House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.


Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders and recognizance to keep the peace).

This bill, which was introduced on October 15, 2006, by the Minister of Justice, has provoked many reactions among Quebeckers and Canadians, because it brings important changes to the process of designating dangerous offenders.

Some people in my riding asked me if this bill will improve the Criminal Code. Will it make families and children safer in the community? Will it help reduce crime?

After looking at this bill, after being asked questions by a few members of my community, after discussing it with my Bloc Québécois colleagues and other members of this House, my answer is no. This bill will do nothing to improve the Criminal Code or to improve safety for the citizens of my riding or for other Quebeckers or Canadians.

Bill C-27 amends the Criminal Code to provide that the courts declare someone a dangerous offender if that individual is convicted of three serious crimes, unless that person can prove that he or she does not meet that definition.

As members of Parliament, we are concerned about public safety. We can be concerned about public safety and the well-being of our fellow citizens and yet still be opposed to this bill. In our opinion, it does not improve public safety.

Obviously, we want an improved, effective justice system that will protect everyone's safety. After analyzing this bill, my first reaction is that, once again, the Conservative government is trying to impose a “made in the U.S.A.” approach to justice.

Having expressed its intention to eliminate the gun registry and stated that imprisoning young offenders from the age of 12 and giving them longer sentences would help fight youth crime, the Conservative government is now proposing to introduce the “Three strikes and you're out” approach, as some American states have done. I will come back to this later.

This approach has not been found to reduce the crime rate in the United States. Studies have shown that this measure has no impact on the crime rate. On the contrary, as we know, the crime rate in the United States is often higher.

We feel that constantly following the model used in the United States, where the incarceration rate is much higher and sentences are longer, is a bad strategy, because there are three times as many homicides in the United States as in Canada and four times as many as in Quebec.

Instead, the Bloc Québécois suggests that the Conservative government follow the model used in Quebec, which has achieved success with its approach to fighting crime, based not only on repression, but also on re-education and social reintegration.

I urge my dear colleagues in the Conservative Party to ask the Conservative members from Quebec whether the justice system in Quebec is having a positive effect on crime.

We in the Bloc Québécois believe that it is better to attack the roots of violence—poverty, social exclusion and social inequality—than to send more and more people to prisons, which often serve as crime schools.

We are not opposed to incarceration, because some crimes are serious and we must protect our fellow citizens.

As already mentioned by some of my colleagues, the Bloc Québécois opposes this bill. It is based on an unproductive and, above all, ineffectual approach. We are convinced that it will in no way contribute to improving the safety or our fellow citizens.

Were Bill C-27 to be adopted, it would make significant changes to the dangerous offender designation system. According to the government proposal, an individual could be declared a dangerous offender when found guilty for the third time of a serious crime. Bill C-27 creates a presumption: the accused is a dangerous offender when convicted of three primary designated offences for which he has received a sentence of two years or more.

In addition, Bill C-27 transfers the burden of proof from the Crown to the accused. This means that the accused will have to prove to the judge that he should not be designated a dangerous offender.

The Bloc Québécois believes that any measure that automatically determines the extent of the sentence imposed is a dangerous and irresponsible approach. As for the reversal of the burden of proof, it is not justified. If the offender runs the risk of spending the rest of his life in jail, it stands to reason that the state prove that he should be designated a dangerous offender.

In addition, as some of my colleagues have already mentioned, we have serious—

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am sorry to have to interrupt the member.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Marcel Lussier Bloc Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-307, introduced by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, seeks to prohibit the use of phthalates in certain products. Last week, I commented on perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), which Bill C-298 seeks to add to the Virtual Elimination List under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

My argument last week was based on two studies conducted at great expense by private organizations to determine whether 68 toxic chemicals were present in blood and urine samples.

The first study, conducted by Environmental Defence and entitled “Polluted Children, Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadian Families” included 13 individuals—6 adults and 7 children.

The second was mentioned by Kenneth Cook of the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., during his testimony before the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

The results of these two private studies—and I use the word “private” because they had to assume the cost of the analyses themselves—are alarming. In the first study, 68 chemicals were analyzed and 13 individuals participated at a cost of $10,000 per person for a total private investment of $130,000. As for the second study, Mr. Cook said that the 10 blood samples cost $10,000 each for a total of US$100,000.

In other words, when an individual conducts a study he has to invest over $100,000 to get results. Despite this significant investment, subsequent criticism is often on the statistical reliability or the sample coverage.

I was saying that the alarming results of both studies led me to conclude that the toxins absorbed or accumulated by adults, through ingestion, inhalation or contact with the skin, can also be transmitted to the fetus through the placenta in the uterus. This is an incredible discovery that demonstrates that newborn babies no longer have the option of taking positive action against toxins later on in life through healthy living, a strictly controlled diet or a pure environment. Babies no longer have that option later in life, for they already have toxins in their system from birth. They are born contaminated.

The results of the analyses of the 68 chemicals studied confirmed that on average 32 chemicals were detected in the parents and 23 chemicals were detected in the children who volunteered for the first study.

What we do not know about is the synergy in this cocktail of toxins in the organism. In chemical reactions there are reducing agents, oxidizing agents and buffers. How do all these chemicals react with one another? Do some chemicals wait for certain others to reach certain concentration levels in the blood to start a reaction produced by another latent toxic chemical? Who knows? No one knows because such in-depth research is rarely ever done.

There are many unknowns when it comes to the interaction of toxins in the human body. Far too often, medicine detects results without knowing the cause: cancer appears, fertility decreases, fetal weight drops, a number of cases affect childhood development, respiratory problems increase—especially asthma in young children—as does the incidence of diabetes.

Who is responsible for this? Is a combination of toxic chemicals responsible? Medicine cannot pinpoint the guilty party.

As for phthalates, Bill C-307 proposes limiting, as much as possible, the exposure of vulnerable populations to such products based on the precautionary principle.

By virtue of that principle, when there are reasonable grounds to believe that an activity or product could cause serious and irreversible harm to human health or the environment, measures must be taken to mitigate the risk until the effects can be documented. Such measures may include, if a certain activity is at issue, reducing or ending the activity or, if a product is at issue, banning the product.

Accordingly, PVC-based soft materials must be kept away from children's mouths. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers are obligated, under Health Canada regulations, to ensure that soft plastic teethers and rattles do not contain phthalates. The same is true for children's educational toys. The full array of products intended for commercial and private use is far too extensive to list here tonight. Suffice it to say that the majority of items made from PVC-based plastic, whether rigid, semi-rigid or soft, contain phthalates.

Furthermore, I do not mean merely traces of phthalates in these products, since certain products can contain up to 50%. These include the plastic bags we use everyday, food wrap, plastic rain gear, your shower curtain, Mr. Speaker, waterproof boots, garden hose, children's bath toys and intravenous blood bags. In short, phthalates are everywhere in our daily lives.

We agree with the principle of this bill. We believe, however, that some of the bans proposed in this bill are already effective enough, while others perhaps go too far, considering that practical, effective and safe replacement products are not available. Accordingly, we will propose some amendments at the committee stage.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate. I want to thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for all the work he has done on this very, very important bill.

As has already been pointed out, Canadians are very concerned about the number of toxins found in our bodies. In fact, this was discussed at a meeting on health and the environment that many people in Victoria attended last weekend. They wondered about the lack of interest and the lack of urgency that the Liberals had shown and that the Conservatives are now showing with regard to regulating the 4,000 chemicals that were approved before the government passed the Environmental Protection Act and that are still on the market, such as the phthalates we are talking about this evening.

Two decades went by before these products received serious study in Canada. The three chemicals we are talking about today are among the 69 substances on the priority list for the CEPA review process. Two of them, DBP and DEHP, are already considered toxic, within the meaning of section 64 of the act, and a decision on the third, BBP, is pending.

We know that these chemicals are toxic and represent a threat to our health. How could we let them into our lives?

It happened because our governments, the people who are responsible for acting in our best interests, protecting us and protecting our health and that of our children, have long been refusing to act according to the precautionary principle. In fact, during the last debate on this bill in this House, the parliamentary secretary seemed more concerned about the economic impact than about the health of Canadians.

One of the great failings of our society is our persistent refusal to act according to the precautionary principle when it comes to toxins in our environment. As far back as 1964 the World Health Organization told us that 80% of all cancers were due to synthetic human made carcinogens. Now there is overwhelming evidence that the huge increase in cancer rates is linked to the increased chemical production of the last 100 years.

What have we done with that knowledge? We have put, it seems to me, profit before people. We have allowed chemicals to enter our environment, our household products, and our children's toys. If we want to have a sustainable health care system, we will use preventive medicine. Reducing toxins is our first start.

We know that, compared to the European Union, Canada is dragging its feet on regulating these chemicals and that it is not acting according to the precautionary principle.

What I do not understand is that we, the public, have to prove that these chemicals are hazardous, whereas the chemical companies do not have to prove that their products are safe.

We have to start shifting priorities.

Let us remember this principle requires government to act even in the absence of certainty if there is a risk of irreversible damage. Studies have linked serious health defects to all kinds of problems, from endocrine disrupting mechanisms to developmental and many others.

This bill is important, because it points to the need to act.

I would like to address this evening some of the parliamentary secretary's concerns during the last debate. He indicated, for example, that the human health assessments concluded that two of the three substances, namely DBP and BBP, do not pose any undue health risks. He failed to mention that there are few cumulative or interactive studies possible, given the wide number of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis.

The U.S. national academy of sciences has decided that DBP is a developmental toxin and BBP is a development and reproductive toxin. California has placed these products on the proposition 65 list of harmful substances. Yet, we have not ensured that Canadian children are protected from direct exposure to these chemicals.

The parliamentary secretary also indicated it would be premature to act in light of the ongoing study of the 4,000 products still on the market. I certainly agree that a comprehensive response is needed, but a specific response to these particular chemicals does not preclude comprehensive action as he suggests. Indeed, both are needed. How long does it take to put in place regulatory mechanisms, especially for known toxins such as the phthalates.

Canadians have in fact benefited somewhat from decreases in some of the phthalates due to actions not taken in Canada, but from other jurisdictions.

Canada does need a regulatory backstop to ensure that Canadians are protected and Canada does not become a dumping ground for these toxins. The question when addressing potential toxins should not be, do we remove them? It should be, do we allow them to enter our environment in the first place?

Many Canadians have concerns about the way we still approve chemical products. Is it too lax? Are enough tests done? The onus is on whom to show that the products are safe?

Bill C-307 should be brought to committee to highlight that the chemical approval process in Canada should find ways to better protect our children. That must be the fundamental goal. I urge my colleagues to approve this bill at second reading and to bring it specifically to the committee's consideration to bring out these various issues.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-307, an act to prohibit the use of certain phthalates, BBP, DBP, and DEHP in certain products, and to amend CEPA 1999.

The health of Canadians and our economic and social progress are fundamentally linked to the quality of our environment. This government is committed to the protection of human health and the environment and is taking action on a number of harmful chemicals. We are doing so under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, CEPA 1999, which is one of the government's most important progressive tools for achieving pollution prevention and sustainable development.

Through an open and transparent process established under CEPA 1999 the government ensures that substances used in Canada do not pose undue risks to Canadians or to the environment. For instance, since 1994 no new substances can be manufactured or imported into Canada until the potential risks to human health or the environment are assessed and appropriately managed. If risks cannot be managed, the substances are banned in Canada.

CEPA 1999 also mandates the government to review, and where necessary to manage, risks associated with the large number of substances that were already being used in Canada before 1994.

CEPA 1999 is guided by a set of principles that guide actions to protect our health and our environment. The act seeks to: contribute to sustainable development by preventing pollution; promote coordinated action with partners, including the provinces, territories, and aboriginal governments to achieve the highest level of environmental quality for the health of Canadians; and manage risks from substances and virtually eliminate releases of substances that are determined to be the most dangerous.

The CEPA management process is composed of a number of integrated components. Under CEPA the government has established programs of research and monitoring to strengthen the scientific basis for making decisions. For example, CEPA requires research to determine how substances are dispersed and how pollution can be prevented and controlled. Research into the impacts of substances on both the environment and human health are also mandated by the act. This includes investigation into the role of substances in illness and health problems and specifically, substances that can affect the endocrine system of humans and animals, including fish.

The results of such work, as well as information gathered through monitoring changes in the environment and human health, are vital to building sound knowledge for decision making under CEPA 1999. They also inform the public, industry and other interest groups about the environment and human health issues.

Science is also at the heart of assessing the impacts of substances on the environment, as well as the risks to human health of exposure to harmful substances.

Risk assessment also helps to identify the sources of pollution that pose the greatest risk. In essence, risk assessment provides information on which many activities under CEPA 1999 are based.

CEPA 1999 defines a process for ensuring that the public and interested groups have adequate time and opportunity to comment on or object to the results of risk assessments before decisions are made and action is taken. Once a risk has been determined, action is planned on how to manage it.

Under CEPA 1999 a variety of tools may be used to take the best action, action that protects the environment and human health, that is cost effective and that takes into account social, economic and technological factors as well as provincial and territorial governments.

CEPA 1999 provides for certain instruments to be developed, ranging from regulations to the requirement to prepare and implement pollution prevention plans, to guidelines and codes of practice.

Other approaches outside of CEPA 1999, such as voluntary agreements or actions under other federal, provincial or territorial legislation may also be used to manage the risks.

Follow-up to ensure that risk management decisions are carried out is as important as assessing the risks and putting the risk management tools in place. In fact, involving the public and other interested groups in the creation of effective approaches to reduce risks helps to promote awareness and to achieve high levels of compliance with the management decisions once they are made. When non-compliance is a problem, a range of activities will be used, from promoting awareness of the measures required to reduce or prevent risks, to strict enforcement actions.

CEPA 1999 provides the framework for the identification, prioritization and assessment of existing substances and for the control or management of those considered to pose a risk. This framework is broad, open, transparent and evidence based.

With regard to the phthalates targeted by Bill C-307 specifically, the government has undertaken thorough environmental and human health assessments under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of BBP, DBP and DEHP.

Furthermore, the government has taken action to address the risks that were identified through these assessments. From a health perspective, the human health assessment concluded that two out of the three substances, namely BBP and DBP, did not pose any undue health risks. However, the human health assessment of the third substance, DEHP, concluded that there are health risks associated with the exposure of this substance.

In response to the assessment conclusion of DEHP, Health Canada requested the Canadian industry to discontinue the use of all phthalates in the manufacture of soft vinyl teethers and baby products that could be mouthed.

This government is committed to the protection of human health and the environment, and we have already taken the steps through the appropriate procedures and authorities in regard to BBP, DBP and DEHP. This government is concerned that the legislation proposed by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley would circumvent this process. At the same time, we understand and share the concern of the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley that the health of our children is too important not to impose some sort of precautionary principle or backstop regulation.

This government is committed to addressing risks from substances wherever they are identified through a comprehensive, open and transparent approach and through cooperation with other governments and all stakeholders. We will continue to work with all of our partners to ensure that Canada is at the forefront of international chemicals management and that Canadians and the environment are protected.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to participate in the debate on this bill.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. I would also like to thank the member for Niagara Falls for explaining the government's activities in this regard and how he sees the matter unfolding.

Ordinarily I might not be predisposed to support a private member's bill of this nature because there is a governmental process and regulatory process to deal with these issues. The member from Niagara illustrated that process quite well. The member will understand, as I am sure the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley understands, that there are frustrations with the process. Quite often the speed at which it goes forward is not satisfactory to Canadians. It is sometimes good that a member brings forward a bill like this one. For that reason, I will be supporting this bill.

It is important that the bill go forward to committee for refinement. At that time the government will have a chance to make a presentation in the committee and if it has had a chance to advance the markers far enough, then the member may be convinced to withdraw his bill if the markers are brought forward in a way that meets these commitments.

It seems to me that when we are talking about the health of infants and when there is enough evidence to show that there is a substantial risk to infants, then we have to advance quickly. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act foresees this, but it does not prevent our doing it in the manner that has been brought forward, that it be done a little bit in advance.

As was mentioned, BBP would be banned from children's toys and anything meant for use in children's mouths. DBP would be banned from children's toys and again anything meant for use in children's mouths, and from cosmetics. DEHP would be banned from children's toys, anything meant for use in children's mouths, cosmetics and medical devices other than blood bags.

In all cases I believe there are alternate products that can be used, which should be explored as is being done in other jurisdictions. It is a bit disappointing that Canada would be behind the others. It puts us at additional risk. As these products are being replaced in the market, if we do not have the legislative or regulatory framework to advance the markers in Canada, we will probably be the last ones receiving this excess production of these chemicals. They will continue to be used in Canada while alternatives are used in other markets.

The coming into force of the ban is not quite what I would have liked. I would have liked it to be better than a year after the bill goes through the House. Again, there is a regulatory framework within Canada that has to be dealt with. Hopefully at committee some improvements can be made.

Generally speaking, when commercial enterprises in this country realize what Canada is doing, what the Government of Canada wants to advance and what Parliament is suggesting, quite often we can get some cooperation. I certainly would hope that we see cooperation from the market on this point and that products which are intended for use by children and infants and which contain these chemicals would be pulled back.

There is a lot more that the government could do to assist. How can parents be expected to know about all this? I have seen initiatives that have been cut by the government that could have helped.

We had the child care program. I visited a day care in the town of Yarmouth that was looking forward to the child care program which had been signed with the province of Nova Scotia. It would have been able to expand on its parent education programs. That day care could advance these types of things with parents and work with the communities. Unfortunately that was not passed. Five billion dollars were removed and another $6 billion for the anticipated years. Hopefully that will be brought back.

What are phthalates? They are used in many plastics to help make them softer and more pliable. Many are used in cosmetics to add lustre and texture. They are also used in fragrances to preserve the scent. In some cosmetics the concentration of phthalates is as much as 20% of the weight. Every year 4.5 million tonnes of phthalates are used worldwide.

Phthalates have no chemical bond to the products to which they are added, so they often leak out, or off-gas, as has been said. The new car smell, the smell of a new shower curtain or the scent of new plastic is undoubtedly largely comprised of phthalates.

If we look at plastics being more pliable, different scents and lustre in cosmetics, we will see, I think, that civilization does not depend on the continued use of these chemicals. Somehow civilization will find a way to get through without them. If there is any sense of risk, I think they should be removed from the market.

More importantly, phthalates are bioaccumulative and not water soluble. They persist in the fatty tissues of animals and humans, so the more contact infants, individuals or animals have with these products, the more this builds up in their systems. We might remember mercury as being another product that did that. We easily understand the dangers of mercury. This is similar.

Links have been made between BBP, DPB and DEHP and certain reproductive and developmental disorders such as abnormal reproductive development in infant boys and links to other health defects such as child allergies, premature births, damaged sperm, genital defects and testicular cancer. In animal tests, exposure caused reduced fertility, testicular atrophy, spontaneous abortions, birth defects and damage to kidneys and liver.

If we think of more pliable plastics, lustre in cosmetics and having a little more scent around and compare that to the lifelong risks, beginning at birth and early childhood and continuing on, I think it is quite easy to decide what we should be doing.

There are alternatives, as I mentioned. The corporation BASF has already excluded DEHP from production in Europe and has replaced it with safer alternatives. Why not Canada?

Companies like Reilly Industries and Velsicol produce alternative plasticizers that are safer and better performing. The alternatives work at lower temperatures and lower concentrations.

Some cosmetics companies have already started to phase out use in response to the phthalate ban in Europe. Again, why not Canada?

Argentina, Fiji, Finland, Japan and Mexico have banned this group of chemicals from children's toys. Again, why not Canada?

If we look at the act, as was mentioned by the member from Niagara, we see that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, is an act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.

Government is committed to the implementation of the precautionary principle and this is what it says in this act:

--where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation....

If we look at bioaccumulation in the fatty tissues of infants and the risk of developmental problems in infants and later in adults, the risk to health is quite easy to see.

We should be taking effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

The act is reviewed every five years. Two committees of Parliament are now apprised of the act: the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development and the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. However, we should not consider that just because the act is already under review, and probably other substances will be considered, we cannot act on these substances. We have enough knowledge to bring it forward, to bring it to committee, to have expert witnesses appear, to make modifications if they are required and thus protect our children and our environment.

When the member for Don Valley West spoke in the House, he mentioned that the addition of toxic substances such as the three phthalates is not something that requires us to wait for a CEPA review. Since 1999, we have added various substances to the list on a fairly regular basis and nothing precludes us from doing the same now. Environment Canada and Health Canada carried out assessments on these three phthalates between 1994 and 2000, so there should be a lot of knowledge about this.

My time is running short, but I think that if we look at what has happened internationally, it is quite easy for us to see that we should be doing the same in Canada. It is the minimum we should be doing.

There are many other products like this in our environment, such as linoleum, where children play, where we live every day. Many plastics products include these chemicals that surround us. As a start, the very minimum we should do is get this away from infants. Then, through the Environmental Protection Act, we can make sure that we remove these chemicals from circulation generally if that is what is needed and would improve our environment.

We know that there are alternatives out there and we know they are effective. They perform better. They are not more expensive. The more their production is in demand, the more there will be and the better they will be used. I am pleased to support the bill. I congratulate the member for bringing it forward.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I have listened to the debate this evening. Canadians watching and members of Parliament listening in on the debate will wonder why so specific a private member's bill has come up, a bill so specific in its target. Why go after these three chemicals in particular?

We believe that this goes to the very heart of the debate on chemicals in our society and government's responsibility to attempt to protect those citizens we represent. The evidence is conclusive on the effects, as listed tonight, that some of these chemicals have on Canadians and in particular young Canadians, those who certainly cannot make the choices for themselves, small infants and even babies.

The effects and risks posed by these chemicals far outweigh any potential benefit we can see in having these chemicals in our society. What also goes to the heart of the matter is the way in which the burden of proof is on governments or citizens at large to somehow prove a chemical unsafe, rather than on the companies that have introduced those chemicals into our society to prove the safety occurs in the chemicals themselves, to prove that these are safe products to put on the market. These chemicals are certainly put in products for those who are most at risk in our society, those who have the least amount of power, children in particular.

The debate also calls into question the very fundamental nature of the one act, the most important one, that we are now dealing with in Parliament with respect to the environment, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The government has made claims, as have previous governments, that the act is strong enough to protect Canadians' health, that the act is well placed to keep those harmful substances away and well regarded in the international community. Yet when we look at it, there is a particular list, a list that calls for chemicals to be virtually eliminated. It is a list of banned substances. When we look over the entire life of the act and the use of the list, we see that there is not one single chemical that has made it onto the list all the way through the many hoops and processes that are in place.

Of all the toxins that exist in our society in the manufacturing and chemical sectors, not one single toxic material has been placed on the virtual elimination list in all the years that it has existed. Clearly, in this system, while the CEPA tools and components are there, governments have refused to act with the courage and conviction to actually use those tools effectively.

This bill changes that story. Based on the precautionary principle, which is used around the world and has not been properly adopted in Canada to this point, it suggests for the first time that the burden of proof must be on those who are introducing the chemical and that if there are risks, even though the science is not 100% complete, then the precautionary principle states that citizens should not incur those risks. Clearly, citizens cannot go out and do the research to understand all the thousands of chemicals that are in our society and have a full and comprehensive understanding of what the effects may or may not be on their lives.

That is the responsibility of this place. It is the responsibility of government and the people working on behalf of government to keep Canadians safe, to keep those harmful elements away from us, particularly when they are of such a complicated nature like these chemicals.

A lot of people will say that we need 100% proof, that we need to have complete and conclusive science not to be refuted in any way. This very much reminds me and other Canadians of the debate around smoking. For years upon years, the smoking industry said it had scientists and health officials who said it was okay to smoke. For years and years, governments delayed and stalled, but finally they took courage and acted.

What we know is that the onus must be placed upon those introducing the chemicals to Canadians. What we know is that the responsibility of parliamentarians, if nothing else, is to try to protect the health of Canadians. We look forward to the full study and the speedy passage of this act to finally change the story, to finally give Canadians the assurance that the people they elect and send into this place are defending their interests and defending the health of all Canadians.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

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

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

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

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you would find unanimous consent to see the clock as 6:30.

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Phthalate Control ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from October 18 consideration of the motion.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre has four minutes left for her speech.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this last few minutes to speak about the importance of the Canadian Wheat Board, what it means in Manitoba and what it means to Canadians.

I am going to very quickly touch on three main points. My colleagues have spoken on a number of them. I want to talk about the tainted task force report. I want to talk about the Canadian Wheat Board II that is proposed and its difficulties against the giant American companies. I want to touch on the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board and the impact it will have on my home city of Winnipeg, which is significant.

I want to say that the tainted Migie task force is totally lacking in two key areas. There was no information on who was consulted. We know that producers were not. We know that academic experts on grain economics were not. We know that provincial agricultural ministers were not. We know there were no public meetings. We know there was no list of submissions. We know there was no input except from those the government wanted to hear.

There was no discussion in the report about the economic advantages of destroying the Canadian Wheat Board. There is no economic analysis of any sort. There is even no argument presenting the economic advantage of dual marketing versus single desk. Why?

The task force report states that hopper car assets, the building on Main Street in Winnipeg and a contingency fund will be transitioned to the new Canadian Wheat Board II. This package is worth approximately $109 million.

The international grain trade, as we all know, is dominated by five very large players. Cargill, Archer-Daniels-Midlands, Bunge, Louis Dreyfus and ConAgra simply dwarf the Canadian Wheat Board.

For example, Archer-Daniels-Midland's net earnings for the quarter just ended equalled $403 million, $292.3 million more than the assets that the Canadian Wheat Board would receive. ADM has assets of $16.3 billion. How the tainted task force members and my colleagues opposite think that the new Canadian Wheat Board II could compete against such a giant is clearly flawed logic, exactly like the report states.

Archer-Daniels-Midland has a board director named Brian Mulroney, the former prime minister of Canada. What a convenience to the current Prime Minister.

The Americans have tried for years through the WTO to eliminate CWB single desk marketing. It is what they want. It was reported in Inside U.S. Trade magazine that “the timeline is not crucial to U.S. producers, so long as Canada eliminates the monopoly powers”.

The loss to Winnipeg is significant: 2,200 jobs in Winnipeg, 460 jobs at the Wheat Board, more than $66 million in wages and salaries, and a gross provincial income impact of $86 million.

We need a plebiscite.

In this House we speak of laws every day. We speak of new laws and of upholding laws already in existence. The Canadian Wheat Board Act is the law when it comes to grain farmers.

What we need is this: that the farmers will decide, that there will be a plebiscite held with a clear question, and that we will all abide by a democratically arrived at decision by the farmers. The provisions of the Wheat Board provide this mechanism that will settle the debate. It is incumbent upon us as legislators to honour the law of this land.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak on my hon. colleague's motion, which would ensure a plebiscite was held by farmers on whether they support the single desk selling of the Canadian Wheat Board. However, like many Manitobans, I am extremely concerned with the Conservatives' objective of destroying the Canadian Wheat Board for purely political reasons.

I am receiving a lot of calls from people in Winnipeg who realize the importance of this institution to the province of Manitoba. It is important to speak about the Wheat Board and the critical role it plays in western Canada.

The Canadian Wheat Board has been in existence since 1935. It is the largest single seller of wheat and barley in the world. It sells to customers in more than 70 countries. Annual sales revenues average $4 billion and an independent study has indicated that the Wheat Board nets an additional $265 million per year for producers in western Canada.

In 1998 the government changed the structure of the Wheat Board and put in place a board of directors composed of 10 members elected by the producers themselves and five members appointed by the federal government. The reason I say this is because it is important to note once again that this is a democratic organization run by western producers and recent polling has actually indicated that the Canadian Wheat Board is supported by 73% of western farmers. It is respected worldwide as a premier institution in the sale of wheat and barley.

The new Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food want to essentially gut the Wheat Board and do away with this essential tool. I do not think anyone on this side of the House is surprised by this. The new government, as it likes to call itself, has not exactly been a model of democracy over the last eight months. We have seen it in the muzzling of not only its members of Parliament but also of the civil service. Civil servants are being intimidated into not cooperating with members of Parliament. I have never seen anything like this. I have never experienced this in my four and a half years here in the House of Commons.

I am beginning to understand why the PMO is now being called the Kremlin. Not only are the Conservatives prepared to act on bringing in a dual marketing system without a plebiscite as required by law, but they are also now selectively removing 16,000 names from the voters list in an effort to determine who will be able to vote in the next board of directors election.

The anti-democratic way the Conservatives are going about destroying the Wheat Board is one thing, but they also have to consider the economic impact. My colleague has just mentioned the incredible economic impact it will have on the city of Winnipeg if we include the Wheat Board itself and all the spinoff industries, the Cargills and the other organizations that are set up in Winnipeg because of the Wheat Board.

I can assure everyone that the Liberals are not the only ones saying this. The premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer, has stated publicly that “destroying the Wheat Board would have a major economic impact on Manitoba”. What bothers me is that the Conservative MPs from Manitoba know all this. They know their constituents are furious with the Conservatives over this. They know the economic impact to Winnipeg and Manitoba will be devastating. They know the Wheat Board works well for farmers. The proof is when the local Winnipeg media tries to contact them to defend their government's position, they are nowhere to be found. It is obvious the gag order is on once again, just like for every other issue the Conservatives have brought forward.

The only member of the Conservative Party who has stood up for his constituents is the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette. He has publicly stated that he will support the Wheat Board because his constituents have made it clear where they stand.

If the Conservative MPs from Manitoba and the prairie provinces are so convinced that their constituents would agree with doing away with the Wheat Board, why not allow these same people to vote on it? It is a simple question. Allow the farmers to vote on this issue and we will all live with the outcome of such a plebiscite, but it has to be done fairly. The list of farmers cannot be manipulated prior to an election or a plebiscite. There also has to be a clear question.

The Conservative party members talk about transparency and we have seen nothing but back door ways of obtaining their objective of shutting down the Wheat Board. I can only hope that at one point the Conservatives' obligation to their constituents will outweigh their obligation to their leader.

It is important to note as well that numerous producers who have traditionally supported the Conservatives and never thought their party would go through with this are now saying that they will never vote for the party again and that is a very strong message. It is more than that. There is a more cynical plot behind this. This is seen by many as the first step in dismantling Canada's vaunted supply management structure. I am being contacted by groups in Manitoba that have absolutely no link to the Wheat Board that are terrified with what the Conservatives are doing.

The milk producers for one feel that if the Conservatives can do away with an institution that has worked as well as the Wheat Board, why would they not attack supply management next? We all know supply management has served its members extremely well and it has been a thorn in the side of our American neighbours. I guess it begs the question, whose interests are the Conservatives protecting here?

Yesterday the Minister of Agriculture tabled his task force report and I put the onus on “his”. This is a task force appointed by the minister with a very specific objective: the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The report's recommendations were a foregone conclusion and let me say that the reaction has been harsh. Stewart Wells, President of the National Farmers Union, said of the report:

Buried in the platitudes is the underlying theme of absolute government control of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Mr. Wells also said:

It is significant that the task force report was first unveiled not to western Canadian farmers or even to the Canadian public, but to a large U.S. business publication Inside U.S. Trade. That should provide some indication of whose interests are being served with this report.

David Rolfe, President of the Keystone Agricultural Producers, had a similar reaction to this report and the negative impact it will have on farmers. He said, “This report is a fraud. It's a cover-up for something this government was planning on doing for a very long time. It doesn't speak to any economic reasons why you should dismantle the Wheat Board. It doesn't recommend a vote by farmers as required by law. It doesn't address the true consequences of introducing a dual marketing system. The fix was in and we got exactly what we anticipated”.

This has to be stopped. The producers are the ones who should be deciding on how their crops are marketed. Why would this new government that apparently believes in transparency and accountability not allow this democratic process to proceed? What is it afraid of?

If the government has such a good pulse on the wishes of producers, as it claims, then it has nothing to worry about. The reality is different. We can look at the recent cuts the Conservatives have made to many programs to our most vulnerable people and the enormous backlash they are facing.

In fact, the government is showing that it is totally disconnected with the Canadian mainstream and its right wing ideology is not selling at all, so it must be forced down people's throats. It is wrong. It is undemocratic and producers, who the Conservatives have always taken for granted, will remind them of this in the next election.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has talked somewhat about the impacts in Manitoba. Would he elaborate for members of the House on the very serious impact that a dual marketing system would have on the port of Churchill and how important the port of Churchill is to the economy of the north and to Manitoba?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, our colleague from Churchill has been in the House debating this question as well. She has indicated very clearly the impact that Churchill will face.

The mayor of Churchill, Mr. Spence, has also come out publicly indicating that it would devastate the town and there is absolutely no doubt about it. It is not only the town, but also all these small towns along the railway line would be affected by this decision.

As members may know, people feel that the port of Churchill, in the next five or 10 years, may play a much greater role in moving wheat and barley across the world. There is no doubt that this will obviously have a devastating impact on the town of Churchill, the port of Churchill, and also all the small communities along the way to the north.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from Manitoba a question.

He often uses the term “right wing ideology”. I would like to point out to him that in my province, Quebec, we suffer from Liberal party policies that are on the extreme left.

In 1968-1969, led by the then honourable prime minister, you recognized China, a country which is currently closing down companies in the province of Quebec. There was no plebiscite and you never asked for permission.

My question for my colleague from Manitoba is as follows. When Manitoba is involved, all is well and good. However, when the province of Quebec is starving because you recognized China, which is competing fiercely with us right now, that does not bother you. I would like your comments on this.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I remind the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles to address questions and comments through the Chair.

The hon. member for Saint Boniface.