Madam Speaker, as a member of the Standing Committee on Health and the official opposition critic on tobacco, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-71, the Tobacco Act, at second reading.
Before the minister leaves, since I know he must leave us, I would like to tell him that I noted the kindness and appreciation he expressed to the Reform Party critic. Unfortunately, I will disappoint him somewhat, remaining as objective and non-partisan as possible.
I cannot go as far as the Reform Party critic, who, at a press conference, even before reading the bill clause by clause, spoke in favour saying that, for once, his party would support the bill to have it passed as quickly as possible, perhaps even before Christmas. He was satisfied with the information sheet provided by the minister some five minutes before the press conference.
I will disappoint the minister, but this sort of intervention is not in the style of the official opposition. Before we agree to, support or oppose a bill, we take the time to read it. We have read it and have reservations, which we will make known to the minister as positively as possible.
As all my colleagues are aware, at second reading, the practice in this Parliament is for the parties to vote primarily according to the principles and objectives of a given bill. It will perhaps surprise the minister, but the official opposition will vote in favour of this bill at
second reading, because we agree with most of the minister's objectives. The first part of my speech will focus on this.
I would point out right off that the opposition cannot support the part concerned with the request by the Minister of Health for unusual-and I stress unusual-powers to regulate tobacco products, sales and advertising.
My colleague from Chambly is ready to rise on this matter and will give the minister a hard time. In our opinion, these powers are really unusual. Regardless of how noble the cause, the official opposition will never let the rights of parliamentarians be trampled by a minister who wants to give himself just about every power.
Our strongest reservations relate to the sponsorship provisions of the bill. I am pointing this out now, but I will elaborate later on. The Bloc Quebecois will not support the bill at third reading if the federal government keeps refusing to compensate organizers of cultural and sporting events.
It may be that, given his mandate, the Minister of Health cannot do so. However, the heritage minister was unequivocal about this. We will try to make her change her mind, but she did say that she would not compensate the organizers of cultural and sporting events that are sponsored in Canada. You will hear from us on this issue, in committee and in the House.
Since we agree with most of the government's objectives regarding a reduction in health costs associated with tobacco use, we will support the bill at second reading because, as I said earlier, the vote at second reading usually relates to the objectives and principles of the legislation.
It is appropriate to point out the minister's objectives. Clause 4 reads as follows:
- The purpose of this act is to provide a legislative response to a national public health problem of substantial and pressing concern and, in particular,
(a) to protect the health of Canadians in light of conclusive evidence implicating tobacco use in the incidence of numerous debilitating and fatal diseases;
(b) to protect young persons and others from inducements to use tobacco products and the consequent dependence on them;
(c) to protect the health of young persons by restricting access to tobacco products; and
(d) to enhance public awareness of the health hazards of using tobacco products.
With respect to the first subsection, concerning the seriousness of the problems in question, mention should be made of the publication, in the October 18 issue of the American weekly Science , of the results of the first study to determine conclusively that there is a direct genetic link between tobacco smoke and lung cancer.
According to this study by researchers at the University of Texas and the Beckman Institute in California, one of the chemical components present in tobacco smoke, a carcinogen, causes damage to the cells of human lungs that is comparable to the damage observed in most malignant lung tumours. According to the study results, this carcinogen damages gene P53, a gene that is critical to health, because it blocks the growth of cells that cause tumours. According to the study's authors, damage to gene P53 is linked to half of all cancers in humans, and to almost 70 per cent of lung cancers.
To date, no one has challenged this study. It provides conclusive evidence of a link between this carcinogen and lung cancer.
The minister has a second objective that we support, that of protecting young persons from inducements to use tobacco products and the consequent dependence on them. I could immediately mention the third objective of protecting the health of young persons by restricting access to tobacco products.
I was youth critic before I became health critic. For three years now, the official opposition has expressed its support for these goals and has even accused this government of not doing enough to attain them. More on that later.
The following are a few statistics on smoking by young people. At the present time, 29 per cent of young persons between the ages of 15 and 19, and 14 per cent between the ages of 10 and 14, smoke. Smoking among adolescents 15 to 19 years of age has gone up 25 per cent since 1991. It has gone up, and part of the reason is the present government's inaction. It is not the only reason, but is certainly one of the reasons.
Approximately 85 per cent of smokers took up the habit before they were 16. This is where attention must be focused. Efforts must be made to try to convince adult smokers to stop, but, more importantly, these people must make up their own minds to do so. Without a decision on their part, it will not be possible. But we in the official opposition agree with the minister that everything must be done to discourage young people who have never smoked from starting.
Thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds are particularly vulnerable, because the daily consumption of tobacco products increases steadily during that period and tends to stabilize by the age of 15. See how young they start smoking. It is estimated that 80 per cent of smokers have seriously considered quitting and that 80 per cent of them have tried to quit at least once.
Cigarettes are bought mainly at convenience stores. In 1994, nearly half the young people in the 10 to 14 age group who tried to buy cigarettes in a store-I repeat, half of those in the 10 to 14 age group-were never asked how old they were or refused the cigarettes they were asking for. That is what a study commissioned
by Health Canada showed. According to 91 per cent of young people, and I think it is important to point this out, tobacco is habit forming. That is what we must work on.
I emphasize the federal government's ineffectiveness in enforcing the existing legislation regarding the sale of tobacco products to young people. Elsewhere in that study, it was reported that, across the country, 50 per cent of retailers did not enforce the law in this respect.
No wonder tobacco use among young people has increased by 25 per cent since 1991. In fact, the percentage is even higher among young girls. With only 40 or so federal inspectors to monitor convenience stores throughout Canada, does this come as a surprise? No.
The fourth objective pursued by the minister is to enhance public awareness of the health hazards associated with tobacco use. Again, we in the official opposition have taken every opportunity to press the current health minister and his predecessor to do more in terms of public education.
Why? Because it has been demonstrated time and time again that, for every dollar invested in prevention and public education on health matters, between seven and ten dollars could be saved in the long term. I find that previous Health Canada initiatives have proven, as I said, extremely ineffective. The minister is urging us to spread information. He has distributed documentation and we agree with some of what it says. This is a good opportunity to go over the statistics.
In Canada, in 1991, smoking caused an estimated 27,867 deaths among men and 13,541 among women, for a total of 41,408 deaths. Twenty one per cent of all deaths in Canada that year were caused by smoking. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Canada. It is estimated that more Canadians die prematurely each year from smoking than from car accidents, suicide, drugs, murder and AIDS combined. In 1991, deaths related to tobacco use accounted for about 62 per cent of the total increase in the number of deaths since 1989. In that same year, there were 11,841 deaths in Quebec.
Lung cancer accounted for respectively 31 and 26 per cent of smoking related deaths among men and women. Ischemic heart disease, or heart attacks, accounted for 25 and 20 per cent of the deaths among men and women, respectively. The number of deaths relating to tobacco use increases more rapidly among women than men. The number of such deaths among women went from 9,009 in 1985 to 13,541 in 1991.
Given the considerable increase in the number of female smokers in the sixties, the number of smoking related deaths among women is expected to continue to rise until the end of the nineties, and could equal, if not exceed, the number of such deaths among men by the year 2005.
In 1991, the costs of tobacco use in Canada were estimated at some $15 billion. Smokers spend more time in hospitals than non-smokers do. In 1991, they spent 4 million days in hospitals. That same year, the treatment of tobacco related diseases resulted in a total of 1.4 million medical prescriptions being issued.
Still in 1991, 38,000 people spent time in long term care facilities because of tobacco related diseases. Overall, the use of tobacco results in annual health care costs of some $3.5 billion in our country. On average, smokers missed four days more than non-smokers at work, for a total of 28 million days.
We should also mention the 40,000 plus deaths that are related to the use of tobacco and that will result in a $10.6 billion loss in future revenues.
That covers the main points of the health department's informative approach. Some may find it morbid.
Although I think the harmful effects of tobacco have to be mentioned, a more positive approach could also be developed, something more all-encompassing than the approach the department is now taking, and has been taking for a number of years now.
Before entering politics, I worked in recreation and sports. In fact, the reason I stopped smoking was because I was so interested in sports. I smoked next to nothing because I quickly realized that it was not possible to run a good marathon or 10 kilometre race as a smoker.
Do you know any marathoners, any Olympic athletes who smoke? They know only too well that it is not good for their performance.
Madam Speaker, I know you like singing. I am sure you know that most singers, Céline Dion comes to mind, do not smoke, because it damages the vocal cords. I think we should make the public more aware of these examples, through advertising or some other means.
The whip, who used to be a professional referee and came into contact with professional hockey players, could surely confirm that he has seen very few professional hockey players smoke. In any event, those who did cut short their career. I digress.
In Quebec, Kino-Québec used an extremely positive approach focusing on sports and health. A "play outdoors" theme was used to encourage people to participate. The theme targeted everyone, not just Olympic athletes. The idea was to get out and about in the fresh air, go mountain climbing. When you have made it to the top of Mont Jacques-Cartier in the Gaspé and you see caribou, and the air is crisp in your lungs, do you crave a cigarette? No, you do not, Madam Speaker. That would be an all-encompassing positive approach. But no.
Instead of that, what does the federal government do? It cuts funding for sports and recreation; it is even cutting back on funding for Olympic athletes.
Once upon a time, this department went by the name of Fitness and Amateur Sport. Those days are long gone. Now they are happy to take a more regulatory approach. They ban this, they regulate that. This has become the trademark of the Liberal government. Despite its adopting strict legislation on young people three years ago, it is not even capable of applying it. Legislation is only good if it is enforceable.
A law that is good but unenforced is not necessarily a bad law, but it is an rather ineffective one. This is what we are seeing with the federal government at the present time in the area of health, smoking in particular. This government has been humming and hawing for three years, and has not been enforcing its legislation.
The minister even complemented the RCMP for its anti-smuggling efforts. I shall not go into that episode, for lack of time, but I believe that the outcome in 1994 was disastrous. It was disastrous. I am not prepared to congratulate them. I will wait until there is a real change, before I follow his example.
We believe that the government, if it wishes to take a positive approach, and if it recognizes that smoking is the top-ranking cause of death, ought to be prepared to take action and to put its money where its mouth is. If it believes that advertising is contagious and strongly influences consumers' decisions, why would it not do more positive advertising, illustrating the benefits of being healthy, being fit, and in particular being a non-smoker? Why does it not do this?
We do, however, acknowledge that the government's efforts relating to advertising are praiseworthy, and correct, where radio and television and so on are concerned. We are going to vote in favour of the objectives and principles of this bill.
Because we have so many reservations, however, and particularly because our major objection concerns sponsorships-we are opposed to the minister's interference in this area-we shall be proposing a great many amendments to him in committee. If he sticks with his policy, we are going to invite him, once again, to compensate the organizers of sporting and cultural events. We are going to insist he do so. We are going to criticize his approach.
Clearly, the minister is applying the decision of the Supreme Court and the fact that the court rejected the government's position, and so he cannot completely prohibit sponsorship. He is therefore proposing something I would consider rather ridiculous. He is not prohibiting sponsorship entirely, but limiting it to 10 per cent. Sponsors are entitled to 10 per cent of the advertising space at the event provided the advertising is at the lower level.
The bill before us does not indicate how the minister will close certain loopholes, including one obvious one. Imagine a sign four feet by ten feet that was allowed on the site of an event in the past. Under the 10 per cent rule, how is the sponsor going to go about maintaining the space he had in the past? He has only to multiply the size of the sign by ten. It is not uncommon to see huge signs at such events. He has only to do that and will achieve the same result. As we can see, then, this rule is hard to apply.
The minister says he will regulate this. He says the only thing he cannot prohibit apparently is the use of colour. This is his only reservation. As for the rest, he says we will see how tobacco companies react. There are fewer restrictions in this rule of 10 per cent than in the old bill, which was thrown out by the Supreme Court.
If the bill is not amended, with this 10 per cent multiplied by 10 arrangement, it would be possible to portray Céline Dion and Jacques Villeneuve or an Olympic athlete in the process of smoking, so that young people see that smoking would not be a bad thing for their career. I am not saying these two people smoke. It is unlikely such famous people smoke. Others, however, might be tempted to smoke by the lure of money. Nothing in the bill prevents this.
The minister's approach is strange. He appears to be a severe man wanting to prohibit smoking, but, his bill has a hole in it. If the tobacco companies were to operate in bad faith, they could easily put it to use.
More than 300 Canadian organizations count on tobacco companies to sponsor their events. These sponsorships represent more than $60 million, some estimate them to be as high as $65 million for Canada as a whole, with $30 million for Quebec. Without compensation, many of these sporting and cultural organizations may well disappear.
The reputable SECOR management consulting group, which specializes in the analysis of economic benefits, selected 20 of these events and compiled studies on their many ramifications to show the important impact these events have on the Canadian economy at a time when funding from the various levels of government is becoming scarcer and scarcer. The 20 events examined by the SECOR group produced $240 million in spin-offs and created approximately 5,000 jobs. We have a government that pays lip service to job creation but takes little action in this regard, while these events actually generated 5,000 jobs.
According to the SECOR group, the events also produced at least $66 million in income for individuals, $34 million for businesses and $18 million for, guess who, the various levels of government.
This is $18 million in government revenue that will disappear along with the events that generated it.
In addition to their cultural interest, events sponsored by tobacco manufacturers promote the economic development of various industries, thereby benefiting society as a whole. I am still talking about cultural and tourist events.
We also disagree with the regulatory aspect. We have concerns and, unless changes are made, we will vote against the bill at third reading. If no changes are made in committee and the government closes all doors regarding regulations, we will have to oppose the bill.
My colleague from Chambly will address this in greater detail later, but with this legislation, the minister gives himself the power to regulate just about anything in areas that usually fall under provincial jurisdiction. Health is clearly identified as such in the Constitution.
Reference was made to advertising at the provincial level. That is an area of provincial jurisdiction as well. As for trade, it too normally falls under provincial jurisdiction. But here comes the minister saying that there is no problem, that he is prepared to regulate.
Clauses 7 and 17 were mentioned, and there are many more, but what worries me the most is clause 53 in Part VI, which reads in part as follows:
-the burden of proving that an exception, exemption, excuse or qualification prescribed by law operates in favour of the accused is on the accused-
This is reversing the burden of proof in a way that disadvantages the accused. This would mean that, after a preliminary case has been made by the crown, a retailer charged with any offence will have to prove that an exception, exemption or other excuse exists to justify his action.
Reversing the burden of proof is a very exceptional measure in penal and criminal law, since it violates the presumption of innocence under the charter of rights and freedoms.
I also want to discuss the issue of seizure. The bill provides that inspectors may seize any tobacco product or other thing by means of which or in relation to which they believe on reasonable grounds that the act has been contravened. This gives the inspector a lot of discretionary power.
A very broad discretionary power is given to the inspector, who has authority to seize just about anything. This could lead to some abuse. For example, imagine that cigarettes are seized from a retailer, who is later cleared of the charge against him. This person could end up with an outdated stock of cigarettes and suffer a major financial loss.
I also want to say something about the Supreme Court. The hon. member for Chambly will discuss it in greater detail, but we Quebecers are somewhat leery of the Supreme Court. My office is close to the Supreme Court. I look at it every day and it reminds me of certain things. It reminds me, among other things, that most Supreme Court judges are from Ontario. Not only is it located on the Ontario side, but Quebec is also under-represented. This situation has always been deplored by Quebec premiers, even those who were federalists, like Robert Bourassa.
Both the minister and his Justice colleague are leaving it up to the Supreme Court to determine the constitutional future of the country, to decide whether or not we will have the right, following a positive result in a referendum, to achieve sovereignty.
Every day, I hear ministers rise in this House and say: "We cannot compensate the 80-year-old retired Singer employees under POWA, because we need to get an opinion from the court". The issue has to be heard by the Supreme Court, and people must wait years for a decision. Given that these people are now 80 years old, some of them may not be around long enough to get a settlement.
The Supreme Court invalidated three sections of the Tobacco Products Control Act on September 21, 1995, seven years after the act was passed. The legislation had been ruled unconstitutional by Quebec's Superior Court, in 1991. However, that decision was overruled by the Quebec Court of Appeal.
At every stage of the legal challenge, the courts ruled on whether or not the legislation violated the freedom of expression provided under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We all remember that famous document. We support the basic rights provided under the charter, which is now part of the Constitution, but now the issue is left in the hands of the Supreme Court. However, since we still fear the Supreme Court, which has always been partial to one side, we are understandably suspicious.
The Supreme Court finally decided in favour of the tobacco companies in a very close judgment, five judges in favour and four against. The ultimate aim of this case was to determine if there was a causal link between a total ban on tobacco advertising and a decrease in the number of smokers. All judges agreed that, with this law, the government was infringing upon the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Charter. Four of the nine judges, however, believed that this violation of freedom of expression, under section 2(b), was justifiable under section 1 of that same Charter, which allows reasonable limits on certain freedoms. Five judges, however, found that the government was going too far.
With its new legislation, the government claims to be prepared to win any future court challenge. Health Canada employees told us they had obtained an opinion from the Department of Justice to that
effect. If this legal opinion exists, let it be made available to MPs so that their work is not in vain, should this opinion not be as obvious as the Minister of Justice would have us believe.
At any rate, we can sense some uncertainty in the very structure of the bill. That is unusual. In each section of the bill we can clearly see that the minister is giving himself the power to regulate, as if he were, basically, expecting not only challenges, but a possible repeat of the loss in the Supreme Court. He could say: "We cannot apply that part, but we are continuing to apply the rest". We can see that the minister is unsure. It is all very well for him to put on a flamboyant act, but the structure of his act indicates some uncertainty and worry.
There may be more than a few challenges. Perhaps the government will be caught unawares by many different challenges, which could result in so many sections being invalidated that it might be forced to bring in new legislation.
At a press conference on December 3, Bob Parker, the president of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, stated that, if the federal government's bill were not substantially amended, dozens of challenges could be expected.
Obviously, I could have a great deal to say on this. We will save our breath for the work in committee. I would, therefore, like to end here, allowing some time for other members to express their reservations and objections about sponsorships, the regulatory aspect and the non-respect of certain individual rights.
I am sure that a number of my colleagues will, as I am doing, express their approval this morning for the objectives, particularly as concerns young people under 18. The official opposition supports these objectives. It does not agree, however, with the means to achieve them. In some respect, we wonder whether things have not got a little out of hand.
We would certainly have liked the opinions of the provinces as well, of all the provinces, because this involves health. The minister makes no mention of working with his provincial counterparts.
Another element concerns us as well. It is the minister's timing in introducing his bill. This is not unimportant, although we are somewhat used to it. I am a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. The government did the same thing last year with the Employment Insurance Act, in the same circumstances. It tabled its bill at the beginning of December.
Why chose this point in time to introduce bills that may well be controversial or criticized? The answer is that the ministers of this government hope people have already started their Christmas festivities and that they will be more kindly disposed. They hope that people in general will be more docile, I would say, or less attentive to the debate on a bill, because we know how distracted people can be during the holiday season.
This is unacceptable. The bill has not been passed yet, but we are assuming that the government will want to move quickly. It is no assumption, as we have already been asked to co-operate. Even before the bill was tabled, all members of the Reform Party, who were probably in a hurry to leave on holidays, agreed that the bill should go through the various stages quickly-second reading, study in committee and then third reading-before Christmas as a Christmas present for Canadians. Some presents turn out to be nasty surprises, as you know, so we have to be careful.
At Hallowe'en, little children are told to be careful with candies. They look good, but sometimes they contain needles. We have to take the time. We are asking the government to be careful. It must not succumb to the temptation of going too quickly, because a bill passed too quickly is often flawed and does not contain enough amendments to improve it, so that it ends up being criticized by people and businesses. It may suffer the same fate as the last bill, which was challenged in court and eventually invalidated, forcing the government to introduce another bill.
In the meantime, years go by. The objectives of a minister or a government cannot be reached, because the government's action is ill- considered. We do not want the government to act thoughtlessly. We do want to help it achieve its objectives, as long as it respects the rights and freedoms of individuals and groups and avoid doing more harm than good, that is depriving organizations trying to improve the well-being of the public.
I could go so far as to talk about the gross national well-being, because festivals are not simply festivals. Cultural and sporting events provide a positive setting for people in hard economic times. We need such events; they create jobs. We are talking of 5,000 jobs for only 20 events.
The minister requested our co-operation earlier. He will have it, but he must not push to have his bill rushed through the House, because we will object. We will defend the rights of parliamentarians. We will not allow our powers to be taken away and given to a minister who wants to move too quickly.