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.