Child Health Protection Act

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


In committee (House), as of Feb. 14, 2018

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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.


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.


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)

HealthOral Questions

March 2nd, 2018 / noon
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Ginette Petitpas Taylor LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley for his work on the health committee and on Bill S-228.

Over the past year, we have launched our healthy eating strategy to make the healthy choice the easiest choice for all Canadians. As part of the strategy, we are updating Canada's food guide, restricting marketing to kids, and making nutrition labelling easier to use and also to understand. This month I encourage all Canadians to learn more about healthy eating and incorporating healthier choices in their diets.

February 26th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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John Oliver Liberal Oakville, ON


Second, at our last meeting there was a proposal to invite the Minister of Health to come to present for supplementary estimates. I'm just looking back through the schedule again. We've just had her in for Bill S-5. The budget's coming down tomorrow. We'll be having her here shortly after that for main estimates. We can certainly cover off any questions we had for the supplementary estimates at that time. We have a ton on anyway. We have pharmacare to finish, Bill C-326, AMR, Bill S-228, and resumption of the food guide and whatever we're going to do with that. We have a really packed agenda.

I would like to move that we rescind our invitation to the minister and instead invite her to attend the main estimates when those are scheduled.

February 26th, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

The deadline for witnesses for Bill S-228 is the 22nd. Bill C-326 is Monday, March 26, and that's the first day we have on that. On the 28th, we have Bill C-326 again. That's what I have at the moment.

Going into April, we have clause-by-clause study, the antimicrobial report, and so on. Right now, for the short term, Wednesday is clause-by-clause study, and that's really the most important thing right now.

Are there any questions on the witness lists or anything?

Go ahead, Ms. Gladu.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 14th, 2018 / 3:20 p.m.
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The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to order made Tuesday, February 13, 2018, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill S-228 under private members' business.

The House resumed from February 12 consideration of the motion that Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

February 12th, 2018 / 11:10 a.m.
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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 / 11:05 a.m.
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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.

The House resumed from December 12, 2017 consideration of the motion that Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Child Health Protection ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 6:10 p.m.
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Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, at this time of the year, I want to wish you, all of the pages, staff, and colleagues a very merry Christmas and a very happy and prosperous 2018.

It is a pleasure to speak today to Bill S-228. While the intent of the bill is something we should all support, and I certainly do, more than one member has talked about its unintended consequences. I met today with members of Canada Soccer and Sports Matters, who are very concerned about programs. Everyone is very aware of the Timbits hockey and soccer programs and a number of others. These could be in severe jeopardy of not complying with this bill if the regulations are not done right. That is a concern.

Child Health Protection ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
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Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of Bill S-228, the child health protection act. I know this legislation will make a difference in the overall health of Canadians, especially our youth. As chair of the all-party diabetes caucus, I know the importance of deterring unhealthy food choices in favour of a healthy, active lifestyle.

I would like to express my thanks to the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley for sponsoring the bill. I would also to recognize the efforts of the hon. Senator Greene Raine for leading the bill and for her tireless work in advancing the national dialogue on restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children.

Young children are subject to the influence of advertising in many forms of media. With bright colours and big excitement, advertising can attract young Canadians to food and drink choices that do not contribute to their nutritional needs or that are filled with sugar, which is a leading cause of obesity among our youth today.

The social and economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases in this country are already unsustainable. Chronic diseases impacted by diet cost the Canadian economy at least $27 billion dollars every year, and that cost is growing. We need to break this trend and move the needle in the right direction, starting with our children. This is just one example of unhealthy marketing to young Canadians that would be prevented through the changes suggested in this legislation, and that would be a great thing.

Bill S-228 seeks to restrict the marketing of unhealthy food to children. It seeks to prevent bright and animated imagery from influencing children to choose foods and beverages that do nothing to meet their daily nutrient needs and that fills them with unhealthy sugars, chemicals, fats, and empty carbohydrates. This is an important move at a time when our nation faces a chronic disease crisis brought on by diets that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat. The bill would help head off growing obesity rates in Canada and could even help reduce the epidemic of diabetes that is soaring from coast to coast to coast.

As I mentioned previously, my role as chair of the all-party diabetes caucus makes me especially proud to support this bill brought here by my friend and colleague, who brings his extensive medical background to our work on the Standing Committee on Health.

Today Canada ranks among the most overweight OECD countries, based on body mass index. A 2017 obesity update by the OECD showed that in Canada, approximately 27% of the population aged 15 and over is obese. In my riding of Brampton South, we see that obesity is a significant health concern for all residents. In fact, in Peel Region, 51% of adults and 32% of grade 7 to 12 students are overweight or obese.

Many factors contribute to these chronic health concerns, including high levels of sodium consumption. Canadian children consume on average more than 80% of the daily recommended salt intake. This can lead to high blood pressure, which comes with many dangerous consequences. Across the country, 25% of Canadians are living with diagnosed high blood pressure, and this rate has been rising by nearly 3% each year since 2000.

While there are many factors that contribute to obesity, a lack of nutritional balance and an overuse of unhealthy foods is a major contributing factor. Interventions like this one are important to protect young Canadians from the appeals of advertising, which can draw them to make unhealthy choices in their daily food and drinks. Certainly, reducing our obesity rate will have a significant impact on reducing the rate of Canadians living with type 2 diabetes. Reduced blood sugar levels, increased physical activity, and loss of about 5% to 10% of total body weight can make a great difference in overall health and quality of life.

Our government is taking great strides to encourage healthy, active living. Canada's healthy eating strategy is a great example of this, with many elements working together to help Canadians make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Too often, with the pressures of our busy lives, Canadians forgo home cooking in favour of processed foods. Too often, we substitute nutritional value for convenience, and with the power of advertising, this can lead to habit-forming patterns for Canadian youth and young adults. In fact, a recent study found that children are exposed to more than 25 million food and beverage ads on their favourite websites. The World Health Organization has also expressed its concern about the power of advertising targeted at children. In 2010, WHO member states, including Canada, made recommendations calling for comprehensive controls on the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children.

We all know how pervasive marketing can be when it comes to making consumer decisions. How many words have entered our common language after first being brand names? How many of us can sing along to the jingles on TV and radio? How many of us can name the big orange tiger on the cereal box?

When healthy eating and active living can make such a great difference in deterring the onset of obesity and chronic disease, a responsible government should do all it can to help Canadians live healthy lives.

This summer, I travelled across Canada to speak with Canadians about healthy eating and heard great support for this bill as it made its way through the other place. Now that it has been raised here, I continue to hear support for this bill and the positive changes it would make to the overall health of Canadian youth. Youth are, after all, the next generation of Canadian adults, and if we can promote improve their health at a younger age, we will see consistent change in the overall health of all Canadians.

It is my hope that in the years to come, the pressures of food and beverage industry marketing will be removed and that children and young Canadians will making healthier choices, contributing to their overall health.

I want thank my colleague for bringing this bill here, and all who have worked to protect young Canadians from targeted marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks. I encourage all of my colleagues on both sides of this House to support this bill and do their part to help us protect the health of Canadian youth. Together, we can make a real difference in the health and well-being of Canadians today and for years to come.

Child Health Protection ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
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Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill S-228, a bill that would prohibit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

I would like to thank Senator Nancy Green Raine for her continued dedication in this area and for her hard work on this bill. I would also like to thank the member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley for introducing this bill in the House.

When we talk about the bill, it is important we take a fact and evidence-based approach. I think everyone in the House would agree that we would like to see obesity reduced in Canadians, and that is the goal. However, one of the troubling things is the bill would likely not do that.

First, let us look at the current situation. We have witnessed a decline in childhood and adolescent obesity levels in Canada from 2004 to 2015. This finding is based on the most recent Statistics Canada data from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey. Therefore, rates are declining and people are starting to become aware about what they eat and the effect it has on them.

We have heard in the House how other countries have implemented similar legislation to what is proposed here. In fact, the province of Quebec has had this type of legislation in place for the last 40 years. Unfortunately, there has not been a reduction in obesity rates in Quebec. Its rates have been flat for the last 10 years. Therefore, when we look at addressing obesity, it is important to address all of the factors and ensure that what we do will have an impact.

I know the member who has sponsored the bill is a runner and very fit. I am a triathlete and, in full disclosure to the House, I do from time to time eat chips. I do consume McDonald's, Tim Hortons, and a variety of things that might be categorized under the legislation as being unhealthy. However, I do not think members would say I am obese. Certainly, I am quite healthy. It is a balance.

If I look to how I grew up, I remember we ate Lucky Charms, Cap'n Crunch, and a myriad of candied cereals that would make the unhealthy list. In fact, my mother used to give us toast that we dipped in maple syrup. However, there was not a large amount of obesity then, because we ran around all day, played outside, and got our physical activity. Physical activity is probably a stronger factor than what we see here.

One of the problems I have with the bill is the vague definition of “unhealthy” food. Who will decide that? As we pointed out, everything in moderation can contribute to one's diet. That is problematic.

The other thing is the unintended consequences of the bill. I was pleased to hear, with some of the amendments the member has proposed, about the age requirement being held to 13. Although I do not think the bill would have the intended effect of reducing obesity, it is clear that it is problematic with respect to court challenges and also with respect to what we allow people 15 and 16 years old to do. We allow them to fly planes, to get their driver's licence, and all kinds of things. It seems like we need to err on the side of personal choice and individual responsibility.

Also, there will be an impact for many of the folks who have businesses, McDonald's and Tim Hortons I mentioned. Pop is another controversial topic of conversation. However, all of these businesses will receive an unintended consequence. Therefore, I was happy to hear that the health minister recognized there would be an impact on the community support that these organizations provided with respect to sporting events and those kinds of things. It is important that we keep those up, and all the other things they do to support the community, such as the Ronald McDonald houses and the camps that Tim Hortons run. There are numerous beneficial things.

Therefore, I do not think we want to implement legislation that would not actually address the obesity issue but have these other negative consequences, which may not be intended.

One of the concerns that has been brought up as well, which would be addressed by the amendment of reducing the age, is with respect to the kids who work in restaurants or convenience stores and would be exposed to marketing.

The advertising part of this also looks to be difficult to implement. I am not sure what we expect to happen with billboards, because young children will see the billboards. Is that marketing directed at children? Who will make those calls? I think it is unreasonable to assume that the people at Health Canada are going to be able to determine whether advertising is directed at children, and to enforce it. How would they enforce that? How many resources are required to enforce something like that? Those are questions that still need to be answered.

The other concerns that have been raised to me have to do with predominantly adult audiences. If the audience is 95% adult, would we allow unhealthy foods to be advertised there or not? Some of these things seem a little hypocritical. If we look at the government allowing 12- to 17-year-olds to possess up to five grams of marijuana, it seems ridiculous and very hypocritical that we do not want them to see ads for unhealthy foods. There are things of that nature that need to be addressed in this legislation.

There are also going to be economic impacts from this. Estimates from a recent industry study indicate that a ban on food and beverage advertising would result in a GDP reduction of over $10 billion a year, tens of thousands of lost employment person-years, and reductions in income, payroll, and corporate revenues of nearly $1 billion. These unintended consequences will be very bad for the country. As I said, I do not believe the legislation is actually going to get to the heart of the issue, which is reducing obesity.

The other thing that is problematic from my perspective is this. I grew up enjoying Christmas calendars and Easter bunnies. I really think that there is a time and a place where the marketing of treats does not result in obesity. They happen occasionally and are not a chronic part of an everyday diet. That needs to be looked at as well, and exemptions would have to be put forward for those.

I do not know how one would measure whether or not marketing is primarily directed at children. I am not clear on the definition of that. If we look to other places that have implemented similar programs, I know that the data from Chile suggests that it has not seen a reduction in obesity, even though it put in place some very stringent measures. The boxes of Lucky Charms and Cap'n Crunch that I talked about have to be packaged in a white sack in Chile, yet it is still not seeing a reduction in obesity. Similar results exist in the U.K. as well. Therefore, we need to be fact-based and evidence-based when it comes to how we view this legislation.

One of the things that I would like to see is a focus on the activity level of children. I talked about how there was no obesity around our neighbourhood because we were all very active. We have to educate our children and Canadians on the food that they eat and how to live a healthy lifestyle. That is good education and I have certainly changed some of my eating habits over time. It is better for us to educate and then allow people to make their personal choices. If they are taking their kids out, they should be able to take them to McDonald's. I do not think we want to get into a situation where we have a nanny state and we are influencing the personal choices of people. Individuals have a responsibility. Parents have a responsibility.

Those are my comments. I look forward to being at the health committee to talk about this, to look at the amendments that are put forward, and to further discussion.

Child Health Protection ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
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Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to have the opportunity to rise to speak in support of Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children).

With the introduction of this bill last fall, the hon. Senator Nancy Green Raine took a significant step forward in protecting Canada's children from the negative influence of commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages. The bill before us today represents an effective means to bring about real change in this area. That said, I also believe that the new amendments to be moved by the sponsor at committee are critical to the success of this important endeavour.

Taken together, the decision to change the definition of children to “under age 13” and the inclusion of a mandatory review of the legislation within five years of its introduction will strengthen Bill S-228. Specifically, the amendments will be effective in protecting children under the age of 13 from the negative influence of the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages now, while monitoring the impacts on teenagers aged between 14 and 17.

We cannot underestimate how important this piece of legislation is to the health and well-being of our children. We are all well aware that a nutritious and balanced diet is important to promote good health. In fact, a healthy diet is one of the best ways to prevent obesity and devastating chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Over the past few decades, the Government of Canada has made great strides in supporting Canadians by promoting good eating habits, through the long-standing Canada's food guide, the introduction of the nutrition facts table, and improvements in the way foods are labelled.

However, a number of factors are challenging public health efforts and making it increasingly difficult for Canadians to eat a healthy and nutritious diet. Because of this, we are seeing alarming rates of obesity and chronic diseases in this country. More than one in five Canadians lives with chronic diseases, and the rates is increasing. The social and economic costs have become unsustainable. Chronic diseases caused by poor diets have been costing the Canadian economy at least $27 billion every year, and that cost is growing. Perhaps even more disturbing is that our most vulnerable population, our children, are beginning to carry this heavy burden.

Our children are being brought up in an environment where processed, unhealthy and fast food is the norm. Children are not only eating fewer fruits and vegetables than recommended, but they are also exceeding the amount of sugar, salt, and saturated fat they should be consuming. The statistics are alarming. Recent research shows that toddlers are consuming up to 27% of their calories from sugar, and nearly a third of Canadian children are overweight or obese. As a result, this population is now more at risk than previous generations for developing health problems later in life, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

This is a serious health crisis that requires our immediate attention. More needs to be done to improve the health of our children and to reduce their consumption of foods that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

Current public health efforts to curb this growing crisis are being hampered by the powerful and pervasive marketing messages for unhealthy food, particularly those high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat. These marketing strategies often appeal to children's emotions and influence their eating habits.

To be clear, we are not only referring to the commercials that play during children's television programming. Modern food advertising to children takes on many forms going well beyond traditional media. Today's advertising includes sophisticated strategies that make use of online venues, product placement, and brand recognition. For example, according to a recent study, today's children, collectively, are exposed to a shocking 25 million food and beverage ads every single year on their favourite websites alone. Children are also exposed to marketing every day in schools, restaurants, cinemas, and grocery stores. These industry practices include celebrity endorsements, promotions and incentive programs designed to entice children to remember, prefer, and select specific company brands.

Ninety percent of foods advertised online to children are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat. It is not surprising that marketing has been identified by leading experts as a major contributor to childhood obesity.

Bill S-228 puts forward a legislative strategy under the Food and Drugs Act to address marketing to children by imposing prohibitions on the advertising of unhealthy food and beverages directed at children. Most parents are not aware of the extent to which their children are exposed to these advertisements, or the potential negative impacts on them.

We are not alone internationally in battling this problem. The World Health Organization and the United Nations have endorsed government action against harmful, unhealthy food marketing to children. Several countries have already taken action, including the United Kingdom, Mexico, Chile, South Korea, Sweden, and Ireland.

Here at home, voluntary efforts on the part of industry have not proven to be effective, and the time has come for Canada to take stronger action. I would like to remind the House that the Minister of Health has also committed to restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children as part of her mandate requirements. These restrictions will complement Health Canada's comprehensive healthy eating strategy, which aims to make the healthier choice the easier choice.

The strategy also includes other initiatives, such as revising Canada's food guide to provide dietary recommendations based on the latest scientific evidence. Health Canada is also improving food packaging labels to make it easier for Canadians to understand what is in the food they are buying. In addition, Health Canada is pursuing sodium reduction targets, and the Minister of Health has already banned industrial trans fat in packaged foods with regulations that will come into force next year.

Getting and keeping our children active is key to their living long, healthy, and productive lives. To support this goal, the Minister of Health has made it clear to me that she will advance regulations under Bill S-228 to exempt the sponsorship of community sporting activities from marketing restrictions. Many community organizations have expressed concern about the impact this might have on important sporting activities, and the minister has listened to them and is prepared to respond appropriately.

Community sporting activities provide social and health benefits to our kids. However, since we also know that sponsorship is a powerful marketing tactic, the government will engage with the sports community to better understand the risks and benefits of sponsorship to ensure that our policy approach achieves our goal of the best health outcomes for our children.

I commend the Minister of Health for her leadership in this area. Together, these measures will result in real change for Canadians and, in particular, Canadian youth.

I urge all members of the House to support this legislation so that our children have a chance to grow up healthy without the negative influence of the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages.

It is important that our children and future generations have the tools they need to make healthy food choices. With the right tools and with restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy foods, I am confident that we will be able to bend the curve in the obesity and chronic disease crisis.

Child Health Protection ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 5:40 p.m.
See context


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada ranks sixth among industrialized countries in respect of its percentage of children who are obese. The number of obese children in Canada is rising dramatically, and it is having a considerable impact on the health of Canadian families and our health care system. It is time that the government took action and remedied this situation.

I am therefore rising to support Bill S-228, which seeks to find solutions to the serious problem of childhood obesity resulting from children's exposure to food marketing. The World Health Organization itself considers the marketing of unhealthy foods as one of the main contributors to obesity.

The NDP have strongly supported this initiative for a long time. In 2012, we introduced Bill C-430, which sought to ban any advertising specifically targeted at children under the age of 13. We therefore applaud the work that was done in relation to the Senate committee's 2016 report on obesity, which led to the drafting of this bill. This report showed that it is essential that we reduce children's exposure to advertising in order to address the issue of childhood obesity. That is an important issue.

Children are being directly targeted by food and beverage marketing. That is why this bill is so important. As the critic for families, children, and social development and the deputy critic for health, I am proud to be speaking on this issue.

I will point out that the committee should discuss the age threshold this bill sets for marketing to children. The only existing legislation on this subject is the Quebec law, which prohibits advertising directed at children under the age of 13, not 17, the age specified in this bill. The bill originally set the age threshold at 13, but after discussion, it was raised to 17. That will require further discussion.

This bill will have to harmonize with Quebec's law. We need to respect the provinces' jurisdiction. The bill should draw on Quebec's law, not contradict it. This bill will make it illegal to market a food or beverage directly to children, which obviously includes the way the labelling and packaging are designed. It also makes it illegal to offer or give gifts or surprises with the purchase of food or beverages.

Urgent action is needed to protect our kids. The numbers are frightening. According to this study, the number of obese children has tripled since the 1980s. It is critical that we take swift and early action on childhood obesity. An obese child is 20% more likely to struggle with weight problems in adulthood. Obese teens are an alarming 80% more likely, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

It is a well-known fact that childhood obesity has terrible effects on children's physical health, and the same is true of their mental health and social lives. Children with poor self-esteem can be in for a lifelong struggle. On top of all that, another harmful effect of childhood obesity is additional health care spending.

Indeed, as obesity rates increase, the associated costs also increase. Once again, the numbers are extremely troubling. The annual economic burden of obesity is estimated to be in the billions of dollars. It is unbelievable. The Senate committee put that figure somewhere between $4.6 billion and $7.1 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity.

That is why the government has to put Bill S-228 to a vote. People should no longer have to wait to protect their children from the harmful influence of food and beverage marketing. Parents have enough to worry about without having to fight the influence of marketing on their children.

Francine Forget Marin, director of health promotion and research at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, is certain that children are very vulnerable to advertising because they cannot distinguish between good food and bad.

Marketing directed at children influences their food preferences and eating habits. For example, they will have a tendency to want products that are adorned with a familiar logo or character, such as superheros or princesses. Young people even think that those products taste better than the same product in a different package.

The problem is that most of these advertised products are low in nutritional value. Research by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada showed that children see more than 25 million food and beverage ads on their favourite web sites every year. That is unbelievable. They are completely bombarded and led to believe that the food is good, but it is quite the opposite. More than 90% of the food and drinks advertised online are unhealthy. By limiting access to ads for young audiences, this bill seeks to prevent young people from adopting their parents' unhealthy eating habits by eliminating the problem at the source.

My team presented the bill to Jeunes en santé, an organization in my riding that works to protect and promote the health and well-being of children and adolescents. The organization's coordinator, Véronique Laramée, told us how important it is for messaging directed at young people to focus on healthy eating. For Jeunes en santé, making sure kids know that eating well is good for them and eating foods with lots of sugar and trans fats is bad for them is crucial. Jeunes en santé is to be commended for promoting healthy eating to young people in my riding.

Imagine a world where children are no longer bombarded by ads for products that are bad for their health. The time has come for the federal government to do something to support parents who are trying to make good choices. Children and parents need an environment free from the influence of food and beverage advertising, one that supports healthy, nutritious choices.

I want to congratulate the province of Quebec for its leadership in protecting children from aggressive advertising tactics. In fact, Quebec is the only province that already has legislation in place. Its Consumer Protection Act was passed in 1980. After an almost 10-year battle, the Supreme Court finally decided in 1989 that the Quebec law was constitutional. Since then, the Quebec law 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.

There are very clear differences at the provincial level. I had the opportunity to meet with members of Quebec's Weight Coalition, who confirmed that there is a striking difference in children's exposure to advertising from province to province. It is time that the federal government remedy this situation.

Bill S-228 has been well received in Quebec, since it will complement the existing legislation. In that regard, Quebec's Weight Coalition reminded me that the exceptions in the Quebec law continue to pose a problem. The Quebec law still allows packaging and advertisements in store windows and displays, and of course, that marketing targets children in particular.

The time has come for the federal government to take action. Studies and research have been done and recommendations have been made, yet the epidemic of childhood obesity has still not been stopped. This bill is the first real step in the right direction.

Our children need to be able to make the right choices, and we need to be able to regulate advertising. If we want a healthy population, we need to act now in order to offer our children the greatest gift of all, the gift of health.

This bill makes the health of all of our children a priority and emphasizes the importance of having all the necessary tools to protect them. Quebec addressed this issue nearly 30 years ago. It is high time the federal government did the same.

Child Health Protection ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
See context


Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was at the point of suggesting to my colleagues that they take time to read Bill S-228—about a five-minute investment of their time. They will notice that the bill, as currently drafted, is extremely vague and leaves too many doors open to unintended consequences. We do not know yet what constitutes “unhealthy food”. The definition is not identified. We should disagree with any categorization of any food as unhealthy or bad. If bad or unhealthy, it should not be defined as a food. As well, any food eaten in moderation can form part of a wholesome diet.

Bill S-228 does not provide specifics as to what constitutes marketing for children and types of marketing activities that should be restricted. The bill would likely prohibit an extremely wide range of practices in the form of restrictions on (a) advertising in traditional broadcasting, radio, and print; (b) online and digital content; (c) sponsorships; (d) sales promotions; (e) celebrity and character endorsements; and (f) the use of a brand name, trademark, or logo that is associated with or evokes thoughts of an unhealthy food.

If this is the case, the scope of the marketing revisions under Bill S-228 would likely have negative repercussions on many sectors of business: farming, food manufacturing, advertising, publishing, broadcasting, and retailing, including the small and medium-sized convenience store owners. At no time have we seen a bill before this House with such wide-ranging restrictions on communications and advertising of legal products.

Let me paint a picture of a Canada under this current bill, Bill S-228. A Canada under the bill would mean that youth would be exposed to beer commercials rather than candy bar commercials during the broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada. A Canada under Bill S-228 would also mean that youth could drive a car at age 16 or fly a plane at 15 years of age but still be subjected to restrictions on the marketing of food and beverages. What would happen to Timbits hockey and Tim Hortons summer camps? The very sports teams that keep our children active may struggle to exist.

The lack of differentiation of target audiences for advertising purposes exposes Bill S-228 to a potential constitutional challenge under subsection 2(b) of the charter. The majority of the court in Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Quebec noted that the advertising ban under Quebec's Consumer Protection Act was the least intrusive means, least intrusive on the constitutional right of freedom of commercial speech, including advertising, and was justifiable under section 1 of the charter because the advertisers were still free to direct their message at parents and other adults.

Bill S-228 would give broad discretionary powers to the cabinet to make regulations “setting out the factors to be considered in determining whether unhealthy food is advertised in a manner that is primarily directed at children, including how, when and where an advertisement is communicated”. We must ask ourselves if we as legislators are not abdicating our responsibility when allowing legislation as broadly drafted as is Bill S-228 to enter this House for consideration. The lack of details renders debate and public consultation meaningless, weakening the integrity of our democratic processes and institutions.

With this reversal of roles, with the Senate introducing legislation for consideration by the House, the House must now act as the chamber of sober second thought to reflect the interests of its constituents.

It is also surprising, as my fellow members will notice when they read the bill, to see what is left in the hands of government officials. The definitions in the legislation should be the subject matter of discussion and guidance by this House, not left to the care of others within the bureaucracy, who would be given very wide latitude to address the definition of unhealthy foods.

This would leave Canadian businesses vulnerable to the whims of a few unelected officials who may not appreciate the ramifications of their decisions. I reiterate, who will be impacted by this bill? It will be farmers, small business owners, manufacturers, advertisers, broadcasters, the very heart of job creation, all the way to small convenience store owners.

Our esteemed senators claim that Bill S-228 satisfies the health minister's mandate letter and that similar prohibitions in other jurisdictions, most notably in the province of Quebec, have worked to decrease childhood obesity levels.

It is critical to highlight that Bill S-228 deviates substantially from the Quebec model, despite the Prime Minister's instructions to the health minister in his mandate letter to her to promote public health by introducing new restrictions on commercial marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, similar to those in Quebec. The bill targets children under the age of 17 rather than under 13, although it has been said that the age will be changed. In fact, I am advised that the original bill introduced in the Senate did provide an initial target age of under 13 years of age, which would be compatible with Quebec.

Bill S-228 will be masked as a means to fight childhood obesity. It will be seen as checking the box in the health minister's mandate letter. I believe the health minister would want to ensure that that piece of her mandate letter is properly addressed with evidence-based solutions. Bill S-228 illustrates the dangers of crafting health policies on the basis of dated and, quite frankly, incomplete data.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.