House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cost.


The House resumed, from December 12, 1996, 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; and of motions in Group No. 6.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us seeks to establish an agency that will have a number of powers and responsibilities regarding the food industry.

As you know, in Quebec, we already have a body, namely the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, that assumes all the powers and responsibilities necessary in any state to ensure the public has access to food that meets modern safety and quality standards, and does so in a cost effective way.

This morning, I speak on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois primarily to make sure the agency to be established will satisfy the probity criteria that Canadians and Quebecers should expect.

This is why the Bloc Quebecois proposed a series of amendments and, this morning, we are debating the sixth group of these amendments. I will now discuss them.

The first one deals with clause 12, lines 28 and 29, on page 4 of the bill. The amendment that we propose provides that the agency is exempt from the application of section 7 and subsection 69(3) of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. It also states that, for the purposes of paragraph 92(1)( b ) of the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the agency is deemed to be designated pursuant to subsection 92(4) of that act.

Why do we propose this amendment? Because, in its current form, the agency would be a "separate employer" under the Public Service Staff Relations Act, which means that some employees would lose vested rights.

The purpose of this act is not to take anything away from public servants, but to ensure a better integration of functions currently being fulfilled by three different bodies.

This amendment is also in response to a request from the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. Given the parliamentary procedure, should the amendment we discussed in previous days be adopted, it would obviate the need for this particular amendment.

I should point out that PIPS agrees with the view expressed by the Public Service Alliance of Canada, except that it is asking that the bill be amended to allow it to negotiate a number of issues that are important to its members.

Again, the purpose of the bill is not to wrong public servants, but to better serve the public from coast to coast.

If the government does not vote in favour of the amendments being proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, the result will be that bargaining agents for the agency's future unionized employees will not be able to continue to bargain in a certain number of areas. These areas are as follows: organization of the public service, assignment of duties to positions within the agency, and classification, appointment, evaluation, promotion, demotion, transfer, lay-off, and release of employees for other than disciplinary reasons.

You can see, the whole House can see, that important rights, substantial protection that is there for the majority of employees under the Public Service Employment Act will no longer apply to agency employees when the initial two-year transition period comes to an end.

This is a situation that must be drawn to the attention of this House. It was incumbent on the Bloc Quebecois to condemn this situation because, I repeat, the law must not be used, directly or indirectly, to tamper with the rights of public servants.

We also have another amendment. The agency is deemed to be included in the definition of "federal undertaking" in section 2 of the Canada Labour Code, and that that act applies, with such modifications as the circumstances require, to the agency and its employees.

We are proposing this additional amendment because, in its present form, the agency will be a separate employer as defined in the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

I would also remind members that we are introducing this amendment at the request of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. With respect to the alliance, the government unfortunately did not take into account the legislative positions put forward by the unions during consultations held by the government to determine the agency's status. Workers whose positions must be transferred to the new agency would lose benefits negotiated or integrated with the National Joint Council. They would thus lose any benefits they had under the work force adjustment directive. They would also lose their protection with respect to staffing and classification.

You will understand that, in order to resolve this situation, and at the same time allow it to improve conditions for its members, the alliance is therefore asking that the government designate the agency as covered by the Canada Labour Code. The Bloc Quebecois, through its amendment, is backing the alliance's request because it is a reasonable one. It meets these criteria: that bills passed should be for, not against, improving the well-being of public servants.

I hope the House will also be receptive to this amendment, which is so obviously justified, as you can see.

In the few minutes I have left, I will move on to another amendment in the same block, this one affecting clause 13, lines 30 to 34. This amendment follows on, of course, from the previous one by the Professional Institute of the Public Service, which also recommended this one to us.

More specifically, the employees of the agency are to be appointed pursuant to the Public Service Employment Act, and not, under the Public Service Staff Relations Act, as the bill reads at present.

We are bringing in this new amendment because, as it stands at present-again we must remember that the agency will be a separate employer under the Public Service Staff Relations Act and employees must not lose vested rights.

What the Professional Institute of the Public Service is calling for is along the same lines as the Alliance, except that the latter also wants to amend the bill in a way that would allow it to negotiate a number of important matters for its members.

Again, if our amendment were not supported by this House, there are a number of important matters which could no longer be negotiated by the agency on behalf of its future unionized staff.

In short, once again the situation is worthy of the attention of this House, and we are pointing it out because we believe proper protection is in the best interests of future employees.

I know my time is very nearly up, so I will conclude by bringing to the attention of members that, generally speaking, this bill rather freely opens the door to possible political appointments to the board and staff of this agency. It would be regrettable, you will agree, if we were to end up with a bill which might tempt a political party in power to take advantage of a number of openings to exercise what is generally called patronage.

When human beings are involved there is always the risk of human weaknesses, which is why I feel it is the duty of this House to ensure that such patronage could not be possible, by quite simply making the appropriate changes to the bill to prevent any possibility of political appointments by the party in power.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, my comments will be brief on group No. 6. This group of amendments deals with the staffing of the agency. It would make contracting and privatization of inspection services very difficult.

I would like to bring to the attention of the House some of the concerns we heard about this aspect of the bill in committee from people in the food processing industry.

Currently there is a tremendous amount of food inspection in some parts of the food processing industry. Maybe this is the wrong term to use, but we could almost say that there is overkill with respect to inspection. I was talking to the manager of a meat processing facility who said that the federal government insists that 28 inspectors be on site to do the inspection of meat in that facility. He told me that a facility of the same size in the United States that processes the same amount of food would require three federal inspectors. Perhaps three is not enough, but I would think that 28 is far too many.

I also talked to someone in the food processing business who said that the more federal inspectors there are looking over employees' shoulders the less diligence there is to ensure they are processing safe and healthy food. It is really not their responsibility to ensure the food is of good quality and safe for human consumption. There is an inspector looking over their shoulder every step of the way. If anything is not properly inspected it is not the responsibility of the employees of the processing plant. The focus is on the inspectors who have failed to do their job.

Many processing plants hire their own inspectors. They feel it is important to have their own inspectors on site to ensure quality

control and to ensure that a healthy product is being put on the shelves for Canadians to eat. Therefore, in some cases there is duplication.

Bill C-60 would move employees from three departments into one federal food inspection agency. Those employees are guaranteed two years of employment whether they are needed or not. This draws attention to the fact that the government is not looking at taxpayers' concerns. It is only looking at maintaining the bureaucracy at its present size. It is totally ruling out any possibility of privatization or downsizing of inspection services within the guidelines that are required to ensure safe and healthy food for Canadians. I point that out to the House as another glaring omission or failure of the Liberal government, one of many that has come to the attention of Canadians.

We oppose motion No. 14 in group No. 6 because we think it will make contracting out or privatizing of inspection services in the future very difficult. Several of these motions are unnecessary, such as motions Nos. 15, 16 and 17.

We support motion No. 18. It would give the standing committee the power to review the agency's appointment process. My Bloc colleague reiterated what I said before in this debate. Patronage is a problem which needs to be addressed.

Finally, we oppose motion No. 36. It requires the government to develop a code of conduct for the agency's employees before the bill comes into force. While that is not a bad thing, we do not believe it is necessary in this piece of legislation.

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10:20 a.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, when my colleagues asked me to speak to Bill C-60, I looked at the bill and at the work done by our research group.

I was struck particularly by the motions in group 6, by what my colleagues had said earlier, and also by the fact that we cannot deny our past. I am a former member of the labour movement and proud of it. I worked for the CNTU for 20 years. Every time the Liberal government introduces a bill like this one, I think it clearly contradicts what the red book says about creating jobs, jobs, jobs, and also what the ministers are saying today.

These ministers often claim they are the workers' friend. They keep telling us they are on the workers' side. This bill shows once again, as I said this week, that with friends like these, workers do not need enemies. The message is clear.

When we talk about vested rights in the labour movement and when we talk about bargaining power and negotiating on equal terms, these are important concepts. However, we do not find them in this bill. On the contrary, the government wants to axe vested rights. It wants to axe bargaining power. It wants to axe working conditions.

I think this is the logic of a lunatic. What is the point? What is the point of telling federal employees today to do something else, to give up some of their working conditions? These people are getting poorer and poorer. They are losing their jobs. They are often forced to get together in groups and bid on jobs from the government. In the end, we are seeing a loss of jobs and a loss of working conditions. All this means there is less money in the system. It does not take long to find out why the system is in such bad shape.

That is exactly what will happen when the food inspection agency is established under Bill C-60. You can hear the agency saying: "I am different from other employers. I am a separate employer. I do not want to be subject to the Public Service Staff Relations Act". Really? And so what happens? Workers lose and are worse off than they were before.

In my riding there are several abattoirs where a number of veterinaries and inspectors for Health Canada and Agriculture Canada are employed. Later on, these people are going to come in my office and tell me: "Mr. Bachand, we are losing our terms and conditions of employment. What can you do for us?" They are lucky to have a member from the Bloc Quebecois who is prepared to listen. There have been several instances where the government intervened and people wanted to see their Liberal members, but found the door locked or were met by the police.

We never call the police, not for federal employees, not for the employees at the Saint-Jean military base and not for the Agriculture Canada employees at Saint-Jean. We invite them in and we listen to them. These people know that, if a Liberal member were sitting in the chair of the member for Saint-Jean, they would not be listened to carefully.

That is one reason we try to defend them as best we can. I think there are more important things to do than for them to say they are making progress, that there is a party line and that they are obliged to do what the minister says. "You know, everyone must make an effort". We here this regularly from federal members and ministers.

Finally, along with the agency comes a whole patronage haven. Think about it: the governor in council appoints the president, who appoints the executive vice-president. Names are already being proposed, and the agency has not yet even been set up. Soon, we will know in advance who will be on the agency's board of directors.

Naturally, if the governor in council makes the appointments, it will not be on the basis of competence. It will most likely be on the

basis of colour. Blue will be put to one side in order to intensify the red. This is what is likely to happen.

The Liberals' palette of colours is very limited: it is red, red, red. In all likelihood, we will end up with a president appointed by the governor in council, that is, cabinet-a red president and a red vice-president. And the rest follows. Then there is an advisory board. The bill provides, furthermore, that the president will choose the employees.

Once again, the red chain forms. The president and the vice-president are appointed by cabinet. When the president goes to hire, what will the first question be: What party do you belong to? Competence is being set aside along with working conditions. The aims of the Bloc Quebecois' amendments are to bring this bill a little more into line and make it a little less arbitrary.

It is also the aim of the unions to put an end to employer tyranny. In this case, the employer is the federal government, and things are going even further. The public service is being set aside so that now appointments will be almost political.

Therefore, the amendments proposed by the Bloc are essential. I would ask the Liberal ministers and members on the other side of the House to better co-ordinate their words and their actions. We in the Bloc are fed up with hearing them say: "We are the workers' good friends". However, in action, in the legislative agenda and in fact, they are not the workers' friends. The very opposite is true.

I think the workers' friends are on this side of the House, and not the other, and this is why we are making amendments that will add an element of civility to the inspection and that will ensure the agency is not appointed by the governor in council and cabinet. We do not want the agency to be all red. We want a competent agency, which is the reason for the amendments by the Bloc Quebecois. I hope the government will listen to reason on this bill.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, to the hon. members who are surprised to see me speak on this issue, I should point out that there are several reasons for my doing so, particularly the fact that, as a child, I lived next door to a slaughterhouse. As was customary at the time, during the summer, the doors were open and the work was performed in front of us kids. We would watch operations with great curiosity, sometimes with awe and other feelings I will not get into. It was a small operation and, in those days, the workers cared about the health of their customers, their fellow citizens.

Times have changed and, today, slaughterhouses are fairly large operations owned by very large corporations that may or may not be as acutely aware of their impact on public health today and in the future.

First of all, we could look at why the federal government had to get involved when Quebec had already taken its responsibilities. There is a certain sensitivity because of what was called the tainted meat scandal, which set off a public scare that lasted several months. It is clear that, over this whole issue of ensuring meat quality and making sure it is properly handled, there is, in Quebec, a sensitivity that could certainly be described as distinct and which explains why this issue is important to the Bloc.

We have every reason to be extremely concerned when we see in Group No. 6-and that is why we are proposing amendments to the contrary-that the agency is excluded from the Public Service of Canada Act and that the regulations under which the independence of inspectors used to be guaranteed will be twisted around and, contrary to what our colleagues are saying, they are very likely to be strongly profit-driven.

Inspections in any area, be it occupational health and safety or public health, require that those who conduct them on our behalf be assured they are totally and completely free to do what they have to do when stocks must be rejected or when meat or any by-product that does not meat quality requirements must be destroyed. As a result, someone who is hired for a fixed term of service and does not have the full protection that a collective agreement should provide in this respect would be likely to give in to direct and indirect pressure.

This is a very serious matter. Because it is debated at the end of the session, some people may think it is a minor matter. It is not. Just think of the tragedy that struck England. I am not suggesting that is the way we are headed, I am simply saying that the quality of the job done in inspecting meat and of the procedures used in slaughterhouses is closely linked to health and that health is not an area in which we can afford to take chances.

I hope members opposite will vote with us to guarantee this indispensable independence for those who conduct inspections. This means that inspectors cannot be removed, or be the object of monetary or other forms of pressure. Their work is already difficult because of a possible self-censorship in these hard times.

Therefore, it is extremely important that the amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois be accepted, that common sense prevail, and that members opposite realize that, while it may not have affected the other provinces, Quebec-perhaps because of its history and even culture-went through a particular experience with the issue of raw milk cheese, which is why we would like to have control over the inspection of meat but, if this is not possible, we want to at least make sure inspectors can enjoy such independence. In our opinion, this implies that they be protected by iron-clad collective agreements.

Members of this House should realize that this is clearly a case where it would be a definite asset to have job security, grievance rights, and the guarantee of working without being hassled. This is a plus that must be protected by the party in office, otherwise it will be responsible for the major inconveniences that could result. Since we would be the ones paying for these inconveniences, we urge the party in office to support our agreements.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the Bloc Quebecois's amendments to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act, because the Liberals seem to have nothing to say about this bill.

Why is this? Because they have a short term vision. They are prepared to set aside Canada's reputation in the food inspection sector in order to be able to appoint their friends to the good positions and to control the entire staffing process. Since this government is unable to create jobs, it feels it must at least find some way of hiring its friends and dispensing a bit of patronage.

That is why the Liberals have nothing to say today. Nobody is rising to speak on the Liberal majority side. We do not hear a peep out of them. We do not know whether they have anything to say in defence of their bill.

I would also like to say that, in the area of food inspection, it is very important that the people who will be working for the proposed agency be completely free of all forms of influence.

There are large companies that are major stakeholders in the food sector and that are in a position to influence political parties, so it is very important to ensure that the agency will be independent. When inspectors do their rounds and make decisions, they must be able to do so with full knowledge of the facts and without undue influence.

The way political parties are funded in Canada, with large companies like Canada Packers being allowed to make contributions of $10,000, $20,000 or $50,000, when the time comes to declare a facility unsanitary, the telephones may well start ringing.

If the agency is not independent of the government because its president has been appointed by the government, there is a chance that inspectors may be prevented from doing their work properly. There will be the same kind of difficulties as in the past.

It is already very difficult in the present context to do this work. I recognize the quality of the people working in this difficult field. Some things have important economic impacts. Let us get our act together now so as not to add the additional burden of political partisanship that the government's bill is paving the way for. When the time comes to make appointments to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, some difficult choices will be compounded by having to consider the political affiliation of candidates.

We have already seen this sort of thing with other boards, in other sectors such as immigration, and parole. A number of years ago, people were appointed to positions simply because of their political affiliation. This always creates problems, because sometimes the calibre of decisions made is adversely affected.

Let us recall some things that have happened in the past. It would perhaps be a good thing for the government to look into the Bloc Quebecois amendment to clause 93 more thoroughly. The purpose of this amendment is to prevent the act from coming into force until a code of conduct and ethics to govern the appointment of employees by the Agency has been prepared jointly by the unions and the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food. In this way, the rules of the game would be very clear and public, and no political interference with the appointment of employees would be possible.

The objective is to do away, for once and for all, with the patronage which could very easily set in within this agency, given the pyramid of appointments set out in the bill. I believe that the appointments set out in the bill for the management of the agency make this bill sufficiently partisan already. Now they want to take away the employees' present autonomy and independence which help build Canada's reputation in the area of food inspection.

Although inspectors may sometimes be perceived as a little inflexible, they are gaining a reputation for quality and honesty. The government is taking a backward step by sacrificing, not necessarily to privatization, but also by trying to lay a path to enable it to appoint people just about everywhere.

If the act is adopted as it stands, I predict that Canada's food inspection system will have taken on a new image before 10 years have passed. Things will be like they used to be before with the harbourmaster appointments. Food inspection appointments will be the same. We will see a return to the old system, where everybody in the agency changes when the government changes.

This kind of situation is entirely inappropriate in an area like food inspection, where we need some degree of independence and a reputation for quality. Decisions must be made sensibly and objectively, not based on the political affiliation of the appointee.

In a way, this would be very insulting to those who have performed these duties in the past. The bill provides no guarantee that incumbents who have performed their duties for 10, 15 or 20 years with the utmost competence will keep their positions. A choice will be made, and since there are no objective criteria, we have no guarantee that in the process, this will not be an occasion to

settle old grievances, as has been known to happen in the past in certain organizations.

Granted, this could also be an opportunity to get rid of people who are perhaps less qualified, but some very competent people could be ousted as well. In the inspection field, someone who does his job conscientiously, as well as his immediate superiors, may be subject to all kinds of pressure. If he has job security, if he has a guarantee that his job will not be on the line whenever he makes a decision, he will do a much better job and stand up for the consumer, for those who in the end will purchase the products.

In my opinion, this bill to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is based on a principle that may be attractive to federalists, and I am referring to the fact that instead of the three intervenors we had in the past, the government finally decided to keep only one, but it overlooked one thing. The provinces already have their own food inspection systems. And as we saw in the case of raw milk cheese, there are also a number of cultural differences between the various parts of Canada.

I mentioned another example connected with food inspection, when a disease is found in a herd of cattle or sheep or whatever. In the past, and this applied to sheep, all animals liable to contract the disease were slaughtered. This worked very well in Quebec, where herds of sheep consist of around 200 or 300 head. The practice, the regulations were changed a year and a half ago, following representations by producers in western Canada. This is understandable, because they have thousands of animals in each herd.

However, now they use quarantine. If a producer has 200 or 300 animals, putting them in quarantine is the equivalent of killing his business. Is there no way to give the provinces jurisdiction in such cases, because respecting the jurisdiction of the provinces would make for an inspection system that would reflect local economic conditions.

The same applies to the fisheries. There is no single rule that works for all Canada-wide systems. We have always found that "wall to wall" does not give satisfactory results. Now, when you add the variable-the possibility of political patronage, political influence in decisions-the regulations and the operating standards will become very malleable. This cannot be if we are to ensure that food is properly inspected in Canada in the future.

Let us return to the underlying principles. Yes, let us try to reduce the number of people involved. Yes, let us respect provincial jurisdiction. However, most importantly, let us give those who have to do the job room to manoeuvre, enough autonomy to make the right choices and to stand up to business when they have to intervene so that, in the end, in five or ten years, Quebec's and Canada's food inspection system will continue to be recognized internationally as one of the best in the world. In a world where the scope of exports continues to grow, we must avoid running the risk of crises or harming our producers in a few years' time.

The winners are the producers and the consumers if inspectors are autonomous in their decisions. I invite the Liberal majority, which is silent this morning, to listen to our arguments and to accept these amendments, particularly the one I was defending.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the speeches by my hon. colleagues with great interest. It is becoming clear to me that this is an issue of great concern to all members of the official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, whether they come from a rural riding or an urban riding on the island of Montreal, like the hon. member sitting next to me. This is an issue of great concern not only to the people of Quebec, but also to everyone in English Canada.

As far as I am concerned, this is a bill I followed closely because, as you probably know, the riding of Berthier-Montcalm is a major producer of poultry, quails, ducks and pork. There are therefore many slaughterhouses in our riding and this industry is very important for the riding.

Just recently, in my capacity as the federal member for my riding, I have had to fight quite hard to keep some slaughterhouses open and particularly to have the one in Saint-Esprit reopened. I am sure that you will see no objection to my saluting at this time the people who have fought to have this slaughterhouse reopened and I thank them because, as a result, 120 jobs were created and investments amounting to some $7 million were made in the riding of Berthier-Montcalm, all of this thanks to the support of the community, the investors and the pork producers of the Lanaudière region.

That being said, I gave these figures to show how important this industry is, in Quebec in particular, because Quebec is a major processor of raw material, be it the raw milk we have heard about on the hill, poultry or pork. It is therefore very important to us to have a bill dealing specifically with this industry, that meets the specific, or distinct, needs of Quebecers. There too lies our distinctiveness.

Unfortunately, I must say that Bill C-60 before us this morning does not meet these objectives. I think this bill will not meet the government's objective of facilitating the development of this industry. Worse yet, it does not give any guarantee concerning the whole inspection process. When there is no guarantee, one may be less tempted to invest money. If the changes made to the rules of the game are not very clear initially, investors will start asking questions, especially in Quebec.

Again in this area, Quebec is a distinct society, since we already have a complete food inspection organization. The Government of Quebec unified this whole field. If the Government of Canada had followed through with the resolutions that were passed here in this House, it would have done something about this. The government, and especially the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, often remind us that a resolution was passed in this House to recognize Quebec's distinctiveness. We in the opposition say that this resolution was nothing but a smoke screen, that it gives Quebec no additional jurisdiction and means nothing to Quebecers.

The subject matter of this bill is really quite mundane. Food inspection is not nearly as important as constitutional matters-which does not mean it is not important. This bill should have reflected the government's resolution recognizing Quebec's distinctiveness, if it meant something, but it does not mean anything. There is nothing in it to prove otherwise. This resolution does not mean anything. Had it meant something, the bill we are studying this morning would have contained a whole chapter specifically for Quebec, as our distinctiveness extends to the food inspection area. But the government did not do anything because the resolution it adopted does not mean anything, and we will have to remember that.

That being said, the group of amendments introduced by the Bloc Quebecois is aimed at preventing patronage. Unfortunately, "patronage" and "Liberal" seem to be synonymous. After condemning the Conservatives during the 1993 election campaign, what are the Liberals doing today? The exact same thing.

Perhaps the only difference-one must render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar-is that they may be doing it more intelligently than the Conservatives. They hide what they are doing. They work behind the scene. They give themselves nice little tailor-made laws to disguise patronage. This is a case in point. Listen to this: the government reserves the option to appoint the vice-chairman and the 12 people who will sit on the committee. It is the government that will decide who to appoint according to criteria about which we know nothing so far.

Furthermore, nothing in the bill guarantees that the current inspectors, who are doing a good job and seeing to the quality of products offered to consumers, will be hired by the agency. If they contribute to the coffers of the Liberal Party, maybe they will have a better chance of working for the agency. This is what the government is doing under the cover of law to ease their conscience. But one needs to review this in detail in order to understand.

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, are open in the way we collect the funds for our election campaigns, in the way we get our funding-since it is public funding, we are open, we show our books, we have nothing to hide-and we would like the government to do the same in its laws regarding staffing in order to avoid patronage and especially to force them to honour some of the commitments in the famous red book.

During the 1993 election campaign-you may not remember it, Mr. Speaker, the government may not remember it either-there were promises of transparency, integrity, ethics, non partisan politics, appointments according to predetermined criteria, should the Liberals form the next government.

Today, we are giving them the opportunity to be consistent for the first time in three years-it should not be too much to ask-and support the amendments we are proposing since in fact the thrust of these amendments is transparency. I am referring to Motions Nos 18 and 36 moved by Bloc Quebecois agriculture critic, the member for Frontenac, seconded by a member who has his constituents' interests at heart, I mean the member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup.

It might be worth reading them so that people who are listening can see that what we are proposing makes sense, and that the Liberal government is breaking another one of its election promises, in terms of transparency this time. We are asking the government to include the following requirement in the bill:

One year after the Agency is established, the President shall provide, for study, to such committee of the House of commons as is designated or established to consider agricultural matters, a detailed report respecting the criteria used in making appointments under subsection (1).

We want the government to clearly state the criteria used to hire employees. We want a level playing field for everyone, be it a member of the Liberal Party of Canada or not. Is this clear enough, is it not?

I believe the Liberal government should support this amendment. I believe the government opposite will pass this amendment, if it wants to follow through on its famous red book's promise of transparency. No doubt it slipped their mind. I am sure the government simply forgot to include such a provision, as it happens sometimes at the last minute when bills are being prepared. We are giving them the opportunity to keep their own election promises by supporting this amendment.

The other amendment is similar. Its purpose is the same: equal opportunity for everybody who might want a job in the agency and all the inspectors or employees already working for that department.

I see my time is up. It goes by so fast. I will speak to the other groups later on because, as I said earlier, this is a subject of great concern for me, given its importance for my constituents.

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10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The questions on the motions in Group No. 6 are deemed to have been put, in accordance with the order made yesterday.

Accordingly, the House may proceed with the debate on Group No. 7. Motions Nos. 19 and 20 are deemed to have been moved and seconded.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are three or four minutes remaining before statements by members. This means I will rise again after oral question period, but I want to start dealing with the amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois on clause 16, which in fact is Group No. 7 of amendments to Bill C-60.

As my colleagues have been saying since we started our speeches, we see there is a guiding principle behind this bill, which is the establishment of an iron-clad patronage system. We will be able to show this also with clause 16, which will ensure the creation of an agency that will have lost all its credibility even before it is set up. People will not trust the work done by the employees of this agency. Who will be the real losers in this bad decision based only on political partisanship? It will be the people in general, because, if we do not trust the work done by the agency's employees, we will not trust the inspection and this will have disastrous consequences.

The real question we must ask at this stage is whether the Bloc Quebecois' concern I just mentioned is also a concern among the people.

Let me say that I am very proud of my colleagues from different ridings, urban ones, such as the hon. member for Mercier, who just spoke to this bill, semi-urban ones, such as my colleague from Saint-Jean, or rural ones like my own. I am thinking more specifically of the hon. member for Richelieu, who is known to be close to his constituents. If there is a member in this House whom we can say is close to people, it is the member for Richelieu.

You are indicating that my time is running out, Mr. Speaker. I will conclude and resume after question period.

But allow me finish what I was saying in praise of the member for Richelieu. I was saying he is close to people, he is even perhaps the equivalent of the worker-priest in Montreal, a few years ago, who drove a taxi and whom we used to call "the Good Lord in a taxi". Using the example of the Montreal "Good Lord in a taxi", we could say the hon. member for Richelieu is Mr. Democracy. If a member like my colleague from Richelieu condemns this bill, it is because the whole population of Quebec is condemning it.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

It being eleven o'clock, the House will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Northern Lights FestivalStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the Northern Lights Festival in Owen Sound.

The festival is a spectacular display of lights along the banks of Sydenham River in the heart of the city in celebration of Christmas and the holiday season.

This year the festival has been been expanded to reach the inner harbour and now includes two ferry boats, the Cheecheeman and the Nindayama . The boats and trees along the harbour and river banks are trimmed with Christmas lights which shimmer and are reflected in the inner harbour waters.

The Northern Lights Festival is a volunteer effort that is generously supported by businesses and the people from Owen Sound and the surrounding area. It is a major tourist attraction drawing busloads of people from Bruce-Grey and all of southwestern Ontario.

I congratulate all the volunteers and participants who have made this project such a success. The lights symbolize their hard work and dedication to the festival and remind us all of the true spirit of Christmas.

Environmental AssessmentStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, this week Canadians saw once again how the Prime Minister is compared to a box of assorted chocolates: You have no idea what you are going to get. Now it seems that the Minister of the Environment wants to be one of those assorted chocolates. His legislation may look okay, but watch out for the inside.

This past Tuesday the environment minister refused to commit to conducting a full environmental assessment of the proposed testing of U.S. plutonium in the Candu reactors even though he is required to do so under his own Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. As the law states, an environmental assessment is required if a federal authority gets involved. He said we should be cautious about plutonium but yesterday his party voted against a Reform Party bill that would ban the importation of nuclear waste into Canada.

The Prime Minister made an election promise to abolish the GST, then broke faith. The environment minister promised to

protect the environment, and then he does not act. The minister is great at introducing legislation, but then he will not use the law.

With the Reform Party, every time you open the box, you know it is a fresh start that really satisfies.

Appointment Of Lise ThibaultStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister appointed Lise Thibault lieutenant governor of Quebec.

A motion was passed by the Quebec National Assembly requesting more of a say in the appointment of the lieutenant governor, but the Prime Minister chose to ignore it. Once again, the Prime Minister of Canada is giving us an example of decentralized federalism at its best.

Let it be clear that the Bloc Quebecois wants the position of lieutenant governor to disappear, along with the Senate. The Bloc Quebecois regards both of these as unnecessary, expensive and outdated, a throwback to the colonial era.

These remarks concerning the function of lieutenant governor in no way reflect on the dignity and great worth of Mrs. Thibault as a person, and we welcome the appointment of a woman to that position.

Passenger Rail ServiceStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Vic Althouse NDP Mackenzie, SK

Mr. Speaker, four million people use passenger rail service each year in Canada. They do so because it is fast, efficient, curtails pollution and saves jobs.

Many of these four million people have sent small cards to the government stating their wish for rail service to continue to be one of their transportation options. Today I carried about 150 pounds of these small cards to the Prime Minister's office to let him know of their interest and intent.

I note that the red book spoke of implementing an infrastructure investment program. Some railway people have produced position papers showing that high speed rail, at speeds in excess of 300 kilometres an hour, is technically feasible since Canadian companies are bidding on French and American contracts. High speed rail could also improve air quality, public safety and is economically and financially feasible.

It is time the government considered investing to bring about improvements to Canada's infrastructure and to our way of life.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

December 13th, 1996 / 10:55 a.m.


Jean Payne Liberal St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the Minister of the Environment who this week tabled legislation which will strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act known as CEPA.

One of the key elements of this new legislation is a stronger emphasis on prevention, as the minister himself said, on being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to reducing pollution and controlling toxic substances.

As members know, Canada is known the world over for its natural beauty and vast green areas. Canadians do not want this reputation tarnished. The increased focus on prevention contained in the new legislation is a sign that this government is listening to the concerns of Canadians and is working to safeguard the environment.

Com Dev InternationalStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, through strategic investments in research and development, COM DEV International of Cambridge has established itself as an international leader in the design and production of equipment for satellite payloads. Eighty per cent of its annual revenues are from exports which demonstrates an ability to compete in the global economy. It illustrates how Canadians with vision can succeed.

Founded in Canada and Canadian owned, it has grown from a small start-up company to one which employs over 1,000 people with facilities in Canada, Europe and Asia. Its equipment has been chosen to fly on over 300 satellites. Its customers include NASA and all major commercial prime contractors. In 1996 alone, COM DEV created over 200 new jobs.

COM DEV is Canada's premier supplier of satellite payload equipment. This business success story needs to be recognized. COM DEV continues to boldly face the future with continued R and D, capital investment and expansion into new markets. We must all work together to help companies such as COM DEV to continue to succeed and generate economic wealth for Canada.

Merry Christmas.

Thistletown Community Breakfast ClubStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, imagine the efficiency of a program that can feed breakfast to upwards of 200 children five days a week throughout the school year at a cost of 30 cents per child per day. Imagine the tremendous loss to the

children serviced by this program if it were to close down due to funding cuts.

I would like to acknowledge the outstanding service the Thistletown Community Breakfast Club provides to the children of Etobicoke North. The breakfast club at Greenholm Junior Public School provides a hearty breakfast for 200 children each morning before class.

The link between proper nutrition and educational performance is well documented. When children are preoccupied by hunger, they cannot concentrate on reading or arithmetic. This is a dangerous lost opportunity for both the child and for society as a whole.

Through the efforts of the small staff and committed volunteers at the Thistletown Community Breakfast Club, children from low income families are able to start their day in a positive way with healthy food and a chance to interact with peers and volunteers who care.

Both the mission and the financial operation of this program are impressive. I fully support the efforts of the Thistletown Community Breakfast Club. I urge those who control the funding for this essential service to continue to support this important program.

Credit CardsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday morning, at a press conference I attended, the Association coopérative d'économie familiale de l'Outaouais announced that more than 40 consumer associations in Quebec had just formed a coalition to ask that legislation be passed to cap credit card interest rates.

It is interesting to note how many associations have come forward in support of the Outaouais ACEF campaign and how quickly they did so. These are associations from every region of Quebec, including a large number of co-operative home economics associations, the Service budgétaire et communautaire de Jonquière, the Carrefour d'entraide Drummond, the diocese of Gatineau-Hull, Logemen'occupe and many more.

These associations support the coalition of federal members of Parliament demanding that banks and stores lower the interest rates on their credit cards.

As a member of the executive of this coalition of federal MPs and on behalf of all members of the Bloc Quebecois, I want to congratulate these associations and their volunteers and to thank them for their support on this issue.

PropaneStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask the Minister of Finance to implement a rebate program to help seniors on fixed incomes, low income individuals and families, and farmers cope with a sudden and sharp increase in the price of propane of up to 120 per cent since last August.

This program would rebate part of the huge increase in the price of propane and would be funded by the increased amount of money this government will receive through corporate taxes due to the windfall profits of the manufacturers. Furthermore, I would propose that this program have a sunset clause dated for the spring of 1997 when the supply of propane should be back to normal.

Something must be done to help these individuals who are suffering great hardship due to this huge increase in the cost of home heating.

This government claims to be the saviour of the poor and the downtrodden. Let it demonstrate compassion now by implementing such a program.

Microcredit SummitStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, more than one in five people on Earth lives in poverty. That is over one billion people who are unable to provide for their own basic needs and the needs of their family.

In February 1997 parliamentarians from around the world will attend the first ever Microcredit summit in Washington, D.C. This conference has been organized to launch an important global fight against poverty.

The Microcredit summit will be the first stage in a 10-year campaign to reach 100 million of the world's poorest families by the year 2005. The goal is to provide these people with access to Microcredit for self-employment and in the process, provide the opportunity to free themselves from poverty and live with dignity.

This campaign targets the poor in industrialized countries and the developing countries of the third world.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Results Canada for their hard work in organizing the Microcredit summit. Their commitment to ending world poverty is truly commendable.

Postal ServicesStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week, three postal workers came to see me, to complain that the post office would no longer deliver flyers and other mail items currently handled by part-time workers.

These workers earn a little over $7 per hour. Most of them are single mothers, people with disabilities and immigrants, and this is their only job. If they lose it, these 10,000 workers will have to rely on unemployment insurance or social assistance.

These postal workers were supposed to be hired by the private companies that are taking over the distribution of the ad mail. Instead these companies are advertising for children nine years of age or over to take over the service. Some advertisements even read: "If you-are old enough to read this notice-". The pay would be minimal, like one-quarter of a cent per flyer delivered.

It is a sad situation which has brought much sorrow to the people losing the jobs and to their families. I hope that these jobs can be saved for the good of the workers and their families.

Happy holidays, Mr. Speaker.

Principal Pipe Organ CompanyStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize the work of a company in my riding of Oxford.

The Principal Pipe Organ Company of Woodstock was asked two years ago to dismantle the Dominion Carillon in the Peace Tower. Twenty-one of the smaller bells, the keyboard and most of the remaining components were safely stored in the basement of the Confederation Building.

The company spent five weeks bringing everything back to the tower, reinstalling and adjusting the carillon. The clock was cleaned, repaired and adjusted. The Westminster chime and hour strike mechanisms and the clock movements were replaced.

Thanks to the hard work of Principal Pipe Organ we are once again able to hear the wonderful sounds of the Dominion Carillon. On behalf of all members of this House, I would like to congratulate Principal Pipe Organ for their excellent work.

Radio Canada InternationalStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, thanks in part to the pressure exerted by the official opposition, we learned yesterday that Radio Canada International was granted a last minute reprieve for another year.

Recently, in Ottawa, the Minister of Foreign Affairs addressed a group of people involved in foreign policy and in the communications and computer industries. The minister then proposed an international information strategy to allow Canada to exert a political, economic and cultural influence in the context of globalization.

The government is making the broadcast of Canadian culture and values a priority in its foreign policy. According to the minister, we must find a way to put our new technologies and expertise at the service of our country abroad, and to promote Canada throughout the world.

However, some consistency is required. If we are to keep open Canada's window on the world, it is essential to ensure the long term survival of Radio Canada International.