House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was events.


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-71, an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

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10 a.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, this is the ruling for the groups of motions for report stage of Bill C-71, an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts.

There are 34 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-71. The motions will be grouped for debate as follows:

Group No. 1: Motions Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26 and 29.

Group No. 2: Motions Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 30.

Group No. 3: Motions Nos. 6, 7, 9, 12 to 19, 25, 33 and 34.

Group No. 4: Motions Nos. 10, 11 and 20 to 24.

Group No. 5: Motions Nos. 27, 28 and 32.

Group No. 6: Motion No. 31.

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, 3, 8, 26 and 29 to the House.

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10 a.m.


Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, following your ruling in terms of the groupings at report stage of Bill C-71, I wonder if there might be a disposition in the House among our colleagues that all the motions be deemed moved, read and seconded.

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10 a.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. government whip have permission to put the motion to the House?

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10 a.m.

Some hon. members


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10 a.m.

Some hon. members


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10 a.m.

The Speaker

There is no agreement.

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10 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec


Stéphane Dion Liberalfor Minister of Health


Motion No. 1

That Bill C-71, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 24 and 25 on page 2 with the following:

"ing tobacco leaves and any extract of tobacco leaves. It includes"

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-71, in Clause 10, be amended by replacing line 33 on page 4 with the following:

"less than the prescribed quantities or portions of the"

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-71, in Clause 20, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 30 on page 7 with the following:

"tics, health effects or health hazards of the"

Motion No. 26

That Bill C-71, in Clause 40, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 39 on page 15 with the following:

"Minister within the prescribed time and in the prescribed manner."

Motion No. 29

That Bill C-71, in Clause 45, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 32 on page 17 with the following:

"11 ou 12 ou le détaillant qui contrevient à"

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10 a.m.

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario


Joe Volpe LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that we have accepted the groupings of all of the motions, I wonder if the House would allow me just for a moment or two to reflect on the purposes of Bill C-71.

I would like to remind everyone that Bill C-71 first, foremost and almost completely is a health bill. It is important to reflect on that because everyone in this House is aware of the human and economic costs associated with tobacco use.

In Canada each and every year some 40,000 people suffer premature death as a result of tobacco use. There is a direct economic impact associated with that and an indirect cost as well. The direct economic impact is the cost of some $3.5 billion to the health care system, with an additional $11.5 billion in indirect costs associated with related illnesses that come with tobacco use.

I am sure there is not anyone in this House who has not had a relative or a friend negatively impacted as a result of tobacco use or environmental smoke. Those losses cannot be measured or quantified. The emotional attachment we have to our loved ones who suffer as a result of the use of tobacco impacts each and every one of us. We all have family members and constituents who feel it is important to deal with this issue.

Most important, tobacco use is a preventable source of much health damage. I want to underscore the word preventable. Behind the glossy advertising and a carefree lifestyle that sponsorships feed off, there is a record of disease and lives ended too soon.

Protecting the health of Canadians in general and especially young people deserves special consideration. Some 85 per cent of all smokers started to smoke before the age of 16. Those who will suggest in the course of the debate that this issue is about adult choices should keep that in mind.

I would like to speak to each of the motions and very briefly give an indication as to why they are where they are and what the government position is on each one.

Motions Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26 and 29 have been proposed by the Minister of Health to give greater clarity to Bill C-71. The objective of the bill is to protect the health of Canadians. Therefore it focuses primarily on matters which touch the public rather than the internal business of the tobacco industry.

To further illustrate this point, Motion No. 1 removes the word "seeds" from the definition of tobacco products in clause 2.

Clause 10 deals with the number of tobacco products in a package in the interest of providing small packages of tobacco products, like smokeless tobacco or cigarillos, that can be more affordable to underage youth. Motion No. 3 will allow the government to control the package size of tobacco products that are sold by weight rather than by unit. An example of this is the loose smokeless tobacco.

With Motion No. 8 we are making an editorial change to remove the word "the" prior to the term "health effects" in clause 20.

Motion No. 26 is also an editorial change to incorporate the word "within" rather than the word "in" at clause 40.

Finally, Motion No. 29 is an amendment to the French version of clause 45. It too is an editorial change to correct an error in the wording.

I urge all members to keep this in mind as we vote on these motions.

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10:15 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, I was almost going to say "finally", but I am not sure it is the right word to describe the report stage of this bill, which rightly infuriated hundreds of people and organizers of cultural and sporting events, primarily in Quebec.

Organizers of such major events as the Festival du jazz, the Just for Laughs festival, the Montreal Grand Prix and many other events are concerned about the future of these events, as are many individuals. Basically, they are concerned about the future of Quebec culture. There is also the economic aspect to be considered, which represents millions of dollars.

Here we are at report stage. The first group of motions contains amendments Nos. 1, 3, 8, 26 and 29. I will abide by the Speaker's decision. I must say the opposition cannot be opposed, since, in certain cases, the amendments involve changes in the definitions of words and, in others, the definition of tobacco products is broadened somewhat. The official opposition agrees with these changes.

As this is my first speech, I must recall certain events. In December, the Liberal government wanted to fast track the bill through. Accordingly, only one speaker was permitted from each party. I was the only member of the official opposition to be able to speak in the House at second reading. One single speaker.

Then, when the bill was being examined in committee, they tried to bulldoze the work of the committee. They wanted to hurry our work along. And this was done with the complicity of the third party, the Reform Party. What a scam, even before reading the bill, the Reform critic agreed to rush it through the House before Christmas.

We are more serious than that. We read bills, we read them clause by clause. Although we share the objectives of the Minister of Health, we do not agree with his methods.

This bill is vague, it will not be enforceable, and it may be challenged before the courts. More time is needed to review it and to determine the very important impact it will have. The Minister resorts to such tactics as reversing the burden of proof; we think we

should proceed with caution and take our time. We think the minister should be careful not to jeopardize cultural and sporting events.

We worked, we took the time to hear all the witnesses, including representatives of the Chamber of Commerce of Montreal and spokespersons for major events.

Finally, the official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois, was the only party to study and criticize this bill. We asked for explanations and clarifications, which were given in some cases. We also proposed amendments during the clause by clause study. Most of these amendments were rejected. However, we eventually succeeded in convincing the parliamentary secretary to accept one of them. To everything else, the government and its representative on the committee turned a deaf ear.

We were successful in impeding the passage of this bill before the holiday season, as the government intended. It wanted to have this bill adopted during the holidays, when everybody is partying, so it would go unnoticed.

What are they doing at report stage? Using the same kind of strategy. They schedule it on a Friday, hoping that members of the official opposition will not be numerous enough to defend Quebec's interests, cultural and sports events, and Quebec culture. They hoped that we would not be here, in the House, but here we are.

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10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

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10:15 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Indeed, here we are.

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10:15 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

We will not let the government ram this bill through. We will not let the Minister of Health show off and make believe that he can play tough. This Minister of Health-who is not here, but I cannot say that-told the anti-smoking lobby that if he did not get this bill passed, people should not vote Liberal.

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10:15 a.m.

An hon. member

You did not say that.

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10:15 a.m.


Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, a point of order. We know that we are all present in this House, some of us through our rhetoric and others by our spirit and by our intent. I think it is important for the member opposite to recognize the rules of this House and to acknowledge that the presence of the minister is here all the time, especially in this bill.

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10:20 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, truth is hard to accept as we can see. The Liberals do not like it when an opposition party does its work properly in this House. Members of this government would like us to sleep on the job, but we will wake them up.

If they agree with the bill, I suggest that the Minister of Health and his parliamentary secretary become the Don Quixote of health. I suggest they take real measures and tell people about it through adequate prevention and information programs. I suggest they invest funds to inform the people that tobacco is a dangerous product, harmful to health, and to convince them they should not smoke instead of introduing a hypocritical bill which will solve nothing, which is unenforceable and which will not be enforced.

The best proof of this is the law forbidding the sale of tobacco products to young people under 18 in Canada. Do you know that 25 per cent of all convenience stores in Canada do not respect that law? Do you know how many federal inspectors there are to ensure enforcement of that law all over Canada? Forty. It is totally hypocritical.

The parliamentary secretary accuses us of using rhetoric. Those who use rhetoric are on the other side of the House. They are the ones who write equivocal and obscure bills. I almost feel I could use words like misleading or deceptive because in fact this bill will solve nothing at all. The government shows no compassion, no willingness whatsoever to deal with the issue of sponsorships.

Please excuse me Mr. Speaker, I am furious, but I will calm down.

In Quebec, organisers of cultural and sports events are raving mad. This government does not realize it is heading in the wrong direction. We invited it to take its time. Instead, it is forging ahead, using the steamroller approach, ramming this down our throats to expedite it before the election. They had better be careful, they are going to hear about this during the election campaign. The Bloc Quebecois will harp on the issue day in and day out. This is the wrong way to go and it is unacceptable. This way of doing things is far from transparent. Yes, these are words, but they have no meaning. Any one can challenge them. They create uncertainty for everybody.

This morning people are wondering if the Grand Prix de Montreal is going to go ahead anyway. The government is proposing amendments to subclauses 24(2) and 24(3). But all they do is restrict publicity to the site of the event.

Our question is simple: Will it be possible to broadcast the Grand Prix de Montreal on TV? Will it still be possible to show a car sponsored by a tobacco company? No, it will not. Clause 31 says no. Clause 31 goes as far as saying that as of this year, not within two years, not within 18 months, it will no longer be possible to film cars coming to the Grand Prix from outside. But they did not say anything about that.

If this is not true, they should say so, and move amendments in the House to this effect.

I believe the bill is badly flawed on two accounts. On one hand, its avowed objective is to ban this and that, but it leaves it to the regulations. However, the minister has not said what will be in his regulations. To defuse the controversy, this blustering health minister could let us know clearly what will be allowed and what will not. But he is doing nothing of the sort.

All he wants to do is to look tough, to project the image of someone brave enough to get a controversial bill passed. But in fact, without the regulations, nothing in this bill can be implemented.

This is why I have something to suggest to the parliamentary secretary who, through the whole process I must say, has listened more than the others to the arguments presented by the opposition. He has been very attentive.

I suggest he goes back to the drawing board before it is too late, and I urge that this bill be not rammed through the House before its disastrous impact on cultural and sports events has been reviewed.

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10:25 a.m.


Grant Hill Reform Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a minute and clarify for all Canadians the position of the Reform Party on the procedural issues on which we decided to expedite this bill. One of the things my constituents approached me about was that sometimes a bill should be supportable. They said that sometimes things should be done in a non-partisan way.

The Reform Party decided on this issue that we would try to do everything we could to prevent procedural delays. For that reason, when I made my speech at second reading I asked for the question to be now put. That prevented any amendments being put. It was fascinating to watch what happened because mistakes were made by both the official opposition and the government side. Individuals wanted to speak, stood in their place and were not recognized.

A furore developed that was directed at Grant Hill, the non-partisan individual who moved that motion. It was done for only one reason, to prevent procedural delays. It was not meant to stifle debate. It was not meant to stop individuals who have strong positions on this bill from speaking. I want that to be clearly understood, especially by my colleagues in the Bloc who have chosen to say that this was inappropriate. I believe in the long term, a non-partisan approach to this bill will see us well served.

Also I want to comment on the sponsorship issue. I am very interested in the Grand Prix and in the future of sponsorship events for Canada. I have looked at the international realm for what is happening with Grand Prix sponsorship across the world. I have found that sponsorship by tobacco companies is literally being withdrawn in the rest of the world.

I listened to some of my colleagues. As a car racer myself, I have colleagues in this field who say that their careers will be cut short. I have listened to individuals say that there will no longer be cart races in Canada. I have listened to people say that the Grand Prix will be gone. I ask those individuals to be very frank and open because the Grand Prix in Britain no longer carries tobacco advertising on the cars. Britain is literally the heart of much of Grand Prix activity.

Cart racing is primarily in the U.S. We have two races in Canada. Cart racers in one year's time will no longer be able to carry tobacco logos on the cars in the States. In other words, the U.S. will be banning sponsorship as well. The argument is specious.

It is fascinating that the big event in my riding, the Spruce Meadows Masters, originally said that this bill would have a big impact on the event. After looking around other sponsorship was found. This bill will not kill the event, an event that was sponsored heavily by a tobacco company.

I will not categorize what I want to say as a criticism of the minister for the year's grace period. However, I make a prediction during this year's grace period that there will be battle lines drawn by powerful forces to try to put this legislation in the garbage can. The next year will see, twice in the other place, a huge advertising campaign launched that will talk about freedom, that will talk about individuals unable to make choices that Canadians should be able to make.

I am very sensitive to that. I do not think governments should intrude in areas where governments should not intrude.

On this issue for the sake of youth, for the sake of our kids, for the sake of those individuals I have had personal experience with in my medical practice, I believe this bill, imperfect though it may be and even though I believe it could have gone a different road, it is better than the vacuum we have before us.

I and my colleagues will try and make certain that we do nothing which can be misconstrued as a roadblock. We will try to criticize specific areas that could be altered. We will try to make improvements to the bill in a non-partisan way. That is the approach that Reformers have taken on this important health issue.

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10:30 a.m.

Hamilton West Ontario


Stan Keyes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, as always, I remind myself that it is a privilege for me to speak in the House on behalf of the constituents of Hamilton West, more specifically, the constituents, Ms. Smith, Mr. Sullivan, Harper's Wholesale, Food Fare Variety and others who have expressed concerns that measures contained in Bill C-71 could, if passed, as presently written do a number of things.

First, increase a company's operations costs by requiring extensive monthly sales reports by brand and by customer. Second, further increase costs by forcing them to replace staff under 18 years of age who will be prohibited from handling tobacco products. Third, prevent a company from doing business by putting a gag on sales reps who will not be allowed to comment on tobacco products. Fourth, force many retailers to close their doors because of loss of revenue from increased costs of redesigning their stores to comply with display regulations.

I have done a little homework on these concerns and I am happy to say that this moment I can dispel these myths. So let us deal with the last question first.

In the government's consultative document "Tobacco Control: A Blueprint to Protect the Health of Canadians", it was proposed that only one pack of cigarettes per brand be exposed for sale at retail. The purpose of the proposal was to reduce the inducement youth to purchase tobacco products while at the same time providing adult customers with information regarding brand availability.

During consultations with the retail sector on the blueprint, it became apparent that this proposal would not be practical and would involve additional expenses for retailers. Because of the concerns expressed by them during consultations, the blueprint proposal was not carried forward into Bill C-72, the tobacco act. So retailers can continue to display products for sale. Retailers along with other interested parties will be consulted regarding the development of any regulations or policy guidelines concerning product display.

On the subject of display, my constituents are concerned that once the legislation comes into effect retailers will have to lock up the tobacco products they sell. While Bill C-71 does not require retailers to lock up tobacco products for sale in their stores, it prohibits, except in duty free stores, self-serve displays which allow the customers to handle the tobacco product before paying for it.

In addition self-serve displays create the impression that tobacco products are as harmless and ordinary as other consumer goods offered for sale in the same manner. So we have to balance that particular scenario.

Let us address the myth that Bill C-71 is a massive and unwarranted assault on retailers who will lose money and may have to fire every employee under 18. The federal government's objective is to reduce the demand for tobacco products and to restrict youth access to tobacco. The government does not intend to licence retailers who can or cannot sell tobacco products. Each and every retailer who now sells tobacco products will be able to continue to sell those products. There is no provision in Bill C-71 restricting the age of persons selling or handling tobacco products and there is no offence for possessing tobacco products.

Retailers will continue to be able to hire persons under the age of 18 to sell or deliver tobacco products. The government's objective is to prevent the sale of tobacco products to minors.

With respect to the point about requiring extensive monthly sales reports, reporting requirements will be the same. They will be the same as they were under the previous tobacco control legislation, the Tobacco Products Control Act, which was in effect from 1988 to 1995.

I will discuss the myth that there would be a gag on sales representatives. In his wisdom, the Minister of Health has amended clause 18 in Bill C-71 by replacing lines 18 to 20 on page 7 with the following:

-a promotion by a tobacco grower or a manufacturer that is directed at tobacco growers, manufacturers, persons who distribute tobacco products or retailers but not, either directly or indirectly, at consumers.

In short, Bill C-71 restricts tobacco advertising and promotions that affect the public, not communications within the tobacco industry. This change to the application clause of the bill will provide a greater certainty that internal business communications are not caught by the bill.

On behalf of these constituents and many other constituents of my colleagues I have spoken to on this matter, I hope their serious concerns have been addressed in Bill C-71.

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10:35 a.m.


Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to briefly clarify one point on Motion No. 1, which reads that the Minister of Health will amend Bill C-71 in clause 2 by replacing lines 24 and 25 on page 2 with the following: "tobacco leaves and any extract of tobacco leaves".

I thank the Minister of Health and the parliamentary secretary for including that section. It was a concern of tobacco producers in my area of Haldimand-Norfolk because "seeds" was previously included in the bill. There was a concern that their work within the tobacco industry to produce that tobacco might be impacted by this bill.

On behalf of the tobacco board I have had discussions with the Minister of Health, the parliamentary secretary and their staff on this issue. For the tobacco producers in my riding, they have made sure the bill does not impact on them.

The intent of the bill was not to impact on the growers. The intent of the bill, as the minister has stated, is to impact on the manufacturers of tobacco. Through this amendment, Motion No. 1, and subsequent amendments the minister has ensured that tobacco growers are not impacted by the legislation.

On behalf of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board, I want to thank the minister and his staff for doing that.

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10:35 a.m.


Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking this morning about Bill C-71, regarding tobacco advertising, which has angered a good many people. I would like to put this bill into perspective and explain why so many people are furious about this measure.

In September 1995, in its judgment in the case of RJR-MacDonald Inc. vs. the Solicitor General of Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada declared ultra vires some parts of the law on tobacco products dealing with advertising. In December 1995, following this decision, the previous minister, Diane Marleau, tabled a framework on the approach the government intended to use in its anti-tobacco strategy.

On December 2, 1996, after several postponements, from Spring to early Fall and then from early Fall to late Fall, the present Minister of Health, David Dingwall, introduced Bill C-71, an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts. Since then, the procedure used to get this bill through has been questionable, in our opinion. The bill was introduced and, before we even had a chance to debate it, referred to committee.

We were given the permission, through a procedure that does not normally happen in the House, to have a single speaker, and then the bill was sent to committee for a clause by clause study. The Bloc Quebecois had to force the government to agree to hear a minimum of witnesses.

This morning, this bill is back in the House after the minister's office in Ottawa quietly moved some amendments, at two o'clock in the morning, while the general public was concerned with the budget. No wonder we are angry. This is hypocritical, it is appalling to see how the government is in a rush to get this bill passed. It is probably because the minister has staked his life on it.

I know that some members of the government also are angry at the procedure and the amendments that the government has just moved. These amendments mostly affect sponsorship and the economy in Quebec; we are talking 50 per cent of the economic benefits for cultural and sports organizations, for Montreal and the surrounding area. This means $133 million multiplied by 50 per cent, that is, half of that amount. No wonder we are angry, at a time when the government is cutting transfers to the provinces, when it has been reducing transfer payments for a very long time, always at the expense of the province of Quebec.

Consequently, we will debate this bill today to show the people that we are able to defend Quebec's interests. We voted for this bill at second reading for the sake of people's health. But now, we are up against an amendment on sponsorship and we are unable to see whether it will be effective. How can a poster from a tobacco company for the Just for Laughs festival deter young people from starting to smoke? There is absolutely no opinion poll. All the opinion polls that were done show us that it is not an effective measure.

Instead of spending $100 million on propaganda for the flag, perhaps we would be better off to put $100 million in educational kits to deter our young people from smoking.

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10:40 a.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words on this bill as well. I would like to say from the outset that I support our party's position on this bill in trying to encourage young people not to smoke and enhance the public awareness of the dangers of smoking.

But I find myself at odds with a few facts. The one thing wrong with this bill that I feel Canadians should know is that it gives the government exceptionally strong powers in making changes.

The regulation making powers that are given are extremely broad. It is done through orders in council, governor in council. It has far reaching powers and it is all throughout the bill. It is pervasive throughout the bill.

What is wrong with that is if there are some objections or some concerns by the Canadian public then cabinet can just do what it wants without coming back to this House. This House is a place where laws are made. This House is where politicians should stand up and argue in favour or against certain bills. With this one particular aspect of the bill flawed the government nevertheless is proceeding.

We do support the intent of the bill but we are vehemently opposed to the manner in which the government has worded the bill and the powers that it gives the cabinet.

The reason the government has done that is it feels that if there is a challenge in the courts about the legality or illegality of any aspect of this bill, then it can quickly huddle together, make changes, make amendments and then proceed with life.

I do not think that is how governments should be run. I do not think that is how our laws should be made. Our laws should be made subject to scrutiny by members of Parliament all across Canada who can debate ideas back and forth. That is a serious flaw in this bill.

This bill, when we really think about it, is all about money. It is about money for the government from the revenues it makes from

the taxes it charges on tobacco, for the tobacco companies themselves which make money by manufacturing, selling and distributing the product and the promoters of sporting events who ask the tobacco companies to sponsor their car events, tennis events, horse riding events so they can present something to the sporting public as if they are doing some honourable and wonderful thing.

Is smoking legal or illegal? If it is legal, what the heck is government trying to do? It is walking a fine line by saying: "It is legal. We will let you sell it but we will tax the heck out of you. We know it is bad for you. We know it causes cancer. We know it kills. We know that 70 per cent or 80 per cent of youth who smoke become addicted, unlike alcohol where only 15 per cent of the people become addicted". Why do we not have a debate on whether we should make smoking legal or illegal or restrict tobacco? Is it a drug or is it not a drug?

Let us get up here and talk about that. The government should not try to walk a fine line as if it is a sharing, caring Liberal government and it will look after the Canadian public. It knows smoking is bad for Canadians but it it will let tobacco companies sponsor events, and then again maybe it will not. The government will let the tobacco companies sell their products but it will not let them label them, they cannot put them in a vending machine. This is ridiculous.

Is smoking legal or illegal? Why do people not stand up and debate that in the first place? If it is legal, do tobacco companies not have rights according to the charter of rights and freedoms? I am not supporting or condoning smoking. It is a personal choice. If it is legal and it is a personal choice why does government not butt out? Why does it have to spend hours and days and millions of dollars in hearings trying to walk that fine line pretending that it knows better than the Canadian public what is good for them?

Is smoking legal or illegal? If it is legal, individuals have rights and companies have rights. Tobacco is a product that can be sold. Why is government interfering? If x number of people want to smoke, let them smoke. If x number of people want to kill themselves, let them kill themselves.

Why does government have to look after the youth and child poverty? Why do parents not take some responsibility in looking after the babies they bring into this world? Do they not have a responsibility? Should they not be telling them that smoking is not good for them, that certain foods are not good for them and alcohol is not good for them? Why is it that government has to do all these things all the time? It is pathetic.

I find myself at conflict over this bill. I find myself not liking smoking. I will speak out against smoking. I will say that it is bad. I do not like to go into a smoke filled room. I do not like the smell of my clothes after I have been some place where a lot of people smoke. I am a non-smoker.

Why is it that this government is now telling tobacco companies which are growing, manufacturing and distributing something that is legal what they can and cannot do? Why is government getting into our lives in such a regulatory fashion? It imposes everything on us: it knows better; if somebody comes up with a study, then that is it, that is the law and that is what the government is going to do.

I do not like that and I do not like the position it puts me in as a politician. When I think about it, why do I have to argue against the rights of a company to sell something that is legal? How can anyone argue both ways? How can government have it both ways? How can the government say it is looking after young people? Is it not looking after adults and the older people? To heck with them. They can smoke and they can die but the government will look after the young people. It is going to prevent smoking for youth.

It is hypocritical. If smoking is legal, it is legal. If the government wants to control it, then control it, but control it in a way that does not infringe upon the rights of the manufacturers.

This brings me back to my point about regulatory decision making by orders in council. The cabinet can do whatever it wants to shift with the changing times, to change with the mood of the people and whoever is suing someone or whatever the case may be.

That is not right. I would like to have an intelligent person on the other side who is in favour of this bill tell the Canadian public why the government cannot make a law which is black and white: Here it is, baby; you either follow it or you do not. Then if there are objections, it either stands the test of legality or it does not. Why can we not do that? I have had conversations with members of the health department. They say it is because they are worried that when they are challenged by the tobacco companies it will get kicked out of court and they will be two or three years behind the times and all the young people will start to smoke again and become addicted.

Why can the government not pass a law by saying here it is, this is the way it is, this is the way it is going to be, and it is legal. Is there not a problem? Is there not an issue on legality or illegality? What are we trying to do?

To skirt the issue the government introduces something which will set a bad precedent. It is a bad precedent to set because it will allow public officials when they become cabinet minister, to change the laws and rules without reporting to the House, without being held accountable and without allowing themselves to come under scrutiny.

My main point is that we support the government in its attempt to enhance public awareness of the health hazards of tobacco. We recognize the impact which it has on youth who are easily influenced and like to rebel and do their own thing. We should spend some time pointing out to them that tobacco is very addictive and they should be careful with it. We know it is not healthy, but it is their choice.

I have a problem with the legality or illegality and I have a problem with Bill C-71 in terms of how certain measures in the bill can be changed. That is my criticism of the bill. I want it to be clearly understood that we support everything which is in the bill, but that is one area which the government should be willing to delete. It should be willing to say: "Here is the law. Here is what we would like to do, and all hon. members of Parliament can either approve it or not approve it".

The government should not be playing games with advertising and how this product can or cannot be promoted. We are infringing upon the rights of others in trying to defend the health of Canadians. We are at odds; we are in conflict.

I wish the government would discuss that a bit so that at least I could understand it. If I am the only member of the House who does not understand it, I would still like to have the indulgence of the government. I would really appreciate the indulgence of the government to explain it to me.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament representing Trois-Rivières, I am very pleased to finally speak on Bill C-71, the Tobacco Act, which is an act to regulate the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products, to make consequential amendments to another act and to repeal certain acts. The purpose of this bill is to protect Canadians and Quebecers, young persons in particular, from inducements to use tobacco products and to restrict access to tobacco products.

In this case as in others, no one can stand against what is good and right. Essentially, it is obvious that, in response to legitimate public concern, the government is acting with good intentions in wanting to protect public health, and the health of young persons in particular, and to restrict access to tobacco products. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a limit. As you know we must not lose touch with reality, especially economic reality as it relates to cultural and sports events.

Cultural as well as sports events rely on sponsorship and, in this particular instance, this support comes from the private sector.

For once that the private sector is genuinely philanthropic in its actions, in the name of doing what is right, we are putting roadblocks in the way of those at the receiving end of the sponsorship, the organizers who, painstakingly, year after year, from coast to coast, in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal-and Trois-Rivières, of course-in particular, put together major cultural and sports events with the help of hundreds and thousands of volunteers. With its good intentions, this government is seriously compromising the future of these events.

We are talking about $60 million a year in sponsorships from the private sector across Canada, $30 million or 50 per cent for Quebec. That is how we can enjoy great events like the Just for Laughs festival, the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire, the Montreal Grand Prix and the Players Grand Prix in Trois-Rivières.

That is what is at stake here. Such events are being compromised deliberately. Next summer, Trois-Rivières will host the 28th edition of its Grand Prix. The event means $8 to $10 million in investments for the region. Hotel rooms have been reserved at least a year in advance throughout the Mauricie region. From an economic point of view, this is the region's main event.

Lacking vision and having all but lost its grip, the government dispenses with consultation, shrugs off people's legitimate representations, and keeps trying to have its own way, by slyly rushing things through the day after the budget speech, as well as today, which was supposed to be set aside for the reply to the budget speech. The government is flouting all the rules and muzzling the opposition at second reading.

Once again, as my colleague from Drummond pointed out a moment ago, amendments were proposed late at night to try and keep public pressure to a minimum.

I still have five minutes, I think, so I will continue later, after oral question period.

Tobacco ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Yes, you still have at least five minutes. You will have the floor when we come back after oral question period.

As it is almost 11 a.m., we will proceed to statements by members.

Mr. WongStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to congratulate a 104-year old Vancouver store owner, Mr. Wong, for his exemplary work and dedication on behalf of the YWCA.

His ties to the YWCA date back to the late 1930s when the organization saw a need in Chinatown for social services and bridges to help its Chinese Canadian residents overcome hostility and racism.

Mr. Wong came from a small village in Toi-San county in 1913. Like other Chinese immigrants, he had to pay a $500 head tax in order to enter Canada.

In 1931 he founded the Jong Wah Drug Store which he and his wife Esther ran for 47 years in the heart of Vancouver's Chinatown.

I congratulate Mr. Wong and all of his achievements. I know that all Canadians join with me in wishing him good health, long life and prosperity.

Via RailStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we welcome VIA Rail's decision to impose a moratorium on the abandonment of the railway tracks at the Lévis station, to the benefit of the Charny-Sainte-Foy line. The representations made by the Bloc Quebecois, the Government of Quebec and local stakeholders have paid off. This project could have resulted in serious safety problems.

Passenger trains serving eastern Canada were to go through Charny's Joffre yard, cross four railway crossings, and even back up over the Quebec City bridge, toward the Sainte-Foy station. These dangerous manoeuvres by passenger trains must be reviewed more thoroughly.

Thanks to the moratorium, all the parties concerned by the abandonment of this rail line will have the time to look at the various alternatives and to make the best decision in the interest of the region and of train users.