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House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was appointments.

Topics

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

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. (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.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the amendments we are suggesting in this group are along the same lines as those in the previous group.

As you may recall, the food inspection agency will replace three government services with somewhat overlapping responsibilities. There is a concern on the part of the government to clarify these roles.

However, much remains to be improved in this bill. I hope the government will listen to our suggestions on how to make this legislation the best of its kind. The purpose of the group of amendments now before the House is, first of all, to ensure these changes are not sprung without warning on the agri-food industry and thus ensure there will be no cost recovery before the year 2000, so that companies have time to adjust, to consider the

changes that will be made and make their operating costs reflect the fees to be introduced by the food inspection agency.

I think it would be very wise on the part of the government to include such an amendment in the bill. Just look at what is happening in another sector where cost recovery has been introduced in a way I would call somewhat ruthless. I am referring to all the fees connected with navigation, especially on the St. Lawrence.

In this sector, the government decided to recover the cost of de-icing, of navigation aids, buoy maintenance, and so forth. The government proposed certain measures which were directly opposed to what the industry wanted, by obliging the industry to absorb year after year additional costs which had not been included in their planning.

In the food inspection sector, we have a wonderful opportunity to avoid this kind of mistake. Let us send a message to the agri-food industry, telling them that until the year 2000, there will be no recovery of additional costs. Tell them they will receive fair warning and there will be consultations. That is what we are proposing in the other amendments requested by the Bloc Quebecois in group 9, in other words, to ensure that consultations are held on service fees and on facilities, products and the rights of the agency, so that everyone who has something to say on the subject can do so. We must not end up with absurdities like we have in the case of ice breaking fees, where the industry says it is quite prepared to pay the cost, but perhaps things ought to be cleaned up a bit first.

I think that the food inspection agency in its first year, just starting out, and having to integrate the three government authorities that existed before, would have a hard time increasing fees and asking people to pay more in its start up year, when things have to be amalgamated and operational decisions made.

As there was a certain desire to privatize food inspection, we must make sure that market rules are obeyed and that when agri-food businesses are asked to pay they receive a quality product, guaranteed at the best price, without the fee structure being used to justify an inflated cost. Once the three government authorities involved in this sector are integrated, there should necessarily be economies of scale. Otherwise, the entire bill would be a waste of time and nothing would be settled.

We must make sure that savings are made where there were three authorities in the same sector or in parallel sectors, with similar functions. Let us give the industry time to adjust. Let us send it a clear message.

Let us tell it that, as of the year 2000, significant changes will be made and that there will be consultations on the matter so that, on both sides of the table, industry, government and consumers are clear about the standard for services in food inspection, what their cost will be and who will pay for them. Industry may have some interesting suggestions.

We might perhaps even contract out to the industry the inspection of certain products and then monitor afterwards, while, in other sectors, the monitoring should come first. There should be a daily production. It depends on the agri-food industry sectors.

I think the government would come out ahead if it set itself a period for consultation to ensure that the fee structure reflected what people want.

We must ensure that there is adequate consultation of another group, the provinces, because the establishment of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency does not change the fact that both the provincial and the federal levels are involved here. We have already congratulated the federal government for having said that, from now on, at least there will be only one player instead of three, but there are still a lot of areas where both levels of government will be working in very close proximity, and it would be utterly ridiculous to end up with completely different fee schedules for similar tasks. It would be illogical, for example, for a province to charge $100 for one type of activity while the government charged $150 or $200 for the same type of activity; the industry would have difficulty understanding such a thing.

Moreover, consultations could lead to one of the two levels of government dropping its activities in one area; for instance, there could be only one inspector acting on behalf of both governments, and, by completing the proper forms, a firm would not have to provide information simultaneously to both governments on different forms, as is now the case for the environment. We must make every effort to avoid this type of situation. The way to do so is to hold proper consultations with provinces. Once the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is created, it will integrate the various government services in its first year of operation. It should therefore be given enough time to consult with provincial stakeholders to ensure the industry's interests are protected.

The last amendment seeks to ensure that the proposed regulations will be studied by a parliamentary committee. In the area of food inspection, it is not enough to be right and to conduct the inspections properly; the process must also appear to be fair so that the general public can have confidence in the tools they are given. For the people's representatives, that is, the members of Parliament, parliamentary committees are a very good forum for this type of consultation.

We believe that, when the government thinks about proposing regulations concerning tariffs, for example, these regulations

should be submitted to a parliamentary committee so it can express its views as a public advocate. It would present its arguments for or against the proposed tariffs and consider the benefits of having different tariffs for different regions or different products. These are some of the issues that the people's representatives, or members of Parliament, can discuss. They can ask questions and cast a critical eye on the government's actions and on tariffs, so that consideration of the relevant views expressed will give greater legitimacy to the government policy on tariff regulations. This will prevent any subsequent criticism. It will also prevent legal battles because the fee structure will have been submitted to the public through the consultation process; therefore, when it takes effect, it will be impossible to accuse the government of having acted unilaterally.

I ask the government to look at this group of amendments from the same viewpoint as the previous one, where we said we must ensure that food safety standards are adequately covered in the agency's corporate business plan, and that proper consultations are held with regard to this corporate business plan, to ensure its credibility throughout Quebec and Canada. Moreover, in the context of that corporate business plan, the present group of amendments is more precise on the subject of fees because it deals with the issue of whether the corporate business plan will ensure that no one will pull a fast one on the processors, that people will not be surprised by a fee structure causing such cost increases that businesses could question their own future.

Let us say for example that we propose an inadequate fee structure for regional slaughterhouses which would make these businesses non competitive; will we have helped the agri-food industry with such a measure? I think not. The way to prevent such a situation is to submit the fee structure to public scrutiny.

Let us hope the government will support our amendments on this point.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise for the second time to speak to Bill C-60, an act to establish the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. As agreed with my colleague from Frontenac, our critic in this area, I will deal with the amendments in Group No. 9.

But first I would like to extend my best wishes to my colleague from Champlain, currently hospitalized in the Hôpital régional de la Mauricie, who is quite concerned by this kind of issues dealing with agriculture. Farming is the mainstay of a good part of his riding, especially the whole area north of Cap-de-la-Madeleine, and I know that he too would have liked to speak to the bill again today.

I particularly want to send him my greetings as he is to undergo, maybe today, a major operation for which he is well prepared. He is very confident and we are looking forward to welcoming him back here.

I also want to mention my colleague from Frontenac, the Bloc's agriculture critic, who has done a tremendous job on this issue, working long hours and making numerous amendments to try to improve this bill we do not support.

We disagree on a fundamental point, namely the food inspection issue, and I would like to digress a moment to show how important this issue is, even though it is not a spectacular one. It concerns the health and safety of every Canadian, every Quebecer, on a daily basis.

When we talk about food, we are talking about everybody's daily life. We should probably pay more attention to this bill than we have so far, because it will have an impact on all of us in our everyday life. This is a public health issue. When we are talking about food, we are talking about public health and the ability to achieve one's full potential. Unfortunately, right now, a food inspection agency is still the privilege of so-called developed countries.

That is why any change we make should be made after thoughtful consideration, because they will reflect on our so-called developed society. We must remember that three persons out of four in the world, perhaps even four out of five, do not have well-paid public servants to inspect or otherwise monitor what they eat everyday. It is hard enough for them to get any kind of food, even something not subject to the controls provided for in this bill.

Yet, we still disagree with this bill, because we consider that it is not the business of the federal government. According to the Canadian Constitution, this area comes under provincial jurisdiction, especially in Quebec, where food inspection was reorganized in 1978, in much the same way as proposed in this bill.

Indeed, when we talk about this food inspection agency, we are talking about a merger of services which already exist within the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They will now come under a single agency and be the responsibility of a single minister and department, namely Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I remind you that this has already been done in Quebec: there was a consolidation so that there would be no duplication, to prevent a restaurant from having, within two or three days or during the same week, one, two or three inspectors come in, disrupt things and invade the place by demanding, with all the paperwork and energy this implies, that such and such document be filled out, always for the sake of the public interest. Except that, while the

restaurant owner or other manager is doing this, he is not doing something else, and this may jeopardize service.

This is a jurisdiction that already belongs to the provinces, and which Quebec, in particular, has assumed very well, and we cannot see why the Government of Canada would get involved, when the public interest is already well protected by the Constitution.

It is all the more annoying to see how the minister is going about managing this agency. Like the Liberals and their proverbial solidarity-we know how the Liberals can help each other in all the provinces of Canada-the bill provides that the president, the vice-president and all the members of the advisory board working within the agency will be appointed by the minister, without any mention of an adequate representation for Quebec, that is, 25 per cent of the membership-and this could have been written into the bill-or the representation of some groups, such as the UPA, that are greatly involved in agriculture or food on a day-to-day basis.

The minister has taken upon himself to make discretionary appointments, using criteria that may be his own. We know how the Liberals think, how their feelings are deep when they want. The Liberals have credentials in that respect; just think of the outdated mechanism by which returning officers are appointed in Canada. These days, and you know it as well as we do, the basic requirement is past or present membership in the Liberal Party of Canada or service as association president or vice-president, and we will not name names.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Is that still going on?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Yes, it is. You know that this kind of criterion no longer exists in Quebec. Competitions are held and there are several selection stages; as a result, out of x number of candidates, one is selected on the basis of the applicable criteria and this is as neutral a process as can be, while in Canada, the selection method used is a toss between antiquated and imperialistic. To know that the Liberal Party is present in every backroom of the Canadian government is to understand why, today still, positions as influential in our democratic system as that of returning officer are being filled by individuals whose main qualification is the fact that they belong or used to belong to the Liberal Party of Canada.

This in itself is reason enough to voice any concern we may have about the establishment of an agency with an advisory committee whose president and vice-president are appointed directly by the minister.

It is also baffling to realize that the entity created by merging these three departments responsible for food inspection will operate on a $300 million budget, according to our information. This represents a $44 million reduction, probably to please the Minister of Finance, whose objectives you know as well as I do.

So we end up with $44 million less and 600 fewer inspectors who used to work in the fisheries, agriculture and health departments. If I remember correctly, there used to be 3,400 inspectors, 600 of whom will be eliminated. How can we be expected not to worry about the quality and quantity of services that will be offered in the public interest, in an area essential to the very functioning of any society, especially against our claims of being a civilized and developed society, when faced with cuts of 600 jobs and $44 million, affecting, as I said earlier, all Canadians and Quebecers in their daily lives?

I hope this kind of comment will be heard so that the public interest can take precedence over any other interest in this matter.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Essex—Kent Ontario

Liberal

Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear from the comments of the last speaker that he shares the same concerns as our ministry, the safe food supply for Canadians. There is no question that issue will never be compromised by this government or any other group of people who represent people in this country. I would certainly say that we have shown a record in the past and we continue to show a record that the safety of Canadians is number one.

However, only in government would someone suggest that the people responsible for a whole operation, the people responsible for the operation of government, are not the people who should be setting fees, looking at the costs and looking at the expenses. But that they would take the setting of fees, they would take the operations and push them off to somebody else on a side group. I find that suggestion quite disconcerting.

There is no question that the minister must retain the responsibility of setting fees to any operations in government, not just this agency, but all other operations of government because circumstances change, times change and with those changes there need to be adjustments. Who better than one who consults with industry, the provincial parliaments across this country, with every part of the country to make certain they are up to date with all actions? Who better than the minister to set the fees and set a proper structure in place?

I certainly question the thought raised here that the minister should give up the whole operation of setting fees and making sure that our operations are efficient. At the same time I must point out very clearly that there were concerns raised about how quickly fees would be changed and therefore the minister made a very clear commitment that once the agency is up in operation, in order to study and analyze what is happening, internally with our fee structure, the kinds of consultations that are required, he would not

alter or change those fees until the year 2000, which is a pretty strong commitment by the minister.

The minister therefore has said once we have the agency up and operating we will look very carefully at how the system operates and we will take a long time to consult with people, making certain that the abuse of industry, other governments in the provinces and others who are affected across this country, namely the consumers, all have their voices heard and brought forward to the ministry.

It is consistent with our policies in health, in industry and in heritage. We have similar processes in place. As a result, the processes that we are talking about here are consistent with the other government agencies and therefore I believe it makes our whole operation in government much easier to understand.

The amendment to the bill suggests consultation is an important part of fee structuring. It suggests in that change that every group affected be consulted before any changes occur. Imagine the legal ramification if someone comes forward and says "I am a consumer and I was not consulted, therefore any change to that fee structure is illegitimate". It certainly does not make sense to say that every person who possibly could have a concern must be consulted.

At the same time, consultation is extremely important and we have various vehicles by which we do that consultation on a daily, monthly, weekly basis all weeks of the year.

There is no question we try to make certain the industry is kept aware by newsletters we send out, by professional publications and by gazetting information. We make certain we have face to face meetings with the people who are affected. Certainly if we make changes within any industry, we have consultations with them. We take their concerns into account. We definitely make certain that the consumer organizations are involved in these processes. There is no question the government takes very elaborate steps to make sure the consultation process is always ongoing and that the concerns of industry, governments and consumers are always filled.

I must say that this consultation has proven to be very good for the government. As I stated before, with this legislation coming forward we know we have all provincial governments onside, we have the industry itself onside. We have allowed it to come and consult. We also had open hearings at the House of Commons agriculture committee in which all kinds of concerns came forward. The government acted upon those concerns and tried to make certain that those concerns raised were dealt with properly in this legislation.

There is no question we look at this in a very serious way. We want to make certain that everyone in this country who is affected is treated properly with open information and that we act upon their concerns. There is no question the minister places a priority in making certain that the health of this industry is maintained. Through his consultations he takes into account their concerns and acts upon them in a very quick and important way.

When we deal with issues that affect public safety though, we must make certain that all cautions are there to make certain we still maintain as a world reputation food safety and we make certain that the supply of food is there. From our track record over the years, we have and are looked upon as the best food production country in the world. That is why we can ship products anywhere in the world. Certainly they are well respected and well received everywhere they go. There has never been a question nor will there be a question because we put a top priority on inspection and safety.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is always interesting to listen to the comments of the parliamentary secretary on how this government is so accountable to the people it serves.

We are talking here about the right to be consulted when the government wants to increase fees regarding the agency that is being set up. The parliamentary secretary went on at great length about how everybody cannot be consulted. I read the motion and it did not say he had to consult with everybody but only with the advisory board and he may consult with other interested parties. That gives a great deal of latitude which the parliamentary secretary just rejected out of hand by saying why should he bother.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

They only consult with the Liberal membership.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

That is right. I was interested in one of the quotes he made. Let me quote the parliamentary secretary who was talking about the consumers who would say: "I am a consumer and I was not consulted on this issue". That was the rationale he gave for not allowing this motion. He would be required to consult with everybody. He said that rather than being required to consult with everybody, why not consult with nobody? He said that if people thought they had not been consulted as consumers, they would be outraged, and rightly so.

Let us replace the word consumer with the word taxpayer. Taxpayers are not being consulted by this government and they are outraged. During the last election they were told that the GST would be axed, scrapped and abolished and they now find that this harmonized HST is being imposed upon them. The taxpayers were not consulted by this government. Their opinions were absolutely ignored. They were trashed.

The government said: "Your opinion does not count. We decided that you did not understand what axe, scrap and abolish meant. Therefore you are going to have an HST or a BST rather than a GST. This still means you are going to pay 7 per cent plus

provincial tax, plus more tax through harmonization". The taxpayers were not consulted.

Now the parliamentary secretary says: "I do not want to consult the consumers who are going to be affected by this organization because they may have an opinion that is different than the government's. That is why I do not want to listen to them. That is why I do not want to hear from them". Do we call that being accountable? Do we call that integrity in government? Do we call that being responsible to the taxpayers? I do not think so.

That is why this type of arrogance demonstrated by the government in Bill C-60 has got to stop. That is why ramming other legislation through this House by using time allocation has got to stop. That is why this government has got to start listening to the people who say: "What about me? What about me and my family? Do I not deserve to be heard?" They deserve to be heard. They deserve to be heard every time this government introduces legislation or makes a major initiative.

When the parliamentary secretary says: "I am not that excited or interested in talking to the consumers. I do not need to consult them", the arrogance contained in that type of statement speaks volumes. That is why I hope this government will listen to the objections being raised on this side of the House so it can realize that there are valid and necessary changes to this piece of legislation.

The situation is that as soon as a bill is introduced in this House, the government whip says: "What is on the table is what you vote for. We are not interested in hearing what goes on in this House. We are not interested in hearing what MPs on the other side of the House bring back from their constituents who say there are some valid and responsible changes that can be made to this legislation".

These are the types of things this House is supposed to debate. We find that this process is a sham in that the bill as tabled is the bill as proclaimed because this government will not tolerate a contrary opinion expressed in this House even though that contrary opinion is a valid opinion that has come from the people on the streets, the taxpayers of this country who are being squeezed to death every day, more and more to pay for this type of legislation that we know is smoke and mirrors. It is not designed to improve efficiency. It is not designed to downsize government. It is not designed to ensure that service is improved. It is just the idea that the government can say it is doing something when in reality when we look behind the scenes it is doing nothing.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, December 12, 1996, all questions on the motions in Group No. 9 are deemed to have been put and the recorded divisions deemed demanded and deferred.

The House will now proceed with the debate on Group No. 10. In accordance with the motion adopted as aforesaid on December 12, 1996, all the questions are deemed to have been moved, seconded and put to the House.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

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.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on this first day back from the Christmas break to the very important issue of food inspection, specifically Bill C-60 and the amendments that are before the House.

We are debating group No. 10 which is comprised of motions Nos. 31, 32 and 33. I have heard it said that no issue is more important for the government and the Canadian Parliament to deal with than the issue of food and food inspection. Along with such things as the air we breathe, the water we drink and shelter in our harsh northern climate, food is one of the staples which maintains life. It is an important subject.

I would like to say at the outset that the Reform Party, in dealing with these three motions, supports motion No. 31. It would add more accountability. As everyone knows, Reform Party members in the 35th Parliament have stressed accountability of government in its operations on an ongoing basis. Therefore, anything that

could be written into the legislation that would bring about a greater degree of accountability is certainly supported by members on this side of the House.

During an intervention on this bill by one of my colleague's some government members from the far end of the House, from the so-called rump section of Parliament, said: "What about us? Do not forget about us down at this end". He was referring to the fact that the government consistently does not listen to people on this side of the House. I would add that those in the rump section are not listened to as well. They are possibly even more annoyed than we are. It shows us the value of being a Liberal backbencher, especially those who are sitting in the rump section of the 35th Parliament. They are never listened to. It must be incredibly frustrating.

We support the intent of motion No. 32 as well. However, we oppose motion No. 33. We are not opposed to the intent of the motion, however, it deals specifically with outlining how the auditor general should do his job. We feel that should be left to the auditor general. We have supported everything which that office has done in the past and we will continue to support the involvement of the auditor general in all aspects of holding governments accountable. We support the intent of the motion, however, we feel that motion No. 33 goes a bit far in instructing the auditor general in the way he should do his job. We think he is doing a terrific job already and does not need that type of interference or direction.

Reform members oppose the bill. The intent is quite admirable. The government wishes to consolidate and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of federal inspection services related to food, animal and plant health, and to increase the collaboration with provincial governments in this area. It is certainly an admirable goal. It is one which all Canadians would support. However, we do not see the details of that in the bill.

My concern is that, once again, the government, as it has time after time in the past, is passing umbrella type legislation and will bring in the details and the regulations later. We are supposed to take the government at its word and trust that it will accomplish those stated objectives and goals. We have very deep and grave concerns about that because all too often in the past that has not happened. The government has a grandiose plan of how it is going to accomplish certain things. It brings in umbrella legislation, passes it, and then we are stuck with regulations that do not work, which are simply shuffled through by order in council. That is why we are in opposition to the bill.

No provision for a detailed breakdown of the cost savings has been provided by the government. We do not see how a decision can be made about such an all-encompassing bill without that type of detail being brought forward.

We heard statements by the parliamentary secretary earlier when he was speaking about group 9 amendments that the government will make a commitment to take a long time-he emphasized the word long-to consult with all the stakeholders and that the bill is consistent with Liberal policies. I suggest that is because the policy of the government is the status quo. It is taking a long time to bring in legislation which Canadians have been demanding and insisting upon. That is certainly a concern.

While the government seems to move at a snail's pace in some areas, in others when it finally makes a decision it shuts down debate, as was indicated by my colleague earlier. It brings in time allocation or closure and shuts down the democratic process in this place once it decides the direction it wants to go.

Since this is our first opportunity to speak since returning to this place after the Christmas break, it is very interesting that the minister for defence invoked closure on the Somali inquiry. He shut down any further debate.

I made a comment in a newspaper column which I write back in my riding of Prince George-Peace River that I think the hon. minister confused the operations in the House of Commons with the operations outside of the House of Commons. The government has become accustomed to bringing in time allocation and shutting down debate in this place. Now it wants to elevate that one step further and do it across the country. I find that despicable and I believe most Canadians are concerned about that type of operation.

As I have said on this group of amendments, we support the first two amendments and oppose the third. That is the official position of the Reform Party.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Since it is just about two o'clock we will proceed to statements by members.

The Late Father Guy PinardStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michel Dupuy Liberal Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my condolences to the family of Father Guy Pinard, who was tragically killed Saturday while celebrating mass in his parish of Kampanga, in Rwanda.

This news has caused great sadness in the whole country and particularly in Quebec where Father Pinard was well known. We have lost a man of exceptional courage and dedication.

His assassination is even more tragic considering that it happened in the country to which Father Pinard had dedicated a big part of his life. He was so attached to that country and to its people

that he had gone back there last year in spite of dangers he was fully aware of.

We deplore this barbaric act which has aroused indignation everywhere. The people of Rwanda, who knew how good a man Father Pinard was, share our feelings.

I ask everybody to pay tribute to this missionary, for whom a commemorative service will be held next Wednesday at the White Fathers' chapel, in Montreal.

The Late Father Guy PinardStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I would like to express our profound sadness on learning of the assassination yesterday morning in Rwanda of Father Guy Pinard, a Quebec missionary from Trois-Rivières, who had worked in that country for 37 years. Father Pinard was parish priest in Kampanga parish.

He was the third Quebecer belonging to a religious order to be killed in Rwanda. Father Claude Simard was killed because he apparently knew too much about the 1994 genocide, and Brother François Cardinal was killed in 1992 after speaking out publicly against the diversion of Canadian aid to benefit the Rwandan government.

This tragic event is a reminder to us of the devotion and, in particular, the courage of all those working abroad to help the poorest inhabitants of this planet.

In my own name, and on behalf of my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, I would like to express our sincerest condolences to Father Pinard's next of kin.

Program For Older Worker AdjustmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, provides monthly financial support for older workers unable to find work a year after a major permanent layoff.

The mine in Port Hardy, B.C. closed in 1995. Seventy older workers in good faith and after years of hard work and faced with no job prospects in the North Island immediately made application for program assistance. They qualified as a group.

In October 1996 it was announced that federal support would end for any new applicant. However, now it is unclear that the funding commitment to approved applicants from 1995 and early 1996 is in play.

I want to put the government and the Minister of Human Resources Development on notice that retroactive cancellation of financial support is unacceptable. These older miners qualify for and have a longstanding expectation to receive the benefits of the program. If the government offers a program it must fund it.

Free TradeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, when Brian Mulroney negotiated the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement he said "don't worry, Canadian culture is exempt from free trade". When the Liberal government signed on to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, it said "don't worry, Canadian culture is exempt from free trade".

The World Trade Organization has ruled that culture is not exempt from free trade, a conclusion not surprising to anyone who ever honestly analysed these agreements and the agenda they serve. But the Minister for International Trade, about this stunning defeat of decades of effective public policy, gives the usual Liberal answer: don't worry.

This defeatist answer has led to much speculation about who is in charge of Canadian cultural policy, Canadians or American business interests. But when we look at the surrender on trade policy, at the decimation of the CBC, at the sale of the RCMP's image to Disney and the appearance of Disneyland on Canadian postage stamps, it is clear why we have such a Mickey Mouse cultural policy: Mickey Mouse is actually in charge.

Special OlympicsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to salute over 2,000 athletes from over 80 countries who are taking part in the sixth Special Olympics World Winter Games.

The World Winter Games is the largest multi-sport event that will be held this year and Toronto and Collingwood have the honour of hosting the athletes and the games. These games are about the triumph of the human spirit. Everyone who competes in these games is a winner because winning is not just about medals, breaking records or beating your opponent. In these games winning is about having the chance to compete, feeling the joy of the sport and overcoming challenges.

To the athletes, their coaches, their families and all the volunteers I extend my best wishes for a fun and memorable six days of friendly competition.

Saugeen RiverStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey, ON

.): Mr. Speaker, on January 10 the Saugeen River flooded, affecting the people of Durham, Ontario in my riding of Bruce-Grey. Thankfully no injuries have been reported but over 200 people from some 100 residences had to be displaced during the worst of the flooding.

There are still 12 people who cannot return to their homes and 10 seniors who have had to vacate their seniors' housing complex.

Despite the adversity, the people of Durham showed great courage during that flood. I want to pay special tribute to the volunteers and the relief workers who offered the victims both the good work of their hands and the comfort of their spirits. Durham Mayor Kris Kennedy is also to be commended for taking swift and decisive action to protect public safety. I also want to thank the soldiers from the Militia Training and Support Centre at Meaford for their work and assistance.

This tradition of neighbour helping neighbour is not new in my riding; in Bruce-Grey lending a hand in times of difficulty is the rule and not the exception.

Unicef/KawanisStatements By Members

February 3rd, 1997 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I recently had the honour to attend a very special meeting featuring Roger Moore, otherwise known as 007, James Bond. Roger Moore is honorary chairman of the UNICEF/Kawanis campaign to combat health problems caused by a lack of iodine in one's diet.

Iodine deficiency is for the most part a problem in developing countries. It is the source of cretinism, which impairs physical development, and can lead to serious mental disabilities. Approximately 655 million people suffer from goitre and 43 million have preventable brain damage from an iodine deficient diet.

Roger Moore praised Canada for the humanitarian work this country has demonstrated to date. Since 1991 CIDA has contributed $28 million in order combat iodine deficiency disorders, making this country one of the largest international donors for this very important cause.

But governments cannot do it alone. That is why we all wish UNICEF/Kiwanis much success on meeting its objective of eliminating IDD by the year 2000.

The Late André CaronStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Jonquière, André Caron, is with us no more. On January 10, after a hard fought battle with cancer, he found peace. We will remember this unassuming man for his courage, of course, but also for his profound sense of justice and respect for others. We will remember him for the outstanding rigour and professionalism with which he handled the various dossiers assigned him.

Always ready to be of service, always there when required, he enriched our socio-political thinking through his particularly perceptive reading of the Quebec people.

A man of principle and determination, he spared no time or effort in serving his fellow Quebecers.

Today, the Bloc Quebecois caucus pays a final tribute to André Caron: "André, you were a great Quebecer and we thank you. You example and your memory will guide us on the road to our own country".

The Late André CaronStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

The Late André CaronStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Dear colleague, other members will speak in tribute at the end of question period.