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House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cfia.

Topics

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the great honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to two petitions.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-368, an act to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their “enemy alien” designation and internment during the Second World War, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to recognize the injustice that was done to persons of Italian origin through their enemy alien designation and internment during the second world war, and to provide for restitution and promote education on Italian-Canadian history.

Canadians of Italian origin have made and continue to make a remarkable contribution to the development of Canada.

Despite this contribution, many persons of Italian origin were unjustly registered and interned by the Government of Canada during the second world war solely because of their ethnic origin. These persons were, while interned, made to labour for Canada without pay on projects such as road construction and the clearing of land. It is necessary and timely for these injustices to be publicly recognized and for appropriate restitution to be made in the form of public education.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize for being late. I would seek unanimous consent to return to tabling of reports from associations.

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. member for Peterborough have the unanimous consent of the House to revert to presenting reports from interparliamentary delegations?

Italian-Canadian Recognition and Restitution ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, respecting its participation in the meeting of the standing committee of parliamentarians of the Arctic region, held in Washington, D.C. from February 28 to March 2, 2005.

This report deals with our efforts to engage the United States in Arctic affairs, to promote the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, to plan and promote the International Polar Year and to provide future support to the University of the Arctic.

I thank the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association staff for their fine work.

Statistics ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Trinity—Spadina Ontario

Liberal

Tony Ianno Liberalfor the Minister of Industry

moved that Bill S-18, an act to amend the Statistics Act, be read the first time.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

April 21st, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, presented on Tuesday, April 19, be concurred in. It is a pleasure to rise today to discuss this tremendous report.

I would be remiss if I did not at this point thank the clerk of the committee, Ms. Bibiane Ouellette, and our researcher from the Library of Parliament, Jean-Denis Fréchette, who have done a fantastic job in putting this report together. J.D., in a side comment to me the other day, said that in his 20-some years on the Hill this is by far and away the best report he has ever been part of and has seen. I take that as a real compliment to the yeoman's service in the work done by the chair and members.

This report actually came about at the direction of the soon to be retired member for Langley—Abbotsford. It was in his riding, and of course the Deputy Speaker shares some of that area, that the tremendous impact of the avian flu crisis was felt, an impact that it is still undergoing. We felt we had to get out there and hold some hearings to get the viewpoint of the actual producers affected by this.

A report was to come from the CFIA, which was to have been tabled by the end of 2004. That report did not show up, and get this, it did not show up until the night before we were to hold public hearings in the latter part of January in Abbotsford. Was it just a coincidence that the CFIA finally got around to tabling that report?

A tremendous amount of viewpoints note that the CFIA report is really no more than a grandiose scheme to pat itself on the back. When we look at who had input into that lessons learned report the CFIA finally got around to putting out, we see that there are 122 different interventions, if I counted the numbers properly, but all of them are basically in house. Even such experts as the people from the PCO were getting in their two cents' worth, but nowhere in that CFIA report is there any mention of the producers who would have liked to have put something forward or of the SPCA folks from greater Vancouver who wanted things on the record.

We felt there was a tremendous void and decided to take action. The committee travelled to Abbotsford in January and held hearings.

I would also at this point like to say that I will split my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake.

We travelled to Abbotsford and heard interventions. Let me say that a lot of what we heard was really damning evidence. I think the biggest underlying reason that I wanted to go there and hear these interventions is that in my riding we faced the brunt of the chronic wasting disease with elk, to begin with, and then of the BSE crisis, which is still ongoing. Of course nothing has really been resolved on the CWD or BSE fronts and here we are on the third strike with the CFIA.

I knew from personal experience in my riding how the CFIA handled the crises on CWD and BSE. They were not farm gate friendly, not at all. Their inspectors on the ground were tremendous people. Some of them live within my riding and I know them on a first name basis. They have done yeomen's work in trying to cover the bureaucratic butts here in Ottawa and the decisions that went sideways a lot of time or took us in a misdirection because of a political agenda as opposed to a practical “let us get to the bottom of this” agenda.

A lot of the concerns we heard on CWD and BSE, and now avian flu, speak to the whole idea of compensation. If this is for the greater good of the Canadian public, for food safety and security, then everybody has to take a part of the hit, not just the farm gate, not just the farms affected and of course the collateral damage on the industries around them, but everybody.

We have seen the numbers on BSE escalating to the point where we are talking about $7 billion of hurt, an amount that is going to take some producers down. They will never recover. We are also seeing it rippling out onto main street, to small towns that are not going to recover from that hit. It is just not in the cards.

Having these hearings in Abbotsford I think really reinforced the idea that Bill C-27, now before the agriculture committee, basically underscores and gives the nod of approval to the CFIA for a lot of the action and inaction it has shown us over the last short term; it really underscores the fact that the CFIA be allowed to continue doing that. There is no recourse mechanism. There is no appeals mechanism. There is nothing in the bill that speaks to compensatory value for beyond just an ordinary run of the mill animal.

We have to look at these things on a case by case basis. We have to become much more proactive in the way that the CFIA under Agriculture Canada reacts to these. One of the recommendations we brought forward I think is a great one. It is that we must have an early warning team that goes in with the mandate, the authority and the responsibility to stop these crises dead in their tracks.

We saw that example when both Delaware and Texas in the U.S had an avian flu crisis. They went in, took the barns down and did away with the birds right away. What we saw in Abbotsford was a month and a half of nothing happening as they ran up the flagpole here to Ottawa to make decisions that took that long getting back down to the ground.

In that very first barn, the farmer himself told officials to get rid of it but they just did not quite get around to making that political decision. I guess they knew they would be calling an election and nobody wanted that blight on their record. However it is there and it will show up again as we go into another election mode.

It is just unbelievable that the best interests of producers are not paramount in any of this. These are the guys taking the economic hits and we do not see that in this so-called lessons learned from the CFIA. The only lesson that the CFIA seems to learn is to become more private and go more underground with its decisions and actions so that there will not be the fallout.

We as politicians have to step up and say that is not going to happen. We need to take a more indepth look at Bill C-27 to make sure we get this right because we have already seen that the CFIA is answerable to no one at this point. That needs to change as we increase its powers.

I want to get back to this report. Two internationally recognized experts, who were within spitting distance of the first barn, were not even consulted nor were they allowed to take part in the trace-out and the action that needed to follow. They were the ones who said and kept saying that this was high path avian flu, so the red flag went up right there.

However it took the minister and his henchmen at the CFIA weeks to decide to do that test and then to do something about that barn. When they finally did, they actually exacerbated the problem by taking those birds out of quarantine and leaving them sitting on the driveway of the farmyard for three days in plastic bins inside of a truck trailer. They did not seem to know the science, which everybody else around the world has learned, that the avian flu can be airborne and waterborne. After three days of these birds being left in the parked truck there was this yucky stuff oozing out of the trailer onto the ground and mixing into the groundwater.

When they first brought the birds outside of the barn to do things with them, the birds, of course, flap their wings and when they do that fluff and dander go into the air and downstream the next barn gets infected, and they wonder how the heck that happened. These guys really have to answer for a lot of those political, bureaucratic decisions that were made. The inspectors on the ground are carrying out their jobs.

I would like to put some quotes into the record that are in this report.

Bruce Arabskyi, with the group on behalf of primary poultry producers, said:

If there is another outbreak? There should be a total lock-down--no movement of birds or manure. Compensation must be in place to allow drastic action.

That is something that is not in Bill C-27 at this point and must be put in there so we can make those movements when it is required.

The second quote is from Dr. Neil Ambrose, a veterinarian who made presentations on January 19. He said:

It is ludicrous that the disease was not contained in the Matsqui flat area. Again it is because of procrastination and lack of common sense. We spent a huge amount of time waiting for decisions to come from Ottawa, and most of the time local CFIA staff didn’t know how to interpret those decisions.

This particular report goes on to make seven very good recommendations. We were maybe shy on one thing but I know it came out with the BSE problems and so on which is why it is not in these recommendations. However I would like to put it on the record so the government will have a look at this. When a barn or a farm goes down and its stock is completely done away with no compensation package is paid out. Right now they are allowed a year's revenue holiday to get restocked and so on but that is not long enough.

I know Mel McRae, who had the search-out herd in my area for BSE, is asking for a three year Revenue Canada break so that he can pay it out in thirds and get a chance to restock his farm and so on without paying those horrendous penalties on moneys that basically are in the common good. We have to start looking at things like that as well.

This is a report that is long past its time. It really points out the flaws in that we have politicized and bureaucratized the CFIA.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member is concerned about these issues but it amazes me how much of his time was spent trying to tie political rhetoric into this issue by bringing in Bill C-27 and talking about the minister and his henchmen at the CFIA.

This is a serious discussion and a serious report about a serious issue. We recognize that. The member actually belittles the work of the committee with that kind of political rhetoric. He said that maybe certain things were done because an election was coming up. Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. The CFIA is an independent agency doing its work in terms of food safety. I am absolutely amazed that the member, whom I respect a lot, would spend his time with that kind of rhetoric.

The member said that the CFIA took a long time basically to get down to destroying the stuff. What is his or the Conservative Party's recommendation in terms of the timeframe that should be involved? I know the committee report makes recommendations as do others but in terms of a herd or a flock being destroyed, what timeframe is the member talking about?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, the member opposite did not take part in the avian flu hearings. I know he was busy crossing the country, airport hotel to airport hotel.

Madam Speaker, I do not really give a damn if he respects me, and politics does enter into this. I would much prefer that he respects producers. If he had heard the attacks they levied on the CFIA, the bureaucrats and the politicians the days that we were in Abbotsford, he would agree with me that this has become a political exercise.

The compensation is a political exercise. The direction to the CFIA, how quickly it goes in and what they do is a political exercise. It is non-partisan. However we heard from those people in the valley out there as to everything that went wrong.

One guy who had peacocks used them as part of the landscape around his yard. He had acreage and he had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars landscaping this beautiful piece of property and he had some peacocks.

There is no science that says these birds are carriers for or can even fall to avian flu but the CFIA went in there under orders with shotguns, which I do not imagine were registered. They actually blasted away at these peacocks and feathers were flying everywhere in the wind. Now if there were a problem, the feathers would be carriers, but they blasted these things out of the sky and out of the trees. They ran out of ammunition because they were terrible shots so they commandeered more bullets from the farmer to finish off his birds. That is how bad this was.

The CFIA gassed flocks in barns three and four times because the argon and the C0

2

they were using had no effect on ducks. After two days of trying to kill these birds, they went in with hockey sticks and bagged these birds off the walls. The SPCA came forward and said that it was ridiculous.

This has happened in other parts of the world. The Americans set the example. They took out the barn in Delaware the first day and did the same thing in Texas and had no more problems. We spent 30 days playing around with this issue, making the political decision here in Ottawa as to what needed to be done, and by the time it was done it was too late. It also was done in the wrong way because the CFIA did not know it was airborne. We have the wrong scientists and the wrong politicians. The electorate will choose.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, the member mentioned that there were missing witnesses. I want to ask him if anyone from Health Canada or Public Health were at the hearings and what their comments were.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, to answer the hon. member's question, not to my knowledge. They could have been sitting in the back rows but I am not aware of any interventions they may have made.

The hearings in Abbotsford consisted of people in the industry but the veterinarians, who have a worldwide status and who had served these flocks, had no status with the government. It is absolutely ridiculous. They are recognized by everybody around the world, including our largest trading partners, and yet they were not given status at these hearings. They were not allowed to really put things on the record. That was the politics of the situation.

Even the B.C. government minister was on the phone with us, as I worked with the member for Langley—Abbotsford, asking us to please not go too hard, that they needed the transfer of moneys and that they did not want to be embarrassed by this. That is the politics of the situation. We need to get rid of that and do what is practical and what is right for the farm gate to keep them alive.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster for bringing this forward and giving us a chance as the House of Commons to discuss the shortfall that we experienced with the avian flu.

Since I became a member of Parliament and a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, the one thing that has shocked me is that the CFIA seems to be completely unaccountable to us as politicians. It continues to mishandle such important issues to the Canadian public and Canadian agriculture.

We have had the BSE crisis, the CWD in elk and white tail deer and the avian flu. The CFIA seems to waffle on decisions and to be unapologetic for the way it has handled these situations. We really have to look at how we oversee this agency. How do we as politicians make sure that it is doing what is right for Canadian agriculture and the public? We need to make we are the ones in control and making the decisions affecting the industry.

I am quite proud of the work that the committee has done on this and the recommendations that have come forward. The seven recommendations really revolve around a lot of the issues that have already been laid out by my colleague. There is no doubt that we have to take a cautious approach in developing policy and that is why it is so important that we bring this report forward today and discuss it in Parliament, so we can move quickly in implementing these recommendations.

The report contains seven key recommendations that would ensure something like this never happens again. We need to fix the problems so that when these zoonotic diseases occur we can actually deal with them in a responsible manner that is best reflective of the needs of the industry.

The first recommendation calls for an independent inquiry to look at the entire situation in Abbotsford. As we know, some of the the things that happened in British Columbia were atrocious. The way the flocks were destroyed was terrible and the way it affected the guys who had backyard flocks was devastating. We need to find humane ways of handling the animals as well as addressing the disease problem and we need to do it in a manner that is effective and done quickly. We wanted to have that review.

The second recommendation revolves around the need to have the Auditor General step in and do a complete accounting and review of the way CFIA works and handles these disease outbreaks, essentially looking at emergency preparedness and how prepared we are to deal with these diseases. We never know what is coming around the corner at us and we need to have a good strategy.

We saw BSE in 2003 and at the end of that year we saw avian flu. We now need to ensure that we know how to deal with any future diseases coming down the pipe in a very responsible manner that everybody can understand, scientists, veterinarians, provincial governments, the federal CFIA, the producers who would be affected and the concerned public.

The third thing we want to do is set up a special animal disease response team to deal with this, to communicate it properly and to oversee the way in which the emergency preparedness plan is put into action. We think that will be critical for the future development of CFIA and how it handles the entire industry.

We want to ensure there are more level three labs and containment facilities across the country in order to get results on all samples tested so we can go through the process of quickly identifying the problem as well as the farms. If we have to do what we call scorched earth policy, going in and destroying the entire flock or herd, we need to ensure we can do that in an expedited manner to prevent the spread of disease.

I know many people do not like hearing about taking on an entire population of animals in a certain area, but we have to minimize the spread of that disease and the risk that is associated with it.

As was already said, we must ensure that the animals are destroyed in a humane fashion. Walking in and publicly blasting them with guns and hockey sticks is completely unacceptable. It was suggested we should be using curling rocks as a more humane way. We must ensure that we employ the most humane practices in destroying the animals. It should be done under the care of veterinarians who are trained professionals in this matter.

The sixth recommendation is one that has been an ongoing issue and deals with the compensation of these herds and flocks that are being destroyed. Right now it is arbitrarily set in stone within the Health of Animals Act. An animal is only valued up to a certain limit and that is all the compensation owners are entitled to even if the value exceeds that animal's worth.

There are so many costs associated to the producer who has the unfortunate experience of being affected by the disease, whether it is avian flu, BSE, tuberculosis, or who knows what else is out there. For years we have been fighting the one time costs in disinfecting, in cleanup, and in lost income because the animals are going to be taken out of the system for some time before the facilities are able to house them again. We must help these producers through that time.

Therefore, these one time costs, this lost income must be made part of the compensation program and not just the value of the animals. We need to remove the whole issue of maximum value. As long as we are accurately representing market value and have those animals appraised, then we are doing what is responsible as a government in addressing the needs of the producers.

The final recommendation is to ensure that the communication and consultation between CFIA and producers is done in a more transparent manner and working with the industry in a better fashion. The one major complaint that has come out of British Columbia is that provinces never felt they were part of the consultation with CFIA. They felt they were on the outside looking in the entire time and that they were in the passenger seat, and CFIA was in the driver's seat. The provinces were not properly informed or participated in any of the decision making process. We must ensure that the provincial departments of agriculture are involved in these decisions. I really recommend that we move on that.

There has been quite a bit of comment about CFIA and its usefulness. We are not here to talk about Bill C-27, but in addressing the whole issue of the way we deal with disease outbreaks, we need to begin looking at Bill C-27, and how we put the leadership structure into that organization. It has been just a complete shock every time that we have officials from CFIA before the committee. There seems to be a real wall and barrier between them and us. Officials actually seem to dislike appearing before the committee and talking to us about the issues of the day that affect the industry that we as a committee are responsible for dealing with on behalf of the people of Canada.

I want to ensure that we put in place a structure where CFIA is accountable to Parliament and that CFIA is showing the leadership that reflects the views of Canadians and the industry. We must ensure that Bill C-27 incorporates these recommendations and we need to have an agency that is working well and properly.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, this committee report is a very good report with the exception of at least one recommendation, which would delay action to deal with the problem that is out there, and that is recommendation 1. It calls for another independent inquiry with the mandate to investigate the 2004 avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia. I am strongly opposed to that recommendation.

There have been three reviews already, one by the agency itself, the lessons learned study, and the committee, which has some very good recommendations that in fact CFIA has started to act on.

It may be good politics for the party opposite to get into that kind of an issue and talk about hockey sticks and so on, and all the things that went wrong, which are being addressed and action is being taken.

I want to ask the hon. member why he would support such a recommendation that would result in a rehash of old ground that has already been dealt with by previous reviews and would delay the kind of action necessary to deal with some of the problems in the farm community?

I would rather see us trying to deal with those problems and assist the farm community in a preventive way so that these things do not happen again. Why is his party taking the stand, through this recommendation, to delay action for the farm community?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is well aware of the discussions that happened at the hearings in Abbotsford. The one thing that came out loud and clear is that producers there felt that they had not been heard. They felt that the people in government had not been listening. We need to provide the mechanism and the opportunity for them to vent and to allow them to put forth their issues.

We must remember that this recommendation does not pre-empt the other recommendations coming into force. It is something that would be done alongside the implementation of all the other recommendations.

Let us be inclusive. Why be exclusive? Let us be inclusive and allow these individuals a chance to get up and talk, and express their feelings and frustrations. They may possibly have some better ideas which would enhance CFIA and our emergency preparedness. I think that we need to continue to listen. That is our role as politicians; we need to be listening. I really encourage us to go down that path.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Fitzpatrick Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I recall the words of a famous former American president, President Reagan, who said that the most dangerous words in the English language are “Hello, I'm with the government. I'm here to help you”.

During the debate today I was thinking of the peacock farmer and the government agents coming in with shotguns, blasting away at his peacocks and wiping out this herd that is worth thousands of dollars, and that probably does not have any connection to the avian flu issue, and I just thought of President Reagan. I do not know if he was really thinking of this when he used those words, but it just reinforces the accuracy of this matter.

Then, coming in to kill off a herd of ducks, they run out of whatever they have to kill the ducks, so they resort to using hockey sticks. Well, that would be the Canadian way of doing this I guess, hockey being part of our thing. But, again, “Hello, I'm with the government, I'm here to help you”.

I am curious on this issue. I know that the government opposite does not believe in property rights. It thinks it is a dangerous concept that Canadians have property rights. It would not put it in the Constitution because it is just an awful concept. I am wondering if these farmers received good solid compensation, especially the peacock owner on whose farm this apparent massive destruction took place.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, what is disturbing is that CFIA is supposed to be professional. To walk in and destroy animals in that manner is completely unacceptable. As a producer and farmer, I just shake my head thinking that it was done in that manner. As a party, we strongly believe in private property rights and respecting those rights, and properly compensating people when measures like this have to be taken. We must ensure that it is enshrined by Parliament.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, in terms of the concurrence motion, I am a member of the standing committee and as a member said earlier, I was not able to attend the meetings in Abbotsford. In fact, I was in Abbotsford the day before on farm income hearings. This issue barely came up at the farm income hearings because the producers knew the standing committee was coming in the next day to hear from them. As the report clearly indicates, those producers have been heard.

This is but one of three studies. One was done by the agency. The second one was the lessons learned report which was a very extensive review of what happened and made recommendations to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on how it could do a better job another time around.

To the greatest extent possible, this is a very good report by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food with one exception. The opposition parties in the committee, with this minority Parliament, want to continue to play politics with this issue.

Yes, there were mistakes made by CFIA. The CFIA, fully admitted to that when it was before the committee. This was a new crisis disease and lessons had to be learned while it was dealing with that particular issue.

In the face of this crisis, let us remember that Canada proved to be very successful in responding to the outbreak. Through prompt and effective action, we were able to bring the situation under control. We contained a highly contagious virus to a relatively small area in a short period of time. Ultimately we were able to eradicate the virus from commercial and domestic birds in the Fraser Valley area.

I also remind the House that throughout the crisis we were able to maintain consumer and market confidence in Canadian poultry and poultry products. Our major international customers had sufficient confidence in our ability to contain the disease to a specific region that they did not place a ban on poultry and poultry products from all of Canada which they otherwise might have done.

If we recall the avian influenza, that was a major positive step forward. As a result of the actions of the Government of Canada and CFIA, we were able to maintain that confidence in poultry and poultry products within Canada and able to maintain our international markets.

The scope of Canada's success in controlling avian influenza becomes obvious when we compare our experience to what happened in other countries. There was potential for a public health crisis for example. When two individuals suffered minor symptoms, we tightened up our biosecurity measures as a result and the disease was not transmitted to more people.

In the Netherlands more than 250 farms were infected during its avian influenza outbreak. Comparing that to Canada there were only 42 commercial farms that were implicated in the outbreak. This is in spite of the high density of poultry farms in that area of B.C. In fact, there were approximately 600 poultry farms in the control area and the disease was contained to just 42 commercial farms.

Around the world animal health and public health officials acknowledged Canada as an example of effective response to a deadly and highly contagious disease. In fact, a panel of four internationally recognized experts acknowledged that Canada took the appropriate actions.

This is a tribute to the teamwork that was in place. It is a tribute to an emergency response system that was able to react very quickly to changing circumstances. It is clear that Canada has earned international respect for the way we handled the crisis.

The report recommends another inquiry. The opposition has asked that we concur in it. Where does that leave us? I would pose the question this way. First, keep in mind three studies already have been done. One was done by the agency itself. The second was the lessons learned study with all kinds of experts and hearings on the ground. The third was done by the committee itself. The party opposite wants to hold another inquiry.

One of the difficulties of a minority Parliament is sometimes opposition parties think they do not have to take responsibility for the decisions made. It is very easy to be a critic and say outrageous things.

What would be the cost of this public inquiry? It is not only the cost in terms of dollars. What would be the cost in terms of delays and getting the appropriate action done, action that already has started to take place?

Responsible government requires us to accept some responsibility. We have and the CFIA certainly has. The CFIA has looked internally at itself and it has looked at the committee report. It is moving on some of those recommendations.

What I am clearly saying on the record is the opposition parties, with recommendation one, are not being responsible. They are being irresponsible and they will force delays and added costs on the system that can only at the end of the day complicate things further for farmers. I suggest the opposition parties drop recommendation one and go with recommendations two, three, four, five, six and seven which makes a lot of sense in terms of moving ahead.

I should put on the record some of the things that are being done. If members are responsible on the other side, they will admit improvements have been made. They should also admit, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that we continue to have confidence in our poultry and poultry products in the country. Also, our international trading partners continue to have confidence in this country and its inspection services as well.

Let me update the House on some of the proactive actions taken by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to respond to AI and to other potential emergency situations.

First, the CFIA, as is well known on the other side, although they do not want to admit it, consulted extensively with national feather organizations. I know of no feather organizations that are calling for an inquiry. Those organizations want to see action done on the reports already out there.

The CFIA has established an operation protocol that will be applied should another outbreak AI occur in the future. This was developed in consultation with industry. It provides a good balance between the requirements for prompt, decisive action on the one hand and science based decision making on the other.

A policy has been developed for CFIA employees to follow for the first 24 to 48 hours of an AI outbreak. That is different than what the member said earlier about waiting around for 30 days. The procedure now would be that the farm would be frozen immediately and decisions would be made within 48 hours.

I know members opposite want to go back in history. What we are talking about on this side is the future. We are progressive in making decisions toward the future.

Second, the agency is working with stakeholders to develop plans for foreign animal disease eradication support, or FADES agreements. The CFIA is currently negotiating new FADES agreements with all provinces and territories, including an exercise requirement.

We also are consulting with industry associations to solicit their views on the FADES and to identify opportunities for incorporating industry's responsibilities in emergency response to foreign animal disease. We expect this process to be completed by this fall. If we had an inquiry, would the agency have the personnel to continue this? What the opposition is trying is nothing but delay and political tactics for partisan political reasons.

Third, the agency is working on a program to give accreditation to laboratory services so it can use data from non-CFIA laboratories. Four laboratories have already been accredited, including the provincial lab in Abbotsford.

Fourth, the agency undertook to examine the feasibility of establishing a pre-emptive cull program. It added this to the agenda of its meetings with the poultry industry, and an interim pre-emptive cull protocol is in effect now. It will be reviewed before a permanent protocol is finalized.

Fifth, the agency is working to increase federal capacity to respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks through the development of collaborative arrangements with Health Canada and the new Public Health Agency of Canada. Officials have met and will be developing a framework to detail roles and responsibilities of the three parties by this fall.

Sixth, the agency will conduct a review of the compensation maximum amounts under the Health of Animals Act. That was a legitimate concern raised by the member opposite. There are concerns that some of the more valuable animals may not have been compensated enough, but the CFIA in terms of its responsibilities is not at fault there. It compensated the maximum allowed under the act and that is all that it could be expected to do.

We understand the financial difficulties that those producers face in these kinds of times. However, keep in mind that in Canada we have a safety net system that allows the government and its regulatory authorities to act quickly, to get rid of a disease and compensate producers for those losses. That does not happen in all countries around the world. Nor does it happen in all industries, for example, even in this country in the aquaculture industry. We are very fortunate that we have that compensation under the Health of Animals Act and, yes, it does need to be reviewed. This review began in February of this year and is slated for completion by the end of this year.

Seventh, the agency is reviewing the protocols on which to activate local area and national emergency response teams. At a workshop last January, the various stakeholders began to develop the protocols. They will be in place by November.

Eighth, the CFIA has committed to revising the structure of its emergency response teams so that the roles, responsibilities and delegated decision making are more clearly defined. This is scheduled to be completed by November. That deals with the question that members had earlier about how CFIA dealt with an emergency response. It is now being outlined and structures are being put in place so that the roles, responsibilities and delegation of decision making are in place, clearly defined and everyone knows in advance what they ought to be doing.

Ninth, the CFIA is implementing a national AI, avian influenza, survey for domestic poultry. The development and implementation of a small scale AI surveillance plan is well underway. The expectation is that samples will be collected in the spring of 2005. Development of a longer term plan for active and ongoing surveillance of the commercial poultry industry is also underway.

Last, with respect to what the CFIA has on its agenda at the moment, the agency will set up an animal health surveillance communication network to link federal, provincial and university animal health laboratories across Canada. That is a long term project.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been progressively moving forward with an action plan on how to deal with the kind of disease outbreak we had last year and the potential for other diseases in the future.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been listening to the reviews that have taken place: first, within the agency itself; second, with the “Lessons Learned” document; and third, with this report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. On some of these points, the CFIA has been ahead of the game and has moved on some of the recommendations before they were even made. That is pretty good work.

I come back to my point on responsible government. The agency is moving ahead. It recognizes the fact that lessons had to be learned. Members opposite have to recognize that this was a crisis situation, one that had not happened elsewhere before. Lessons had to be learned on the go.

As a result of all the evaluations that have been made, the agency has now come up with the list of actions, which I have laid before the House today. These actions show that the agency is acting in quite a number of ways to prevent problems, as a result of the emergency of the avian influenza, from occurring again. The agency has learned lessons by the “Lessons Learned” report and the other reports that have been made.

There is much in the report just tabled and much in the CFIA action plan. I have a outlined number of points on which I think we can all agree. The government has difficulty with a couple of the recommendations which would unnecessarily divert its attention and the agency's attention away from the important work already at hand.

For the reasons I have already outlined in terms of concern with recommendations one, two and three in particular, and considering the committee could benefit from examining more thoroughly the implications of its recommendations and the progress that has been made to date in responding to the recommendations, I seriously oppose recommendation number one. I think it ends up being a delaying tactic, an unnecessary diversion from what we are doing as a government and as an agency. It would be confusing to the public on the kind of strong measures that we have already taken.

One point that is extremely important in the food world is confidence in the food supply. There also has to be confidence in the fact that we treat animals humanely. The first opposition member who spoke went into some of that old history, some of the things that are not being done now. The member has left the impression with the public that those things are happening today. The measures that have taken place by the agency and the Government of Canada show that is not the way things are done now.

With the rhetoric that is coming from the other side, what those members are doing is leaving the misrepresentation in the public arena that food is not as safe as it really is in this country. The government and the agency are doing everything possible to learn from the lessons of avian influenza, to do a better job, and to assure the public nationally and internationally that we have the safest food supply in the world. We are doing our best for farmers at the same time.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary talked about political rhetoric. We have heard an awful lot of political rhetoric from him.

It is interesting that he said not to judge what is in place now by what happened then, as if it were 10 years ago. Then was a few months ago. We should be looking at how the government did not handle things appropriately a few months ago. For the parliamentary secretary to pretend that things have been fixed since then is simply not factual. It is not the case.

There are a couple of different aspects I want to ask the parliamentary secretary about. I want to make the point that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has some extremely good people working for it. They are very capable, well trained, well educated people. The country is very fortunate because those good people certainly do protect our food supply in most cases.

Most often when problems arise, it is due to political interference by the government or due to the top brass at the CFIA who seem to lack respect for the individual farmers they are dealing with and also people who are working in the food processing industry. That is where the problems arise. It is not with the good people on the ground at the CFIA.

The parliamentary secretary said that the government is moving forward on an action plan and that it is preparing to meet another crisis. If the BSE mess over the past two years is not enough of a warning for the government to prepare itself for a crisis like this, then nothing will. We will have to change government to change that attitude and that lack of action. He said that the government is moving forward now. Why was it not moving forward before this happened? Why had the government not prepared before the avian flu outbreak happened, especially with the warnings that came from the BSE crisis? It is hard to imagine.

I would like the parliamentary secretary to answer that. I also have some important questions to ask about property rights and why fair compensation is not occurring in many cases, but I will ask them if I get another opportunity.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the member opposite has quite selective hearing. He only hears what he wants to hear and he does not hear what he should hear. Obviously he was not listening in terms of the steps which the government and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have taken.

He said in his remarks that this was only a few months ago, so we have to look at it. It is true that it was only a few months ago. When did we ever see the kind of progressive action moving forward in that three reviews have already taken place since those few months ago? They are the agency review, the lessons learned review, and the committee report. In essence it is a good committee report with the exception of the one recommendation that wants to have another review. A review of what? Actions have already taken place.

In terms of the compensation issue, the agency and the government have made it clear that we want to look at the Health of Animals Act and see what can be done in that area. I understand the difficulty for farmers.

There are a number of other areas. A number of years ago there were problems with some cattle that came into Canada from Great Britain. One of the herds that was destroyed at the time was in my riding. It was a tough decision to make. It is tough decisions like that one which have to be made by an agency, by a regulator on the spot in the interests of the industry and the country as a whole.

Contrary to what the member opposite is saying, that this is a disease that has been around for a while all over the place, this is a new disease in terms of our country. New techniques had to be learned and developed. It was action on the fly. Some of the scientists in the industry commented to me that this is a virus that moves at an exponential rate and it must be killed quickly. Sick birds are like a virus factory, so decisions have to be made quickly for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

Yes, it was only a few months ago, but decisions have been made quickly. Three studies have already been done. Recommendations have been made. Recommendations have been acted upon.

Instead of trying to play politics and use this issue as a reason to change government, the member opposite should admit the reality. The reality is that action has been happening. Good work is being done. The member should respect some of the people who have been making those decisions in terms of that good work.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments of the parliamentary secretary. However, we do have to look at the experience that we have encountered with respect to BSE. It has caused a big problem in the agricultural community. This issue is scaring the living daylights out of the agricultural community.

I have one simple question. The hon. member indicated that the Liberal government was not in favour of recommendation one. Recommendation one says that an independent commission of inquiry be struck with the mandate to investigate the 2004 avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia and to also prevent occurrences of outbreaks. The answer as to why he was opposed to this recommendation is that it takes away from strong measures already taken by the government.

We have to be satisfied. The international community is trying to tell us that a country must be considered free from all of this. They do not seem to be satisfied. They seem to be rather concerned about it.

I would like another explanation as to why the hon. member's government is opposed specifically to that first recommendation.

It is well known that exports of Canadian poultry were significantly down from the previous three years. March 2004 exports were down 54% from the previous years. August 2004 exports were down 77% from the previous years.

We have to be satisfied that the conditions are safe. The hon. member can say they are, but we do not appear to be satisfied. I would like further information on that.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I outlined earlier that the international markets have confidence in our product, that they in fact continued to take poultry and poultry products after we had avian influenza. They could have just as easily closed their markets, but they showed some confidence in our health and inspection systems. There was still good confidence within the domestic industry even as a result of all the bad publicity that came out from other countries as a result of avian influenza.

The member opposite wonders why we would be opposed to the second part of the recommendation. The second part of the recommendation says this:

To prevent the reoccurrence of outbreaks, the commission must review the effectiveness of the emergency preparedness and implementation strategies that were deployed in British Columbia, regarding zoonotic diseases.

My point to the member and the party opposite is that has already been done by three studies: one, the agency review; two, the lessons learned; and three, the standing committee itself held hearings in Abbotsford. The CFIA itself outlined 8 to 10 recommendations on which the agency is already moving.

All another inquiry would do is rehash what has already been rehashed and for which recommendations have already been made. All it would do is cost more money. All it would do is tie up agency personnel who should be acting on recommendations instead of shuffling paper around. The members over there want to do that for political reasons, and so they can talk about hockey sticks and curling stones instead of the good health of the Canadian industry and producer concerns.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, I will take a moment this morning to outline the position of my party, the Bloc Québécois, on the report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on the avian flu outbreak in B.C. last year. The Bloc Québécois welcomes this report for several reasons.

First, a general comment. What happened in British Columbia in 2004 was a very sad thing for the poultry industry and poultry farmers. We have to learn a lesson from this; we cannot just go on as if nothing happened. For the past to be a guide for the future, we have to learn from our mistakes and ensure they are never repeated, be it here or anywhere else.

In that context, the Bloc Québécois wants to support the committee's recommendations concerning the avian flu episode while reiterating some of its positions on human and animal health.

This experience with the avian flu outbreak must make Quebeckers and Canadians realize how crucial it is for the provinces and the federal government to implement effective animal health policies. While some would like the free market to work some magic and resolve all problems in the area of animal and human health, we have to seriously consider the advisability of implementing policies and regulations to at the very least contain such problems, if not prevent them.

This is why the Bloc Québécois made sure that the recommendations contained in the report recognize the essential role of those provinces which, like Quebec, have field expertise in dealing with animal health. Need I repeat that Quebec has a traceability system and its own food inspection and animal health agency—the Centre québécois d'inspection des aliments et de santé animale, or CQIASA—which is the envy of everyone the committee heard during its study of Bill C-27?

Of course, prevention in animal and human health comes at a price, as some people have quite rightly pointed out. That is why the Bloc Québécois thinks that such public health policies and preventive measures, in order to be fair, stable and equitable, cannot rely on either the free market or agricultural producers.

They cannot rely on the free market, of course, because it has a regrettable tendency to value potential profits above public or animal health. Such policies cannot rely only on producers either because producers are already financially overburdened as a result of disastrous harvests, the closing of borders to their livestock, and the steep decline in world prices for agricultural products.

Therefore, it falls to the government, that is, the citizenry as a whole, to assume the duty and responsibility of covering the inevitable costs of ensuring the quality of the meat, fruit and vegetables that all of us, in Quebec and Canada, find on our plates.

Quebec provides a telling example in this regard: for those who criticize our high tax levels, here is another argument demonstrating the wisdom of this approach. Quebec takes the health of its people very seriously and hopes that the other provinces will follow suit. We must remember, at a time when trade among the various countries is increasing, that it is essential for the public health authorities of our various trade partners, both provinces and countries, be agreed on the best possible practices and policies. We cannot make any mistakes when it comes to human health.

Let us return briefly to the avian influenza report. I would like to inform the House that the Bloc Québécois is especially pleased with some of the recommendations here.

Recommendations 1, 2 and 3 perfectly reflect the concerns of the Bloc Québécois, particularly by wanting to give the public more responsibility for the crisis that occurred and coming out in favour of adequate prevention of such crises in the future.

I will read the recommendations.

The first recommendation states that an independent commission of inquiry should be struck with the mandate to investigate the 2004 avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia.

To prevent the reoccurrence of outbreaks, the commission must review the effectiveness of the emergency preparedness and implementation strategies that were deployed in British Columbia, regarding zoonotic diseases.

The second recommendation says that the Auditor General of Canada should be asked to audit the effectiveness of various emergency preparedness strategies related to animal diseases, studying first the 2004 avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia, with an emphasis on strategies related to zoonotic diseases

The third recommendation is that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency establish a “Special Animal Disease Response Team,” comprising CFIA, provincial and local experts, that can be quickly deployed with appropriate equipment, and that is responsible for overseeing practices of emergency preparedness plans and procedures.

The seventh recommendation is that any industry recommendations or actions for a pre-emptive cull to limit the potential spread of an outbreak of animal disease must be submitted to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The agency, in consultation with the affected provinces and industries, must be proactive and responsible for authorizing and supervising any such pre-emptive cull.

Recommendations 3 and 7, which I have just read, emphasize that the federal government cannot go it alone and must call on the expertise of the provinces and the industry.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I know the member opposite worked hard on this very good report. I know she was here for part of my earlier remarks when I outlined eight to ten points where the agency and the government have been very proactive in terms of acting quickly and creating an action plan on how to deal with some of the concerns that were expressed in all three studies that have already been done.

Recommendation No. 1 suggests doing another study which, there is no question about it, will draw away from human and financial resources, and rehash old ground, by going over the work that the parliamentary committee has already done. This would be repetitive and unnecessary work.

Does the member not feel that this recommendation in the report is really unnecessary? Would it not be better to let the other recommendations, plus the ones I mentioned earlier, be acted upon. Perhaps the committee could call the CFIA and the feather industry in a year's time to see how they are getting along in terms of those recommendations and if they are moving fast enough?

However, it is ridiculous to do another repetitive study, even by parliamentarians themselves. This would take human and financial resources and would repeat what has already been done,.