House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was food.


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5:25 p.m.


Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, on that note, I have always believed in the motto of Julia Child. She just died at 94 years of age after having eating marvellous rich French food of all her life. Her motto was: Moderation in all things, including moderation. I ascribe to that.

The member has pointed out that the market has been responding of its own volition to the health challenge posed by trans fats. She mentioned the commendable example of Voortman's bakeries in her own constituency. Other members have talked about restaurants which have introduced healthier oils.

For instance, Hostess bakeries, the producer of all those marvellous treats, recently went out of business. Why? Because we do not give consumers enough credit. They are informed. They know that trans fats are bad. When they look at products that are loaded with trans fats, they avoid them, and those companies either change or die. They do that because of market incentives.

Would the member not agree that it is preferable to allow the market to respond to the growing consumer demand for healthier products and healthier oils than to force a policy through which would have unintended consequences where not all the producers would be in a position to replace the trans fats with healthier oils?

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5:25 p.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, we commend the member for Calgary South for getting his own regime in order. He is the poster boy for getting one's health situation organized.

Even in the case of the labelling information, we did set a target. It will be imposed across the board on everybody. A lot of companies are rushing to get ahead of that target. Ultimately, some companies will only do it because that December 12 date is coming. Wish that it was just about market forces or that it was everybody wanting to do the right thing. There are always a few people who need a little legislative push. We have the tools and we need to use them.

The member for Ottawa Centre also talked about leveling the playing field in terms of the cost issues and ensuring that people had access. Right now the science is working to ensure that we have the products they can use. However, some of them are probably a little more expensive, and there are some supply issues.

We are working on it, but legislation and regulation are very appropriate uses in a situation like this, with lots of consumer push to get ahead of it.

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5:25 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this discussion on the NDP motion that deals with trans fats.

As we round out debate and close off discussions for today, it would be only appropriate to comment on the positive discussion that has taken place in this chamber, just how constructive the House can be at times like this. I am very grateful that we have had today to seriously share ideas and find some common ground to push forward on a very important issue for Canadians.

Perhaps one could say that it is clearly something that seems to be unique to this Parliament, presumably to the fact that we have a minority situation. This is living testimony to all those Canadians who believed, when they voted on June 28, that a minority government would be a healthy outcome for Canadians. They believed we could accomplish so much together by sharing ideas and sometimes being less partisan and working together for the common good.

I hope the outcome of today will be a resounding vote of support for this motion. It is a very important issue that affects the health and well-being of many Canadians. I know it is too early to determine exactly how individual members will vote on this very important issue. However, it seems to me, from the discussion which has occurred over the course of today, that members of Parliament from all parties are looking very seriously at the issue, thinking about it, asking very good questions and making a very deliberate effort at firming up their position.

Today has been wonderful. In that context I also want to thank my colleague from Winnipeg Centre who, as we all know, started championing this issue over a year ago when he first learned about the issue through some very indepth and positive media reports around trans fats. He took up the issue and brought it to his caucus. He pursued it by way of a private member's initiative. He has continued to raise it over the course of the year to the point where we are here today as an NDP caucus fully supportive of his work and of the need to find a resolution to the problem that he and so many others have identified. My thanks to my colleague who represents the seat next to mine in Winnipeg.

I listened to the member who just spoke about the role of government and when government gets involved and when the private sector rules the day. I think that is a good place to start in terms of my input on this matter.

We on this side of the House at least understand the role of government to be one of helping to ensure that the health and safety of Canadians is protected. We believe that government has a responsibility to ensure that the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breath, the products we use and the medical devices that are put in our bodies are safe beyond a reasonable doubt. That is part of our Food and Drugs Act.

We have legislation that requires our government to ensure that it is proactive and takes all precautionary effort to protect Canadians from any deleterious effects of food, water and medical devices. I see this motion as something that flows from the spirit of that legislation. In fact, it has in it criminal sanctions when the act is breached and when efforts are not taken to protect Canadians in the event of toxic substances or other life threatening issues entering our food, water or air systems.

If we are trying to understand this motion in that context, vis-à-vis the role of the marketplace, as some of the members on the Conservative side of the House have tried to raise, I hope I can convince them and make this case. On something so fundamental as life sustaining food, water and air, government has an ultimate absolute responsibility to be involved in ensuring that products are safe beyond a reasonable doubt and that we apply the precautionary principle, or the do no harm principle, that says the onus is on the industry to prove that products are safe.

The onus is on government to require the business sector, the private sector, the corporations involved in any of these areas to prove that products are safe beyond a reasonable doubt. That to me is the fundamental role and responsibility of government.

Health protection is at the heart of such an approach and that means putting everything behind it in terms of the force of the law. It does not mean a risk management model. It does not mean saying that we should take our chances and require industry to put in place its own systems to check against any ill effects or adverse reactions, then see what happens. We know what happens when we take that market driven approach.

The private sector, businesses and free enterprise are not doing the work they do because of the goodness of their hearts. They are in it to make a profit. They are in it to make a living and no one is going to quarrel with that. That is quite separate from the role of government to ensure that certain standards are met to ensure that no shortcuts are taken and no problems are created as a result of the profit motive or the interests of trying to survive in the business world.

I see the two issues as absolutely compatible: business trying to provide for Canadians by turning the natural resources of this land into products for all of us to eat, to use and to have as part of our quality of life and the government's role to help ensure a regulatory system is in place to protect us from any ill effects.

I could go through a long list of issues we have tried to raise in the House that fall in the category of trans fats. I could talk about Prepulsid and the death of Vanessa Young a few years back because we did not take that kind of proactive regulatory approach to ensure that when we knew there were adverse reactions to a particular drug, we halted the drug's production and distribution and ensured that no one was put in that susceptible position.

We said the same with respect to the studies that came out suggesting that mercury in fish was very harmful to young people and expectant mothers. We said that the government had a responsibility to try to regulate in the area so that fish with a high level of mercury would not be available on the market so people would not be in danger of buying something that they were not sure about in terms of long term effects on health and well-being.

We said the same thing when it came to the issue of disposable medical devices when evidence came forward suggesting that great harm and possibly even death could happen as a result of medical devices being re-used when they were in fact disposable. We said that was something that had to be stopped and that government had a role to ensure that it was.

We talked in the past about toxic chemicals and plastics and the fact that babies and small children chewing on plastics with high levels of lead could suffer very serious brain damage. We have talked about arsenic. We have talked about synthetic insulin. We have talked about tainted raisins. We have talked about Dursban, a problematic pesticide. The list goes on and on. They were all issues that begged for government intervention and for active regulation.

In some cases we have made some progress. We will continue to fight for government to take an active role in such areas. Today we may be on the verge of seeing that kind of approach adopted by Parliament in a very significant and substantive way. That of course has to do with the serious issue of trans fats.

Over the course of today we have heard from many individuals who have studied this issue in depth and have told us about the serious implications for Canadians who consume food that is very high in trans fats. We have heard about the number of lives that could be saved every year. We have heard about the money that could be saved every year if in fact we took firm action with respect to trying to rid our marketplace of products that are high in trans fats and can create serious problems for our health and well-being.

I do not need to repeat the science and go over those statistics, but I would like to convey a few of the sentiments that have been passed along to us in the course of our preparation for this debate and as a result of the work of my colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre. We have received communications and letters from people all over the country who are delighted that we are taking this stand and hope that the outcome is positive.

Everybody knows it is not going to be easy in terms of ridding our store shelves of some products that our kids love or that we love. That is a challenge for all of us, but there is a general recognition that there is a real responsibility on the part of government to ensure that we do just that, try to ban products that are very detrimental to the health of our children and the health of all Canadians.

I want to read a few letters from folks who have given us their support on this issue. A woman from Ottawa writes:

I've been gradually cleaning out my cupboards from products with this ingredient, but it is only recently that I discovered it was also in cheese that I had been eating for years, without knowing it contained this deadly fat. The government should take the lead and do an educational campaign. Of course this might go against corporate Canada, which are partly controlling some of the ruling Liberals.

One comes from a health professional in Victoria, B.C., who says:

It's about time that someone high profile and with some influence took on this project, as we have known for 15 years with no uncertainty that hydrogenated oils are more harmful than saturated fats. As you know, research has directly linked trans fats to higher risk of and incidence of heart attacks, cancer, and other obesity related diseases such as diabetes. As a health professional, it is important to me to do what I can to help raise community awareness of trans fats as well.

One is from Toronto, Ontario. This person says:

Not all consumers check what is in their foods, which they should, but no one should be selling something that has a poison in it if they can avoid it by changing their ingredients. I personally check everything. My husband finds it annoying but I feel it is very important. I will be starting a family soon and I will make sure to avoid buying anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

Another one from Toronto, Ontario, says:

I fully support your motion that trans fats are a harmful and downright toxic substance that has no business being in our food. I have personally been aware of the harm caused by hydrogenated oils in food for several years and have watched with great anxiety and frustration as more and more products are using such oils. It is for this reason that I ask you to please never give up the fight. As a consumer and health care professional, I find this issue of utmost importance.

That is the message that has spurred us on. These kinds of letters and messages from people all across Canada, asking us not to give up the fight, has kept my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, and everyone else on this side of the House and I am sure from all quarters of the chamber, involved in this issue with a great deal of passion, vigour and determination.

What we sense from these letters is that people are willing to do their part, but sometimes it is not always easy to tell from the labels what we are eating. Sometimes we do not have access to the educational information to be able to differentiate between the impact of different ingredients on the body and on one's physical health and well-being. Sometimes it is hard for kids to resist the pressure when they see something advertised on TV. Sometimes it is hard to overcome that huge food industry with all of the money it spends on advertising and try to accomplish something that is so important for health and wellness.

The message from all of these folks is to help them, and to join with them and form a partnership. Government can do its part by taking a hard look at the products that we are talking about, trans fats and hydrogenated oils, and make the link that they are hazardous in our foods and impact on our health. We must make a determination that they are just too deadly to let the marketplace rule and let consumers choose.

We do that on many fronts and maybe we should do it more. I think for example about our work on trying to convince people not to smoke. Perhaps we should be looking at whether we should ban cigarettes entirely. We are making progress by continuing to press forward to educate folks in terms of the dangers of smoking and we are ensuring that Canadians are fully aware of the deadly substances in cigarettes.

Each day we take another step. Today we are hopefully at the point of convincing the government that it is wrong to take Canadians' pension savings and invest them in tobacco companies. It is wrong for the CPP investment board to be a partner with tobacco companies who are refusing to have better labels on cigarette packages or are unwilling to restrict the sale of their products to young people. Every day we make progress on that front. Some day we will eliminate this deadly product.

However, today we have a real opportunity to actually take the information that is so clear and so focused in terms of what must be done. I hope we can take this decisive action today and actually ban in a period of time these deadly products, these hydrogenated oils from our food, so that we as consumers do not have to be worried every day about what we are eating and what kind of harm we are bringing to our children. We will have the knowledge that we are working in partnership with a government that cares about our health and our children's health, and is working with us to move toward a healthy diet which ensures longevity and quality of life for all our citizens no matter what age and where they live.

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5:50 p.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have listened for some period of time now to the general direction of the policies of this particular party. I find it extremely ironic to be listening to this rhetoric in relation to banning trans fats.

It is obvious that trans fats can cause harm and may cause harm to some Canadians. However, I find it extremely ironic that on one hand that party intends to take a position to decriminalize marijuana, which is obviously extremely harmful and dangerous to our society and its members, yet on the other hand, it wants to eliminate something that is less harmful or is not shown to be harmful to all Canadians.

When this particular member speaks of the responsibility of government to ensure that citizens do not come to harm and that it must ensure that the goods that Canadians eat cause no harm, how can she justify this basis in general on the track that her party takes for this and other matters? There seems to be no specific direction that her party takes. I would like to hear her comments on that.

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5:50 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think the problem in terms of consistency rests with the member opposite and not with those of us who are concerned about banning trans fats from our food products.

I could turn that around quite easily and ask why the member feels so strongly about banning marijuana and yet is prepared to let the market rule on a product where we have clear scientific evidence of death and ill-health, where the facts are unequivocal, and where there is not a single bit of doubt about the serious ramifications of having trans fats in our food supply?

For example, I cite the Harvard School of Public Health which states that trans fats are responsible for at least 30,000 premature heart disease deaths each year. That is equal to one death from trans fats every 15 minutes, making trans fats worse than a crazed serial killer in terms of murders per minute.

Our position has always been that when we have scientific evidence proving without any doubt that something is harmful to human health, then we must take action. We do not sit back and let the market rule. If the marketplace were so committed to the health and well-being of Canadians, we would not have these products on the shelves right now. They would not be there because they are deadly and harmful.

We take that approach in every instance, whatever we are talking about. The member may not realize this, being a new member, but we have had numerous debates in the House around genetically modified organisms. That is a good illustration of what needs to be done each and every step of the way.

What we have said in this caucus is that we should ensure that the research is done before we open the floodgates to products for which we are not certain are entirely safe. We should do our research, do our homework, and then move forward. If there is any doubt about safety, if there is any question that a product may be harmful to an individual, then we should practise the precautionary principle of do no harm. That is the essence of a proactive government. That is at the heart of this great institution of ours. That is the principle that must be respected each and every step of the way. We are so close to accomplishing that with this debate on deadly trans fats.

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5:50 p.m.


Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt about the sincere intentions of the member and her colleagues, which I indeed endorse and support, but the problem I have with this effort is that it will undoubtedly lead to unintended consequences.

Her colleague, the sponsor of the motion, said that the only people who could possibly oppose this would be libertarians who do not want the government telling them what they cannot eat.

I would have to be included in that number, because I believe that when we as politicians, who are not really scientists, start to make scientific findings that we are really not competent to do, then that leads to dangerous places.

The NDP motion says:

That, in the opinion of this House, the federal government should acknowledge processed trans fatty acids are harmful fats, which are significantly more likely to cause heart disease than saturated fats;

Everything I have seen does not support that contention that these fats are significantly more harmful than saturated fats. Let me be clear. If we rush to eliminate trans fats, food producers will replace those trans fats with saturated fats, which was the case 10 or 15 years ago before consumers had their concern about saturated fats.

Here is what the Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies of the European Food Safety Authority said in September of this year:

--at equivalent dietary levels, the effect of trans fatty acids on heart health may be greater than that of saturated fatty acids. However, the current intakes of trans fatty acids are generally more than 10-fold lower than those of saturated fatty acids whose intakes in many European countries exceed dietary recommendations.

The same European report said:

The available evidence does not provide a definitive answer to the question of whether trans fatty acids have an effect on [cholesterol] different to a mixture of [saturated fatty acid] on a gram-for-gram basis.

Furthermore, the U.S. dietary guidelines advisory committee said:

Saturated fat consumption should be kept as low as possible. Dietary intake of saturated fat is much higher than that of trans fat and cholesterol. Intakes of all three fats should be decreased, however, decreasing intake of saturated fat is most beneficial because it is consumed in greater amounts.

While trans fats on a gram per gram basis have been proven to have a greater effect on heart health, trans fats are the smallest part of the diet, just 2% to 3% of total calories, while saturated fats represent 15% to 20% of the total diet.

I do not want to break caucus confidentiality, but I think I can say that in our caucus debate on this matter, Canada's leading heart surgeon, Senator Dr. William Keon, said that he was very sympathetic to the motion, as am I, but he was concerned as well about the health consequences of replacing these bad trans fats with deadly saturated fats.

Would the member consider amending the first section of the motion? Because frankly, all the science I see contests the assertion that trans fatty acids “are significantly more likely to cause heart disease”. That is being contested by scientific authorities outside Canada.

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5:55 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the question and the expertise of the member, but first let me say that as I understand it, Dr. Keon, who is a world renowned specialist in terms of the heart, has heartily endorsed this motion. He has not just expressed sympathy for the motion, but he has worked with my colleague and has actively supported it.

He supports it because, like so many other professionals and medical experts in the field, he knows the dangers of trans fats and knows the cost to human health and the cost to our health care system.

It seems to me that while the member can point to perhaps one study that puts into question 99% of those studies, we have to err on the side of where the evidence is. The evidence is clearly saying overwhelmingly that there is a direct link between ill health and trans fats.

I have heard this sort of logic before from the Conservative members when it comes to addressing the issue of climate change. Every time we try to talk about targets for Kyoto, members from that quarter of the House suggest that there is no scientific reason for us to work to control greenhouse gas emissions.

As my colleague from Windsor has just said, it seems to smack of the flat earth theory. We wish that members in the Conservative Party--not all of them, because some I think are with us on this--would study all the evidence and then say, “On the basis of where the evidence now lies overwhelmingly in terms of recognizing the health consequences of trans fats, let us act. Let us not sit and wait. Let us not bide our time when we know the impact. Let us do something”.

I think it is fair to say to the member, who seems to think that a voluntary approach would work or that the marketplace will do its job, that such has not been the case. I cannot think of many examples in society where in fact that has been the case. There is nothing wrong with that. That is the job of government: to gather the evidence, to make the connections and then to take the action through regulations and legislation.

The member will know that the science is there. I think he has to grapple with the role of government in that context. Despite our ideological differences, despite the fact that he is a Conservative and I am a New Democrat, despite the fact that we have different notions of the state and when the state should be involved, I hope that at least on this issue, when we are talking about kids' health, the serious impact on pregnant women and the damage to the fetus, and the direct correlation between heart attacks and trans fats, he can see the importance of getting this government involved and putting forth regulations that will see a ban on all trans fats within a year.

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6 p.m.


Françoise Boivin Liberal Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on the concerns raised by this opposition day motion, which has as its intent to effectively ban trans fats in foods.

First I want to say that it will be my pleasure to vote in favour of this motion.

Allow me to digress for just a moment. This motion is especially significant to me partially because of its content, but also because barely a month ago I was going through the unique experience of having my gallbladder removed. I can tell you that it was in large part because of my diet, which contained far too much trans fat. This experience certainly made me more aware of the whole issue of food quality and it has led me to realize the importance of such a motion for the public health of Canadians.

However, it must be noted that this motion will not necessarily achieve the desired result of reducing the risk of heart disease in Canadians. We depend on solid and semi-solid fat for several food applications, and the most readily accessible equivalents to trans fat ingredients for these applications are high in saturated fat.

Unfortunately, these also have harmful effects on cholesterolemia and increase the risk of heart disease. The availability of vegetable oil tub margarine high in the desired polyunsaturated fat with low or moderate levels of saturated and trans fat will be threatened by the proposed change.

The Government of Canada supports the goal of decreasing trans fat available in food in Canada and is saying that a commitment to reduce the availability of trans fat in food in Canada is appropriate.

In fact, in January 2003 Canada became the first country in the world to impose mandatory labelling of trans fat content in order to encourage the food industry to adopt this approach. These new labelling regulations will come into effect in late 2005, and will require most pre-packaged goods, with the exception of those produced by companies with less than $1 million in annual sales, to be so labelled. Those companies will have until 2007 to comply with the new regulations.

The new regulations have already had a considerable impact. The food industry is already working very hard to reduce or eliminate trans fats from food. At least 13 major manufacturers have announced that they will be reducing trans fat content before the end of the grace period. In Canada, the major margarine brands have all virtually eliminated trans fats. As hon. members can see, food labelling is a clear incentive to reduce trans fat content in food.

Because its focus is on health, Health Canada is also actively encouraging the food industry to develop healthy alternatives to partially hydrogenated fats. The department will ensure that advice on how best to reformulate foods is disseminated to the industry, including the food service industry, which is not subject to the same nutrition labelling requirements.

Health Canada is also assessing the impact of these measures. It now has a program in place to monitor progress in the reduction of trans fat levels in food by analyzing trans fat content in foods sold in Canada.

Those behind this motion may be of the opinion that mandatory food labelling and the efforts by the food processing industry and the food service industry to find equivalents to the trans fat content of some fats are not enough.

In particular, I have noticed the eagerness to follow the example of Denmark, where regulations have been adopted to limit trans fatty acids to 2% in fats and oils sold directly to consumers or used in food products. I also note that it is the only country to have done this.

Looking at this example, we should also look at the Danish context. It is important to remember that Danes use more butter and tropical oils, such as palm and coconut oil, which are highly saturated. It is also very possible that their diet contains entirely different foods than the ones usually consumed in Canada, and that products for which the manufacturing process and shelf-life require additional solid and semi-solid fats are not as common.

Before importing a measure that may have worked in one other country, it would be wise and prudent to compare the circumstances surrounding this decision in each of the countries. Scientific experts were convened by the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation on September 9, 2004, in order to discuss trans fats. I will just take a moment to recognize the wonderful research work of the foundation in this field. In my riding, for example, in the Outaouais, we have a very active foundation taking a serious look at the issue of trans fats. These experts expressed concern that if a 2% ceiling on trans fats were imposed, artificial trans fats might be replaced in processed foods by natural trans fats or saturated fats.

Natural trans fat in animal products is not substantially different from man-made trans fat. A large number of food items that Canadians are used to, such as many bakery products, cannot be made satisfactorily without using a solid or semi-solid fat. If we imposed a 2% ceiling on trans fatty acids, these food products would have to be significantly changed, which change could increase the amount of saturated fatty acid either through the use of hydrogenated vegetable oil or tropical oil, butter or other animal fat that, as I already mentioned earlier, increases LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, in the blood.

These experts agreed there was no evidence to suggest that a 2% ceiling would optimize health benefits, but rather that it is essential to use healthier equivalents to fat and oil high in saturated fatty acids. This means that the relative risk of trans fat in comparison to that of saturated fat requires a more in-depth study of the Canadian diet.

As noted earlier, the impending mandatory labelling of prepackaged food containing saturated or trans fat has already had a major impact on the food industry in Canada. The industry is committed to actively seeking suitable alternatives to fat high in trans and saturated fat.

Because of the public's increased awareness of this issue, businesses are inclined to make statements to the effect that their products are free of trans fats, or at least low in trans fats. It is important to note that, in Canada, such statements can only be made if the foods in question have a low saturated fat content. The information provided to consumers must cover all factors contributing to health, not only trans fats.

Allow me to stress the importance of considering the potential impact of imposing the proposed ceiling on the trans fat content of foods. It will be important to consult scientific experts and representatives of the food industry to hear what they have to say about the practicality of the motion, which would eliminate virtually all processed trans fats.

Health Canada is exploring the possibility of setting up a multi-stakeholder task force to develop recommendations on the practical steps to reducing trans fats in the foods that Canadians eat, including the identification of appropriate oil and fat alternatives for use in reformulating products.

Several potential solutions are already being pursued. For instance, the leading brands of margarine are already essentially free of trans fats. But it is not a matter of simply applying to other foods, such as crackers, cookies or donuts, the solutions successfully applied to the manufacturing of margarine.

We can foresee that, in their desire to take advantage of a potential market, those businesses who are working with the government and the academic community will find ways to overcome the technical challenges inherent to the use of fats with different functional properties. It will take some time to acquire the knowledge and disseminate it within the market.

Once again, the many stakeholders must be given sufficient time to work together in tackling major challenges, which does not prevent the government from showing strong leadership to stimulate the required research and development effort. That is the approach this government has taken so far.

I could just add this, because I heard some speakers from the official opposition questioning the effectiveness of labelling. The example of cigarettes kept coming up. As an ex-smoker, I can report that at the time—and it was not very long ago that I stopped; I am still using Nicorette gum—the mandatory labelling and the absolutely horrendous messages on cigarette packages had an absolutely incredible and devastating effect. It got so bad that—and I was not the only one, for I have talked to others like me—we reused our old packages from before these warnings appeared. That shows what an absolutely fundamental effect it had on peoples' psyches. That is something that must continue.

For sure, the official opposition will once again comment that we are regulating for the sake of regulating and taking choice away from people. However, that too is part of our responsibilities for public health, and it is good for the economy. The fact is that, if we are healthier, if the population is healthier, if young people eat better and healthier foods, this will have an impact on their health, which in turn will reduce the needs for health care. This will mean that people will stay home instead of going to a hospital or to a medical clinic, for instance. In this sense, it is very good for the economy. It will reduce the demands on the health care system, and the costs will go down.

But, this is like with the environment. Had recycling not been encouraged and certain steps not been taken, the public would still be throwing any old thing in the garbage. Eventually, Canada would have become a huge garbage dump.

Sometimes in life decisions have to be made, and that is what this motion seeks to do, as I indicated. That is why I will support it, because we cannot say no to a good thing. It is very good for Canadians, Quebeckers and the people of Gatineau.

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6:10 p.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my main concern with this motion, and I am often concerned with anything that comes from the socialist party, is the idea that the government is here to be every Canadian's nanny, from cradle to grave, helping Canadians along the way with every decision in their lives. We do not trust them to make decisions on what they eat, and this is another example of that.

The hon. member made some comments that the market is incapable of responding to the desires of Canadians for healthy lifestyle choices.

It did not take an order in council for fast food chains to provide a healthy alternative from burgers and fries to subs and other types of meals. It did not take a government order to get soft drink companies to provide low carb alternatives. It is clear that Canadians are quite capable of effecting change in the nutritional industry by sheer market force, by demanding a change.

It is very important for all members in this House to realize that government has a scope.

Does the hon. member agree that there is a natural scope of government, that it is not here to be the nanny for every Canadian from the time he or she is born to the time he or she dies, in all elements of his or her life?

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6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 6:15 p.m., pursuant to the order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion are deemed put, and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, November 23, 2004, at the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is a follow-up question to my question on October 15 regarding slaughter capacity due to border closure because of the BSE crisis. That question was specific to Farm Credit Canada's venture investment fund and the new loan loss program. This follow-up question is still focused on the slaughter capacity issue.

The government has set a goal of trying to reach 96,000 head per week slaughter capacity. Staff from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada admit that this number does not account for cull cows or the still rapidly increasing cow herd. Provincially inspected plants have a role and we have a need for a domestic meat regulation standard to enable interprovincial trade between these provincial packing plants versus the current guideline of having only federally inspected packing plants that can trade interprovincially. The federal guidelines are really there for export purposes and are not necessarily for domestic needs.

Often the government has been quoted as saying that 95% of our current capacity is inside these federal plants. There is a problem with this in that these federal plants are very big, very successful and also are focusing their entire attention on animals that are 30 months and under. The youthful animals may even have that downgraded to 20 months and under because of some things that are happening over in Asia. This does not at all address our backlog of mature animals.

The Minister of Agriculture has some new tools at his disposal. There is the loan loss program that was recently announced. There is also the Farm Credit Canada venture investment fund which could be used to direct money into the investment of new start-up plants that are trying to get going across the country. The government could also develop a national domestic meat inspection regulation. The government could play a leadership role.

I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, will he use those tools to specifically increase capacity for mature animals and address the regional disparity that we have across the country?

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.


Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, in terms of slaughter domestically within the provinces, the question would really be better put to the provinces because our responsibilities certainly are for federal inspections and guidelines through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

I want to come back to the question on the loan loss reserve program, because the way the member originally phrased the question was by saying if the loan loss reserve program does not work.

On this side of the House when we introduce programs, we expect them to work. We are a proactive government and the minister has shown clearly with his September 10 statement that we are being proactive through the feeder set-aside program and the fed cattle set-aside program, trying to increase slaughter capacity through the loan loss reserve, continuing to put the pressure on the U.S. to open the border and, since that time, trying to ease the difficult situation that farmers find themselves in by an advance in CAIS.

The fact of the matter is that we do expect the program announced on September 10 to work. At the Canadian Federation of Agriculture symposium I was at, several speakers, including those from the beef industry, felt that with the current expansions that are on deck now, by early 2006 we should be in a position to be able to match the supply to slaughter capacity.

I think it is important to recognize that substantial private investment is already under way, therefore, to increase slaughter capacity. However, we recognize that this investment by itself may not be sufficient. We recognize that there are some small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as start-ups, that are having more difficulty arranging financing than the larger established entities.

The loan loss reserve program is therefore intended to help bring the domestic slaughter capacity and the supply of ruminants, cattle in particular, into balance. The actual increase in domestic slaughter capacity will effectively be determined by the private sector, including slaughter enterprises, financial institutions, investors and ruminant producers.

It avoids the question and the problems caused by direct government financing determining exactly how much slaughter capacity should be added and where it should be located. The bottom line is that under the loan loss reserve program, loans will be made on commercial terms. The decision on whether or not to extend credit will remain with the lender, based on a sound business plan put forward by the applicant. The loan loss reserve is there to assist the expansion of capacity as long as there is a business plan that shows this increased capacity is sustainable and makes good business sense.

I think that clearly shows that as a government, through the minister, we are being proactive on a number of fronts. Our whole strategy is to increase that slaughter capacity through the lending community and the program we have added to it so that we balance up the ability for the packing industry and the slaughter plants to be able to handle all of the Canadian supply that is out there in terms of ruminants.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the national guidelines for meat quality inspection. The federal government does have a role in interprovincial trade of products. To rely completely on the provinces to come to an agreement on interprovincial trade has been long in coming. It is something we have been talking about for over 10 years. We are at the point now that the federal government, in a desperate situation, needs to take the leadership and develop a two-tiered national standard, one for export and one for domestic trade. All I am asking the government to do is take a hard look at developing that, crediting some of these provincial plans for interprovincial trade on a different level than the current federal inspection.

The loan loss program is out and running, but it took far too long from the announcement that it was available to actually get going. One of the problems that has been brought to my attention with the loan loss program is that some of these packing plant projects that are under way are using some provincial financing through their credit agencies. My understanding is that the loan loss program is not available to those projects because of provincial government involvement and their financing.

My concern is that by not having the program available it is going to stall some of these current expansions, especially because these expansions, these smaller projects, are addressing the need of dealing with mature animals. As the hon. member realizes, we have a situation where mature cattle and mature bison are not finding a place to be slaughtered because all the expansion has taken place on the youthful animals, by far the most lucrative market.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments and indeed for his suggestion. I believe a similar suggestion was made today before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food when the minister was there. This minister has certainly shown a willingness to look at all sensible options. I think he suggested to the member at the time that we would indeed look into that to see if it is in any way feasible.

The bottom line is that as a government through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency we have put additional resources to the CFIA so that it can get these plants wherever they may be up and running according to federal standards, because we certainly need to assure countries we export to that we are meeting the federal standards and guidelines that have been established internationally, and we are doing that.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, our charter of rights guarantees every Canadian citizen freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

This year the Prime Minister, through his tax collectors, actually threatened to remove tax free status for Roman Catholic and evangelical organizations because Calgary Bishop Fred Henry sent a letter to his congregation that the Prime Minister did not agree with.

On June 6, 2004, Bishop Fred Henry sent a letter to all his parishes in the diocese of Calgary for inclusion in the Sunday church bulletins. Bishop Fred Henry wanted to support his beliefs and the work in his church, and give spiritual direction to his congregation. That is what any pastor, bishop, rabbi or any other clergyman has the legal right and spiritual responsibility to do under the charter of rights.

Only this time there was something different. Someone in the federal government got wind of what was going on and Revenue Canada was sent to visit the good bishop, not for spiritual counselling but for intimidation purposes to ensure that the good bishop got on the side of government policy.

Is it not surprising that the good bishop was the recipient of this kind of strong-arm tactics? Is there not supposed to be a separation of church and state in this country? Do we not have the right to worship where we want? Do we not have the right to express our opinions freely? Do we not have the right to believe in whatever we choose to believe and to express those beliefs publicly?

It is true that charitable organizations have a legal responsibility to maintain political neutrality. However, our government also has a responsibility to uphold the rights of its citizens. Bishop Henry simply expressed his views as the spiritual leader of his community about the comments of a man who sought election to be our Prime Minister, a man he differed with and the direction in which this man intended to take our country.

Is it any coincidence that just today the member for Mississauga—Erindale was dismissed after having publicly criticized the Prime Minister? This member should have been dismissed long ago for her inflammatory and damaging remarks about our neighbours to the south, which no doubt cost Canadians dearly. It was not until she chose to criticize the Prime Minister that she was removed from caucus.

The Prime Minister must make a choice. Would he like to be Prime Minister or merely the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada? Every citizen has the right and responsibility as a Canadian citizen to question the Prime Minister.

Bishop Fred Henry did not pick a political party. He stood up and spoke out on an issue according to his religion and his beliefs. He did not attack the Liberal Party. He questioned the man who sought to be Prime Minister.

Today, as member of Parliament for Kildonan—St. Paul in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I am asking the Minister of National Revenue to explain to all members and all Canadians, why was the charitable organization tax free status threatened by this government because a single bishop questioned the direction his government was taking him?

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Sydney—Victoria Nova Scotia


Mark Eyking LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade (Emerging Markets)

Mr. Speaker, I stand here this evening to put some facts straight on the matter.

The hon. member has requested this debate to discuss the issue of the separation of church and state. The hon. member has asked about specific taxpayers. I will not violate the confidentiality of any taxpayer by discussing their affairs in the House. However I can discuss with the member opposite the role of the Canada Revenue Agency in monitoring registered charities on an ongoing basis.

This is not an issue about the separation of church and state. It is a matter of applying the Income Tax Act rules to charities registered under the act. To qualify for registration an organization's mandate must be charitable at law. Once registered, regulatory oversight is warranted given that the registered charities enjoy significant tax advantages and are supported by the public moneys.

The CRA carries out broad based outreach and education activities to ensure that registered charities understand the law. When the CRA identifies a trend toward partisan political activity, our outreach activities can include proactively contacting these organizations to ensure that they understand the law and will comply.

The Income Tax Act allows registered charities to engage in limited, non-partisan political activities. Charities can speak out on issues related to their mandate, including controversial issues. They are free to engage in public debate and to conduct public awareness campaigns. To be acceptable under these rules, these activities must be linked to the charity's purposes and remain incidental to its charitable programs.

Partisan political activity is not permitted at any time. I would like to repeat that because I believe it is the crux of the issue. Partisan political activity by registered charities is not acceptable under the law.

These rules are applied evenly and fairly to all registered charities. The CRA's application of these rules are not based on which side of a debate or issue a charity supports. If the CRA acts against a registered charity, it does so because of the actions of that charity, not on what that charity is or who it represents.

The CRA receives complaints about organizations that engage the public on a specific political issue, including environmental groups, rights advocates and faith based organizations.

These organizations may be deeply committed to their causes and may be conducting allowable political activities, but if they are engaged in partisan political activity, they have contravened the Income Tax Act rules governing charities.

When the CRA believes that a charity's activities may be contravening the rules, its staff step in to inform and educate the charity about its obligations under the Income Tax Act. Revoking charitable status is our last option, after our efforts to educate, guide and provide advice have not been successful.

Not heavy-handed, our goal is voluntary compliance and that starts with education. Among the services CRA offers to charities are guidance, advice and education in understanding and complying with tax law. The vast majority of charities want to comply with the law and appreciate the outreach that CRA undertakes to help them understand and abide by the rules.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, Bishop Fred Henry is not an organization. He is a bishop, a person who cares about his parishioners. He did not send out political pamphlets in favour of one party or the other party. What he did was attempt to spiritually lead his parishioners.

What is at risk is the rights of pastors, bishops, rabbis, spiritual leaders to be able to make a strong voice in terms of what they believe.

The fact is that Bishop Henry did not talk about a political party. He talked about a Roman Catholic. He talked about a person who was about to lead the country and he had a concern because this good bishop did not agree with the direction in which the country was going.

This is not about charities. The Catholic Church and, indeed, Bishop Henry, I am sure, has done much to help the current government out in terms of good charity works that happen from his particular diocese.

The issue is about freedom of rights, freedom of religion. The issue is about what we as Canadians hold dear.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, everyone reads a book a different way I guess. For almost 20 years, the Income Tax Act has clearly stated that charities cannot “directly” or “indirectly” support or oppose a candidate for public office or a political party and the hon. member should know that.

The CRA has developed publicly available guidelines to establish with greater certainty how the law can be applied and administered in a consistent, fair and reasonable manner. Anyone can access these guidelines through the web page.

Registered charities want to comply with the rules, and the CRA works with them to ensure that they understand these rules and that they are followed. Our goal is voluntary compliance, and to achieve that, we are involved in education, advice and guidance for charities in meeting their regulatory requirements.

This law is for all members of the House and all people who want to run for public office or are already in public office. It is intended to that.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise again the issue of the sockeye salmon disaster on the Fraser River, which runs through my riding. The minister claims to be a big believer in empirical facts, as he should be, so here they are in the simplest terms.

Of a total sockeye salmon run of about 4.3 million, only 250,000 made it to the spawning grounds. The recorded catch was about two and a quarter million fish, leaving about 1.8 million fish unaccounted. Because the fish are on a four year cycle, this will mean no fishing on the river in four years, eight years, and at best, reduced fishing beyond that. This will cause severe hardship to commercial fishers, sport fishers, and perhaps greatest of all, to first nations that rely on the resource for food.

We are left with at least two questions. What happened to the fish? How do we find out what happened to the fish?

The DFO has trotted out its communication plan that it developed for the 1992 and 1994 failures: warm water. One would think it could get a little more creative than that. When in doubt, blame it on a act of God. It does not seem to matter that warm water, or high water or low water, were rejected as primary causes for the missing fish in those years.

The department has also adopted the same backup plan that it used in 1992 and 1994: miscounting at the Mission sonar station. That too was rejected as a principal cause in 1992 and 1994.

Others have offered different answers to the question of what happened to the fish. What we can agree on, and I heard the minister say this today in committee so I know he agrees with me, is that we need to find out for sure what happened.

To achieve this, the minister has set up a panel to conduct a post-season review. He calls the panel independent, but that is certainly arguable. It is not the independence of the panel that worries the stakeholders to whom I talk. It is the impotence. Will it have the power to subpoena witnesses to testify, including department officials? Will it have the power to place witnesses under oath? Will its recommendations be binding in any way? If the answer to these questions is no, then we should all be pessimistic about the outcomes.

Instead, why does the minister not ask the standing committee to travel to B.C. as soon as possible to conduct an immediate review of the sockeye fishery? That will help in the short term for next season and it has some power. In terms of a long term solution, the stakeholders I talk to believe, as I do, that the best way to get to the truth is to conduct a judicial inquiry that will have all of the powers that are required.

What if the same thing happens next year or the year after that? What is to keep the Pacific salmon from going the way of the Atlantic cod?

Will the minister commit to these more effective measures?

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.


Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question on an issue that greatly concerns British Columbians and the minister.

I will go through some of the answers to the question of where the fish are, but let me preface my comments by saying that the minister takes the situation very seriously. In a matter of weeks he will release the wild salmon policy for public consultation. If the member knows of groups that would find a value with this process of acquiring information, then he should ensure that they provide effective input into the wild salmon policy which will be up for public consultation.

The management of the fisheries in 2004 was particularly difficult for environmental reasons. Some fish were in abundance while other salmon species were small in numbers. This made it very difficult to provide adequate harvesting procedures.

To answer the hon. member's question as to the review process, I want to share with him which groups will be involved. Essentially the ones that will be involved will be the first nations, the commercial fishery, the recreational fishery, and the environmentalists. All four groups will have a part in the salmon review.

The mandate of this particular review will be the following. A committee will be responsible for reviewing the conduct of all fisheries included in the 2004 southern salmon integrated fisheries management plan. It will involve multiple questions. In fact all of the questions that can possibly be asked to get to the bottom of this problem will be asked and will be investigated by a group that has the capability and the knowledge to find the answer.

If there are groups or individuals that the member feels would have significant input in getting to the bottom of the problem, then he should make sure that they get in contact with the minister's office and that they provide the written documentation. We want to ensure that we have a longstanding, stable fishery on the west coast and that the salmon stocks are preserved in perpetuity.

I can assure the member that the minister and the government are very concerned and very interested in getting to the bottom of this problem. That is why the minister has asked for this review. That is why the minister has involved a very specialized group of people in this area. That is why the minister is very interested in input from the member and from groups that the member feels could provide adequate input into this problem.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Randy Kamp Conservative Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, the wild salmon policy that is supposedly the answer to everyone's dreams was supposed to be released in 2001 and we have not seen it yet. Who knows what it says. I do not see it reflected in any way in the main estimates, so I do not know what will be in there and how it will be implemented. It certainly will not solve the problem on the Fraser River in time for next season.

I wonder if the minister understands the lack of credibility that the DFO has in B.C. If the government really wants to tackle the problem of western alienation, here is a good place to start. He should start responding. The problem has never been the lack of recommendations; it is the lack of responses.

The problem with the panel that is being set up is not that it will not come up with some answers, it is what people will do with the answers. It is what the department will do with the answers. We on this side of the House are not the only ones who feel this way.

When the Commissioner of the Environment spoke to the committee on November 2, she said, “We found the progress made by Fisheries and Oceans Canada in response to our observations and recommendations made in 1997, 1999 and 2000 simply unsatisfactory. That is unacceptable.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.


Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, if the member wants to see identifiable proof of the commitment the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has with respect to this problem, then he simply has to look at his own notes and the two solutions that have been put forth.

He is quite right in that solutions put forth without implementation are not useful. However, we have to have solutions based on fact. That is why the wild salmon policy review will be released in a matter of weeks.

On looking back at 2004, to answer the questions that the member quite legitimately posed, the review will be there to ensure that the best solutions can be applied, to put together a package of solutions to deal with the issues. We want to ensure that we have a sustainable catch and that quotas are there in a sustainable fashion, to ensure that habitat will be protected and that we can reclaim habitat. We want to ensure that we have a Fisheries and Oceans policy that is sensitive to what happens not only on the west coast, but also on the east coast.

An effective salmon policy for the people of this country is the objective of the minister and the department. We welcome the member's input on solutions to that end.

SupplyAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:45 p.m.)