Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Vancouver East. I am pleased to do so and pleased to rise in the chamber to talk about the motion relating to the banning of trans fats.
It is important to identify a couple of things at the forefront. The first is that when we learn as legislators about a public policy issue related to our health and we know about the harm it is causing our citizens, there is a duty and an obligation for us to act. It is simply not enough to expect other forces out there to do the job that parliamentarians should be doing. That is why today we are discussing this issue. That is why I believe it is very important that we participate right now in the changing of a food additive that harms Canadians' lives and that we also provide the solutions necessary for our dietary health. That is what this motion does.
There has been some discussion about the issue not really being in the forefront of the radar screen of Canadians right now. They have heard some information about it on a regular basis or piecemeal through the media, but it is an issue that has been breaking ground in the health field for many years.
It is interesting that the member for Winnipeg Centre raised this in caucus over a year ago. I want to pay tribute to his hard work. It is his due diligence in the past year that has led to today's motion. I hope it will be supported by all parties. I hope we will actually see action on this to protect Canadians' health. I hope we will be at the forefront in the world in making sure that our producers comply to better standards for trans fats, that our consumption as Canadians and our health are improved, and that we become world leaders like we can be and should be in many other fields.
The member for Winnipeg Centre did that by doing due diligence. He did a lot of research at the forefront. I will touch on the people he spoke to and the organizations he consulted, both for and against the concerns he was raising. He actually followed a process that is very complementary to the parliamentary process. It goes back to previous parliaments. On February 6, 2004, he introduced a private member's bill to look at banning trans fats. That was the point of pressure. It is very important to recognize that.
One of the reasons I am proud to be a New Democrat is that we have members who are not afraid to put their necks on the line to introduce discussion on a topic that is sometimes seen as being too difficult to raise. That is how we started on this file when there was very little public discourse about the effects individually as opposed to the banning aspect, which is seen as no solution. The member deserves credit for this, because that was the situation more than a year ago.
In response to the motion of the member for Winnipeg Centre, he was able to get the House of Commons health committee to do a study on the health effects of trans fats. He also pushed for expert witnesses and a review paper to provide testimony and also the discussion points that are so necessary to open the door to not only just the health aspects of this, but also to the industrial side effects in terms of the production and manufacturing of food products. He did that in a way that was very complementary and inclusive and I once again congratulate him on that.
The hon. member also did another important thing, and it is very important to recognize the hard work of his office. His office did a mail-back campaign to educate his constituents as well as those across the country. Speaking from the Windsor West perspective, I know that many of my constituents sent back the card to give solidarity to and support for us as parliamentarians to start talking about trans fats, their effects on human health, and how we can improve our products and the goods we are consuming, to have a healthier society for all of us.
That is important, because it recognizes the fact that right now in the system of the products we have available as food substances, individuals at the lower end of the income scale often cannot afford to purchase some of the healthier alternatives out there. There is a premium on natural foods. There is a premium on some of the foods with less additives. There is also an issue of access, as some individuals do not have the transportation or the time to get non-perishable and healthier alternatives. The member has been really diligent in expressing this concern that all Canadians need the opportunity to have a better selection of food sources and trans fats need to be addressed for all of us.
I note that the consultation process the hon. member undertook was extensive. I want to touch upon some of those organizations. In preliminary research, he looked at the World Health Organization, its suggestion about banning trans fats and the work done on the world front there. He consulted with the New England Journal of Medicine , looking at the research that had been done to ensure that the scientific background and merits were there before he actually launched into his work on this campaign.
From there, setting out the groundwork of the research, he then started to talk to groups and organizations that were very important and had great credibility in Canadian society, for example, the Heart and Stroke Foundation. What a great opportunity to get it involved in public policy. It is an organization that I support. My father has had bypass surgery and my grandfather prior to that. The Heart and Stroke Foundation has been leading the public charge on improving our cardiovascular health. I was very impressed to see that it was consulted right away.
He also went to universities and doctors, namely Dr. Bruce Holub from Guelph University, Dr. Ruth MacPherson from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Dr. Peter Jones from McGill University, Dr. Robert Issenman from McMaster University, and Dr. Sheila Innis from UBC. Those are just a few who have been consulted, although I know that there were others. It was an impressive view across Canada. He ensured that he spoke to people in different regions. He heard their concerns about what was happening in those regions.
Because of the scientific validation of this additive to our food, it is important to get the public to support the necessary transition. It is also important to get the government to act in a responsible way to ensure that we see changes, not just in words and emotion but to have a committee get things moving sot that we meet that year timeline and get real progress. It will also be important for those industries to have the validation that we support their changes.
There also was consultation with the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. The member was very concerned about how this would affect not only the daily lives of Canadians but also employment. He had discussions with the association about its concerns on the phase in approach so we could accommodate its special needs and ensure that restaurant industry would continue thrive. We are dealing with a bad decision to allow a substance in our food chain that is clearly threatening not only our current health but how we are bringing up youth. We also are dealing with the employment aspect so our restaurants are not going to be the victims of a transition to cleaner, safer food processing. That is why I was very impressed.
As the industry critic for our party and one who enjoys restaurants, I want to commend him for ensuring that we will see them as part of the process. Many students and single mothers work in the restaurant sector. They need protection. Therefore, it is important that any transition not affect their vulnerable status. Often they do not receive the wages and compensation they deserve, and it is very difficult work. The risk associated with individual businesses and restaurants is very high. We certainly do not want to impede the progress that individuals and chains can make.
I would also like to note that he met with the vice-president of McDonald's to hear the concerns of that company. In Denmark, McDonald's has moved to comply with the trans fats legislation. We have not seen Ronald McDonald running out of Denmark, which would probably be pretty hard in those big shoes. Nonetheless, McDonald's has stayed in Denmark. We hope to see the same thing happen in Canada. We do not want to be harshly punitive with any franchise. We want to work with them. New York Fries should be commended for being pioneers in this. That is very important.
I want to summarize by saying that Canada is not alone in this. Denmark has already moved in a progressive state. I again commend the member for Winnipeg Centre for meeting with the ambassador of Denmark. He also met with the ambassador of New Zealand. It also is interested in pursuing what Canada is doing now. We want to ensure that Canada is at the forefront of human health through banning a substance or, as a first step, reducing it from our diets. This would have terrific effects for our health, economy and our ability to proceed as a society