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House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agriculture.

Topics

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I know you are aware that I have Question No. 9 on the Order Paper. It has been on the Order Paper since February 28 of this year. Prior to that the same question was on the Order Paper in the first session of this Parliament.

The question simply states: "What is the total dollar amount spent on advertising by the government and its crown agencies in fiscal years 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 by province in each of the following mediums: television, radio, daily newspapers, weekly newspapers, monthly newspapers, billboards and direct mail?"

What I am trying to find out is if the federal departments can be accountable for how they spend their advertising dollars. Certainly they should be.

Mr. Speaker, you will probably recall this because at one time you were the parliamentary secretary to the House leader and I raised this issue with you many moons ago. You assured me that all but four departments had done their work, had presented the information and that the information would be forthcoming. I have since talked to your successor and he assured me that all the information had been gathered and it was just a matter of putting it in a report and that I should have it shortly.

I keep talking privately with the government House leader's office. I have not received an answer to my question. Lately I have had no assurance that it would be answered at all.

I am very confused by the mixed messages I am getting from the government House leader's office, and particularly his parliamentary secretary. Perhaps because his last name starts with Z he is the last one to know what is going on. However, I am getting tired of waiting.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I remind my hon. colleague that the Bible says that the last shall be first. I am sure an assurance was previously given but I reassure my hon. colleague that we are working on his request.

It is somewhat simplistic to presume that asking for information on four years of work literally involving hundreds and hundreds of groups and agencies within the Government of Canada is just a matter of pressing a button. It is important for the hon. member to remember that civil servants are spending their good time doing other important work for the people of Canada. While this matter is urgent in his mind, the reality is that it is not forthcoming with the same due speed he would wish.

I know he is a patient man and we hope to have the answer before Christmas.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Everyone knows the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster is, as the parliamentary secretary says, a patient man.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like it verified which Christmas we are talking about.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Liberal Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I assure my hon. colleague that we are hoping it will be a Christmas in the future.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The question was, shall the questions stand. Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and to repeal and amend other acts as a consequence, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 1996 / 11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

There are 36 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-60.

Motion No. 2 is identical to a motion proposed and rejected in committee. Consequently, and pursuant to Standing Order 76.1(5), it will not be selected.

Motion No. 35 cannot be submitted to the House, because it has not received the governor general's recommendation. Standing Order 76(3) requires that notice of such a recommendation be given no later than the sitting day before the day on which the report stage is to commence.

The other motions will be grouped for debate as follows: Group No. 3, Motions Nos. 1, 13, 22 and 23. Group No. 4, Motion No. 5. Group No. 5, Motions Nos. 3, 4, 6 to 12 and 21.

Group No. 6, Motions Nos. 14 to 18, and Motion No. 36.

Group No. 7, Motions Nos. 19 and 20. Group No. 8, Motions Nos. 24, 25 and 26.

Group No. 9, Motions Nos. 27 to 30.

Group No. 10, Motions Nos. 31, 32 and 33.

Group No. 11, Motion No. 34.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting. I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1, 13, 22 and 23 to the House.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-60, in the preamble, be amended by adding after line 21 on page 1 the following:

"AND WHEREAS the Government of Canada promises to respect the legislative authority of the provinces;"

Motion No. 13

That Bill C-60, in Clause 11, be amended by adding after line 27 on page 4 the following:

"(4.1) Notwithstanding subsection (4), where the Minister proposes to establish any policy or standard under that subsection, the Minister shall consult each province before establishing that policy or standard with a view to obtaining the agreement of the provinces to the proposed policy or standard.

(4.2) Where, after being consulted under subsection (4.1), a province advises the Minister that it disagrees with the proposed policy or standard and the Minister then establishes that policy or standard, the policy or standard shall not be applicable to the province where the province also advises the Minister that it does not wish that policy or standard to apply to the province."

Motion No. 22

That Bill C-60, in Clause 20, be amended by replacing lines 28 to 30 on page 6 with the following:

"20. The Minister may enter"

Motion No. 23

That Bill C-60 be amended by adding after line 35 on page 6 the following new Clause:

"20.1 No agreement entered into by the Minister under section 20 shall infringe upon any power that the province may exercise over the inspection of food or a related matter pursuant to section 92 of the Constitution Act, 1867."

Committees Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday when I was moving a motion regarding travel for the standing committee on human rights, I believe there was an error. Either I misspoke or there was an error in transmission.

In any event, for further clarification, I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to amend the motion or to move a motion that would indicate "televised hearings". Therefore, I move:

That, as part of its study of new technologies and privacy rights, six members of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be authorized to travel to Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Fredericton during the week of February 10 to 14, 1997, for the purpose of holding televised hearings, and that the necessary staff accompany the committee.

Committees Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The House has heard the terms of the motion proposed by the parliamentary secretary. Is there unanimous consent that the House consider the motion at this time?

Committees Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

An hon. member

No.

Committees Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

There is not unanimous consent. Or did the no mean yes and it is agreed that we can consider the motion?

Committees Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The House has heard the terms of the motion proposed by the parliamentary secretary. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees Of The HouseGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and to repeal and amend other Acts as a consequence, as reported by the committee with amendments, and of Motions Nos. 1, 13, 22 and 23.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, since you have done such a nice job of reading the amendments, which we introduced this morning with the help of my colleague, the member for Lotbinière, and since you have grouped the motions, including Motions No. 1, 13, 22 and 23, in Group 3, you will note that they refer essentially to the federal government's intention of interfering in an area of provincial jurisdiction. Naturally, we must condemn this vigorously throughout this 35th Parliament, since this government takes advantage of its vast spending authority to blunder into areas of jurisdiction that, in many cases, are strictly the preserve of the provinces.

I am pleased to lead off the debate at report stage of Bill C-60. Through this legislative measure, the federal government is getting ready to create the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The basic responsibility of this new parapublic agency will be to set standards for the safety, quality and manufacture of Canadian food products, as well as to develop minimum standards for imported products. This is obviously a very weighty responsibility for the government, and I am not in any way questioning the good intentions of the departments involved or their concern for public health.

However, I would like to remind the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the cabinet generally that their policies are hardly original.

I would point out that Quebec has had unified food inspection services for close to 20 years, yes, a 20-year head start on Canada. The federal government has wasted 20 years meddling in provincial jurisdictions in an attempt to get a glimpse of what they were up to so that it could then turn around and adopt the same strategies.

In terms of results, it would be hard to think of a worse approach, but then this is typical of this country: going over old ground, rewriting existing legislation, and changing the commas in order to be able to call it something new. Finally, let us return to the initial point of my speech, instead of launching into a stinging criticism of the state of this over-bureaucratized country.

As I was saying before, the purpose of Bill C-60 is to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Although this agency comes under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, it will consolidate the inspection services of two other major departments: Health and Fisheries. This leads me to believe that the federal government has studied the Quebec model thoroughly, for the bill provides for essentially the same bodies as in the Quebec government's system.

But the worst is yet to come. In its bill, the government calls for the agency, once created, to take precedence over all other food inspection systems. I find this federal attitude more than a little insolent.

I would like to draw the attention of the minister and his cabinet colleagues to a concept that is very simple, but ever so hard for the federalists to grasp: interference. This is a gift possessed by certain categories of people, particularly those elected members who belong to a federalist party, to duplicate, and even to deny the existence of, Quebec's distinctiveness in administrative and other matters.

Parliamentary rules prevent me from naming these individuals who are such past masters of the art of denying Quebec its fundamental right to affirm its identity and its distinctiveness. I cannot name names, but I can assure you that there are so many of them in this House, that they take up more than one side of it.

We in the Bloc Quebecois believe that the government is showing its arrogance toward Quebec and the other provinces by attempting, in the preamble of this bill, to assume a certain legitimate right over provincial activities.

In this connection, our amendment is aimed at limiting the impact of such an element, which would have the effect of dismissing all of Quebec's demands in one fell swoop. For decades, the provinces, Quebec in particular, have been objecting to the federal government's attempts to restrict some of the provinces' vested powers, and even to grab up those powers, without any consideration of the provinces' constitutional jurisdiction in these spheres of activity.

The federal government is increasingly moving to centralize powers, while continuing to claim that it is doing the contrary, in order to downplay its illegitimate actions. Such cavalier interference into areas of provincial jurisdiction cannot help but slow down the constructive discourse that could be initiated between the provinces and the federal government. The Liberal Party, with its eye on the next election, is in the process of undermining the credibility of the agency in question. According to Liberal logic, the agency could control all food inspection services in the country by developing national standards. To us this is unacceptable, because it considerably restricts the ability of the provinces to establish and administer their own set of standards.

The provinces would otherwise be free to decide whether or not they wished to go along with certain food safety standards that are more a matter of local custom than public health. Perhaps I may recall what happened last spring, when the Bloc Quebecois protested against the decision of the Minister of Health to prohibit and indeed ban consumption of raw milk cheese.

You will recall that Quebec is by far the biggest consumer of this kind of cheese. In the other provinces where this kind of cheese is eaten, consumers are mostly former Quebecers or people who have been to Quebec and who appreciate this type of cheese. This is one example of eating habits in Quebec that are different from those in other parts of Canada.

At the Department of Health, people were thinking about all this, and probably because they had nothing else to do and had to justify their pay cheque, they said: "From now on, no more raw milk cheese will be imported or manufactured; cheese will have to be made with pasteurized milk". Of course there was a howl of protest from the official opposition, supported by consumers. I remember that someone put a question about this to the Minister of Labour, whose roots are Italian. I cannot refer to him by name, but he is a fellow citizen, formerly from Italy. When he saw he would no longer be able to get his favourite cheese, he said: "Oh dear, I will have to talk about this to my minister, because she is making a serious mistake". See, that is a good example.

In the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area, they make a kind of tourtière called cipâte, made with partridge and hare. It is a local specialty. Tomorrow morning, an inspector with the new agency might say: "Cipâte is no good; it might be dangerous to the health of the people of Lac-Saint-Jean. So there will be a nation-wide ban on making tourtières with hare and partridge".

I realize you are going to say I am exaggerating. Eighteen months ago, who would have thought that a few senior officials at the Department of health would consider banning the consumption of the best cheese in Canada? But it happened.

Without the media coverage, the government would never have backed down under pressure from the Bloc Quebecois. Not that the Bloc was incapable of doing a good job as the official opposition, but because the government, although this is a constitutional monarchy, often behaves like an autocratic and totalitarian government. It prefers to ignore the public interest and support the interests of the major lobby groups, while maintaining an illusion of power based on order and the public good.

In concluding, Bill C-60 is an important bill that will affect three departments. We in the Bloc Quebecois found a number of weak points in Bill C-60.

We intend to introduce more than 35 amendments in the course of the day, and my colleagues and I will do everything we can to try and make the Liberal majority think twice. I know that several people on the government benches think our amendments are very constructive and could improve the bill considerably. The purpose of the first group of amendments is simply to prevent the federal government from infringing on provincial jurisdictions.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, we are at the report stage of Bill C-60. My colleague from the Bloc Quebecois has proposed a large number of amendments.

This bill went to committee prior to second reading, and the purpose of a bill's going to a standing committee of the House of Commons before coming to this House for approval in principle is to allow the committee more opportunity to make amendments and reshape the bill in the most effective and useful manner after hearing witnesses and government officials give reason for the bill and what should be in it and what should be changed from the initial bill tabled.

Reform tried to use this opportunity to introduce several amendments at committee stage. In fact, 25 Reform amendments were proposed in committee during the clause by clause consideration of the bill after we had heard from a number of witnesses.

Because we have introduced our amendments at committee stage we of course are unable to reintroduce the same amendments at report stage. Therefore we have not introduced amendments at this point because we sensed a wall of resistance by the government to any proposals we would make.

The rationale behind the majority of our amendments to this bill was simply to make the new single food inspection agency more accountable to Parliament. I have noticed that some of the amendments proposed by my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois move in that same direction, but often in a slightly different vein than those amendments we proposed. Even in committee my colleagues from the Bloc and Reformers often voted together on issues where we could make the food inspection agency more accountable to the Parliament of Canada and not just leave it as an option that the committee at the wishes of the government could look into the effectiveness of this new agency, but in fact that it must review the effectiveness of the agency and that the agency must be more accountable to this institution.

Over the years Parliament has less knowledge and less control over what is happening in the vast bureaucracy, the new agencies that have been constructed by governments. We feel that the trend needs to be reversed.

While the government members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food could at any time review anything, we all know that because the committee has a majority of government members, the committee need not review anything if the government does not wish it to.

We are trying to reverse that trend so that government will be seen to be more accountable and will indeed be more accountable.

The new food inspection agency begins its operation under this legislation in 1997. It will become one of Ottawa's largest bureaucratic entities, with 4,500 employees and a budget of $300 million. We are not talking small potatoes here at all.

Federal officials contend that ending interdepartmental overlap and duplication in such areas as enforcement, risk management, laboratory services, informatic systems and communications will save taxpayers $44 million annually starting in 1998-99. But surprisingly, no detailed breakdown is available to back up this estimate.

When we ask questions about where exactly is the $44 million going to be saved, departmental officials did not know where that was. They really had not arrived at that stage yet. It was just a figure they seemed to have pulled out of the air and expected the savings to be realized.

We are very concerned about this new federal food inspection agency not because we think it is a bad idea but because we see examples of previous experiments along this line and what has happened. The most obvious one is the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which was created to be accountable and responsible to the department of agriculture. However, it has run amok and has no confidence by and from the industry. This was revealed the other day in our committee when several people from the industry appeared on the issue of cost recovery. The prime example they put forward as an illustration of the failures of cost recovery was the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which was designed very much along the same lines as this agency.

Therefore, members will understand why we are concerned that this agency be held more accountable to Parliament and to the committee that reviews the effectiveness and the work of the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

As I said, 25 Reform amendments were put forward in committee and only two were accepted, one being a clarification of which minister was responsible for the federal good inspection agency. There was some concern because the minister of agriculture was not put in the original document and in fact the government may be intending to do away with the department of agriculture. Therefore we insisted that amendment be included.

The other amendment that was accepted was in the preface of the document. It merely indicated that part of the mission statement of this new agency was to be cost effective. I am very pleased that was put in the preface of the legislation. Unfortunately, when we tried to give it some teeth by putting forward amendments in the actual clauses of the bill that would ensure its cost effectiveness, the government put up a wall of resistance and refused to accept every and any amendment we put forward.

We think that actually more than $44 million could be saved if the government knew what it was doing and had a responsible plan in place and had actually thought this thing through more than picking a number of $44 million out of the air.

With regard to my amendments put forward by this grouping by the Bloc, Motion No. 1 is an amendment that would require the government to respect the legislative authority of the provinces but it does not deal with much else. This may be considered symbolic but we think it looks like a motion that could be supported because we certainly do recognize that in some areas the provinces do have authority.

With regard to Motions. Nos. 13, 22 and 23, we do have some concerns, particularly on Motion No. 13. While consultation with the provinces is to be applauded and we support it, the fact that each province's approval is required to establish standards does cause us concern that we may see some trade barriers developing between the provinces, above and beyond what we already have, using standards as a way to protect one's own provincial area of the industry at the expense of a neighbouring province. Of course that is not the way to unify the country. We really do have some concerns about Motions Nos. 13 and 22.

Motion No. 23 is another amendment with respect to the jurisdiction of the provinces. We support their jurisdiction but are not sure that this particular jurisdiction needs to be entrenched at this point in the act.

I think I will have more opportunities to speak to this bill as we progress through the various groupings.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Essex—Kent Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no question that the federal government gives a great deal of consideration to the jurisdiction of the provinces and believes that the jurisdiction of the provinces is the provincial responsibility. We also believe very strongly in the process of consultation with the provinces and with all the stakeholders in the industry. There is no question that is important.

As well, this government has certainly set forward the committee's ability to deal with all issues and all matters that come to its concern that it wishes to further explore. A committee certainly has the ability to deal with issues such as PMRA, provincial-federal agreements and any other issue that comes forward.

There is no way that this government wishes to infringe upon the provincial ability. However, we feel that the amendments which are being put forward at present are really not needed within the bill. This government has and will continue to respect the jurisdictional legislative authority of the provinces. Indeed, clauses 14, 20 and 21 of Bill C-60 significantly enhance the ability of the federal government to collaborate with the provinces while fully respecting the provincial jurisdictions.

With respect to entering into agreements with the provinces, such federal-provincial corporations may be involved with matters of potential financial liability. These arrangements will have to be reviewed by the finance minister.

Clearly, the government will enter into agreements only which explicitly allow provincial agreement by the provinces. In other words, we are not going to enter into an agreement with the province and say the federal side wants this, but the province has no say. An agreement is an agreement; it is an agreement between two parties. As a result, the federal government and the provincial governments will agree before a document is signed.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada will continue to respect the jurisdictional level of all governments. I should note with respect to the roles and responsibilities of the Minister of Health that the intent of clause 11(4) is to clarify and not alter the role of the Minister of Health in establishing food safety standards. The current process of establishing food health and safety standards already provides for consultations with stakeholders and includes the provinces.

The federal jurisdiction includes setting food safety standards for all Canadians under the Food and Drugs Act.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, the last time I spoke in this House on the bill establishing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, I spoke of reducing costly overlap and advocated harmonizing and simplifying standards so as to reduce the burden of regulatory requirements and promote competition in business.

I concluded my argument by saying that the focus had to be on co-operation between partners and respect for legislative jurisdictions. I even invited my colleagues to reread sections 91 to 95 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which apparently they did not do.

The Province of Quebec combined its food inspection activities in 1978. Now it is the federal government's turn, and it is proposing the same thing. It wants to harmonize. That is all very well, but there is no need to upset the established order. The rules must be obeyed.

I want to direct your attention to the lack of compliance with the Constitution and the lack of respect for our partners, the provinces and the employees. The present government finally decided, in 1996, to standardize food inspection.

In his latest budget, the Minister of Finance announced his financial game plan for this new agency. I would remind you that that was on March 6. Here we are, a few days away from

Christmas, and the federal government is pushing members of Parliament to pass their bill.

And I mean their bill, because there was no serious consultation. Although the briefs submitted to the Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture contained some very sound remarks, they remained on the shelf like dead ducks, in my opinion. The government apparently did not take them into consideration, because it continues to propose the same bill at the various stages of the process, with very few amendments.

In my first speech, I denounced the fact that, as presented by the government, this agency might become a real patronage haven, and this is an understatement. The Liberals want to use the new Canadian Food Inspection Agency to reward their friends. At first, it will have only a few members like the president and board members. But two years later, the agency having moved and the employees having lost their permanent status, new appointments will be made. Who knows what the future holds. There might be a few Liberal candidates here and there who will have bitten the dust in the election.

Subtlety is not our Liberal friends' strong suit. It is obvious that, through this bill and clause 5, the minister is trying to give himself the power to appoint the president and the executive vice-president. The odds are he will probably designate a friend or an old classmate, as is so often the case.

Then, under clause 10, the minister wants to appoint an advisory board of 12 members. Have you ever seen a cowboy movie with only one bandit? There is always a gang, is there not?

Also, the minister will choose individuals who share his vision. Like-minded people do business together, belong to the same party, help one another. Unfortunately, the Liberal fraternity is still very well represented in this House.

Worse yet, under section 22, the minister will approve the agency's corporate or five-year business plan. Can we let that happen? It is understandable, under the circumstances, that the minister wants to retain a degree of flexibility just in case. If that is not remote control, it certainly is acute interference. The government is trying to control the agency and turn it into a club for its friends.

Under clause 11(4), the Chrétien government, through its health minister, will be able to establish policies and standards relating to the safety and nutritional quality of food. That is exclusively the prerogative of the provinces. As in the case of raw milk cheese, the government is interfering in something that does not concern it.

All this is far from reassuring in terms of our government's transparency. Some will say there is nothing new under the sun, and they will be partly right, as far as this government is concerned. As you know, I am a straight talker and I like to see people get their due.

I often say that we have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. However, in the case before us today, Quebec could end up indirectly subsidizing the inspection services of other provinces, under clauses 20 and 21, which provide for the establishment of federal-provincial corporations. There is a real possibility that Quebec could end up paying for this. Looking at how the federal government deals with the other provinces-and I am thinking of the GST harmonization process-you realize that "la belle province" is heavily penalized.

The Bloc proposed many reasonable amendments, to make sure the agency is immune to discrimination and patronage, so it cannot be misused by the Liberal government. But the Liberals refuse to make the necessary changes, because these changes would adversely affect their plans. The fact is that the agency will become a real haven of patronage.

The Liberals are in a bit of a hurry to pass certain bills before Christmas. This is not good.

There is something suspicious. Given what the Liberals are trying to do with this legislation, nothing should surprise us any more. It is easy to figure out that the Liberal government is trying to score political points, to win votes, with this bill. An election will be called in the spring. That is why the government is in such a hurry.

We in the Bloc Quebecois have proposed amendments designed to protect our fellow citizens. We want transparency. We believe the House of Commons committee should monitor or be otherwise involved in the process.

The bill, as presented by the Liberals, is a step backward, not forward.

This government did nothing to promote debate. I am talking about a meaningful public debate on the quality of Canadian and imported foods.

What type and level of services are we going to provide in order to protect our fellow citizens? Would you believe the government restricted consultations with the producers, provinces and unions concerned. Members of this House are the only ones left to block this legislation. Any hope for transparency in the establishment of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency now depends on the will of the members of this House to vote according to their conscience and for what is reasonable.

I am thinking of the bill to create this agency, because it is necessary and it is important. But it should be amended to eliminate the possibility of patronage appointments.

Furthermore, are they afraid to hold a serious debate on the quality of our services? One could think so, given the fleetingness of the consultation. There was no consultation, because the Liberals are in a hurry to ram their bills through.

In conclusion, the government is locating the agency in the National Capital Region, but for how long? Here again, we must be vigilant, for they could be tempted to move the head office around, depending on where they want to score political points. That is their long term escape plan. This will be a blow to many honest employees in the National Capital Region. Their rights will be disregarded.

The Liberals are masters of patronage and political intrigue. In all sincerity, I must oppose the government's Bill C-60. I urge my colleagues to vote against it.

In addition, I urge Liberal members to vote freely and join us in rejecting this bill. In the past, a member of this House stated, not without attracting attention, that patronage was a political fact of life. I, for one, say that we must stand up and condemn this manner of operating. If bills leave the way open to patronage, they should be rejected.