Mr. Speaker, you are absolutely right. We are now debating the motions in Group No. 9, which were proposed by the opposition and which seek, as I pointed out earlier, to improve Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The clerks at the table in front of you have included four motions in Group No. 9, namely motions Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30, which impact on clauses 24, 26 and 27.
For the benefit of government members, I will discuss each of these motions. I will try to show their merits and also ask members opposite to support these motions which, again, seek to improve Bill C-60.
Motion No. 27 deals with clause 24, which reads as follows:
- (1) Subject to the regulations, the Minister may fix the fees to be paid for a service or the use of a facility provided by the Agency.
The goal here is cost recovery.
In committee, government members and senior officials told us that it was not their intention to recover every penny spent on the inspection or monitoring of premises, such as a bakery, a fish processing plant or any other similar business.
No details are given in this clause, to which we in the Bloc Quebecois are proposing to add, in lines 5 to 8:
24.(1) Subject to the regulations, the Minister may, on January 1, 2000, fix the fees to be paid for a service or the use of a facility provided by the Agency.
If we are to take seriously what we were told, to the effect that they were not after cost recovery immediately, why not spell it out? Our amendment stipulates that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food may not institute new cost recovery mechanisms before the year 2000. That is what they want, but they do not want to put it in writing.
We are proposing that it be included in Bill C-60. If you are serious, if you mean what you say, do not be afraid to include it in the bill. This is what we are proposing. We will support you.
The senior officials responsible for establishing the agency told us, when they appeared before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, that it was not their intention to collect fees before the year 2000.
I understand that, on the eve of an election, the agriculture minister would not have public servants go after individual or corporate users for every last cent of the cost of inspecting their facilities and their procedures. But after the election, given the finance minister's obsession with eliminating the deficit, this same minister who is making cuts right and left, who is sparing no one in his quest for money, will surely look for some little way to recover user fees. We are therefore asking that clause 24 state that no recovery may be attempted before January 1, 2000. This is what we were clearly told in committee.
The second motion, Motion No. 28, involves clause 26. We are proposing that, before fixing a fee under section 24 or 25, the minister consult with the advisory board.
As I have just said, the advisory committee is appointed by the President, and the President is appointed by the Governor in Council. So, we have the following chain reaction: a Liberal President is appointed; the Liberal President appoints a Liberal Vice-President; the President and Vice-President, both Liberals, create an advisory committee which will, I can well imagine, be composed of 12 Liberals.
Something similar has, moreover, already happened in my riding just recently, when the new returning officer was appointed, a member of the federal Liberal Party, a director of the Quebec Liberal Party, as well as a key organizer of the last Quebec referendum on the future of Quebec. Of course, he got his reward for this. He was André Pomerleau, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last week, when he recommended I start looking for enumerators, since the national enumeration ought to start in mid-April. A good Liberal, as you see.
Also appointed was the daughter of Dr. Lecours, the head of the unemployment insurance board of referees. Dr. Lecours sat for three years in the Quebec National Assembly, on Premier Bourassa's Liberal team of course.
I could list dozens and dozens of other appointments, like the one involving the former Liberal member for Lotbinière, Jean-Guy Dubois, who sat in this House from 1980 to 1984, and then Brian and his team came along in 1984, and the Liberals took a serious drubbing. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, how your majority in your riding of Kingston and the Islands melted like the snows in springtime.
After four years, Jean-Guy Dubois was dumped by the voters, but he was appointed to the Superior Court. It is also a nice reward for him. The only inconvenience, as he told reporters, is that he will have to leave Victoriaville et reside in the fine city of Longueuil. Moving to that city is what he finds the most difficult, and this is not much of a compliment for the population of Longueuil.
I now come back to Motion No. 28 amending section 26.
26.(1) Before fixing a fee under section 24 or 25, the Minister shall consult with the advisory board and may consult with any persons or organizations that the Minister considers to be interested in the matter.
This is what we propose to add to this clause.
We suggest that the president and the minister be empowered to consult with other persons before fixing the costs to be recovered from the user-payer. They should, for instance, consult with industry, fishers and farmers, but also with consumers since at the end of the user-payer chain, consumers are always the ones who have to pay the extra cent for what the federal government is getting.
This is precisely what happened when the federal government announced, in the 1996-97 budget, that it would cut the subsidy to producers of industrial milk. It was then said: "If you cut it today you will have to pay 10 cents more per pound of butter, 30 cents more per pound of cheese". It has already begun.
Unfortunately, I do not have enough time to talk about Motions No. 29 and 30, but one of my colleagues will probably do so.