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House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cards.

Topics

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is the House ready for the question?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

(Bill C-27. On the Order: Government Orders)

November 26, 2004--the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food of Bill C-27, an act to regulate and prohibit certain activities related to food and other products to which the acts under the administration of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency apply and to provide for the administration and enforcement of those acts and to amend other acts in consequence.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard Liberalfor the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-27, an act to regulate and prohibit certain activities related to food and other products to which the acts under the administration of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency apply and to provide for the administration and enforcement of those acts and to amend other acts in consequence, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to begin debate today on Bill C-27, the proposed Canada Food Inspection Agency enforcement act. The objective of the bill is to enhance the protection of Canada's food supply and animal and plant resources by modernizing, consolidating and enhancing the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's inspection and enforcement authorities.

The House would find it useful to consider this bill as a second step in a three part process. The first step was the creation of the Canada Food Inspection Agency in 1997. It brought together under one agency the responsibilities to administer and enforce 13 federal acts and their respective regulations. Of these 13, 10 have provisions for inspection and enforcement.

The second step today is included in this bill, which is the modernization and consolidation of our enforcement and inspection legislation.

In the future we will begin work on the third step which will involve the modernization, consolidation and enhancement of a regulatory base as part of an overall government move toward smart regulation.

In the meantime, we must take this step to address inconsistencies and gaps between the powers and authorities that were brought together when the CFIA undertook responsibility for the various patchwork of legislation within its mandate. At present, in certain cases, we have an antiquated and inconsistent approach to inspection and enforcement activities. This bill would l change that. It would modernize, consolidate and enhance our inspection and enforcement powers to meet present and future needs.

I would like to assure the House that the bill would not alter the basic structure of the regime we have put in place. It would not change, expand or diminish the minister's authority or that of the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health remains responsible for setting policies and standards for food safety and nutritional quality. Through the CFIA, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will continue to be responsible for enforcing these standards, as well as setting and enforcing other standards, such as those for animal and plant health.

What the bill would do is it would enhance, modernize and consolidate current inspection and enforcement authorities.

Members who were present in 1999 will recall Bill C-80, the Canada Food Safety and Inspection Act, which died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued that October. It too sought to consolidate the federal inspection and enforcement authorities. Members may recall that we consulted widely with stakeholders in preparation for Bill C-80. Those who were consulted included consumers, producers, industry, the provinces and the territories. Although this initiative is not Bill C-80, it does include similar enforcement and inspection authorities to those contained in the previous Bill C-80, which were generally supported by stakeholders.

For example, Canadian industry associations have been requesting several of the proposed authorities, such as a provision prohibiting a person from tampering with, threatening to tamper with or falsely claiming to tamper with products. This bill would allow the CFIA to address, for instance, the issue of injection of cyanide into turkeys. Industry has also been asking for a “hold and test” provision similar to that contained in United States legislation. Both industry and producers have been asking that domestic and imported products be subjected to the same regulatory requirements thereby creating a level playing field. This legislation would do that.

In the past, the CFIA has faced some criticism from members of Parliament, standing committees and stakeholders for its outdated and inconsistent inspection and enforcement authorities. This legislative proposal addresses those issues.

The bill addresses several inconsistencies in the current patchwork of legislation which the CFIA relies on to deliver its mandate. It would provide new and enhanced enforcement and inspection powers and authorities, thereby streamlining existing powers and authorities.

The bill would give all inspectors the same powers. Currently, because they are governed by different acts, inspectors responsible for fertilizers have different authorities from those who inspect meat. These are different, again, from those who inspect fish, or feed or seed.

We want to strengthen the authority to administer food, agricultural and aquatic commodities, agricultural inputs, animal and plant legislation by giving all inspectors the same arsenal of inspection and enforcement powers that they need to do their job, ensuring, therefore, the integrity of our food supply and animal and plant resource base upon which safe food depends. We want every inspector to have recourse to the entire group of powers available.

The bill would reduce overlap and duplication of inspection enforcement authorities. For example, some inspectors now have the authority to examine records but not copy them, while others do not have the authority to examine or copy records. The proposed authorities would allow inspectors to be guided by a single piece of enforcement and inspection legislation, resulting in consistent inspection and enforcement activities throughout the system.

With the bill, all inspectors would have the same authority to stop the operation of equipment used to prepare a product or a production line in order to carry out an inspection. All inspectors would have the same authority for seizure, detention and forfeiture, and the authority to conduct searches and administer oaths.

The bill would also bring inspectors' powers in line with modern information technology. Innovations, such as telewarrants and the use of electronic information, would allow inspectors to more effectively and efficiently do their job.

The bill includes enhanced enforcement and inspection authorities needed to protect Canada's food supply and animal and plant resource base from such dangers as toxic substances, animal pathogens and viruses such as anthrax or ebola. The bill would enhance this ability by licensing persons to contain, use and dispose of animal pathogens, animal disease agents, toxic substances, veterinary biologics and plant pests.

The bill helps to create similar authorities and powers to that of our largest trading partner, the United States. The Canadian and U.S. economies are highly integrated. There are many similarities between our regulatory objectives and systems but we need to modernize our system. The bill contains a number of powers and authorities similar to those contained in the recent United States legislation.

Finally, the bill consolidates and modernizes a number of inspection and enforcement related regulation making authorities that currently exist in the CFIA's legislation. It also adds new regulation making authorities to support provisions contained in the bill. Among these are the requirements to keep records, the establishment of quality management systems and a formal mechanism to address complaints respecting public health and safety issues.

These detailed regulations would be phased in and subject to standard regulatory process, specifically open and transparent consultations with stakeholders.

I am sure my colleagues on both sides of the House would welcome this new legislation. It would enable the CFIA to keep pace with and respond to new and emerging issues, and allow the CFIA to better deliver on its mandate of food safety, animal health and plant protection.

Canada's food inspection system is important to both producers and consumers. For as much as globalization and knowledge-based production have changed the food industry over the years, two things have not changed: Canada's reputation as a source of high quality foods and the right of Canadians to food that is safe, healthy and nutritious.

Canada has one of the best food inspection systems in the world and the proposed Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforcement act is designed to make a good system even better. I hope members will see that as correct and support the bill in its entirety.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today on Bill C-27, an act to provide the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with enforcement and inspection authorities.

When the CFIA was created in 1997, the objective was to facilitate a more uniform and consistent approach to food inspection in Canada. Instead, the legislative framework governing the CFIA resulted in a hodgepodge of legislative authority that was anything but uniform and consistent.

Employees of the CFIA have been administering and enforcing 13 different statutes without a uniform set of powers, rights or obligations, which this proposed act would finally give them.

Seven years after the creation of the CFIA, our veterinarians, inspectors, systems specialists, support employees, financial officers, researchers and laboratory technicians may finally receive the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. It is high time.

In the agriculture minister's news release on Bill C-27, the minister praised the Canadian Food Inspection Agency by stating, “Canadians have one of the best food inspection systems in the world”.

I must say that, as the official opposition critic for agriculture and agri-food, I echo the minister's comments in this regard. The fact that Canada's food supply is safe makes the closing of the U.S. and Japanese borders to the trade of Canadian livestock all the more frustrating since we all know that the U.S. and Japanese border closures had more to do with opportunism than fact and sound science.

That being said, we in the official opposition are heartened by the U.S. president's recent commitment to do all that he can to expedite the rule making process in order to resume trade of Canadian livestock. We are committed to working with the Canadian government and our U.S. counterparts to help ensure that this border is reopened just as soon as possible.

The minister claims that Bill C-27 would address a number of inconsistencies in existing enforcement and inspection legislation. He also claims that Bill C-27 is intended to provide the CFIA with new enforcement and inspection tools, similar to border enforcement provisions introduced by our major trading partner, the United States.

While the goals of the legislation are laudable, we in the official opposition have several concerns with the current legislation.

First, the Conservative Party of Canada generally supports a less intrusive approach to regulatory policy in Canada. For far too long, agriculture and agri-food producers in this country have had to deal with an ever increasing number of regulations imposed by various levels of government, creating unnecessary stress and burdens on Canadian producers.

Granting the CFIA authority to make regulations dealing with mandatory record keeping, food quality and safety programs could result in regulations being created without adequate consideration for the implications felt from these by the agriculture and agri-food industries.

In this respect, we are concerned that the key agriculture and agri-food stakeholders impacted by this legislation have not been adequately consulted in preparation of this bill.

While the minister claims that consultations have taken place in the development of Bill C-27, we do remain skeptical as to the degree of this consultation.

During a briefing my office received from the CFIA officials, I took the opportunity to ask them precisely which stakeholders had been consulted in this process. The best they could do was assure me that consultations did in fact take place. However they failed to specify with whom they had consulted.

Just yesterday my office was informed that neither the Canadian Federation of Agriculture nor its key stakeholder members had been consulted in any way in the development of this proposed legislation.

To come up with legislation that can have such a large impact on agriculture and agri-food producers without consulting them in the process is indicative of this government's approach to agriculture policy. That is a top down approach with a certain disregard, if not outright contempt, for Canadian agricultural producers.

We trust that the government will ensure that agricultural and agri-food processes are truly consulted in a responsible, open and transparent manner.

We in the Conservative Party will be pushing for these consultations to take place when this bill is referred to the agriculture committee and we will do all that we can to ensure that the concerns of agricultural producers are heard and acted on accordingly.

Although the legislation is a step in the right direction, it is unfortunate that the government took so very long to provide food inspection and enforcement officers with the necessary tools to do the job to the best of their ability.

I find it hard to believe that since the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's inception in 1997 the Liberal government waited seven whole years to make the CFIA fully operational. This delay and inaction from the Liberal government has presented the CFIA from doing the job it needs to do when responding to emergency situations affecting Canada's food supply.

The CFIA's inability to deal effectively in a crisis recently came to light in a troubling internal review of the CFIA's handling of the BSE crisis. This internal review, made public by the Vancouver Sun through access to information, underscores some very worrisome findings.

It stated that the Liberal government's response to the mad cow crisis was plagued by poor planning, staffing problems and repeated failures to share information. Furthermore, it highlighted several gaping holes in the CFIA's ability to deal with future emergencies, such as a possible outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease or a repeat of avian flu.

The review, completed for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on December 10, 2003, by an outside consultant, warned that if the CFIA did not take steps to fix some of the problems identified, they “could undermine CFIA's ability to respond to more complex or time-critical emergencies”, raising questions about the agency's handling of last spring's avian flu outbreak in the Fraser Valley.

It came to our attention that this review, entitled “CFIA BSE Emergency Response Assessment Report”, was actually written several months after the cow infected with BSE was discovered in Alberta, but before an Alberta-born cow with BSE was discovered in Washington state in late December.

In fairness, the assessment concluded that in general the CFIA's response to the BSE crisis was a success, but there were many areas of concern, including the following.

While the CFIA had declared an agency-wide emergency to respond to the BSE crisis, it did a poor job of communicating that, even to its own staff. As a result, several months after the crisis, many of the staff believed that an emergency had not even been declared.

Another concern included the finding that the CFIA's chief veterinary officer was designated as the agency spokesman on BSE, despite a standing policy not to assign spokesperson's duties to someone with critical responsibilities. “As a result,” the report says, “some key activities were not taken or were not completed on time”.

In addition, another finding showed that the start-up of an emergency operation centre in Ottawa to handle the BSE crisis was delayed, leading to confusion in procedures for obtaining decisions and in communicating decisions to those who needed them.

There was no plan in place to provide backup staffing. “Primary response participants were exhausted by the end of the response period and a longer response could not have been sustained with the same staff,” the report states.

In general, the report concluded, problems with communications and information sharing meant that “time that should have been spent focusing on the emergency response was spent on developing communications procedures and tools instead”.

The report makes 23 recommendations, including upgrading emergency operations facilities and rotating emergency response staff.

In light of the CFIA's refusal to say how many of the recommendations of the review were acted upon, I have called upon the Minister of Agriculture to publicly state what steps he has taken to address the numerous concerns outlined in this review. To this day I have had absolutely no response from the minister's office.

The safety of Canada's food supply demands the minister's prompt and decisive action in this regard, so I ask the minister again to stop hiding behind this internal review and publicly state what steps he has taken to address the many concerns outlined in this critical report.

With regard to Bill C-27, the CFIA has stated that this bill will enhance consumer protection by addressing new and emerging threats to the safety and security of human, animal and plant health.

It is important to note that this bill fails to ensure necessary protection for our Canadian livestock producers facing potential new and emerging threats. While we can all agree that consumer protection is essential, we must not forget the threats that face the farm.

This Liberal government currently has no concrete action plan--

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Excuse me. Your time has expired. I was letting you finish your sentence. Would you like to finish?

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Madam Speaker, I apologize. I thought I had another 10 minutes.

I would just add that our primary concern with Bill C-27 is that it does not incorporate any aspect of accountability for fair and effective enforcement on the part of the CFIA, an organization that has acknowledged it is known for its lack of accountability.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-27 as a goat farmer and producer of raw milk goat cheese.

As you know, Quebec has its own food inspection agency, the Centre québécois d'inspection des aliments et de santé animale, which for a number of years has been imposing much more stringent standards than those found elsewhere in Canada. I want to mention this centre particularly to illustrate the rigorous quality of sanitary inspections in Quebec and the lessons that Canada could learn.

In my work with goats, the herd management process is very stringent, well supervised and very well regulated. In my case, I have a herd of purebred goats for which I have health insurance certificates. My goats have been treated against worms and eat no animal meal. There has never been a case of tuberculosis or brucellosis. They are examined by a veterinarian twice a year.

Monitoring of the dairy operation is essential and is carried out by agents of Macdonald College, McGill University, within the Quebec Dairy Herd Analysis Service, or PATLQ.Inspections of this quality make it possible for us to produce excellent goat cheese, which I hope to offer to you some day. Milk is a living raw material. We must take all the precautions necessary to ensure its quality. Quality is essential to making a highly appreciated local product, raw milk cheese.

Just to provide some history, on March 30, 1996, Health Canada, in theory to improve the level of public health protection, proposed amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations. The proposed amendments dealt with unpasteurized cheeses made from raw milk. It would require all cheese being sold to be pasteurized. That would mean the disappearance of fine cheeses from the grocery shelves.

According to Health Canada, this measure was going to improve the protection of public health. There was nothing to justify such a measure, since the last case of food poisoning related to unpasteurized cheese in Canada goes back 61 years.

I would like to point out that there are—and always have been—many plans for new cheese factories using raw milk. If they go ahead, they will involve merchants, restaurants, distributors and possibly exporters.

Had it not been for the Bloc's intervention both inside and outside the House of Commons, defending our methods and our producers, the measures contemplated by Health Canada would have no doubt put an end to this burgeoning market sector. In part to develop these new markets, Quebec adopted inspection measures a long time ago, measures that Ottawa is in the process of copying.

The bill we are debating today aims primarily to streamline and update federal legislation and clarify the mandate of inspectors. The Bloc Québécois supports this principle, especially since the bill allows the government to get its own house in order. The bill also aims to facilitate trade between Canada and its major trading partners. Specifically, it aims to bring certain practices in line with those recently adopted in the United States.

I would now like to talk about respecting areas of jurisdiction. The governments of Quebec and the provinces have been working with the federal government for some time now to try to harmonize health practices. In 1998, the Parti Québécois government signed the framework agreement governing the division of responsibilities with the federal government.

That said, food security is still a complex practice, involving multiple laws, regulations, government agencies and non-government organizations. This is a prime example of how much easier things would be if there were one level of government in Quebec.

The Bloc Québécois will ensure that the bill does not weaken the scope of the 1998 framework agreement. The Bloc Québécois will also ensure that the federal government does not try to interfere in Quebec's areas of jurisdiction, especially in establishing policies and standards. Even with the framework, the Bloc Québécois will continue to be vigilant so that Ottawa does not force Quebec and the other provinces to take over federal inspections as a way of saving money or try to play a greater role in establishing policies and standards.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has contradictory duties. The preamble to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act sets out the agency's fundamental problem. It has three contradictory duties: access to markets, food safety and consumer protection.

Genetically modified foods are a perfect illustration of the perpetual conflicts of interest faced by the CFIA at a time when consumers and producers are becoming increasingly concerned with the effects of genetically modified foods on their lives. The CFIA is refusing to apply the principle of precaution.

I want to also point out certain flaws in the CFIA appointment process. Section 5 of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act states that the president and executive vice-president shall be appointed by order of the governor-in-council. The Bloc Québécois condemned this situation when the CFIA was established. Since the government has committed to consulting the partners on important appointments, it should set out in the legislation the requirement to consult Parliament when appointing a president or executive vice-president.

For example, we can consider the appointment of the current CFIA president. He was appointed by the former Prime Minister in September 2000. He is a career civil servant who worked mainly for the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. He was deputy clerk of the Privy Council, where he was counsel and coordinator, security and intelligence.

We believe that the individuals appointed to this position must have prior experience so they can fully develop their expertise, as well as have an intimate knowledge of this area.

There is one other point we consider important. We must adopt a regional approach to health practices. When a single case of BSE was detected in Canada, all the provinces were affected by the embargo imposed by our foreign partners. The American embargo applies to all ruminants. I am a goat breeder and, along with the sheep farmers, we have been hard hit by this situation, because that country is our main customer. Quebec producers are paying for a single case of mad cow in Alberta, 5,000 kilometres away.

It is not normal for Canada to be considered as one single health region. The UPA president, Laurent Pellerin, came to the same conclusion at a press conference on May 21, 2003, when he said, and I quote:

If we were separate provinces each with its own distinct inspection system and if we had a more regional approach to product marketing systems, only one province would have to deal with this problem.

The president of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael McCain, recently spoke out in favour of dividing Canada into regional zones from the point of view of animal health. We believe that Ottawa should quickly enter into discussions with Quebec to decentralize certain elements of the food inspection system.

Had such a regional approach to health practices been taken in the past, Quebec's producers would have been spared the crisis. The predecessor of the current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food took a regional approach in response to the crisis caused by Newcastle disease in poultry.

It would appear that the territorial approach is good for everyone but Quebec. During oral question period, on September 22, 2003, in response to a question by the hon. member for Drummond, the former agriculture minister said, “When a reportable disease takes place in a country, unfortunately the whole country is recognized as having that. We are a country, and this country is Canada”.

Yet Canada itself applied this territorial approach less than a year ago.

As was said earlier, Newcastle disease is a contagious and fatal viral diseaseaffecting all species of poultry. It can kill entire unvaccinated flocks. When various American states were affected, what did CFIA do? In April 2003, it imposed restrictions on poultry import and entry into Canada, but only for the four states affected: California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas.

If Canada was able to recognize that only certain American states were at risk, it could have done the same during the mad cow crisis and spare Quebec the horrible crisis we are facing.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its studies on the new citizenship legislation, recognition of foreign credentials and family reunification, seven members of the Standing Committee on Citizenship & Immigration be authorized to travel to St. John's, Newfoundland, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in February and March 2005, and that the necessary staff do accompany the committee.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Does the hon. government whip have the consent of the House to propose the motion?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

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

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the spirit of cooperation, notwithstanding the extension to government orders because of the recorded divisions just taken, I believe you would find consent to have government orders end at 5:30 p.m. in order to proceed to private members' hour.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is that agreed?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-27, an act to regulate and prohibit certain activities related to food and other products to which the acts under the administration of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency apply and to provide for the administration and enforcement of those acts and to amend other acts in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, it is always a great honour to rise in the House and speak about business that affects the people of Canada, particularly people of rural Canada who produce our food.

I am honoured to speak to Bill C-27 in our first round of discussion. As someone representing agricultural interests, whenever a bill comes forward on agriculture, the first thing I ask is what kind of consultation and input has come from agricultural producers. In fact, that was one of the very first questions I asked at the briefing. At that time, I received a rather vague answer, but I was assured there had been consultations.

I phoned a number of the agricultural organizations that I trust and with which I have worked. None of them were aware really of any of the details about Bill C-27 until it was announced. That disturbed me. I believe the support of our agricultural community is vital for a bill like this to pass.

One thing we can all agree on is that food safety and customer confidence will be the number one agricultural issue in the 21st century. We see how changing consumer tastes on a number of matters can affect our ability to produce and how it can affect our markets. When we talk about food safety, we have to look at the complexity of the issue, and it is a good to talk about the role of the CFIA. The other element that is crucial is consumer confidence.

I have a number of concerns about the bill which could potentially undermine consumer confidence, and that would reflect badly on our role as legislatures.

There are some serious questions we have to ask about our willingness to create a bill such as this. To me, it appears to be a very large omnibus bill. There are a lot of devils in the details, as we always say, and issues that will be dealt with by orders in council. I am very concerned about the kind of sweeping powers we might see. We use the term smart regulations. That is a bit of a buzz phrase. Maybe I am a child of Orwell, but whenever I hear a term like smart regulations, it sounds to me like an oxymoron or perhaps something of which I should be very wary. I tend to take a second glance at these. I am worried that in some cases smart regulation is moving us toward dumbing down our regulations to appease our American neighbours.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

I think it would be piggymoron if it was Orwell.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

If it were Orwell, yes, it would be a piggymoron. I thank the hon. member for interrupting me and taking away some of my valuable time, but the English lesson is well enjoyed.

A poll done recently said that even after the BSE crisis in Canada, some 90% of Canadians still had confidence in our beef supply as opposed to something like 60% to 68% of Americans about their own domestic food supply.

When we talk about bringing into line our regulations with American regulations, there are serious questions we have to ask. We know that across the United States there has been intense pressure from large agricultural business on regulatory policies. There have been a number of times that consumers have fought these issues. In Canada there have been times when we have had to stand up. When we talk about merging our regulatory practices with the United States, we have to once again ask, are we dumbing down our regulations to go for cross border sales? In the long term that will affect consumer confidence and if it affects that confidence, it could affect our domestic markets. I am very concerned about that.

I am particularly concerned that we are looking toward expanding our trade with the U.S., which of course in a North American context is important. However, that kind of trade tends to favour the very large producers. In Canada we have a serious problem in that our smaller producers cannot trade food products interprovincially, thanks to CFIA rules. I and the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue raised in the House the other day the fact that cattle was brought across the Quebec border into northern Ontario, North Bay, to be slaughtered. The CFIA intervened and shut that down, even though we all agreed that there was a huge crisis in cattle. We agreed that the CFIA must work with the provincial organizations, but we had support of the meat inspectors out of the Rouyn area. There was no problem until the CFIA stepped in and said that cattle could not be killed and then send it back.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

An hon. member

Unless it's in a federal slaughterhouse.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency Enforcement ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

This was a provincial slaughterhouse, but we are in a major crisis. The fact is we have a regional food economy. Small producers are unable to sell products to other provinces, say Manitoba sausage to Ontario or Quebec cheese to another province. There is continual interference in this area. We are talking about making smart regulations to move massive amounts across the U.S. border. However, within Canada, the CFIA has acted as a stop for a number of areas where we could open up our domestic agricultural trade and people could benefit.

The CFIA backgrounder talks about improved border enforcement tools, the creation of the Canada Border Services Agency and some of the CFIA regulatory powers will be transferred to that.

In light of some of the concerns that we are hearing over the U.S. homeland security act and the continual interference on Canadian sovereignty, we have to raise serious questions about handing over these powers to the United States and the potential of limiting our own CFIA inspectors here.

There are some other serious concerns in terms of our foreign inspection arrangements, that we recognize certificates of inspection issued by inspection providers recognized by the agency. Perhaps I am not reading this properly, and I would not doubt that, but are we talking about the ability of the CFIA to download responsibility to other contractors or to accept U.S. recommendations simply carte blanche? If that is the case, we will have serious questions.

In talking about foreign inspection arrangements on imports, the bill states, “In exercising its responsibility the agency may enter into arrangements with a foreign government, a foreign government agency or a foreign government organization respecting the importation of regulated products into Canada if the agency is satisfied that the legal requirements”, blah, blah, blah.

What we are talking about is streamlining our regulatory processes with the United States. Again, we have set certain standards that Canadians trust. In terms of trying to integrate a North American market, we always know that our standards will be lowered to meet their standards.

In terms of the BSE crisis, I am very concerned about this, because Canadians have pushed for, and we are continuing to push for, very strong cattle policies. We have not seen similar support from the United States on that.

We talk about the issue that food safety should not be negotiable. Yet clause 11, which deals with foreign inspections, says that we will rely on the results of inspections conducted by other agencies, other departments. I think the United States would agree with this, but again, how does the Canadian consumer react to this?

There is one other area I will touch on tonight, because this will be going back to committee and we will be looking at a lot of the aspects. We were given a slide show presentation on paper. We do not get real slide shows any more; we just get the paper. The government members talked about bringing in a complaints mechanism relating to public health and safety. Of course, that sounds like a motherhood issue and we should all support that.

The question I asked at the time, and I have not heard an answer, was what about whistleblower legislation? It should be enshrined for people who bring forth concerns, civil servants such as the Health Canada officials who raised serious concerns about regulatory processes in Canada and it resulted in their being fired. That is shameful. That sets the lowest standard possible. If we are talking about any kind of complaints mechanism, we should be talking about protecting our own civil servants and scientists from Health Canada or from CFIA who come forward with legitimate concerns which may impact upon the health of Canadians.

Before the bill goes any further, I would like to see that kind of language put in very clearly.