very early stage when this is preventative rather than treatment-based, and should improve health and help to take the burden off our already overburdened health care system.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope that you had a good summer. I certainly did.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill S-228, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act by prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children.

I would like to begin by thanking many individuals and groups for their ongoing efforts on this bill. First, I would like to thank Senator Nancy Greene Raine, now retired, for her years of service and her ongoing commitment to the health and well-being of Canadians, particularly the health of children. I would also like to thank members from all parties and the many witnesses for their passion and expertise.

Basically, Bill S-228 seeks to prohibit food and beverage marketing directed at persons under the age of 13. The bill's introduction in the House is rather timely because its objective can be found in the Minister of Health's mandate letter. Although this bill is well intentioned and seeks to combat childhood obesity, many stakeholders and witnesses expressed their concerns about the scope of the bill and its potential unintended consequences.

Similar legislation already exists in Quebec, which is often cited as an example. Quebec passed legislation in 1980 to ban advertising aimed at children aged 13 and under. To be clear, while it is true that Quebec has one of the lowest obesity rates in Canada, that is not necessarily a consequence of the ban on advertising targeting young people.

At a committee meeting, I asked witnesses from Quebec's Weight Coalition whether the obesity rate went down after Quebec passed the legislation. One witness replied as follows:

The Quebec act, which dates from 1980, was not passed to reduce obesity, but for ethical reasons and because of the vulnerability issues involving all forms of advertising. In terms of data on obesity, we were unfortunately unable to measure them in the past.

This comparison was repeated over and over again during consideration of the bill. However, someone who is rarely quoted is Ronald Lund, who appeared before the committee and told us that Quebec's obesity rate is quite similar to that of the rest of the country.

He said, “In fact, in terms of how fast it exploded and where it is today, the rates of obesity and overweight[edness] in Quebec are basically not statistically different from the rest of Canada.”

I think it is off the website now, but one can still find the link on Quebec's Ministry of Health's own website. It talks about the great increase since 1978 and adds that the good news is that rates there are not significantly different from those in the rest of Canada. Despite a homegrown test, the obesity rates in Quebec are not dramatically different.

Therefore, when we approach Bill S-228 and talk about the legislation, I am just not sure that it is going to work, though I am firmly behind its premise that we want to reduce obesity in children, as we know that childhood obesity is a predeterminate of very chronic disease as they get older.

Certainly, I think there are some problems with the bill, and I am going to address several of those.

First, there was an allusion to the definition of healthy food not being nailed down. At committee we talked about making the definition potentially the same as for front-of-pack labelling, where things high in salt, sugar, or saturated fats would be considered unhealthy. However, that could not be agreed upon, and there is currently no agreement about the definition.

The Liberal government is content to leave that to the regulations, but I think we can see the same problem with regulations that Health Canada is having when considering the Canada food guide and front-of-pack labelling. For example, there are situations where apple strudel would be considered healthy but cheese would not be. Therefore, I really think that not having a definition of healthy food is a weakness in this proposed legislation.

Second, if we are trying to make sure that children under the age of 13 are not exposed to the advertising of whatever we determine unhealthy food to be, the enforcement of that is going to be extremely difficult. For example, as per the conversations we had, does that mean television ads after nine o'clock at night could potentially be allowed to advertise some of these things? The problem is that there are parents who are not parenting well or are allowing their children to stay up past nine o'clock, and so we cannot really be sure at any point in time that we would not be targeting that audience. What about signs? What about billboards? I mean, there would not really be an opportunity to enforce this without a huge number of people basically policing all forms of media.

We know that things put in place by the Liberal government have not been well enforced and we expect to see further ones. For example, with the forthcoming marijuana legislation, clearly there was an effort made to restrict advertising to make sure that it did not appear to be cool to smoke marijuana. However, the government did nothing with enforcement with regard to the huge number of T-shirts and other paraphernalia that exist. The Senate brought an amendments, which were not accepted. Again, there is no enforcement. With respect to Bill S-5, the proposed tobacco legislation, we know that enforcement activity is needed when people who are not authorized to produce and distribute are doing it. However, the 60% cigarette contraband rate in Ontario, for example, and I think 30% or 40% across the country, shows a lack of enforcement. Therefore, I really think that this proposed piece of legislation would definitely have difficulty with enforcement.

Also, do we really need to have the government telling us what we can and cannot eat? I am all about personal freedom and individual accountability. When I was growing up, we had all the sugared cereals. We had Tony the Tiger, Froot Loops, Lucky Charms, Alpha-Bits, and I consumed all of those, along with toast dipped in maple syrup. My mother made us bologna sandwiches. However, I can tell members that there was not a lot of obesity, because we were all outside running around and playing. Therefore, if the government really wants to address obesity, I think the call to action should be to get young people active again. When I was growing up, there was a federal program in place called ParticipACTION, which was designed to get people out and running around. I certainly think that would be more effective in achieving results.

Members can see from my earlier testimony that many people from Quebec are saying that the rates there are not different from those in the rest of Canada. Therefore, this legislation is not going to have the impact we would want it to have.

As well, the senator who introduced this proposed legislation is a multiple Olympic champion. She was fit, and even in her senior years she was driving fitness activities here on the Hill. However, I would point out that she did choose in her career to advertise Mars bars, and I do not think anyone thought it was a problem for an athlete to do that. However, she had the personal freedom to choose that, and now she wants to remove that personal freedom from other athletes who may choose to do that. I certainly am able to exercise, eat occasionally at McDonald's, and eat chips from time to time. It is a balance. I think it is a question of moderation.

Therefore, for all of the reasons I have cited, including the difficulties in enforcing the proposed legislation, the fact that I do not believe the legislation would work, and the government's interference where I believe there should be personal freedom, individual accountability, and good parenting, I will not be supporting this legislation.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the critic for families, children and social development, I am pleased to rise in the House today to support Bill S-228 and to speak about this issue that is so important for the health of our young people.

According to Ms. Francine Forget-Marin, director of health promotion and research at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, “children are very vulnerable to advertising because they cannot distinguish between good food and bad.... We are now seeing trademarks being used in video games and advertising permeating social media.” This statement precisely and clearly identifies the challenge that this bill addresses. The situation is worrisome and requires that we take action.

Among industrialized countries, Canada ranks sixth for the highest obesity rates for children. The childhood obesity rate in Canada has almost tripled in the past 30 years, according to the 2016 study by the Senate committee. Obesity leads to health problems such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, bone and joint problems, and mental health issues such as low self-esteem, poor body image, bullying, depression, and so forth—all of which are affecting younger and younger people.

The annual economic burden of obesity is reported to be in the billions of dollars. However, according to the senate committee's 2016 study, obesity costs Canada between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion annually in health care and lost productivity. The use of captivating advertisements that encourage our children to consume unhealthy food and beverages contribute to the obesity problem.

The World Health Organization found that the marketing of unhealthy foods was one of the main risk factors for obesity, especially since children are much more easily swayed by advertising than adults. Children who are more exposed to advertising have a tendency to ask for products that feature a character or logo they recognize. Research by the Heart and Stroke Foundation found that kids see more than 25 million food and beverage ads a year on their favourite websites. These figures are as impressive as they are troubling.

We also know that childhood obesity does not disappear as soon as a child becomes an adult. Children with weight problems are more likely to experience weight problems throughout their adult lives. This is a long-term problem that requires a long-term solution.

That is what Bill S-228 does. It eliminates the problem at the source by prohibiting certain types of marketing. That is why I think Bill S-228 is necessary.

I would like to take this opportunity to talk about what people in the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot are doing to fight obesity. I am thinking here of the Heart and Stroke Foundation volunteers in Montérégie. I would like to commend Linda Jodoin, Stéphane Martin, Jérémy Ménard, and others for the work they do to help our community. These volunteers are helping to save lives by working to fight heart disease and stroke. I thank them once again for their contributions and for the incredible work they do to help people in our community.

As an MP from Quebec, I also want to mention how proud I am of my province, which is the only one that already has legislation in place in this regard. The Quebec Consumer Protection Act, which has been in effect since 1980, has had a very positive impact on the health of our children. According to a 2011 study, Quebec has the lowest rate of obesity among children aged 6 to 11, and the highest consumption of fruits and vegetables. This shows how important and useful legislation is. I would therefore like to once again commend Quebec for being a leader on this.

The NDP has always cared about this issue. In 2012, my extraordinary colleague from New Westminster—Burnaby introduced Bill C-430.

The bill sought to amend the Competition Act and the Food and Drugs Act to expressly restrict advertising and promotion, for commercial purposes, of products, food, drugs, cosmetics, or devices directly to children under 13 years of age.

The NDP supports this bill because we believe in reducing children's exposure to ads promoting unhealthy food and beverages that can cause obesity and mental or physical health problems.

The two main factors linked to obesity are eating habits and physical activity. By banning the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, Bill S-228 tackles the issue of eating habits in a fundamental way, because it forces all of Canadian society to rethink what we teach our children about food.

As we have seen, ads targeting children influence not only their eating preferences and behaviours, but also their nutrition knowledge. As a result, ads play an active role in teaching children about food.

This bill would also close certain loopholes in the 1980 Quebec act that inspired it. That is another reason I support it.

Under Quebec law, kids can still see packaging, storefront advertising, and products on supermarket shelves. When I discussed this with people from Quebec's Weight Coalition, they told me that exceptions to the legislation are an ongoing problem.

This bill would ban food and beverage marketing directed at children, and that includes how products are labelled and packaged, of course.

By supporting this bill, we are also signalling to parents that we understand their concerns. We support them because we know that navigating the aggressive marketing techniques we have been talking about alone is not easy.

Nevertheless, as a New Democrat, I think we have to respect provincial jurisdiction. This bill has to be consistent with and informed by the Quebec law.

This bill must not result in a total ban on food and beverage advertising to children under 17 years of age. It needs to be consistent with Quebec's legislation, which defines children as being 13 years of age or under.

The restaurant and food services sectors are affected by this bill, and they feel the same way we do. They support the idea of strengthening measures to prevent obesity in children under 13. At the same time, however, they think it is unfortunate that the age associated with the term “child” in this bill is 17, whereas the age limit in Quebec's act is 13.

I also want to make sure that we all understand the legal and economic ramifications of this bill before we pass it. I am not convinced that the views of the affected sectors, such as the restaurant and food services sectors, were adequately taken into consideration in committee.

Restaurants Canada told us that Health Canada's definition of a healthy food is too restrictive. It excludes any food that provides less than 5% or 15% of the daily value of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium.

In conclusion, I believe that by supporting this bill, we are making the right choice. If we take action today to help our children eat better, we can create the healthier adults of tomorrow and guarantee a healthier society. The example of Quebec, which tackled this issue successfully almost 30 years ago, should encourage the federal government to take this path for the sake of our constituents' health and well-being.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill S-228, the child health protection act, legislation that, if passed, would restrict the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children under the age of 13. Our government commends the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley for sponsoring this important bill in the House of Commons. We also commend former Senator Greene-Raine for introducing the bill in the other place, and for her tireless efforts to support healthy choices for Canadian children.

More than at any time in our history, children are being exposed to a steady stream of advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages. It goes without saying that the advertising of these products has a significant influence on children when they make consumption choices and purchase requests.

Children are eating fewer fruits and vegetables than recommended, while their diets often exceed the recommended amounts of sugars, salt, and saturated fat.

It will come as no surprise that one in three Canadian children are overweight or obese. We know that the consumption of unhealthy foods early in life is linked to a higher risk of health problems later in life, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It is a worrisome reality that these diseases are now starting to become more common in children. We cannot allow this trend to persist. This is an issue that requires national leadership.

The evidence is clear. The World Health Organization has identified the marketing of unhealthy foods to children as a major contributor to childhood obesity. In Canada, on a daily basis, children are exposed to advertisements designed to appeal to them for food and beverages high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats. These advertisements go well beyond the traditional print, radio, and TV ads of the past. In fact, a recent analysis concluded that 90% of the millions of online food and beverage ads that Canadian children see every year are for unhealthy products.

What I would like to stress is that these advertisements are used for a reason. They are used because they work. They influence our children when they are making choices of what foods to eat, or what foods to ask their parents to buy. Taking action today on restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages provides us with an opportunity to ensure our children have a better chance at a healthy start in life, one that is based on a foundation of healthy eating choices. That is why our government strongly supports the bill, and is committed to seeing it passed and brought into force.

The process to develop the bill included a great deal of thoughtful study and engagement with all affected parties. That is why, after careful consideration, government members presented legislative amendments to the Standing Committee on Health, where they were adopted. These amendments included changing the definition of children to under 13 years old, for the purposes of the act.

There is precedent, under the Quebec Consumer Protection Act for defining a child as under 13, in the context of restricting advertising. The Quebec legislation was subject to a challenge under the charter, at the end of which the Supreme Court fully upheld Quebec's restrictions on advertising to children. However, we also know that teenagers are often targeted by the advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages because of their increased independence, access to their own money, and susceptibility to peer influence.

Taking these considerations into account, government members introduced an additional amendment to require Parliament to conduct a mandatory review of the legislation within five years of the act's coming into force, with a particular focus on its definition of children. This review would serve to monitor the effectiveness of the restrictions, determine if new forms of advertising are affecting children and assess whether there was an increase in advertising targeted to adolescents aged 13 to 17 years.

At the Standing Committee on Health, we heard some concerns that the bill might have unintentional consequences related to children's involvement in sports. I want to be clear that our government is committed to recognizing children's sports as a key element of supporting an active lifestyle. Community sporting activities provide social and health benefits to children. Taking these benefits into account, our government is committed to exempting children's sport sponsorships from the restrictions through regulations.

The development of this regulatory exemption will be informed by the Quebec Consumer Protection Act, with consideration given to prohibiting specific advertising practices targeted to children under 13, such as unhealthy food giveaways at children's community sporting events. Those are the types of things that we will be looking for.

The amended bill along with the regulatory exemption will ensure that our approach achieves the best health outcome for children. Our government will not let up on the fight to reduce obesity and chronic disease. Restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages is a key part of our government's healthy eating strategy, a multi-faceted approach aimed at improving the food environment and giving Canadians the tools to make healthier choices. Government action aimed at reducing chronic disease over the years has taught us a valuable lesson that no single action, not one alone, is a silver bullet, but a suite of actions complemented by effective public education can turn the tide.

We cannot underestimate the influence of these advertisements nor can we sit idly by and watch the health of children decline due to poor eating habits. That is why I am encouraging all sides of the House to support this bill. Together we can advance this important piece of legislation that will protect the health of Canadian children and make the healthy choice the easy choice now and for future generations of Canadians.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to see you again today as Parliament resumes. I hope that all my colleagues are pleased to be back, as am I. It is a beautiful day and a good time to return to Ottawa to engage with our colleagues.

I would like to thank the Hon. Nancy Greene for introducing this bill in the other chamber, and I congratulate her on her exceptional career. She has been a role model for all Canadians, especially young people. I really wanted to pay her this small tribute.

Child obesity is very costly for Canadians. We must continually improve our children's quality of life. In fact, several studies show that the costs associated with obesity are very high. In March 2016, when testifying before a committee in the other chamber, Ms. Laurie Twells, associate professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Memorial University of Newfoundland, stated that the financial burden of the direct cost of health care and the indirect cost of lost productivity due to obesity in Canada is estimated to be between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion a year. Problems associated with obesity cost our society between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion every year.

I think everyone here in the House agrees that we need to tackle this major problem. We need to do better for future generations. This brings me to Bill S-228, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, which proposes a ban on food and beverage marketing directed at children. In my view, this bill unfortunately does nothing to really eliminate the problem of childhood obesity. Canadians' lifestyles have a considerable impact on their health. I think we should have started by addressing the lifestyles of young Canadians.

Speaking of which, I am pleased to remind the House that the previous Conservative government had introduced a tax credit to increase Canadian families' participation in sports. Getting Canadians moving is the best way to really bring down obesity rates. The tax credit brought forward by the Harper government focused on athletic, cultural, and social development to ensure that Canadians, even from a very young age, adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle. That was real action. The idea was to encourage parents to get their kids to exercise by helping them pay for those activities. Enrolling your kids in sports like hockey and gymnastics can often be very expensive. My daughters were in gymnastics and I know from experience that a year of gymnastics for a little girl is very expensive, but at the end of the year, we received a tax credit that allowed both of our daughters, and not just one, to do gymnastics. The entire family was encouraged to exercise.

Unfortunately, one of the first things this government did was abolish the children's fitness tax credit. This credit represented a real solution to the obesity problem. I believe that hundreds, or even thousands, of children benefited from this credit and were able to participate in sports. The Liberal government chose to go after advertising instead of Canadians' lifestyles. This shows, yet again, that the Liberal government does not understand life in Canada's regions. Canadian families deserve better. The government could be depriving many organizations, all across Canada, of the money they use to run activities that get kids moving. I will explain. Yesterday Thetford Mines held its half marathon. One thousand people participated, including seniors, who were making a return to physical exercise, and young families with small children, who were exercising and decided to participate in the Thetford Mines half marathon. This means that the participants had been exercising and running with their families. These are wonderful family activities.

Thetford Mines was able to organize a half marathon because we have financial partners, which include Oasis juice, Yum Yum Chips, and Krispy Kernels. Unfortunately, under a Health Canada definition that has yet to be released, these companies could be seen as producers of unhealthy foods. I will come back to that. I think there is a problem when it comes to Health Canada defining unhealthy foods. Bill S-228 gives Health Canada the latitude to determine which foods are healthy and which are not. That is a real problem.

A number of companies promote physical activity by sponsoring sports organizations. If the Liberal government moves forward with this bill as it now stands, all of those companies would be prohibited from continuing their involvement in various communities. We proposed an amendment to exempt these companies from the advertising ban, particularly when they sponsor sporting events. Take for example Tim Hortons and McDonald's, which have supported Canada's Olympic athletes for a long time now. It is important to recognize that. However, no one on the other side of the House would support the amendment introduced by my colleague from Sarnia—Lambton, who does excellent work on the Standing Committee on Health.

I am very concerned about leaving it up to Health Canada to decide which foods are healthy and which are not, because this issue is closely connected to an agriculture-related issue I have been working on, namely front-of-package nutrition labelling. Health Canada is currently making decisions about what is and is not good for people's health instead of letting people decide that for themselves. I have some straightforward questions.

Is orange juice healthy? Is yogurt healthy? Is cheese healthy? I am sure Canadians encourage their kids to drink orange juice every morning and eat yummy yogurt. Health Canada, however, says that the front of these products' packaging should be labelled to show that they contain too much fat or sugar, for example. That is what Health Canada is looking at.

Will cheese makers have to stop running ads aimed at children? Will companies that make all-natural juices, such as orange juice, have to stop running ads aimed at children? I predict that, left to its own devices, Health Canada will prohibit such companies from advertising their healthy products to children because it seems disinclined to take all the science into account. The department is making decisions based on public opinion and forcing food manufacturers to label some products that have not been scientifically proven to be harmful.

The fat in yogurt is not necessarily unhealthy. People need to consume certain amounts of certain kinds of fat. That is good for our health. Even so, Health Canada has decided to put big warnings on these products telling people they are dangerous. Under Bill S-228, those same people will decide which foods are unhealthy. Things do not look good for dairy producers, cheese makers, and anyone who grows fruit that gets made into juice. That is how this is shaping up.

Bill S-228 will not solve the problem of obesity. Furthermore, it gives Health Canada powers that are much too broad, particularly regarding the definitions of what is healthy and what is unhealthy, and demands no accountability. Health Canada will make all the decisions, and in two years' time, everything will be prohibited. This is nonsense. It is time to take a step back so we can really understand what needs to be done to ensure that Canada's youth does not have to face the scourge of obesity. We need to encourage physical activity by making it easier for families to access physical education programs and encouraging youth to practice their sport. The tax credit we introduced in that regard was excellent and suited all families.

If we really want to eliminate obesity, we need to give Canadian families the means to purchase healthy food at all times. Above all, we need to allow them to decide for themselves what is healthy and unhealthy. We already allow Canadians aged 13 to 17 to do all kinds of things. They can drive a car for example. The older kids get, the more rights they have, but now the government wants to tell kids under 18 that they cannot decide for themselves what is healthy and what is unhealthy. Instead of prohibiting kids from seeing something, we should be educating them so they can make healthy decisions throughout their lives.

We are prepared to work with the government to find solutions. This is why we proposed an amendment to exempt sponsors of sporting events and other similar activities from the application of this bill. This would guarantee the survival of festivals, half marathons, and other organizations. Unfortunately, this amendment was rejected outright.

If the government truly cared about Canadians' health, it would have listened to us and surely would not have allowed the legalization of marijuana. Talk about being at odds with healthy living. The Liberals legalized a product known for being harmful.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 17th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank members for engaging in this debate. I think some very valid points have been brought up by all speakers.

I will make this remark very brief. I would simply say that we have looked at all the data and all the different options available and we are convinced through past precedent and current practice that this will be a bill that will improve the health of many Canadians.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to once again speak to Bill S-228, which is about marketing to children. I only had the chance to speak to this motion for about two minutes when the bill was last debated. I will use my remaining eight minutes to comment on some new developments that have taken place since the bill was last debated.

The bill is being sponsored by the government as part of its healthy eating strategy and is one of four key pillars of this strategy. This objective is also outlined in the Minister of Health's mandate letter. Furthermore, her letter stated that she would introduce “new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, similar to those now in place in Quebec”.

When I was speaking to the legislation in December, I had a great deal of concern that the government was not, in fact, following the Quebec model. The model in Quebec, when it comes to marketing food and drink products to children, is based on an age limit of 13. Originally, Bill S-228 set out that companies would be prohibited from advertising to any children under the age of 17, which is certainly far off from the model in Quebec.

Since then, the minister has announced that the government would be looking to amend the legislation so that the age limit would be 13. I am very pleased to see that the government will move forward with that amendment. It is important. An age limit of 13 is far more reasonable and is more reflective of the model I believe we are aiming for. I look forward to seeing those amendments brought forward.

However, the Quebec model focuses solely on advertising and does not contain labelling and packaging bans, bans on testimonials and endorsements, bans on sales promotions, or bans on sales. All of these are currently possible restrictions in Bill S-228. They would certainly create a system that was far more restrictive than the one in Quebec. Therefore, the bill goes beyond the minister's mandate letter and does not truly accomplish the goal of introducing a model similar to Quebec's.

I would welcome amendments to Bill S-228 that would ensure that the legislation did not include the activities I just outlined. We need to be as close to the Quebec model as possible, and that would certainly help the bill get much closer.

I also have a number of concerns about how vague Bill S-228 is. The bill would essentially pave the way for the Department of Health to create regulations for marketing to children. In fact, the only truly defined aspect of the bill is the age limit. Everything else is left to the discretion of Health Canada. This is concerning, because we have already seen Health Canada deem foods like milk and beef unhealthy in its review of Canada's food guide.

Bill S-228 would amend the Food and Drugs Act to give Health Canada the power to define unhealthy food or to set out the criteria for determining whether a food is unhealthy. It is unclear what kinds of food would actually fall under the scope of this legislation. Over-consumption of anything, instead of moderation, is not good, but to define milk and beef as unhealthy is absolutely not true and is very insulting to the dairy and red meat industries.

Furthermore, the bill is vague about what kinds of advertising would be deemed to be targeting children. This would again be left completely to Health Canada to implement through regulations. Given that the bill is so broad, it is difficult to know what exactly we would be agreeing to in passing Bill S-228. The bill needs to be more clearly defined so that we can be sure that Health Canada would not have the power to unilaterally start regulating our food and beverage industries without evidence to suggest that these regulations would have a positive impact.

Further still, the legislation would leave Canadian food and beverage companies at an unfair disadvantage. Under this legislation, Canadian companies would be unable to advertise on websites, social media, and apps that may be intended for adults but are popular with children. However, foreign companies would not face these same restrictions. This is unfair and could have significant economic impacts. It is another attack on Canadian small businesses.

There is also some significant hypocrisy when it comes to this legislation. I find it interesting that on the one hand, the government is hell-bent on eliminating advertising to children for food and beverages, while on the other hand, it is allowing our children to possess certain amounts of marijuana.

Furthermore, under this legislation, marketing to children by the food and beverage industry would be prohibited, but alcoholic beverages would not face the same restrictions. It does not make sense at all. For example, a 13-year-old watching Hockey Night in Canada would be able to watch a commercial for Budweiser, but Tim Hortons would be prohibited from advertising hot chocolate or Timbits. It does not make sense.

In closing, I am fully in support of measures that promote healthy eating and good nutrition for our children. However, I am not supportive of broad and unclear legislation that would put significant regulatory power in the hands of Health Canada without any legislative direction.

The minister made a number of promises in relation to this legislation. She said that the bill would not target companies that sponsor sports programs, such as Timbits hockey and soccer. I am pleased that the minister has made this promise. However, until I see it included in the bill, I am sceptical and do not trust that this will in fact be the case. I want to see it first.

I support the intent of the legislation. However, the bill needs some significant work at committee to ensure that there are clear and defined objectives. The current draft of the bill would leave uncertainty, and it would leave all decision-making power in the hands of Health Canada. We need more direction.

I have another concern. One of the government MPs has said that we should go beyond the legalization of marijuana and that all drugs should be decriminalized. It just blows my mind. We are talking about the health and safety of kids, and everything the Liberals say and do contradicts that.

With that, I am done for the day.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Ron McKinnon Liberal Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to address the House today regarding an important piece of legislation to prohibit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children. Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), has come to the House so that we can do our part to protect the health and well-being of Canadian children. It is through initiatives such as Bill S-228, introduced by the hon. Senator Greene Raine, that we will have a lasting impact on the health of Canadians.

I want to thank my friend and colleague on the health committee, the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, for his efforts in shepherding this bill through the House of Commons.

Diet-related chronic diseases are a national health crisis. For example, some three million Canadians, one in 10 adults, are currently living with diabetes, and about 90% of adult Canadian diabetics have type 2 diabetes.

To make matters worse, Canada's obesity rates are on the rise. Almost two-thirds of Canadian adults, 64.2%, are overweight or obese.

We have already heard from a number of our colleagues that the rate of obesity in children has tripled in Canada since 1980. This means that our children are at higher risk of developing a range of health problems later in life, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. With all this in mind, I would like to applaud the Minister of Health for her strong leadership in bending the curve. Specifically, the Minister of Health has launched the comprehensive healthy eating strategy, which targets the diets of all Canadians, including children. The key focus is to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Significant progress has been made on the healthy eating strategy since it was launched in October 2016. For example, Health Canada has advanced new nutrition labelling requirements that will increase the clarity of nutrition information on food packaging by 2022. Health Canada has also published new regulations that will eliminate industrial trans fat by 2018.

Moving forward, Health Canada is advancing initiatives to continue this momentum to support better health outcomes for Canadians. This includes reducing sodium in processed foods, revising Canada's food guide to reflect the latest scientific evidence, and introducing front-of-package labelling regulations to improve the ability of Canadians to identify foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

Restricting the commercial marketing of unhealthy foods to children is an important and timely component of the overall strategy. Now more than ever, our children are being exposed to a significant number and range of advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages.

The marketing world has changed. In addition to traditional advertising, unhealthy food and beverage advertising is now all over the screens our children are exposed to.

According to a recent study, children see over 25 million food and beverage ads on their favourite websites every year. Technology has made it easier for advertisers to reach children now, no matter where they are. These factors combined are producing poor health outcomes and will have a negative impact on our children and our country in the long term.

In fact, the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children has been identified by the World Health Organization, WHO, as a major contributor to childhood obesity. To encourage countries around the world to tackle the problem, the WHO has developed guidance for implementing marketing restrictions, which Health Canada has followed in developing its policy.

Other countries are recognizing the need to take action in this area as well. Regulatory measures have been put in place in countries all around the world, including South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Chile. Health Canada is learning from their experience, as we are also learning here at home from Quebec, where regulations restricting marketing to children have been in place for over 30 years. The evidence suggests that this approach is working, as French-speaking children in Quebec are exposed to fewer ads than children outside of Quebec.

Advertising and marketing techniques work to influence behaviour. Health experts, and the food and beverage industry alike, have long recognized the impact that advertising unhealthy foods and beverages has on children. Unfortunately, voluntary efforts to reduce marketing to children have not worked. While some industry members have taken steps to restrict certain marketing practices to children, this legislation supports a stronger, comprehensive approach and has the potential to create substantial change for Canadian children.

In an effort to protect the health and wellness of Canadian children, the government is focusing the marketing restrictions on unhealthy foods that are high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat. These nutrients are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease and obesity. As such, they are also the nutrients which the WHO recommends we focus on in defining unhealthy foods for marketing restrictions.

The vast majority of children are consuming sodium at levels that are associated with an increased risk to health. In fact, the average daily sodium intake of Canadian children exceeds the recommended upper limit by a staggering 80%. This excessive intake of salt is putting children at increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

Our children are consuming excessive amounts of sugar, largely due to sugary drink consumption. The 2014-15 Canadian health measures survey reported that 16% of children and youth were drinking sugar-sweetened beverages every single day. Research has shown that this can contribute to an increased risk of tooth decay and childhood obesity. In Canada, tooth decay affects 57% of children aged 6 to 11 years, and nearly one-third of Canadian children are overweight or obese. Diets that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat play a large role in this alarming statistic.

This legislation, along with the various initiatives under the healthy eating strategy, will support better health outcomes for Canadians. Placing restrictions on the marketing of foods and beverages that are high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat will make it easier to choose whole foods that are the foundation of a healthy diet, foods that align with the dietary guidance provided in Canada's food guide and encourage a healthy diet and growth.

As the healthy choice becomes the easier choice for Canadians, we hope that the food and beverage industry will shift toward producing and promoting more foods that better meet the nutritional needs of Canadian children. This initiative aligns with the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food's food policy for Canada, which supports the need to increase access to affordable foods and grow more high-quality healthy food.

Research shows that marketing influences what children eat and drink. We know that food has a direct impact on health and well-being. This is why Bill S-228 is important to protecting the health and well-being of all children in Canada. Today, this marketing of unhealthy food and beverages is so pervasive that we need to play our part by providing parameters on the advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks directed at children.

I ask the House to support Bill S-228 in order to protect the health and well-being of all Canadian children by restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and join in this debate. Senator Greene Raine, who has presented this bill, is part of my B.C. caucus. Overall today, I want to point out my admiration for her, for her past achievements, and also for her contributions since then, including bringing forward ideas that she thinks are important. That being said, my role today is to ask questions about how this will be interpreted, questions that industry and those who have to work under such rules will be asking, and to make sure they are included in any kind of contemplation and examination.

I used to be a martial arts instructor. I taught hundreds, if not thousands, of young people how to protect themselves. The very act of enabling our youth to make wise decisions, and to be strong, whether it be in self-confidence or in body, is very important. I also have children. I have three girls under the age of 17 that this bill would apply to, and one child who has reached the age of majority. Certainly, I have been a parent. I have worked with children to help them make better choices. I have helped parents to work with their children and become aware of these things. A sound body creates a sound mind, which helps someone to be able to give their time to their country.

Specifically, I would like to ask a few questions in relation to the bill.

The bill would amend the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit food and beverage marketing directed at persons under 17 years of age.

When a piece of legislation is put into place where officials, who are not a specific minister or Governor in Council, i.e., the cabinet, are not authorized to make further changes, it undercuts the ability of parliamentarians and the constituents we represent to make a direct connection with elected leaders to express their concerns. One just has to look at what brouhaha happened at CRA when, unbeknownst to the minister, CRA officials put forward a folio which changed how employees would be taxed on their benefits, such as receiving a lunch, or a discount on a pair of jeans or whatnot. The outrage we heard was particularly because this affected everyday Canadians in their lives, and we had a minister of the crown who basically said she knew nothing about it and it was the fault of the officials.

Our system works best when we have ministers who allow themselves to be accountable. I am happy to see a minister of the crown here today. It is not often that we see someone joining a private member's debate. I think that this is good. He can hear some of the thoughts on the other side. I welcome that.

The second thing I would raise is the lack of definition on what is unhealthy. We know that everyday members of Parliament from the Conservative side have been asking the Minister of Health specifically about stakeholder concerns about the Canada food guide. Stakeholders have not been allowed to participate directly with government officials at Health Canada. They were forced to attend regular public sessions to give their feedback. Stakeholders are worried, particularly in the dairy farming sector, that products like milk or cheese may be deemed to not be as healthy as traditionally we have seen in Canada. They are concerned because of what might happen under this piece of legislation if health officials decide, “Cheese is not as good as we thought. We are going to put that where it is no longer considered as a healthy food.” What does that mean for our grocery stores? Are store owners going to have to start hiding cheese?

That brings me to my next point. The bill talks about advertising. Advertising is “the act or practice of calling public attention to one's product, service, need, etc..”. Product placement, as we know, is a major part of our everyday life. If we go into convenient stores, what is displayed where on the shelves is highly subject to government regulation. Obviously, cigarettes should be tucked away and not seen, because we know unambiguously that they are not healthy products, but what does that mean for what we consider to be everyday products? If someone under the age of 17, let us say six years old, walks into a store, will he or she no longer be able to go down the aisle, count their nickels and dimes, and be able to buy gumdrops and all of those things? These are pertinent questions, and so far we have not heard substantive answers.

Advertising is not just what we see on posters or on TV. Advertising is product placement, even the labelling of such things. We have heard a lot of concerns regarding the government's new rules on labels. We may disagree or agree on those things, but, whatever we do, we should be practical and upfront with people.

The last thing I would like to raise is the government's ability to put these rules in place. We can agree to disagree on whether government officials do a good enough job of engaging with Canadians and stakeholders to put forward reasonable regulations, but every time the federal government tries to do something more, especially with regard to convenience stores, movie theatres, or businesses in remote and rural areas, it will be expected to apply these laws the same as for anyone in urban centres. Will the government have to hire more people to carry out these regulations?

When I was a city councillor in Penticton, one of the things we talked about was why we would have a bylaw that is unenforceable. Some people will follow the law, and other people, who know there is very little enforcement, will break it knowingly. That is especially so if there is competition. There may be one grocer down the way following the rules versus another one not following the rules. It creates an uneven playing field, and that is not right in Canadian law.

I again salute the senator who put this idea forward. It is always good for us to talk about these things, but we should be aware of what we are asking for. Sometimes we ask for too much. Sometimes the government should at least hear the concerns of the opposition and then make practical changes. I hope that is what will happen in this case, because there is far from a ready-to-go, pan-Canadian consensus on this.