House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.


Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

moved, seconded by the member for Madawaska--Restigouche, that Bill C-260, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act (fire-safe cigarettes), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer a change to the seconder of my bill. The seconder is currently the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health. A possible better seconder would be the member for Nunavut.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to change the seconder of the motion?

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-260, important legislation that has to do with the fire safety of cigarettes, the flammability standards of cigarettes.

In February 1916 a fire destroyed our Parliament. The only building that survived was the Library and some charred wings of the north and west buildings. It was a disaster for the Canadian people and for those who worked in Parliament.

There was no official cause for the Parliament of Canada burning down but it was widely believed that the fire was caused by careless smoking. The fire was caused by a cigarette that set a piece of furniture on fire. The fire quickly spread throughout this institution.

Every year we hear about horrific fires throughout our country where there is a loss of life, injury and enormous property damage, and frequently they are attributed to careless smoking. Someone falls asleep and leaves a cigarette unattended and the house burns down with the children in it. It is virtually impossible to turn on the evening news without a reference to some fire that has visited some horrible tragedy on some relatively innocent family.

Is it really careless smoking? Cigarette companies have known for years how to eliminate death and injury by changing the density of tobacco and making modifications to the paper. They do not do it simply because there is no requirement in Canada to force tobacco companies to make fire safe cigarettes.

This might seem like a contradiction in terms, a fire safe cigarette, but let me explain. Changing the density of the tobacco and the quality of the paper will not impair the enjoyment of the cigarette. The lighting and the smoking of the cigarette is not changed. What is changed is the burn if the cigarette is not puffed. In other words, the person would have to continue to puff the cigarette for it to stay alive, otherwise it will simply extinguish on its own. If a person abandons the cigarette for a period of time it will simply extinguish.

If a regular cigarette is abandoned on an ashtray, when a person comes back it is nothing but ashes. If a fire safe cigarette is abandoned on an ashtray, when a person comes back there will still be a butt left that can be relit and smoked.

As we can readily imagine, if a cigarette is abandoned on a piece of furniture there may well be a disastrous situation on our hands when we return. The situation may be even more disastrous situation if we were to fall asleep. We may end up waking to find the furniture on fire. Had the person been smoking a fire safe cigarette, the cigarette would have extinguished itself and no harm would have been done.

This all seems fairly simple; fire safe cigarettes versus ones that are hazards to people, their property and the environment. It looks like a good idea. It seems like a good idea. What is the problem?

Frankly, I am sort of bewildered myself. I do not know why this initiative was not taken earlier and why we should not amend the Hazardous Products Act so Canadians will not continue to lose their lives due to hazardous smoking.

I am sure big tobacco companies will dream up some reason that this is not such a good idea but, I respectfully suggest, the credibility of big tobacco on pretty well every issue is similar to that of an Enron accountant.

Interestingly big tobacco had no serious reservations about similar New York legislation that mandated fire safe cigarettes by mid-year 2003. Its only objection was that it was state legislation rather than federal legislation. Obviously that is not the problem here.

Our New York colleagues in the New York State legislature passed a similar bill sixty to nothing. I do not know how the New York State legislature works but I would imagine it is similar to here, and to get a unanimous vote on a bill is an extraordinary accomplishment.

The New York State legislation prohibits the sale of any cigarette that does not meet flammability standards. It is a very tough piece of legislation. Our New York colleagues deserve our congratulations for their stand in the face of big tobacco and its unseemly influence on legislators.

The Globe and Mail , in commenting on a class action lawsuit filed by a Toronto area lawyer representing a Brampton family devastated by a fire, summarized the judicial reasoning as follows:

However, the technology exists to make fire-safe cigarettes, the kind that go out quickly when not puffed. If most manufacturers prefer to make ones that burn down even when they're not being smoked, that's their choice, but choices have consequences.

Further on, the editorial quotes Judge Cumming, who was reviewing a class action application on the issue. He was quoted as saying:

that cigarettes have a design defect, and that "manufacturers have deliberately designed the product in such a way as to cause misuse

That is pretty clear and it kind of puts the axe to the concept of careless smoking.

MLA Therien from the Canada Safety Council wrote to me and said:

The Canada Safety Council has been a strong advocate for fire safe cigarettes for an extended period of time. By failing to regulate the ignition properties of all cigarettes, Canada is missing a prime opportunity to prevent fires and deaths. Without question, mandating fire safe cigarettes will prove to be a reasonable and effective safety countermeasure.

When I appeared before the subcommittee on private members' bills I showed a CBC clip from a documentary entitled Smokes and Fire . It is pretty graphic. In addition to the scenes of huge personal and family devastation, there is a demonstration of two cigarettes lying on two identical pieces of furniture. The camera is trained on the furniture, the cigarettes and a clock behind the furniture. The fire-safe cigarette peters out and does no harm to the furniture. The ordinary cigarette causes the furniture to inflame within about 45 minutes. It is a pity that our modernization will not allow members in the Chamber to view this video tape.

After seeing the tape, the member for Fraser Valley commented upon his experience as a logger. Apparently loggers roll their own cigarettes for this very reason. The tobacco is not packed as densely and the paper is not as flammable. Therefore loggers are not at risk of inadvertently lighting a forest fire. It can be done and, if there is a will, it will be done.

Bill C-260 will test the will of Parliament and the will of the minister. The bill calls for the minister to proclaim flammability for cigarettes by a certain date. If she does not then the minister must report back to Parliament with an explanation of why not, a list of fire safe legislation in North America and summaries of scientific studies that have been received by the minister to establish flammability standards.

There are several options open to the minister, pursuant to the bill. The minister can amend the Hazardous Products Act and we can all take a day off and feel that we have gone one tiny step further in securing the health and well-being of all Canadians. On the other hand the minister could say she is not interested and, in theory at least, decide to do that. However in my conversations with the minister she has shown a great deal of interest in the subject matter of this bill. She could make the suggestion that the tobacco act be amended as opposed to the Hazardous Products Act. Reasonable people can disagree as to which route should be chosen. I made a choice that it be the Hazardous Products Act rather than the tobacco act because I thought it to be an easier regulatory route to pursue this interest.

While this is not an emergency, and I would not describe this as an emergency, it is a matter of some urgency. Each year literally dozens of Canadians die, hundreds of Canadians are injured and there are millions of dollars in property damage. In the last year that I have statistics for, which is 1992, it showed 62 fatalities, 385 injuries and $37 million in property damage caused by smoking related fires.

All of the above could be completely eliminated or substantially reduced by forcing tobacco companies to meet certain flammability standards. I cannot imagine what MP in the House or what minister would not interested in saving lives or securing the safety of Canadians. I keep wondering what could possibly be the objection.

This is clearly a matter that is within federal jurisdiction. It does avoid the American trap of having state by state legislation. This is of national interest. It seems a little silly to have it state by state because in certain states there would be a fire safe cigarette and in other states there would not be, so people would have to be careful about where they fell asleep.

Every year that we let this go more Canadians die and are injured needlessly, and more property damage is incurred needlessly.

This is a relatively simple piece of legislation. I commend it to members and I ask them to give serious thought to the idea that this should go to the committee immediately. I am asking members publicly, and I hope to be able to speak to them over the course of this hour, to give serious thought to send it to committee by unanimous consent so that we can review the subject matter of the bill in a timely way so that the safety of Canadians is secured.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Canadian Alliance Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Scarborough East for his persistence in introducing Bill C-260. This is a bill to amend the Hazardous Products Act. It is the third time he has brought it forward and it is significant that he kept on the issue and kept bringing it forward because we are actually going to drive this to a vote in the House.

When we drive it to a vote in the House, and members have a free and open vote to vote the will of their constituents on an issue that is important to them, we will have to kick everyone's minds in gear in the House and discern whether this is good for the constituents they represent or not. For that I applaud the persistence of my hon. colleague.

Let us talk about the previous versions of the bill. They were banished to the political black hole which is private members' bills. We have seen this with private members' bills that have been introduced in the House. It is like private members' business is the last bastion of democracy left in the House. We are now starting to see more of them come forward and be votable. However the government has wrongfully embraced the idea that unless the legislation comes from the bureaucrats, it is a bad idea. Somehow it thinks that the members of the House cannot come up with good ideas on their own. We could all agree that no one has a monopoly on good ideas. Bill C-260 is about saving the lives of smokers and non-smokers alike. It is an issue of significant public interest.

The federal government has had the authority to issue fire safe tobacco regulations since 1997 with the passing of the tobacco act, but we have seen nothing come out of it. The then minister of health said that safe tobacco regulations would be a “priority activity” over the next few years, yet we have seen absolutely nothing come from that minister, or the present Minister of Health.

I would suggest that the former health minister got somehow sidelined in this whole idea of fire safe cigarettes because he drove another issue; not the issue of fire safe cigarettes but the issue of medical marijuana which has twice the toxicity of cigarettes. We have seen a government that has gone ahead on the issue of medical marijuana smoking and backed completely away from the other issue, totally sidelining the issue that is of paramount importance to my hon. colleague who has introduced this piece of legislation on the importance of the safety of cigarettes.

The Minister of Health's advisory council on tobacco has been studying this issue for years and over the last summer has done a tremendous amount of further study. We know that much has been done on this file. We know that fire safe cigarettes reduce the likelihood of starting a fire when they are dropped and left unattended. Unless a person is puffing on the cigarette it will be extinguished. What we are trying to get is that if one is smoking a cigarette, is attentive and knows what is happening that is fine, but if one stops smoking that cigarette, that it not just continue to burn until it is finished.

In terms of fire safe cigarettes, we cannot legislate the responsibility of the actions of a careless smoker. It is difficult to legislate responsibility. We are not trying to take the responsibility of smokers away from them, but we are saying that we are trying to make a product that Canadians are using much safer than it is at this time.

In Canada fires started by cigarettes cause one out of five fire fatalities. Cigarette related fires are a leading cause of death in Canada and account for 25% of the total. There are 100 deaths annually in Canada caused by cigarette fires, and another 300 are injured. In 1999 careless smoking caused 2,868 fires with the loss of $36.5 million. We have made great strides in the reduction of fire related deaths in Canada.

Education has been widespread and smoke alarms, for example, are in all of our homes. We know how to use them and that we have to change the batteries and so on. All of that is education. Fire retardant furnitures and furnishings, and changes to the fire code have reduced fire related deaths in recent years.

Fire safe cigarettes would reduce the risk of accidental forest fires. The past year's drought has created unusually dry conditions in our forests, especially in western Canada where we have large forests. The careless disposal of cigarettes by someone working in the forest could set off enormous fires. They are not intentional; they are accidental, but still they cost millions of dollars and put lives and animals at risk.

The legislation would not eliminate the risk, but it would reduce it. A comparable example would be the regulation stipulating safety glass in our automobile windshield. It is not to say that if we replaced the windshield with safety glass that it would reduce all of the incidents or accidents and the harm to Canadians, but we do know that it would give them a better chance. A car is just as safe with or without it. However it is only when we are in an accident do we recognize the advantages of having a safety windshield in our automobile, much the same as it would be with fire safe cigarettes.

The personal responsibility and use of cigarettes is still a top priority. We cannot diminish that, but we can reduce the risk. Manufacturers have known how to make cost effective fire safe cigarettes for more than a decade.

In 2000 cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris successfully test marketed a fire safe cigarette design in the United States. In fact the first patent for fire safe cigarettes was filed over 100 years ago in 1889.

The action by the Canadian government is typically slow. The United States is much further along on the debate. The U.S. congress first raised the issue in 1929, but it was in 1974 when it saw the birth of the first modern discussion on fire safe cigarettes. In 1974 legislation passed the United States senate, but the bill failed in congress. In the 1984 cigarette safety act the U.S. congress called for a study to determine whether it was technically or economically feasible to make fire safe cigarettes. In 1987 the study determined that it was economically feasible to produce fire safe cigarettes. In 2000 New York passed its first law requiring fire safe cigarettes before 2003 unless there was federal legislation that superseded it. Currently Massachusetts is proposing the same thing so we know that in North America this is coming.

Characteristics that make cigarettes less fire prone include: lower paper porosity, smaller circumference, shorter filter, reducing or eliminating paper burn additives, and lower tobacco density.

Bill C-260 does not create any new bureaucracies and does not create any new taxes. It asks the Minister of Health to show Parliament why the Hazardous Products Act should not be amended to include cigarettes in flammability standards.

When my hon. colleagues are deciding how to vote on Bill C-260 I hope that the safety of Canadians is their first thought and not whether it is a private member's bill or whether it came from the backbench instead of the cabinet bench of the government. Bill C-260 makes a reasonable request to the Minister of Health to make a product used in many Canadian households safer.

Supporting Bill C-260 and the introduction of fire safe cigarettes would have an immediate impact on the safety of Canadians. Increasing fire safety through education and the strengthening of building codes has been successful, but has also taken many years to achieve.

The short shelf life of tobacco products of three to four months means that changes made to the safety of tobacco products would take effect almost immediately. This is not an attempt to shut down the tobacco industry in Canada. Cigarettes are legal in Canada. The tobacco industry should be treated like any other good corporate citizen.

I would hope that if the government were to implement these proposed changes it would also work with the manufacturers to achieve a reasonable timeline for the implementation so that no party would be unduly hurt.

The 100 tragic unnecessary deaths caused by the careless use of cigarettes can be reduced. Fire safe cigarettes regulations have the support of the doctors of the Canadian Medical Association who have been asked to care for victims burned by careless smoking. As well, they are supported by Canadian firefighters and the Canada Safety Council.

Nothing will replace good common sense and individual responsibility, but we have an obligation to provide Canadians with a safer product.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, in this debate today on Bill C-260, An Act to amend the Hazardous Products Act by adding fire-safe cigarettes to the list of protective measures provided for in the act.

Obviously, this seems quite simple. Understandably, the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill for the simple reason that it better protects the population. Many fires are started by smokers who fall asleep, obviously putting their lives, and the lives of their family in danger, as well as causing damage to their property. Often neighbours are also at risk, because when a fire starts in an apartment block, or anywhere for that matter, the whole building has to be evacuated because of a fire started by a careless smoker who has fallen asleep while smoking in bed.

Therefore, the bill is simple. It is only two pages long, and adds cigarettes that are not fire-safe to the list of hazardous products. It calls for regulations. The technology has been proven. Other colleagues here have mentioned that the State of New York passed a regulation in 2000 requiring all cigarette manufacturers to produce or market fire-safe cigarettes by 2003, which would eliminate the risk of fire started by careless smokers.

This seems to be an obvious change. The federal government has invested all kinds of money in printing all kinds of messages on cigarette packaging and so on, to try to discourage people from smoking, and today, and for several years now, members of the House of Commons have introduced a bill to virtually eliminate the risk of fires caused by careless people who fall asleep while smoking. And yet this bill has not yet been passed. Why?

It is simple. The cigarette lobby is still behind the Liberal government. That is where the tragedy lies as far as all these good ideas from private members are concerned. Once again a member has introduced this bill under his name and, I repeat, it ought to be automatically adopted. We should all agree with it. Marketing fire-safe cigarettes, which could protect the lives of the citizens we represent, the people of Quebec, should have happened years ago. But once again, this bill has not been passed.

To give a few examples, in 1992 alone, 68 deaths, 385 injuries, $37 million in damage and 3,199 fires were attributed to careless smokers who fell asleep for one reason or another. Those figures, which have been known since 1992, ought to have led to the adoption that very year of a bill that would have introduced fire-safe cigarettes, since the technology is available.

I fully agree, and the Bloc Quebecois is going to agree, with this bill, which adds cigarettes that are not fire safe to the list of hazardous products. It is high time cigarettes were considered hazardous products. We are all affected by them. Let us not imagine that the 3,199 fires in 1992 were the last. I am sure there have been more every year since. Just try to imagine how much that costs in insurance, the impact of fires caused by cigarettes on the premiums paid by all Quebecers and all Canadians,

All Quebeckers and Canadians pay for this. They pay for the fact that large companies market hazardous products, namely highly inflammable cigarettes, when we know that there are technologies that could allow them to produce fire-safe cigarettes.

All of us in this House have a duty to support this bill, to pass it as quickly as possible, so that it can be implemented at the earliest opportunity and we can see a difference on home insurance premiums, in Quebec and in Canada.

This is what being a parliamentarian is all about. Once we know that a new technology exists, and since we also know that cigarettes cause very serious harm to people—including death and injuries—and significant material damage, it is our duty to propose bills in this House and to vote so that these bills are directly implemented and all Quebeckers and Canadians, whom we represent, benefit from them.

Bill C-260, which amends the Hazardous Products Act and which seeks to add to the list of prohibited products cigarettes that are not fire-safe, is an urgent measure. It is an urgent measure for the quality of life of those who are listening to us and whom we represent here. It is an urgent measure because these people are paying more through insurance premium increases and rent increases. Many people in Quebec and in Canada are renting. These people must realize that insurance premiums are included in the rent that they must pay.

Therefore, if, through our action, the cost of rent can go down, this will bode well for the future. If we succeed in making insurance premiums go down by amending the legislation, as proposed in Bill C-260, this will inevitably impact on the cost of renting, and it will benefit all Quebeckers and Canadians.

I could read all the good that can be said about this bill, but I will read all the bad that could be said if it was not passed by this House instead. That is the catastrophe. For several years, the Liberal Party has been under pressure from the industry because, inevitably, when a new technology is introduced, there are additional costs, and that is only normal. This cost will be added to the cost of cigarettes, and the price of cigarettes will increase accordingly. That is all.

Those who smoke will be able to tell people that they are now using a product that is fire safe and not harmful to the health of those around them. Of course, as we know, cigarettes remain harmful to human health. This point has been made over and over. Not only are they harmful to smokers and those who exposed to second-hand smoke, but cigarettes endanger human life because there are too many careless smokers who fall asleep while smoking and cause fires. We must join forces and support a bill designed to put on the market fire-safe cigarettes. Again, the effect would be that fires started by careless smokers who, all too often, fall asleep while smoking would be practically eliminated.

Since I am being given the signal that my speaking time is almost up, l will conclude. As one could guess, the Bloc Quebecois is in favour of Bill C-260 being passed. We hope that this can be as soon as possible, because the purpose of the bill is to include in the list of prohibited products any cigarettes that are not fire safe. We in the Bloc Quebecois will therefore support Bill C-260.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-260, an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act. I would like to join with colleagues in the House to congratulate the member for Scarborough East in introducing this constructive recommendation for the House of Commons.

The bill proposes to do what is in the best interests of the public and to ensure the safety of all in our society who choose to smoke or are subject to fatalities caused by fire from the smoking of cigarettes.

Obviously, in our view, the bill should be broadened to address some of the most serious shortcomings of the policies of the government when it comes to smoking cessation and tobacco policies. However we appreciate the fact that this is targeted toward one part of the problem and we want to indicate our support for the initiative. It clearly addresses a serious public concern, as others have pointed out, that some 100 people die every year because of careless smoking, and many more are injured. It is a costly problem in our society both from the point of view human health and loss of property.

In that context obviously all of us want to offer our appreciation to the firefighters of Canada for always responding so quickly in the event of a fire caused by careless smoking. We know that many more deaths would occur if it were not that our firefighters are so prepared and ready to respond on a moment's notice to such an incident.

I commend the member for his persistence in bringing this matter forward and look forward to moving the bill as expeditiously as possible through the process. I want to indicate to him and to the House that I will support it. I am sure my colleagues will join with me in indicating support for moving the bill to committee following our first hour of debate, if such a motion were presented to the House.

I appreciate when the member says that this vote is a test of the will of Parliament. I hope when the will of Parliament is tested that we will join together across party lines and support this initiative, which is one small step toward ensuring public safety and dealing with the terrible outcome of tobacco use in our society today. I hope once the will of Parliament is tested and a majority of support is indicated for this bill, which I assume will be the case, that the member then has the ability to hold his government to account for implementation of such a bill because the true test of this place in terms of democracy comes down to actions by the government to enforce the will of Parliament.

Unfortunately, as we well know, too many times Parliament has expressed its intentions and supported initiatives, sometimes almost unanimously, and the government chooses to ignore those initiatives. I speak from personal experience in the case of the motion that I introduced in the House requiring labels on all alcohol beverage containers indicating that drinking during pregnancy could cause harm.

That motion received almost unanimous support from the House. Unfortunately it is still sitting on the desk of the Minister of Health who has indicated publicly that she has no intentions of implementing that motion. That is the most offensive denial of the democratic principles we hold so near and dear. I hope the member for Scarborough East, in his determination to see this initiative on smoking passed and implemented, will have some sway with the Minister of Health over this issue and many other issues.

On the broader issue of tobacco, it is important to note that while it is true that fires caused from flammable cigarettes lead to numerous deaths and fatalities, they pale in comparison to the deaths caused by cigarette smoking to begin with. Thousands of people who smoke cigarettes die every year because of their addiction to tobacco. It is on that count that the true test of the government's will must be registered.

It is with respect to the government's stated objective to crack down on tobacco companies to ensure prevention of smoking in the first place that we pay most careful attention. It is absolutely clear that on this broad issue of public safety and human health the government has failed. There is no question that the issue of smoking cessation and prevention of tobacco use has languished under the present Minister of Health and that many initiatives that were begun under the former Minister of Health have been left to languish and gather dust in the Department of Health.

It is on this issue that we have tremendous concerns. I hope that through Bill C-260 we can focus on the broader issues and the imperative before the government of the day to prevent the misuse of tobacco products in general and to ensure that there is the will to take on tobacco companies once and for all and deal with a number of issues, not just the flammability of the product involved but the way in which that product is advertised, the way in which young people are lured to smoke, and the way in which false advertising is used with respect to light and mild cigarettes.

I think it is absolutely imperative to point out that despite statements made by this government, despite its promises, despite the studies done, the current Tobacco Act does nothing to block Internet advertising. That is a serious issue for young people getting addicted to cigarettes. Let me also point out that companies today can escape Canadian advertising bans by selling brands advertised in U.S. magazines. We have tried to crack down on the one hand, but we have failed to close this loophole and that is a serious problem.

Retail promotions remain a way for tobacco companies to market their brands. Only two provinces, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, have taken the initiative to ban the display of cigarettes in retail stores where children are allowed. The federal government continues to refuse to move this initiative forward and provide some national guidelines and regulations. It is also important to note that the absence of requirements for health warnings on advertisements encourages new forms of advertising. The government said it would address the many loopholes but has failed to do so.

Finally, let me say with respect to the previous statements made by the Minister of Health in regard to prohibiting tobacco companies from using the words “light” and “mild”, that agenda sits unattended. That very important initiative has been languishing on the desk of the Minister of Health.

I hope, given the seriousness of this issue today, not only in terms of fires caused by flammable cigarettes but also because of the deaths and illnesses caused by tobacco use and addiction to cigarettes, that we will see a broad based agenda emerge from these discussions and a clear message from Parliament to the government, to the health minister and to Health Canada to embark on a serious agenda to stop this most serious blight on our society today.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-260, a private member's bill entitled an act to amend the Hazardous Products Act. I thank the hon. member for Scarborough East for bringing this important matter to the House of Commons.

Let me state from the outset the bill deals with property damaged caused by careless smoking, but most important, it deals with saving lives. That is why I congratulate the member. This initiative could save lives if it creates an awareness within people who are careless with cigarettes.

I will use a statistic on careless smoking that is actually 10 years old so today it would be much more relevant and careless smoking would be much more costly. In 1992, careless smoking in Canada accounted for 68 fatalities, 385 injuries, $37 million in damages and 3,199 fires.

How often have we heard that a fire was caused because somebody dropped a cigarette? How often have we heard that somebody went out, had a few drinks, came home, sat back to watch television, lit a cigarette and let it drop on the carpet or on the sofa and there was a fire? In fact, the biggest cause of fatalities in the home is careless smoking.

On average, Canadians consume approximately 56 billion cigarettes annually and the damage caused by them is substantial. There are 56 billion cigarettes in the hands of individuals and they are sometimes used carelessly.The bill certainly is not trying to say “do not smoke”. The bill is simply trying to create a greater awareness about the dangers of using what is potentially a death causing agent.

Essentially the bill would compel the Minister of Health to report to Parliament and explain why the Hazardous Products Act should or should not be amended to include cigarettes under the category of flammability standards. Clearly this is an issue that affects the entire country, regardless of age or region.

Further, Mr. Speaker, you would no doubt agree that saving lives of smokers and non-smokers alike is of significant public interest and of interest to all of us here in this chamber this morning. Saving lives is one thing. Saving property is something else.

One of the major concerns we have in certain parts of the country today, particularly in our home province of Newfoundland, and particularly again in the city of St. John's, is that insurance companies are telling people that they will no longer insure their homes. The cost of replacement is so high that, first, many of them now will not take on new clients, and second, they are even telling certain people that they will no longer carry their coverage. Other companies are saying they will do a deal, that if people give them all their other insurance, for their cars or whatever, they probably will take a look at their homes. One of the reasons for that is the amount of high value claims, and of course one of the reasons we have such claims is the careless use of cigarettes.

This is an extremely important subject to be talking about. It is unfortunate that we have so little time to talk about it, because at the end of the hour we have to move on; however, move on to what? I guess that is the question we should ask. Anybody looking at the Order Paper for the next few days or weeks would realize that government has practically nothing to bring forth. That is why today it is rushing in the Kyoto resolution. In fact, I think the Minister of the Environment will introduce a resolution that the House call upon the government to ratify the Kyoto protocol on climate change.

Meanwhile, as we speak, I believe, the premiers from across the country are talking by teleconference to try to find common solutions to their dilemma. If they can be found, the House might be able to agree unanimously to ratify the Kyoto protocol, but we have no idea of what is happening.

Consequently, that is why I do not think the resolution should be introduced this morning. That is why I move:

That this House do now adjourn.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members


Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Hazardous Products ActPrivate Members' Business

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion lost.

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier this morning I gave you the required notice that I would rise on a matter of privilege at the first available opportunity to direct your attention and the attention of the House to a grave contempt of Parliament. I call your attention to an article that appeared in yesterday's edition of the Toronto Star under the byline of Allan Thompson. The headline is: “Privacy under assault: Watchdog. Government has lost 'moral compass'. Curbs made in name of war on terror”.

I am prepared to table a copy of the article but I should make it clear that at this time I am not complaining about the writer or about the newspaper, even though it is the Toronto Star . My complaint is about the conduct of the privacy commissioner and his failure to do his duty as an officer of Parliament.

In the report in the Toronto Star , the privacy commissioner makes serious allegations against several members of the House, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Minister of National Revenue and other ministers of the Crown.

Let me quote selectively from the article. He says:

Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski says historians will look back on current violations of privacy in the name of fighting terrorism as a more egregious error than the detention of Japanese Canadians during World War II.

He goes on to say:

...Radwanski noted that despite repeated requests for a meeting, he has not been able to talk to [the Prime Minister] about his concerns.

“The fact is that this government has lost its moral compass with regard to the fundamental human right of privacy” Radwanski said...

“We're not to where it can't be stopped. But six months or a year from now, we might be. Some of the biggest assaults ever are in the works right now”

He then goes on to enumerate some of his concerns. He says:

The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency plans to build a database that will retain, for six years at a time, the so-called Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record information on every air traveller entering Canada. Canadians travelling outside the country would have such personal information as their destination, form of payment and seat selection, placed in what Radwanski has labelled a “Big Brother” database.

He goes on again:

The proposed Public Safety Act contains a provision that would grant the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service access to personal passenger information held by airlines...

I skip several paragraphs. He then says:

...he fears the RCMP will use the information to seek out persons wanted on warrants for Criminal Code offences that have nothing to do with terrorism.

He goes on:

...Radwanski challenged a customs practice of opening mail on behalf of the immigration department... he said the mail opening--

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Order please. The right hon. member is an experienced member and he knows that on a question of privilege he has to come to the point with some succinctness. I have not heard anything yet that suggests that there is a breach of a question of privilege here. I thought he said that the privacy commissioner somehow failed in his duty but I have not heard this yet.

Could the right hon. member come to the point with some alacrity so we have some idea, rather than a general discussion of the article in question, what the question of privilege is in this case?

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

I certainly shall, Mr. Speaker. It is so unusual for me to quote at length from the Toronto Star that I have perhaps succumbed to that temptation. Let me draw to the attention of the House the three important allegations in this article. It states:

Armed with legal opinions that some of the government's proposals would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Radwanski hinted he may ultimately have to launch a court action to try to halt further erosion of privacy rights.

“I will use every legitimate avenue at my disposal to carry out my duties,” he insisted.

Radwanski also charges that bureaucrats across government are manipulating public concern about security to ram through new measures.

The Privacy Commissioner is an officer of Parliament. His duties and powers are spelled out in the Privacy Act. He has a duty under section 38 of the Privacy Act to report to Parliament. Section 38 reads:

The Privacy Commissioner shall, within three months after the termination of each financial year, submit an annual report to Parliament on the activities of the office during that financial year.

If he is unusually concerned about some issue as this article suggests he is, he has the power to submit special reports under section 39 which states:

The Privacy Commissioner may, at any time, make a special report to Parliament referring to and commenting on any matter within the scope of the powers, duties and functions of the commissioner where, in the opinion of the commissioner, the matter is of such urgency or importance that a report thereon should not be deferred until the time provided for transmission of the next annual report under section 38.

Once that is done, either an annual report or a special report, the House then and only then has a statutory right to deliberate on the contents of the special report by virtue of section 40 of the Privacy Act which reads:

(1) Every report to Parliament made by the Privacy Commissioner under section 38 or 39 shall be made by being transmitted to the Speaker of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Commons for tabling in those Houses. (2) Every report referred to in subsection (1) shall, after it is transmitted for tabling pursuant to that subsection, be referred to the committee designated or established by Parliament for the purpose of subsection 75(1).

The reports of the Privacy Commissioner are, in accordance with Standing Order 108(3)(g), referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates:

The mandate of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates shall include, among other matters: the review of and report on reports of the Privacy Commissioner, the Information Commissioner, the Public Service Commission, and the Ethics Counsellor with respect to his or her responsibilities under the Lobbyists Registration Act, which shall be severally deemed permanently referred to the committee immediately after they are laid upon the Table.

The standing committees of the House are given duties and powers by this House. Lest the Privacy Commissioner think that we do not take matters seriously, let me point out the powers for all standing committees in Standing Order No. 108.

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. Once again the right hon. member is providing great elucidation about the statute and the powers of the commissioner, but I have not heard yet what alleged breach of our privileges he has committed. I would like to hear that quite succinctly or I am going to move on because we have rules relating to questions of privilege in this place and I feel that the hon. member is not coming to the point. I do not know whether there is one. We are looking for something in all these readings, which are very interesting, but I am afraid we have to hear the point.

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

I will come directly to the point, Mr. Speaker, but it is important to have the background as to the allegations and as to the rules.

The Journals of the House of Commons do not record the transmission of a special report of the Privacy Commissioner to the House. He is making allegations outside the House. He has not followed the rules of Parliament to make them to the House.

Sir, I have enough trust in you to know that such a report is not sitting on your desk and I have enough confidence in the support services to believe that a special report is not stuck somewhere in the mail. I am therefore left to conclude that the Privacy Commissioner has not prepared a special report to Parliament on the following matters.

First, he has serious concerns about the content of proposed changes to the laws and rights of Canadians that are presently before Parliament for consideration and possible passage into law. We should know about his concerns in the ways set out by law.

Second, he has not indicated in any formal way, although he has informally, that he, as an officer of Parliament, has not been able to gain access to the Prime Minister of Canada on matters that he thinks should be of immediate concern to the Prime Minister affecting the rights of Canadian citizens.

Third, the Privacy Commissioner believes that Parliament is about to pass legislation that infringes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He is an officer of Parliament. He is not just the subject of an interview for the Toronto Star . If he has those concerns, I have no objection to him speaking to the Toronto Star , but he has a duty to speak in the prescribed manner to the House and he has not carried out that duty.

These are matters which should be front and centre before the House of Commons of Canada and before the other place. The Privacy Commissioner has so far refused to bring these matters to our attention under section 39 of the Privacy Act as he is obliged to do.

At the same time, he is engaging in a publicity campaign that gives Canadians the impression that members of the House of Commons are derelict in their duty. A special report opens the door to the committee.

If the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates is sufficiently concerned, it can hold hearings. It can call witnesses. It can expose the issue while there is yet time to amend the proposed legislation. It can meet with other committees to seek solutions to the problem. It can call ministers, including the Prime Minister, to testify. But how can any of us take newspaper accounts seriously when the officer of Parliament in question has failed to officially draw these concerns to the attention of Parliament as he is duty bound to do?

Why has the commissioner not reported? Has someone put pressure on him not to present a special report? There must be some reason why an intelligent individual, armed with a staff of lawyers and advisers, would not utilize the most obvious arrow in his quiver. There is something very wrong with this picture.

We know the Privacy Commissioner's past connections with Liberal prime ministers have been a matter of discussion. Did anyone in the Prime Minister's Office, those people who are more concerned with spinning than with weaving good law, exert pressure to avoid the commissioner presenting members of the House with credible reasons for rejecting the power grabs that have concerned members of the House, such as the hon. member for Mount Royal and others who have stood up for civil liberties, or were concerns expressed that this sort of report might make things worse between Canada and the United States?

What is the reason the commissioner has been silent to Parliament, the one body that can do something about his concerns? There must be a reason and we must get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible.

It is my submission that the Privacy Commissioner's failure to report to Parliament while publicly attacking members of the House and while publicly stating that he is doing everything in his power to correct the bad situation, amounts to contempt of the House.

The ultimate decision is one for the House of Commons. Your duty as you well know, Mr. Speaker, is to determine if there is prima facie evidence that would merit your receipt of a motion to refer this matter to committee. I ask you to consider the facts.

The law permits the commissioner to present special reports. The commissioner states in an interview with a journalist from a paper that previously employed the commissioner that he has been obstructed by the Prime Minister's Office and that he has grave concerns about pending legislation and other issues of public policy. He said, “I will use every legitimate avenue at my disposal to carry out my duties”. Yet no special report has been presented to Parliament.

One can only conclude that the commissioner has no confidence in Parliament and that he has resorted to extraparliamentary measures, taking his case to his former employer rather than to his present employer. That is a constructive act of contempt that brings Parliament into disrepute. There may be another explanation. As I stated earlier, I want to know if outside influence was used to discourage the commissioner from presenting a special report.

I am prepared to move a motion to refer this matter to committee so that these clouds can be cleared away and this matter can be resolved. I ask the Chair to make a prima facie finding so that the committee can examine the question of contempt.

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I am quite prepared to make a ruling on the matter without hearing further.

The right hon. member in his very able argument, perhaps lengthy but very able, put forward and read out to the House the section of the act directing the Privacy Commissioner in his reports to Parliament. It is quite clear that the section of the act which the right hon. member cited was in fact permissive. The Privacy Commissioner “may” report to Parliament. He is not required to do so. He may report to Parliament.

Clearly some of the matters that are raised in the article to which the right hon. member has referred us are matters that are currently before the House. In fact the public safety act, as I understand it, is currently before a legislative committee of the House. This committee can call witnesses and hear evidence from experts. I am sure that the Privacy Commissioner, as an officer of Parliament, could be called by the committee to appear before the committee and give evidence about his concerns, if any, about the public safety act and offer his opinions.

The opportunity to clear away these clouds to which the right hon. member referred at the conclusion of his remarks is readily at hand in the place of the legislative committee on Bill C-17. I am sure the right hon. member has members from his party who will be serving on that committee and he will want to ensure that the matter is raised and aired there. That deals with at least one of the matters under concern.

The others are proposals that have not come before Parliament, from what I read of the article and understand of it. At the moment they have not come here. When they do we can deal with those matters and his views on them. In the meantime it is up to the Privacy Commissioner to make up his own mind whether to file a report with the House.

I do not know how failing to do a report on any matter that he regards as important puts him in contempt of the House. I think it would be a distortion of the legislation to say that he was required to report on everything that caused him concern. I am sure that officers of Parliament who are supposed to look at a host of subjects and report to Parliament on those subjects must have many sleepless nights thinking of various things that cause them concern that do not get into a report.

We can work with these honourable men and women who are officers of the House and of Parliament and continue to encourage them to do their jobs. I am sure that all of them will note the comments of the right hon. member in that regard. However, I think it would be imprudent for the Chair to conclude that, because there had not been a report in this case that somehow the Privacy Commissioner is in contempt of the House. I accordingly decline to do so.

PrivilegePrivate Members' Business

12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier I gave you notice of a question of privilege relating to attempts by the government to improperly influence the deliberations of Parliament with television advertising paid for with crown funds on a matter that is before Parliament for a decision.

I was watching, as so many Canadians were, the Grey Cup game yesterday. I watched its conclusion with a somewhat heavier heart than other members of the House. However I was absolutely astonished to see during the broadcast of the Grey Cup game, which I think anyone in the House would recognize is rather prime advertising space, an advertisement from the Government of Canada promoting in effect the Kyoto protocol and the reduction of greenhouse gases.