Mr. Speaker, we are now debating motions in Group No. 10, which seek to improve Bill C-60.
I see that members opposite are smiling, but they should listen instead, they should read our motions and take a close look at them, because these motions are aimed at ensuring the well-being of consumers, who are the ones at the end of the food chain. Consumers are the ones who are paying and who will continue to foot the bill.
The clerks at the table in front of you have included three motions in Group No. 10, namely Motions Nos. 31, 32 and 33. In the nine minutes that I have left, I will try, for the benefit of all elected members of this Parliament, to explain each of these motions originating from the official opposition, the Bloc Quebecois.
We seek to amend clause 31 by replacing line 29 on page 9. The minister may remit all or part of any fee fixed under section 24 or 25 or under any act that the agency enforces or administers by virtue of subsection 11(1), and the interest on it.
Incidentally, we would also like to see in this clause a provision requiring the president of the food inspection agency to submit a report to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, within a period of one year. I can hear government members sitting on the committee say: "He is raising this issue once again". I am raising this issue once again because, among the elected members of this Parliament, those who sit on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food are the ones who have the best knowledge of this issue, given that most of them used to farm in just about every sector and region in the country. Some used to grow grain, others were in the poultry or the beef industry, while others still, such as the very knowledgeable member for Malpeque, were active in the dairy industry.
Given its membership, our committee has the required expertise, knowledge and know-how. This is why we would like to see Bill C-60 state clearly that the president must submit his annual report after 12 months at the latest, because under Bill C-60 as written, the he could wait 4 or 5 years before doing so. No precise date or year is given. We pointed this shortcoming out to the senior officials
who appeared before the standing committee, but no deadline was deemed necessary. Adding one would definitely improve the bill.
We move on to Motion No. 32, which reads as follows:
That Bill C-60, in Clause 32, be amended by replacing lines 40 to 42 on page 9 with the following:
"(c) provide a report to the President, the Minister and such committee of the House of Commons as is designated or established to consider agricultural matters on the audit, opinion and assessment."
Thus, it is clearly mentioned to whom the president must submit his annual report.
Motion No. 33 also refers to clause 32. We are proposing to improve subsection 32(1) as follows:
"32.1 Before providing the report under paragraph 32(c), the Auditor General of Canada shall consult (a) any person from the agriculture, fisheries, food processing, food distribution and public health sectors whom the Minister considers appropriate to consult; and
This is not clear in the bill, as it says: "any government of a province that has advised the Auditor General of Canada, in writing, of its wish to be consulted".
Bill C-60 is a major bill, and it will have a decisive impact on all Canadian consumers. The purpose of our amendments seek to set deadlines for submitting the documents outlining the agency's management and administration. It must be remembered that, knowing the finance minister, he will require the agency to recover its operating costs. You can see where this all leads: what might cost 1 cent to begin with will end up costing 10 cents, and the consumers will have to pay.
I see here some of my colleagues who seem to be smiling when they hear me say that there will be an increase of 10 cents a pound. I am well aware that, for some of us, the weekly food basket does not make a big dent in the family budget, but for most of our fellow citizens, putting food on the table eats up a very large portion of the weekly pay cheque of one or both bread winners.
These amendments also seek to revitalize the role of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food by giving it priority with regard to assessment and consideration of the agency's accounting documents, and most of all the role of the auditor general.
Therefore, we want to require the auditor general to consult the groups directly involved with the agency in order to ensure that senior management or the agriculture minister are not trying to hide disturbing facts.
You will find me tiresome about this, I know, but I must insist. I come back to the make-up of the Food Inspection Agency.
The president will be a Liberal; the vice-president, another Liberal; on the advisory board, the 12 members will be Liberals and, moreover, hiring rules are being suspended for two years. So you can imagine who will fill the management positions. In the ten provinces and the two territories, the management positions will be filled-and I see you do not seem to be surprised by this statement-by more Liberals.
I would remind the House that, last week, three judges were appointed to the Quebec Superior Court. One of them comes from the beautiful area of Victoriaville, in the wonderful riding of Lotbinière. I see that my hon. colleague from Lotbinière is smiling; he will be losing one of his constituents, with little regret if any. The appointee made some commendable efforts during the last referendum, but met with little success, since he was well known to the voters. Jean-Guy Dubois is being raised to the bench in recognition of his long-standing service.
I know full well, Mr. Speaker, that being on the bench is not one of your wishes, but I think you would make a good judge with that smile of yours; and you have the right political stripes.
Finally, I want to say that one can never be too careful when putting forward amendments, since patronage could become rampant within the agency, which would not, of course, be in the best interests of the consumers of Canada.