Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Burnaby—Douglas both for his comments and also for permitting me to share his time this afternoon on this important debate.
I compliment organizations that are active in my riding, including the New Westminster Food Bank, the South Burnaby Neighbourhood House and the Union Gospel Mission. When we talk about food and food supplies, there are many organizations in communities across the country that do valuable and important work to ensure that those Canadians, who are too poor to balance their budget and pay for food at the end of the month, still can get through those months.
I look forward to a day when food banks will no longer be necessary in this country. With the incredible surplus that we have, it should be a source of shame to all of us that so many of our citizens across the country are relying on food banks and Gospel Missions to make ends meet.
I would like to pay tribute to the member for Winnipeg Centre for his incredible work on this issue. He has been persistent and diligent in pushing this issue for so many months and we are now at the point where this motion is actually before us in the House of Commons. That should be a source of great pride to him as well as a source of respect from all members of the House for his persistence in bringing this issue forward.
We have the issue of trans fats that is closely related to two other issues that are extremely important in our country. The first is the issue of health care and health care cutbacks. I come from a community which lost one of its major hospitals earlier this year, St. Mary's Hospital in New Westminster. That loss, as a result of Liberal health care cuts, is a source of great shame and frustration in the community. The hospital was vitally needed, yet it is now closed.
The motion before us deals, in an indirect way, with the issue of health care costs. We know very well that the presence of trans fats means increased health care costs and increased pressure on the system. The estimate that comes forward is one of about $100 million a year from the financial pressures on the health care system and the economy as a result of having trans fats in our system.
We also know that it is an issue of quality of life. The estimates range from 1,000 to 3,000 lives that could be saved annually in Canada if we were to deal adequately and effectively with the issue of trans fats. We know how quality of life issues in Canadian communities across the country have been affected in the last 10 to 20 years. We know the average Canadian family's debt load has grown by about one-third in the past 10 years. We know the average Canadian worker has suffered a loss in real wages of 60¢ an hour. We have seen health care cutbacks and the loss of hospitals in the major communities. We have seen post-secondary education cutbacks, which means more stress and more pressure on students, either to try to get the money to get through school, because of the outrageous costs of post-secondary education, or in so many cases, increased stress and pressure of trying to pay off debts that are in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
Over the last 10 years of a Liberal government, we have seen a deterioration that is consistent and constant in the quality of life of Canadians. It is shameful. This measure is one that starts to address that quality of life issue in a very important way. It means we would have Canadians in a healthier state. It is a small part of what needs to be a very big agenda. That very big agenda is starting to have an impact on the quality of life of Canadians. It is extremely important, and that is why I am very happy to speak on the motion.
We know we are looking at potentially saving 1,000 to 3,000 lives a year. We know we are looking at savings in terms of our health care system, and that is important. We know we are contributing to advancing the quality of life of Canadians. These are all very important aspects.
We need to look at how other countries have treated the issue. The example that is most often cited is that of Denmark. We know Denmark started with the publication of a report by the Danish Nutritional Council in 1994 on the influence of trans fats. The report actually kick-started the whole process of the elimination of trans fats. One major step following the publication of that report in 1994 was achieved when an agreement was concluded with the Danish margarine industry to reduce the contents of such fats in margarine.
In 1994 the average daily intake of industrially produced trans fatty acids in Denmark was five grams per person. My colleague from Burnaby—Douglas just mentioned that the Canadian average is 10 grams per person, twice as much.