Madam Speaker, in the January 11 edition of the Canada Gazette , Part I, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, PMRA, of Health Canada published its proposals on cost recovery which are part of the current review of Canada's pesticide registration system.
Since that time, I have received at least 50 copies of responses to the PMRA proposals by individual farmers and agricultural organizations. Not one of these responses has been favourable.
On February 21 I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health if the minister was prepared to revisit the many concerns voiced by Canada's farmers and farm organizations and make further changes to cost recovery and the PMRA proposals.
By and large, the main concern which has been conveyed to me is that the PMRA is not taking into consideration the cumulative effect its proposals will have on producers.
A constructive environment where there is a will to collaborate, revise and improve must prevail by all participants before any progress can be made on PMRA efficiencies. Regardless of the particular suggestions put forward, it must be understood that such advice is given by Canada's farm organizations in the spirit of making things better.
For years now, farm organizations have been telling the PMRA that it has overestimated the number of product registrations. This means that the overall budget is still too high. The PMRA's budget forecast for five years does not reflect the full potential for efficiency gains, including international harmonization and tech-
nological innovation. In other words, the PMRA's proposed budget contradicts federal government policies such as program review to do more with less.
Because Canada is not normally the first market for pesticide products, the PMRA could have substantially reduced costs and speeded up approval times by better utilizing information gained through the approval process in other countries. Despite repeated urging from farm organizations across the country, the PMRA chose not to follow this route.
Despite Health Canada's 40 per cent reduction in the original fee structure, the current cost recovery target of $12.3 million still puts the international competitiveness of Canada's pesticide producers and users, who are primarily Canada's farmers, at stake. This is because the proposed fees are still not substantial, given the high level of fees and the relatively small size of the Canadian market. Canada's farmers and farm organizations predict that these fees will lead to significant product withdrawals and will reduce the ability of Canada's farmers to compete internationally.
When PMRA's cost recovery target is compared with other Health Canada initiatives, it becomes readily apparent that this target is still too high. For example, the drugs directorate cost recovers is 28 per cent of its total budget and the medical devices program cost recovers only 14 per cent of its total budget. Yet the PMRA is asking industry to pay 45 per cent of its total budget. Obviously this places the international competitiveness of the Canadian farmer at risk.
According to the PMRA proposals industry will be charged $2,690 a year to maintain each product registration on file. Even at this point in time it is still unclear what services industry is actually paying for here.
I have seen studies which show a high level of price sensitivity to maintenance levels, particularly for pesticides with low volume sales that cater to what is commonly referred to as the niche markets.
These studies suggest that the proposed maintenance fee would lead to a 71 per cent withdrawal rate of products with sales of less than $5,000. That would be a terrible blow to the niche markets I was referring to.
It has also been brought to my attention that the PMRA has not set performance standards for other submissions such as new pesticide use or formulation changes. This is contrary to Treasury Board policy which stipulates that performance measures should be set and agreed to by stakeholders. This is in contrast to other international agencies committed to developing their performance times on an ongoing basis.
The PMRA must commit to developing and meeting performance standards that are competitive with the best in the world on an ongoing basis.
I conclude with one further observation. Unless there are changes to the PMRA's proposal the Canadian farming community will suffer enormous consequences in the global marketplace. It is time for the agency to move forward for the good of Canadian farmers and consumers.