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House of Commons Hansard #205 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was lead.

Topics

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That the Standing Orders be amended as follows:

  1. By adding, immediately after Standing Order 28(4):

(5) During adjournments of the House, upon receipt of a written declaration of Royal Assent and the prior receipt of messages from the Senate concerning every bill in the declaration, the Speaker shall inform the House of the receipt of such declaration by causing it, along with any message received pursuant to Standing Order 32(1.1), to be published in the Journals.

  1. By adding, immediately after Standing Order 32(1):

(1.1) When the House stands adjourned, any message from the Senate concerning bills to be given Royal Assent may be deposited with the Clerk of the House and such message shall be deemed for all purposes to have been received by the House on the day on which it is deposited with the Clerk of the House.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there has been further consultation and I also believe that you would find consent to replace the text of government orders, government business No. 23, with the following, and to deem the motion to have been adopted. The new text would therefore read as follows. I move:

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty the Queen in the following words:

TO THE QUEEN'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY:

We,...the House of Commons of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg to offer our sincere congratulations on the happy completion of the fiftieth year of Your reign.

We wish Your Majesty health and happiness and wish that Your reign continue in peace and prosperity for many years to come.

That the said Address be engrossed; and

That a Message be sent to the Senate informing Their Honours that this House has adopted the said Address and requesting Their Honours to unite with this House in the said Address by filling up the blanks with the words “the Senate and”.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

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

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I conclude from that government item No. 23 on the order paper is therefore withdrawn. Is that agreed?

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, today being Thursday it is my duty at this time to ask the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons what business he has for the remainder of today, tomorrow and the following week.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I understand that many members would have suggestions about the government business over the next few days. However, in the absence of hearing all that, I will inform the House of the following.

We will continue this afternoon tomorrow with the following: Bill C-53, the pesticide legislation, to be followed by Bill C-58, the Canada pension plan investment board bill and any time remaining on Bill C-55, the public safety bill.

On Monday we will begin with a motion by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to refer to committee before second reading the bill on first nations governance that he will introducing tomorrow, notice of which is already on the order paper. We would then turn to report stage and third reading of Bill C-54, respecting sports. We would then turn to the specific claims bill introduced earlier today and any business left from this week, that is the bills I named a moment ago.

We would also like to debate report stage and third reading hopefully of Bill C-48, the copyright legislation and, subject to some progress, I would also like to resume consideration at second reading of Bill C-57, the nuclear safety bill.

In addition, it would be the wish of the government to dispose of the motion to establish a special joint committee to review proposals made concerning the code of conduct for parliamentarians.

This is the list of legislation that I would like to see completed over the next several days.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Canadian Alliance Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege to charge the Minister of Finance with contempt for his failure to comply with the legislative requirement compelling him to table a report from the chief actuary in compliance with section 115 of the CPP Act.

Subsection 115(2) of the CPP Act says:

--the Chief Actuary shall, whenever any Bill is introduced in or presented to the House of Commons to amend this Act in a manner that would in the opinion of the Chief Actuary materially affect any of the estimates contained in the most recent report under this section made by the Chief Actuary, prepare, using the same actuarial assumptions and basis as were used in that report, a report setting forth the extent to which such Bill would, if enacted by Parliament, materially affect any of the estimates contained in that report.

On June 6 the government introduced Bill C-58, an act to amend the Canada pension plan and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act. The speaking notes given out by the government indicate that this will change the earnings of the fund by $75 billion. This is a material effect on the fund and must be accompanied by a full report of the chief actuary.

Moreover, the report must be laid before the House of Commons by the Minister of Finance forthwith. That is subsection 115(8), which states:

Forthwith on the completion of any report under this section, the Chief Actuary shall transmit the report to the Minister of Finance, who shall cause the report to be laid before the House of Commons forthwith on its receipt if Parliament is then sitting, or if Parliament is not then sitting, on any of the first five days next thereafter that Parliament is sitting, and if at the time any report under this section is received by the Minister of Finance Parliament is then dissolved, the Minister of Finance shall forthwith cause a copy of the report to be published in the Canada Gazette. (Section 115(8).

The chief actuary has completed his report. The speaking notes from the department read:

The transfer is expected to improve the investment performance of the CPP. The Chief Actuary of Canada estimates that the change will increase CPP assets by about $75 billion over 50 years.

The last time a bill was introduced in the House making changes to the CPP Act, the chief actuary had his report prepared one day before the bill was introduced in parliament. Bill C-2 was introduced on September 25, 1997, and I have a copy of a letter sent to the minister from the chief actuary dated September 24, 1997, one day before the bill was tabled indicating that:

In compliance with subsection 115(2) of the Canada Pension Plan Act, which provides that a periodic actuarial report shall be prepared whenever a Bill is introduced in the House of Commons to amend the CPP, I am pleased to transmit the sixteenth actuarial report on the Canada Pension Plan.

I will table both of these documents with you, Mr. Speaker.

Clearly, our chief actuary is on the ball and respects parliament and follows the law. The fault does not lie with the chief actuary but with the Minister of Finance. The report regarding Bill C-58 is obviously finished and should have been tabled.

Members of the House cannot evaluate the impact of these changes properly without a report. For example, an extra $75 billion may allow the 9.9% rate to fall. On the other hand it could be that the CPP would be unsustainable without this act and that this act was assumed in the preparation of the last, that is the 18th, report. Parliamentarians need to know this.

In 1993 the Speaker ruled on a similar question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Scarborough--Rouge River. The issue at that time concerned the failure of the Minister of Finance to table an order made under the customs act as it was his statutory duty to do. The member for Scarborough--Rouge River stated that he entertained no doubt that:

...the minister's failure to table a document required to be tabled by this House, whether intentional or accidental, tends to diminish the authority of the House of Commons and is something that might reasonably be held to constitute contempt by this House

Speaker Fraser ruled on April 19, 1993, that a prima facie case of breach of privilege had been made and allowed the member to move a motion referring the matter to the standing committee on House management. In his ruling Speaker Fraser reiterated that:

The requirements contained in our rules and statutory laws have been agreed upon by this House and constitute an agreement which I think all of us realize must be respected. Members cannot function if they do not have access to the material they need for their work and if our rules are being ignored and even statutory instruments are being disregarded.

The Speaker also agreed that disregard of a legislative command, even if unintentional, was an affront to the authority and dignity of parliament as a whole and the House in particular.

On November 21, 2001, the Speaker delivered a ruling in regard to a complaint by the member for Surrey Central who cited 16 examples of where the government failed to comply with the legislative requirements concerning the tabling of certain information in parliament. In all 16 cases raised on November 21 a report deadline was absent from the legislation. As a result the Speaker could not find a prima facie question of privilege. However the Speaker said in his ruling at page 7381 of Hansard :

Were there to be a deadline for tabling included in the legislation, I would not hesitate to find that a prima facie case of contempt does exist and I would invite the hon. member to move the usual motion.

The reporting date in section 115 of the CPP Act is “forthwith”. The term forthwith is used all through our standing orders, Mr. Speaker, and I have watched you comply with such orders. When our standing orders instruct us to put a question to the House forthwith, that is exactly what we do. We do it right away without delay. We do not do it the next day or a week later.

By breaching a statutory requirement to table the chief actuary's report in the House the Minister of Finance is in contempt of the House. I am prepared to move a motion to refer this matter to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

I would also request that Bill C-58 not be allowed to proceed until a report of the chief actuary has been tabled. This is more of a point of order and ask that you rule on that related matter as well.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there has been a reference to a deadline made by the hon. member regarding this issue, which of course is a serious issue and I am not diminishing the importance of it. He says to buttress his argument that there is no deadline in this and it is based on the consideration which he refers to as forthwith.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is there, during the course of his presentation the hon. member might have forgotten one of the original propositions he raised in the House. It stated that it was in the chief actuary's opinion to trigger the mechanism of issuing this letter, or note which was the expression the hon. member used a while ago. I do not know, nor do I suggest the House knows yet whether the chief actuary has given such an opinion at this time.

I have asked officials to verify and to report to me. I will report to the House as early as possible. Hopefully later this day I would be able obtain that information for the benefit not only of the Speaker but of course for the benefit of all hon. members. However I do think that the triggering mechanism, which the hon. member admitted is there, is the chief actuary's opinion.

I would undertake to verify if he has given such an opinion and what the opinion is. If the chief actuary has given an opinion that in fact the triggering mechanism does not apply, the point of course is not valid. If he has not given an opinion at all, it is not valid either because the whole argument is based on the chief actuary providing that opinion, and that is the contention of the hon. member who raised the proposition in the House.

Perhaps I can assist the House and undertake that if, by the time we complete consideration of the bill now before the House, I have not obtained the information to be able to rise and give further explanation to hon. members, I would then call the other bill that is on the order paper instead, namely, Bill C-55, and call Bill C-58 at a later time, perhaps tomorrow. That would satisfy the hon. member because the proposition is not before the House given that the bill has not been called for debate and I could delay perhaps for a little while.

That being said, if anytime between now and the completion of the debate on the other bill, Bill C-53, I could rise on a point of order and give further explanation to the House, I would do so at that time.

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I do not want to reply. The Chair is prepared to take the matter under advisement. The hon. member may get a chance to reply later, if and when the government House leader comes back to the House with additional information as he has undertaken to do. We should wait until we get the additional information and then if the hon. member has additional comments, perhaps the Chair could hear the matter at that time.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-53, an act to protect human health and safety and the environment by regulating products used for the control of pests, be read the third time and passed.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Before question period, the hon. member for Jonquière had the floor. She has five minutes left on questions and comments.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you said, before question period, my colleague from Fundy—Royal asked me what I thought about the government not including the precautionary principle in Bill C-53.

It is a serious mistake on the part of the Minister of Health. The precautionary principle is an essential component that should have been included in the bill's preamble. It would have been the basis for all the provisions contained in Bill C-53.

Anyone who reads this bill can see that the minister did not do her homework properly. It is very disappointing to see that, because the bill was supposed to give us indispensable tools to protect our health and our environment.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on that same point about the precautionary principle, as my colleague said, the government decided not to mention the precautionary principle in the preamble and referred to it only once, in one clause of the bill, and that is not a trivial matter, it is very important.

When the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development came before the environment committee, she told us that in order to meet Canada's international commitments to the environment, all Canadian environmental and health legislation must provide that the precautionary principle is a fundamental principle in Canada.

I would like my colleague to tell us what she thinks of the fact that, internationally, Canada signs agreements like the Kyoto protocol, the convention on biological diversity and other international agreements, but when the time comes to introduce domestic legislation that could be tailored to these international commitments, Canada backs away and refuses to do so.

I would like to know what the member thinks about Canada tabling and passing an act of parliament that is not in line with the commitments Canada makes at the international level.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take advantage of my colleague from Rosemont—Petite-Patrie's intervention to congratulate him once more for the great work that he has done on Bill C-53. He has done a remarkable job representing my party, the Bloc Quebecois, and I would like to pay tribute to him for that.

As my colleague said, we have to recognize that this government does speak from both sides of it mouth. On the international scene, it is boastful but when the time comes to pass legislation, it backs off. And what are we presented with? Nothing but an incomplete bill, when what we needed was a super bill. What is the government doing? I do not dare repeat the phrase we use in my part of the country because it would be declared unparliamentary.

The government just turned around and said “You know, we can pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians and Quebecers; they will not notice a thing. But on the international scene, we have to look good”.

These are people with an empty shell. This government is nothing but an empty shell. It looks good wrapped in cellophane, but when you unwrap it, you find a lot of incomplete things.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to participate in this important debate, the third reading of an act to replace the Pest Control Products Act which dates back to 1969.

The stated objective of the legislation is to protect the health of Canadians from the ill effects of pesticides and to protect the environment at the same time. Both are laudable goals and we support them. However we cannot support the bill because we do not believe that the bill succeeds in setting out what it proposes to do.

This legislation has been a long time in coming. The existing Pest Control Products Act dates back to 1969. A great deal has changed since then. The Liberal government promised this legislation in its first term of office in 1993 but it has taken nearly a decade to get from there to here. We acknowledge that the bill is a significant improvement over the 1969 legislation.

It would use modern risk assessment practices, taking into account the consideration of vulnerable populations, such as children. It would require mandatory re-evaluation of pesticides, some of which have been around for decades without the benefit of re-evaluation. It would increase public participation in the decision making process and would make mandatory the reporting of adverse effects.

However as the lead critic for our caucus, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, and our environmental critic, the member for Windsor—St. Clair, have both pointed out, the bill does leave a great deal to be desired.

We all realize that there are trade-offs to be made between the need we currently have for using pesticides to produce food on the one hand and the health of Canadians on the other. When it comes to those trade-offs it is the health of Canadians that must take precedence and priority. That is why we are concerned that there is no precautionary principle in this legislation. A precautionary principle would ensure that the health of Canadians is our overriding and major concern. The bill does not enshrine this principle. We find this strange because the basic premise of the bill is to protect the health of Canadians from the adverse effects of pesticides.

Another area of disappointment in Bill C-53 is that it does not adequately address pollution prevention or reduction, and the reduction in the use of pesticides. In other areas the legislation is vague and we see that far too many details would be left to regulations. I speak for example of the details in timelines for the process of re-evaluation of pesticides.

As my colleagues have pointed out earlier in the debate there is nothing in the bill to indicate that the government wants to or has plans for reducing our overall reliance on pesticides.

I have the privilege of representing a Saskatchewan constituency, one that has a mix of urban and rural communities and individuals. I want to talk briefly about some of the trade-offs that must be made in an industrial society where people produce goods and market products for others to enjoy. I want to talk about the method for registering pesticides and of re-evaluating them. This is a task that does fall to the Pest Management Review Agency, the PMRA.

A report was prepared by the committee on environment and sustainable development in May 2000. I know that everyone in the House agrees that the chair of that committee on environment and sustainable development has sterling credentials as a strong environmentalist.

The report stated clearly that it intended to make the protection of human health and the environment the absolute priority in pest management decisions with a special emphasis on the protection of children and other vulnerable populations. This accords very closely with the position of our party in this area and with the position outlined in this debate earlier by my colleagues.

The environment committee indicated that the precautionary principle must be the approach used in all decision making, again mirroring the policy of our party. The committee chair expressed his hope that Canadians would move toward organic agriculture even while acknowledging that this will be a long term project.

On that score, the recent 2001 census is interesting when it comes to agriculture. It indicates that more than 2,200 Canadian farms produce at least one category of certified organic agricultural products. These 2,200 organic farms represent only about 1% of farms, but there is no question that the number of organic farms is growing faster than any other type of farming in the country. I am pleased to report that more than 700, almost one-third of those 2,200 farms, are in the province of Saskatchewan and growth is continuing at a great rate.

In its report the environment committee pointed out that the European Union has also experienced remarkable growth in organic agriculture. Even there the total number of organic farms is only in the range of 2% of all the farms in Europe.

I want to make the point that the government and the federal department of agriculture have not made it a priority to assist in the development of organic agriculture. I believe that is a mistake. There has been a very modest amount of money given recently by the department of agriculture, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $600,000, for the development of organic agriculture. This amount is not to be sneezed at, but it is a very minute amount in comparison to the amount of money available for the study of agriculture biotechnology.

We will be using pesticides to produce products for the foreseeable future. I refer again to the chair of the environment committee because in the preface to his report last May the chair said “our reliance on pesticides in agriculture is so overwhelming, it would be impossible for us to abandon their use in the short term”.

It then becomes crucially important that we have a safe and transparent process for the registration and evaluation of pesticides and those tasks fall to the pest management review agency, the PMRA. When this organization was created as a standalone agency, it was supposed to streamline the process of getting new pesticides onto the market and getting old and untested ones reviewed and cancelled if necessary. It has not worked out that way and criticism comes from all sides and all quarters.

When it comes to the PMRA there is a rare unanimity among industry groups, environmentalists, health groups and legislators. That unanimity is that the pest management review agency in Canada lags well behind its U.S. counterpart in approving newer, safer chemicals that could allow older and more hazardous products to be removed from the market.

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, of which I am a member, discussed this very matter at some length this year during our deliberations. In a report on the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, one of the four recommendations was that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provide at least $1 million a year in funding for a research and analysis program similar to the IR4 in the United States. This was to be developed in co-operation with agricultural stakeholders to generate or complete the necessary data for the approval of new minor use products or to expand the use of previously approved products.

That was a significant recommendation of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to deal with the minor use policy of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and other farm groups wrote to the health minister regarding Bill C-53 about a month ago. In a letter to the hon. Minister of Health, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Bob Friesen, indicated that on timelines the Canadian Federation of Agriculture recommended that product registrations be included in the legislation or applicable regulations should be referred to therein in order to create greater accountability of the PMRA's performance and management regarding submissions.

The federation also had recommendations on the auditor general's requirement for the agency's financial statements, information about the agency's performance with respect to the objectives established in the corporate business plan and a summary statement of the assessment by the Auditor General of Canada of the fairness and reliability of the information. There has been some concern.

The CFA went on to say that there is no mention of minor use in the legislation and that too is of concern. The CFA and others are insisting that farmers need faster access to newer and lower risk chemicals. The CFA stresses that product registrations have to be dealt with in a more timely manner. We in this caucus certainly agree with that observation.

For one reason or another the PMRA has not been up to its task. The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food found the problem so vexing that it held hearings and wrote a report. I have already alluded to recommendation No. 3 in the report. It was a report on the performance of the PMRA from the perspective of farmers and the competitiveness or lack thereof.

The agriculture committee chose to send a strong message to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency that improvements to its management and registration process were crucial and overdue. We have to ask why the PMRA has not performed better than it has. Part of the problem is the conflicting mandate. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency is charged with protecting human health and the environment while at the same time supporting the competitiveness of Canadian agriculture, forestry and other industries. In this latter role there is pressure on the PMRA to promote the use of pesticides.

These, we submit, are conflicting interests. As well, there appears to be a corporate culture at the PMRA that does not promote transparency in decision making. We submit that transparency is extremely important in order to guard the health of Canadians and the environment.

Regrettably, the bill before us does nothing new to clarify the statutory responsibilities of the PMRA. That is a serious concern.

We have looked at Bill C-53. We certainly concede that it is an improvement over the situation that has existed under the old legislation that was passed in 1969 called the Pest Control Products Act. We have to say in all sincerity that we are disappointed because the government had a golden opportunity to fix the process of registering and reviewing pesticides in a way that would set a clear priority on protecting the health of Canadians and at the same time protecting the environment. The government had the opportunity to establish a review process that was both transparent and efficacious but somehow it managed to fail on both fronts.

The legislation has been promised for nearly 10 years. The former Minister of Health promised legislation in the fall of 2001. The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development produced a study in May 2000 on the management and use of pesticides, including an examination of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

The primary objective of Bill C-53 as we understand it is the protection of human health and the environment. It is much stronger than the current legislation which must balance health and environmental concerns against those of industry. Some of the key provisions that will do this are the use of modern risk assessment practices, that is, consideration of vulnerable populations such as children, and of aggregate exposure and cumulative effects; mandatory re-evaluation of pesticides; increased public participation in the decision making process; mandatory reporting of adverse effects; and mandatory material safety data sheets in workplaces where pesticides are used or manufactured.

Bill C-53 does not adequately address pollution prevention and reduction in the use of pesticides. There is nothing to indicate that the government is seeking to reduce overall reliance on them.

There are concerns that the legislation is too vague and I hope I have covered that. Much of the details will be left to regulations, including details and a timeline for the re-evaluation process, types of tests used in risk assessment, et cetera.

The precautionary principle, which is very important, is not enshrined as one of the principles of the act. This is an extreme deficiency in our opinion.

There is a failure in the act to ban the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes; the lack of a fast track registration process for lower risk or minor use products; a failure to reduce the number of pesticides being used, to reduce the use of pesticides in general and to prevent the most harmful pesticides from being registered; and a failure to require labelling of all toxic formulants, contaminants or micro-contaminants.

The mandate of the PMRA is not set out in the legislation. Unfortunately there is a failure to commit money for research on the long term effects of pesticides, especially on vulnerable groups like our children, and for public education about the dangers of pesticides and for support of alternatives.

In conclusion, the proposed legislation is an improvement. It is still flawed. Much of it is based on U.S. standards which will bring some of our standards up, but we will still be far behind countries in the European Union.

Harmonization may have dangerous effects in the long term. Given the scientific evidence that exists, the bill could have and should have been much stronger in the government's efforts to protect both human health and the environment.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my NDP colleague for his excellent speech. He obviously has a good knowledge of the pesticide issue in Canada. He made a good assessment of Bill C-53.

I would like to inform him, if he does not already know, that a discussion group on pesticides was set up in Quebec. That group, known as the Cousineau group, met with over 50 people and organizations to reflect on this issue.

One of the requests that this Quebec group made to the federal government concerned the whole issue of speeding up the registration process for biopesticides.

We know that only 30 biopesticides are currently available on the Canadian market, as compared to over 150 in the United States. Consequently, contractors in ornamental horticulture have too few alternatives available to them.

Does the member think that the government should have included in its bill provisions to expedite the registration of biopesticides, as requested by the Cousineau group in Quebec, so that we can not only prohibit the use of pesticides, but also develop in Canada organic products and alternative methods for pest control? Does he not think that this bill should have contained provisions to speed up the registration process for biopesticides in Canada?

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Rosemont--Petite-Patrie for his questions and his kind remarks. I was not aware of the Cousineau report on bio-pesticides, but let me make a couple of points.

First, under the Pest Management Regulatory Agency I think that in general we have been far too slow in this country in terms of dealing with minor use products. The numbers are quite startling when we contrast them with those in the United States. It seems to be able to move much more quickly than our regulatory agency can in order to get some of these minor use approvals through in a narrow timeframe. Members will realize that when crops are at certain stages it is extremely important that the application be applied then or it is wasted, the money is lost and the product just does not work. Generally speaking there is a concern.

However, to specifically answer the member's question about using bio-pesticides to reduce our involvement with the more harmful products, this is something that I think is extremely important. In my speech I tried to contrast the differences we see in this country in terms of money available for biotechnology from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the very minuscule amounts of money that are available on the organic side including, in this case, the bio-pesticides. I think there needs to be a balancing.

The organic industry is growing extremely quickly in this country. I know it is only 1% or 2% of the overall farms, but it is surging ahead and I think those farms need some additional assistance. Something in this area like Quebec is apparently doing on bio-pesticides would certainly be a step in the right direction.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have one question for the hon. member. Would he concede that in fact biotechnology has the capacity to actually help in terms of improving environmentally sustainable farming practices in some ways?

For instance, some genetically modified strains of wheat require less pesticides or no pesticides. The impact of these genetically modified strains of wheat and other produce can in the long term reduce the use of pesticides and as such have a positive impact on the environment. In fact, some of the environmental organizations are starting to identify some of the positive elements of biotechnology in terms of its capacity to improve the sustainability of earth-sensitive agriculture.

Pest Control Products ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question. He essentially asked about GMO wheat, for example, without using pesticides. There are some real concerns about GM wheat. It has not been licensed for use in this country. The Canadian Wheat Board came before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and said that 65% of its current customers have indicated that they would not buy a GM wheat product. It may receive a bill of approval, but if consumers do not want it then I think our Canadian farmers will be very reluctant to grow it.

On the broader question of soil degradation and so on, a lot of people in the organic industry are convinced that going organic is a much better way to ensure that the soil of our arable lands will be better protected and that we will ensure sustainable agriculture with more of a commitment to organic farming methods.

Just before I take my seat, let me say that I think some of these biotech promises deserve further scrutiny. For example, we are told of GM rice to which vitamin A can be added to help children in third world countries who may otherwise suffer eyesight problems at an early age. However, when we look at it a little more closely we realize that for that product as it is currently available to be of any significant use in assisting on the eyesight front, an individual would have to consume more than four pounds of rice a day. I dare say that there would be very few people who would be able to eat that much in one day to help with their eyesight.