After a break of several weeks, Mr. Speaker, the names of the various ridings do not come to us as easily. Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you happy New Year.
The three motions made by the Bloc Quebecois regarding this bill, which are part of Group No. 8, are very worthwhile motions. Why is that? Because as the legislation stands at present, all that is required is for the agency to submit a business plan to the minister. That is not enough in our opinion because these provisions have caused considerable controversy within the industry. There is a distinct lack of transparency.
This is why, concerned with improving the bill and making a positive contribution to the legislative process, the Bloc Quebecois asks that everything be submitted to the Standing Committee on Agriculture. This seems to be the thing to do because this is all new: three former federal inspection services amalgamated into a single one coming under the agriculture minister's authority. Granted, that is a good thing. And the opposition did not object to the consolidation of three federal agencies. That is not the problem.
In this whole process, it is clear that the Minister of Agriculture wants to retain as much power as possible. This is a tendency we have been noticing for a few months with this government, a tendency to have responsibility rest with a minister instead of with the governor in council. You know as well as I do that the expression "governor in council" means cabinet.
Now, under Bill C-25, I think, for what had been the normal process so far to be operative, the phrase "by order of the governor in council" will have to be included, for particular matters to be discussed in cabinet from now on. More importantly our motions seek to ensure that they at least be submitted to the members of this House who sit on the agriculture committee so that they can examine whatever changes the minister may want to make from time to time.
We will support the good ones; opposition members do not sit either on the various committees or in this House to object to changes that may be positive, worthwhile. There is a another condition however, and that is the drift of the second motion. The agency should be required to consult both the farming industry or the agri-food sector as a whole and the provinces; in fact, all concerned.
Should this amendment be rejected, there is currently no such guarantee provided in the legislation. We believe such a measure would protect the future of the agri-food industry. It also concerns the health sector, however, since the inspection of food has an impact on health.
I am a now member of the Standing Committee on Health, and I care a lot about public health. It is necessary to inspect food. Just think of what happened in certain countries, Great Britain, for instance, with the whole problem of the mad cow disease. An agency such as this one must be able to protect public health; it must have public health as its main concern. This is why it must operate properly and have credibility. And in order to have credibility, consultation and transparency are required.
We could make other analogies. When it comes to controversial issues relating to health, such as the tainted blood scandal-and I am not only thinking of Canada, but of the western countries-any
process relating to health, including the inspection of food, must be credible and transparent. People must have confidence in it.
We are not trying to be aggressive. We are not proposing things to make a big fuss. We want the public to feel confident about the food it consumes, thanks to the presence of a federal agency. I am from Quebec and I am still a sovereignist, but I care about public health.
Again, we do not oppose the agency, particularly since such a change was made in Quebec in 1978. I know what I am talking about because at the time I was the press secretary of Quebec's agriculture minister, Jean Garon. I can name him, since he does not sit in this House. Jean Garon set out specifically to eliminate duplication.
Before the holiday season, I rose in this House, not to lambast the government, but to express a regret that the proposed change had not yet taken place. As I said, such a cleanup was done almost 20 years ago, by merging responsibilities in the food inspection sector.
This is basically what I had to say to support the amendments proposed by the hon. member for Frontenac who, like the hon. member for Lotbinière, also a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, made an extraordinary and sustained effort. These two members often raise this issue within our caucus and with members from other parties, to make people more aware of the agriculture and agri-food sector, because it is sometimes forgotten. A large number of us live in urban centres. However, the agri-food industry is very important for all of us, since it has to do with our food, with good food and good health.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you and I wish you a long and healthy life.