House of Commons Hansard #153 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was measures.


Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

moved that Bill C-251, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (warning labels regarding the consumption of alcohol), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-251 proposes health warning labels on the containers of alcoholic beverages to remind consumers about the serious risks associated with alcohol misuse.

Why? Because alcohol is the only consumer product that can harm us if misused but does not warn us about that fact.

Furthermore, existing legislation does not adequately recognize alcohol as a drug or, indeed, as a product that is clearly associated with significant risk to public health and safety.

Alcohol is an integral part of our society. While nearly three-quarters of Canadians drink, no one is immune to its consequences.

Alcohol plays a role in thousands of premature deaths, preventable injuries and prenatal brain damage every year. It is associated with increased risk of cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, homicides, suicides, motor vehicle, boat and snowmobile crashes, falls, fires and drownings.

Moreover, higher rates of consumption are associated with increased mental illness, an increase in crime, and reduced worker productivity. These translate into a human loss of devastating proportions and an economic toll of billions of dollars each year.

In Canada, for instance, it is estimated that the cost of alcohol abuse is at least $10 billion per year in health care, law enforcement and lost productivity.

Here are some interesting facts. Do members know that 42% of serious crime involves the use of alcohol? Thus, when we talk about getting tough on crime, we also have to deal with the prevention side, and certainly this is one opportunity. As well, the latest statistics on impaired driving show that over 1,100 Canadians were killed in 2004 and over 68,000 injured.

I also want to talk a little about fetal alcohol syndrome. It is a subject I have been working on for over 12 years and it is integrally related to the subject matter.

In one week, as many as 10,000 babies are born in Canada. Of these, three are born with muscular dystrophy, four are born with HIV infection, eight are born with spina bifida, 10 are born with Down's syndrome, 20 are born with fetal alcohol syndrome, and 100 are born with other alcohol related birth defects.

Fetal alcohol syndrome, commonly known as FAS and now called fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD, refers to a group of physical and mental birth defects. Its primary symptoms include growth deficiency before and after birth, central nervous system dysfunction resulting in learning disabilities, and physical malformities in the face and cranial areas.Other alcohol related birth defects involve central nervous system damage like FAS, but without those physical abnormalities.

Since FASD is incurable, most victims will usually require special care throughout their lives. Depending on the severity, the estimated lifetime cost for the care of a person with such an affliction ranges from $3 million to $6 million.

The secondary symptoms of FAS relate to the quality of life characteristics: 90% have mental health problems; 60% will be expelled or suspended from school or will drop out; 60% will get into trouble with the law; 50% will exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviour; 30% will abuse drugs or alcohol; 80% will not be capable of living independently; and 80% will have employment problems. As well, federal and provincial authorities both have estimated that as many as 50% of the inmates in the prisons of Canada suffer from alcohol related birth defects.

Tragically, these severe problems could have been prevented if the mother had abstained from alcohol consumption during her pregnancy.

Harm can occur at any time during the pregnancy, even during the first month, when most women do not even know they are pregnant. Research findings suggest that days 15 to 22 make up the period of pregnancy during which facial and cranial deformities could be caused by alcohol consumption. That is why women should not wait until they find out they are pregnant before they stop drinking.

Over 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Therefore, if a woman is sexually active and pregnancy is possible she should abstain from consuming alcohol. To choose not to abstain is the same as playing Russian roulette with the lifelong health and well-being of her child. There is no recommended safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Therefore, the prudent choice for women is to abstain from consuming alcohol.

Beverage alcohol is ethanol. Many do not know that alcohol is a poisonous substance and in high doses can be lethal. Small amounts of alcohol can impair judgment, motor ability and reflexes. Many also do not know that alcohol, when combined with innocuous over the counter medications, can result in significant health problems.

Alcohol is a depressant, which can result in increased anxiety levels, severe mood swings, and clinical depression. Young people are also at greater risk because they are still developing physically and psychologically.

In an era of reduced social spending and a widening disparity between rich and poor, it is extremely important that we not lose sight of the role of government in promoting and protecting public health and safety.

There is no simple solution to this complex problem. As such, governments need to develop a comprehensive strategy to address both prevention and remediation.

The strategy should include policies, social marketing, skill-building and educational measures. It may include taxation and other policy measures to reduce alcohol related problems. There could be increased support for addictions research and treatment and more support for community-based health promotion, prevention, early identification and, of course, treatment programs. It should provide equitable access to housing, employment, a clean and safe environment and needed health and social services, all of which contribute to a responsible drinking environment in the community.

In September 2006 the second report of the Standing Committee on Health recommended that the government develop a comprehensive national and federal action plan. It is notable that this is exactly what the health committee recommended in June 1992, almost 15 years ago, in an identical recommendation.

The alcohol industry does have a moral duty and a social responsibility to warn the public of the potential harm associated with its products. The industry spends billions of dollars each year promoting its products, with a disproportionate amount of that promotion being targeted at the younger population.

The industry would like us to believe that it discharges that responsibility by sponsoring public service announcements, distributing brochures, or running multi-media messaging. However, the cost of these initiatives is only a small fraction of its marketing budget.

The industry also suggests everybody knows that alcohol consumption presents a risk of harming oneself or others, so it does not have to do anything about it. That is not the point. Clearly there is a risk associated with every drink consumed and, whether or not it is heeded, this risk should be clearly and consistently spelled out on every alcohol label, package and container and in every advertisement and promotion.

To argue whether or not information on a warning label has an immediate impact on individual behaviour is pointless. There are many factors that influence behaviour, and health warning labels just happen to be one. The fact is, research shows that even Coca-Cola will lose market share if it does not continue to advertise at the same levels that we see day in and day out. The constant repetition of the message or image does make a difference in terms of consumer behaviour.

Health warning labels have been described as a consumer lighthouse, sending repetitive signals of impending danger. They remind us of all the responsible use messaging we have ever been exposed to.

Labels are not just for potential abusers; they are also for the broader population that may have an opportunity to identify situations where someone else's drinking risks harming themselves or others. The label, therefore, also serves as a reminder that in these circumstances we all have a responsibility to take appropriate action to ensure that the abuser does not become just another statistic.

The presence of a simple, readable and targeted health message on alcohol products does one important thing: it acknowledges and reinforces the fact that alcohol is not just another consumer commodity. It is in fact a product that when misused has negative consequences, not only for consumers, but also for their friends, family, co-workers and community.

Warning labels and consumer health information can play a role in educating the public but should not be considered in isolation since knowledge alone rarely results in changed behaviour. Consumers do have a right to know what constitutes responsible consumption, the potential consequences of misuse, and where to go for assistance.

If we want to be serious about reducing the incidence of injury, disease, and death associated with alcohol misuse among the general population, we should not ignore the crucial parts of the equation: the consumer and the industry. Consumers have a right to be informed. The industry has a responsibility to give consumers clear and unbiased information.

Advertising and promotion tell only one side of the story. Labelling and consumer information tell the other.

I have worked on this issue for over 12 years now and I have yet to see any indication that what we have done over the past 12 years has helped at all in this matter. Two-thirds of Canadians support labelling, according to a Decima poll commissioned by Health Canada in February 2006. Seventy-one per cent of them were women. Two-thirds of the supporters said they were even willing to pay more for the product if the label was put on.

A number of groups and organizations support labelling. Let me mention a few: Health Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Canadian Police Association, and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.

Bill C-251 advocates for health warning labels for containers of alcoholic beverages. Warning labels, which could include standard drink information, and health information targeted at the individual consumer complement existing population control policies. They also send a clear message that alcohol is not just another consumer commodity and that its consumption entails specific risks.

The absence of a warning label clearly sends the wrong message. We need to reassess why beverage alcohol is the only consumer product that can harm people if misused and does not warn the population about that fact. If we accept our responsibilities to promote and protect public safety and health, the beverage alcohol industry needs to be part of that solution.

Let me quote from 1992 report of the Standing Committee on Health. It said:

The Sub-committee is aware, as were most of our witnesses, that warning labels on containers of alcoholic beverages will not, by themselves, completely solve the problem...The design and presentation of a warning label is vitally important to its effectiveness. The Sub-committee has examined several examples of warning labels on alcohol products from the United States.

I must emphasize this next sentence:

In all cases, the warnings were generally inconspicuous and difficult to read. It is essential that the warning labels adopted for Canadian products not emulate the United States examples....

That has been the problem all along. As people have suggested, a bad label does not work. That is prima facie.

Let me conclude by saying that if we could prevent even a small percentage of alcohol related birth defects, the savings in health, social programs and educational and criminal justice costs would be many times more than the cost of a national prevention strategy. More importantly, we could eliminate much human misery and suffering. That is the essence of a caring society.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba


Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for bringing forward this issue. I recall that in the last Parliament the issue was brought forward. It went to the health committee. The health committee, including the Liberal members of the health committee, decided that there were better alternatives to move forward with in helping to deal with FASD. Would my colleague accept the recommendations that were made by the health committee in the last Parliament on this very issue?

Also, I would like the member to comment on his list of organizations that support labelling. He mentioned Health Canada. Health Canada does not support labelling on alcohol containers as the member is suggesting. Would the member clarify where he got that understanding about Health Canada's position?

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the member's second question first. In the last Parliament, Health Canada in fact spoke in favour of health warning labels on containers of alcohol beverages. In the current Parliament, Health Canada has not opined on warning labels. In fact, as the member knows, what the recommendation said was that we need a comprehensive national strategy. Health Canada did not comment on that.

Let me again quote from the 1992 report from the health committee. It said:

We believe that warning labels, properly designed and printed, are an essential part of a comprehensive strategy for increased public awareness and education about the risks that maternal alcohol consumption poses for foetus.

Back in 1992, the Standing Committee on Health called for a comprehensive strategy. This Parliament, in the second report of the health committee, called for a comprehensive strategy on fetal alcohol syndrome. In 15 years we have made absolutely no progress. Now is the time to start.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, this certainly seems like a noble pursuit but there are some fairly significant flaws with the argument, particularly when we look at younger individuals. In general, they tend to consume a fair amount of their alcohol at commercial establishments where labelling would not have any impact whatsoever.

I am just wondering if there might be a better way of doing this that would be less cost prohibitive, perhaps through Health Canada or at liquor stores and drinking establishments, where we could look at putting this type of signage up to promote awareness about alcohol.

It seems that labelling is very cost prohibitive for the industry. I am really concerned that young people consume most of their alcohol in commercial establishments where they would not see the labels.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it already is the law in most provinces across Canada and there are signages up in those places.

However, in terms of being cost prohibitive for the industry, we are talking about an industry that spends less than 10% of its advertising budget on responsible use messaging. It changes the label virtually once a year on most of its products.

As the member will probably know, health warning labels have been in place in the United States since 1989. He should also know that Canadian companies exporting to the United States, which includes all of the majors, already put labelling on bottles to conform with the U.S. law. Therefore, the member is clearly wrong in his assumption.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to applaud the effort the hon. member has put into this issue over the last 13 years or so. It is an issue that is important to him and to Canadians.

To what degree does he feel that he has had success in the years that he has been working on this issue?

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, all I can say is that when I first came to this House and I read that report, I had never heard of fetal alcohol syndrome. I think all members in this place now know what fetal alcohol syndrome is, which is a good step and I hope I have played a part in that.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia Manitoba


Steven Fletcher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, before I explain why I cannot support this legislation, I want to applaud the convictions and conscientious approach of my hon. colleague. He has performed a tremendous public service by drawing attention to the damage caused by alcohol misuse. He deserves full credit for his unflagging efforts to promote legislation to prevent this unnecessary tragedy. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is truly a terrible disease.

I also want to commend him for recognizing society's responsibility to protect the most vulnerable from the most devastating effects of alcohol misuse. There is no greater a vulnerable group than people who are born with one of the diagnoses under the umbrella of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or FASD. These people may be condemned to lives of missed opportunity and, all too often, all out despair.

Among the common symptoms of the disability are low adaptive quotients, in other words, the ability to solve everyday problems, and anti-social behaviours that affect at risk groups of people as they drop out of school and make them far more likely than other Canadians to be homeless or end up in prison.

An overwhelming proportion of people with FASD have substantial personal costs, not only for themselves but their families, and the price tag is also very steep for society. The cost to Canadian taxpayers to care for alcohol affected children to adulthood will be an estimated additional $571 million annually. Given the incidence of 9.1 cases of FASD per 1,000 births, there is an estimated 280,000 people in Canada currently living with this preventable disability. About 3,000 babies are born every year who are affected.

If only Bill C-251 could dramatically reduce the costs and reverse the statistics, I am sure all members of the House would gladly embrace it. However, as the history on this issue in the House with previous bills, such as Bill C-206 and others, have already made clear, our well meaning colleague has not selected the best vehicle to advance his cause.

As worthy a goal as he espousing, the evidence appears unequivocal: alcohol warning labels do not positively impact those most at risk. This was the resounding all party consensus at committee hearings on the previous bill, Bill C-206, on alcohol warning labels. Expert witnesses before the Standing Committee on Health at that time said repeatedly that while warning labels may have a small part to play in a larger public education strategy, they cannot achieve the long term objectives of this legislation in isolation.

Expert opinions and the opinions of parliamentarians who have studied this issue are that what is clearly needed is an integrated and comprehensive approach that builds on work already underway. This approach would include public education, awareness and interventions to prevent FASD.

It would leverage the work of communities, as well as health practitioners, target interventions for vulnerable populations, such as aboriginals, and integrate research and potential regulations into the federal government strategies. For example, research shows that women are very likely to turn to their health care professionals for information on alcohol during pregnancy. This reinforces that it is important to educate those on the front line on prevention and the people on the front line, of course, are the health care providers.

Sensitizing and supporting health care professionals with the tools that they need will enable them to deal more effectively with at risk clients and help reduce the risk factors. A very important point here is that all women are at risk if they do not have the information that alcohol use, even in small amounts, is potentially harmful to their babies during pregnancy.

To that end, the Public Health Agency of Canada has been working with its health portfolio partners, other federal departments and agencies, the provinces and territories, first nations, as well as a host of other community based partners on a FASD strategy.

Its objective is to address the critical gaps and pressures caused by FASD and provide individuals and organizations working with at risk groups with the tools and resources they need to reach and educate perspective parents. These are activities that go far beyond warning labels.

A lot has already been accomplished. Among the many activities completed to date, the Public Health Agency of Canada has developed, published and distributed the framework for action on FASD. It has also conducted and published the survey of health care professionals, and it has supported the development and publication of diagnostic guidelines to assist health care providers.

In 2000 and again in 2002 and 2006, the Public Health Agency of Canada conducted public opinion surveys to gauge public awareness and general knowledge about FASD and alcohol use during pregnancy. The intelligence gathered through this process helps to shape common messaging regarding FASD, developed by the agency in partnership with the provinces and territories. Posters and pamphlets using those messages have been prepared and distributed to the public.

The Public Health Agency of Canada subsequently conducted targeted social marketing and awareness activities using these materials.

That is not all. Working in partnership with Thyme Maternity and News Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada ran newspaper articles aimed at increasing awareness of FASD and the need to avoid alcohol during pregnancy.

Of particular importance to organizations working with high risk groups, the Public Health Agency of Canada funded eight projects across the country through the FASD national strategic projects fund. The projects led to the development of tools, resources and training programs for use by community based organizations to prevent FASD and to improve the life prospects of people living with a disability.

Much work is being done at the regional level to support local projects that will reduce the incidence of FASD and improve outcomes for those affected.

Another excellent resource produced by the Public Health Agency of Canada is the “Sensible Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy”. Based on the latest research, this new resource will help women who are planning a pregnancy to make healthy choices to ensure their children have the opportunity to have a good life.

This is just the beginning. Work currently underway will result in even greater supports for prospective parents, as well as children and youth already living with FASD. For instance, research has been carried out on FASD training opportunities and public awareness across Canada. Focus group studies have been conducted among women to understand alcohol use patterns and potential effective interventions.

A series of meetings were scheduled, including one to follow up on the publication of the diagnostic guidelines, as well as a national symposium on FASD. A survey of allied professionals' knowledge, attitudes and behaviours regarding FASD and alcohol use during pregnancy is planned.

Work has also been undertaken in collaboration with Canada Northwest FASD Partnership to develop a scan of the diagnostic capacity, tools and forms across Canada. This will lead to further work in developing common intake forms, data collection and reporting tools, as well as common tools for diagnosing brain and central nervous system dysfunction.

Progress has been made in these areas: A recent opinion survey showed that 94% of first nations and 86% of Inuit were aware of FASD; Community Asset Mapping has helped many of these communities identify their strengths and develop a plan of action; and mentoring programs for women at risk are now underway.

I could go on but much has been done and we need to move forward with an effective plan.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the member's bill, but I always find this a surprising debate.

In 1988-89 the NDP member for Surrey North, the constituency that I represent, raised this issue in Parliament at that time. Six years ago, April 23, the NDP member for Winnipeg North had a motion passed in the House, 231 to 11 or a number like that, supporting the labelling of alcohol.

Therefore, I find the debate puzzling because we are prepared to do all of the things that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health spoke of, brochures and so on, but somehow labelling a bottle of alcohol seems to generate all of this debate about the reasons that we cannot.

I am puzzled by that. We can do all kinds of other things. We can spend money on all kinds of other resources, but we cannot ask alcohol producing companies to label a bottle. I just do not understand why this is so hard for people to understand or for people to be prepared to stand up and support.

No one would suggest that labelling an alcohol bottle is somehow the solution for people with alcohol addiction or fetal alcohol syndrome, but there is never in any situation only one solution. This is part of what should exist as a national strategy which has been called for regarding alcohol and a national strategy around fetal alcohol syndrome. Therefore, it is one piece.

I can think of very few products that do not have warning labels on them. Some have so many warning labels on them we are afraid to buy it because it lists 27 things that can happen to us if we take this particular medication or product. We label tobacco packages all the time. That was possible to do. Has it stopped smoking? No. Has it made a difference? I believe it has.

I do not think there is any conclusive evidence that this does not work because I do not know how we would know, having not done it.

The United States, 18 years ago, decided to label alcohol bottles. The labels could be better, but that was 18 years ago and we are still standing here debating about whether alcohol, which we all know has tragic effects on this country, should be labelled.

People talk a lot about fetal alcohol syndrome, the fetal alcohol effect and the effect of alcohol on pregnant moms, and so they should. I think the member quoted 3,000 babies. I do not actually care if it is 3,000 babies or 3, it is too many. Is there some magic number we have to get to before we are prepared to stand up and take a position on this?

We know as well that it is a tragedy for the baby. Anyone who has ever seen a newborn, and I have said this before in the House, suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms, I do not think could not stand up and support this bill. It is not something we would ever want to imagine for any newborn who has entered this world, hoping for a wonderful journey, and coming in with a number of challenges already there.

It is not only the “most at risk people” who need to have a label on a bottle of alcohol. I do not know why we would suggest it is only going to be there for the most at risk people. Why would it not be there for any consumer just like labels on medication, or on other things that consumers purchase? This is not only about the most at risk.

The most at risk may not be the people who actually pick it up and look at it, but the regular consumer might be. So this is really for everybody, not only for the most at risk. We know people who are most at risk, but I am not sure we know who all those people are. Maybe people are most at risk if their family has a history of alcohol addiction, but at this stage have had no problem or maybe have never bought a bottle of alcohol. Maybe they are most at risk because there is a particular stress time in their life. We have to expand our definition of who is most at risk and be prepared to put that label on the bottle for anybody.

The financial resources that we need in this country are enormous in terms of people with all kinds of challenges: addiction challenges, health challenges and educational challenges. Many of those are unavoidable. This is avoidable. Why would we not do something to help something that is avoidable when there are, so many things on which we spend our budget that we cannot avoid? We might be able to do something on this one piece as part of a multi-prong that might help us do something to avoid this.

It is not only the further health costs of raising an infant with fetal alcohol syndrome, it is the health costs to the system of people who abuse alcohol. But it is also the health costs to the system of people who are in car accidents, either because they have been drinking or may simply be a passenger in a car, or they may be in the other car that has been hit and nobody in that car has been drinking. There is still a health cost that is related to alcohol.

There are family costs. The cost to a family of having someone who in the beginning did not understand that a couple of drinks after work, or maybe at noon and then after work, was going to start to affect their family life. Any of us can stand here and tell stories of families we know who are in that situation. So there is a huge cost to families.

There is also a cost to children because very often for the people who did not know they were at risk, there is no label. I am not suggesting that would have been the only preventive, but there is no label and the child becomes the caregiver of the parent. We see that in many circumstances, so we have 10, 11 and 12 year olds who are actually looking after their parent because the parent is not able to look after them. Twelve year olds should not be caregivers, they should just be 12 year olds and do what children that age do, at least all the healthy things.

I have heard that it is cost prohibitive to industry. I do not believe it is cost prohibitive to industry, but it is cost prohibitive to this country if we do not do it. Since the Americans are able to do it in the United States, why would it not be cost prohibitive there? The costs that we pay as a country are very prohibitive, so that is a somewhat facile argument.

The member read the list of endorsers and the list would go on and on, including pediatric societies, et cetera. I would not dream of continuing to talk about those, but we do need a comprehensive approach. That is true. We do need a multi-pronged approach, but to say that we are prepared to have a national strategy on alcohol and fetal alcohol syndrome, but we are not prepared to put a label on a bottle of alcohol as part of that strategy makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It is not fair to the consumers in this country, the adults in this country, and children in this country who are future consumers of that product.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to have the opportunity to speak in support of Bill C-251. I want to compliment my colleague from Mississauga South who has been the embodiment of determination and persistence on this topic.

As previous speakers have pointed out, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a tragic yet entirely preventable health issue, and the mandatory labelling of alcoholic beverages will be an integral part of any prevention strategy.

I disagree strongly with those who have suggested that such labelling should be avoided because it might have economic impacts on the producers of alcoholic beverages. I note that these sentiments are being expressed by the same party that recently announced its intention of increasing the levels of allowable toxin residues on our fruit and vegetables because the agri-business transnationals consider our current standards to be a trade irritant in our commerce with the United States.

Suggesting that labelling is not effective is clearly hypocritical. If it does not work, then the beverage producers have nothing to fear from this bill. Their sales will continue to rise. The fact is that labelling does work. It may not be a perfect or complete solution, but it is certainly going to help and be an integral part of a comprehensive prevention strategy.

Suggesting that Canadians should take a back seat to the profits of corporations is not only highly offensive, it is plainly irresponsible for legislators, in my opinion. If some members of this House truly have concerns about the economic implications of Bill C-251, then they should be strongly in favour of it. Any minor impact to alcohol beverage producers from some envisioned lost market share of pregnant women will be dwarfed by the savings to the Canadian health care system which has to treat the victims of FASD throughout their lives. On both moral and economic grounds, this bill makes eminently good sense.

I would also like to point out to the House that FASD is part of a vicious circle that entraps citizens in a cycle of mental illness and addiction. If a woman consumes alcohol while pregnant and gives birth to a child with FASD, that child is going to face particular challenges at school and in trying to grow up. They will experience the frustration of not getting it at school and not knowing why they are not getting it as well as the frustration of being embarrassed by a poor report card which they will not understand the reason for. All these things will not encourage regular school attendance. School will become an unhappy place, a place to be avoided.

Once branded as a truancy problem, chances are good that the branding will become a behaviour problem and the downward spiral will begin. Serious unhappiness and frustration can lead adolescents to seek comfort in mood altering substances like alcohol and illegal drugs, and overuse of such substances in adolescence can lead to mental health disorders later on.

However, mental health costs are just part of the costs incurred. Often it includes child welfare, special education, youth justice and youth corrections, so the taxpayers are paying for these social problems that seem to come with FASD.

Another fact is that the cost to the federal and provincial governments for youth who drop out of school for lack of mental health treatment is $1.9 billion, and that is just the federal government and the province of Ontario. What the other provinces would add, I am not sure.

If the child with FASD is a female, then she is at high risk of behaviours during her own pregnancies that would lead to her own children suffering from FASD, and the cycle continues. Sadly, it is a cycle that afflicts many people who suffer from mental illness and addictions. We should be doing all we can to stop this cycle from perpetuating itself.

I believe that Bill C-251 is a step in the right direction. I would urge all members of the House to support this simple measure. It could have a dramatic impact on Canada's future health care costs and more important, on the lives of Canadians yet unborn.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by making clear my respect for the hon. member for Mississauga South. There is no question that my colleague has been a relentless champion of this worthy cause and deserves great admiration for his dedication. However, while Bill C-251 is based on good intentions, research indicates it is not based on good science.

I remind the House that this issue has been thoroughly reviewed by the Standing Committee on Health, which heard from many witnesses and experts both for and against alcohol warning labels. No matter on which side of the argument they stood, there was general agreement that there is very little evidence that alcohol warning labels alone will encourage people to change their drinking habits. Even one of the greatest proponents of this legislation, Dr. Tim Stockwell of the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia at the University of Victoria, has admitted:

--there are a host of powerful economic and social factors that determine the level of alcohol consumption and rates of hazardous use...The idea that a basic informational strategy such as warning labels could compete with such powerful factors as the price of alcohol to affect overall consumption is implausible.

Moreover, the implementation of Bill C-251 will require significant funding from the federal government. Given the need for a broad strategy, diverting resources to labelling specifically at the expense of proven targeted programs is not cost effective.

Then there is a host of legal questions to consider. The implementation of the bill is likely to raise trade and charter challenges which would impose further costs on the government and by extension, all Canadians.

In the absence of clear proof that alcohol warning labels make a significant difference in drinkers' behaviours, it is hard to make the case that Bill C-251 is the solution. Instead, witness after witness told the committee that what is needed is a comprehensive approach that encompasses all aspects of behaviour modification. In fact, most people who appeared before the standing committee said that the programs currently in place would have a much better chance of success than warning labels.

Certainly, no one is denying the need to address the serious health and social challenges associated with problem drinking. The 2004 Canadian addiction survey indicated that while the vast majority of Canadians drink in moderation and without harm, 14% of Canadians, some 3.3 million people, do engage in high risk drinking. There is no question that we must do more to make Canadians aware of the health and safety risks of excessive alcohol consumption.

Alcohol misuse comes at a great cost to the individuals involved and our country at large. In 2002 the cost of alcohol related harm totalled $14.6 billion, or $463 for every living Canadian. This included $7.1 billion for lost productivity due to illness and premature death, $3.3 billion in direct health care costs, and $3.1 billion in direct law enforcement costs.

This is about more than dollars and cents. It only makes sense to prevent unnecessary loss of life and lost opportunity when we see the terrible toll it takes on Canadian families and communities.

Nowhere are alcohol's devastating effects more apparent than in the case of children and adults coping with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD for short. From anti-social behaviour to developmental delays and learning disabilities, people living with this preventable condition face profound problems which may put them at increased risk of dropping out of school and making them far more likely than other people to end up in prison. No one can deny the damage caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy and our collective obligation to make sure Canadians understand that alcohol poses grave danger for developing fetuses.

We need to bear in mind that the Government of Canada already invests heavily in initiatives dealing with alcohol misuse. Programs within the health portfolio alone include the alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation program, the drug strategy community initiatives fund, as well as the national native alcohol and drug abuse program, the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder initiative, and the first nations and Inuit FASD program.

I am also pleased to report that Health Canada, the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, and the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission have developed recommendations for a multi-sectoral national alcohol strategy to reduce alcohol related harm in Canada. The strategy has been developed in consultation with relevant federal departments, provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations, researchers, addiction agencies, and the alcohol beverage and hospitality industries.

It recommends a range of both population level initiatives to address overall alcohol consumption and targeted interventions to address specific high risk drinking patterns and vulnerable populations, such as women who are pregnant or who are thinking about becoming pregnant. It should be noted, however, that alcohol warning labels were not identified as an area for action.

In addition, it is worth noting that in its report, “Even One is Too Many: A Call for a Comprehensive Action Plan for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder”, the Standing Committee on Health did not call for the implementation of warning labels on alcohol beverage products.

In the absence of clear proof that alcohol warning labels will make a significant difference in drinkers' behaviours, it is hard to make the case that Bill C-251 is the solution to this or any other alcohol related problems. As well meaning as my hon. colleague may be in promoting this bill, it seems obvious that this is not the right legislation at the right time. With this in mind, while reiterating my appreciation for a steadfast commitment to address the alcohol related challenges, I am not able to support the bill.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to engage in this debate. Those of us who have been here for a few years have seen my hon. colleague from Mississauga South speak to this issue many times. I think it was one of the first bills that I had the opportunity to seriously engage in such a detailed discussion with my colleague on why he thought it was critically important to have warning labels on alcoholic beverage containers. He feels so passionately about this issue. I think he captures almost everybody's attention at one point or another and insists on having five minutes to discuss it.

Let me mention some things for which alcohol is directly or indirectly responsible. Over 19,000 deaths each year are somehow or another as a result of alcohol. Forty-five per cent of motor vehicle collisions are attributed to alcohol. We continue to hear from MADD and other organizations about the need for tougher regulations and more education, which is again the key to an awful lot of these issues that we are dealing with.

Thirty per cent of fires are connected to alcohol. Someone might have a few too many glasses of alcohol and there are lit candles and before the person knows it, the place is on fire. Thirty per cent of suicides, 60% of homicides, 50% of family violence and 65% of snowmobile collisions are as a result of alcohol. Two years ago a constituent's son was killed in a snowmobile accident. Two snowmobiles collided head on. The collision was tied to alcohol. One in six family breakdowns, 30% of drownings, 65% of child abuse, 40% of falls causing injury are related to alcohol. At least 50% of hospital emergencies are somehow or another related to alcohol.

There is over $15 billion in additional costs to Canadians. It is a huge cost to our health care system. There is a human cost as well in family breakdowns and other situations surrounding alcohol. The least thing the government could do is add labels to educate people about the dangers of alcohol in its many different forms. It would certainly help save a huge amount of money in our health care system, and could help in numerous other areas that we have to deal with, such as family breakdowns.

The subcommittee on health issues report in June 1992 made a variety of recommendations. It said:

The Sub-Committee is aware, as were most of our witnesses, that warning labels on containers of alcoholic beverages will not, by themselves, completely solve the problem of FAS and FAE, nor will they effectively reach all segments of society. Problem drinkers and alcoholics will probably not be sensitive to label warnings. The design and presentation of a warning label is vitally important to its effectiveness.

On that particular point I would like members to recall the issue of tobacco warning labels. I am sure my colleague who was the former chair of the health committee will remember that issue and the controversy around putting warning labels on cigarette packages and how that would cause huge problems.

It is quite amazing that people are still smoking. The warning labels are very clear and they have discouraged some smokers. I do not think we have any numbers yet; in any case, I do not have them this morning. Certainly the warning labels have discouraged a lot of people from smoking.

Those warning labels are scary. That people would look at those labels and still pick up a package of cigarettes amazes me. It is the effectiveness of the label that is being put on the box. It has clearly been supported in the tobacco industry. I think it would be far more effective in the alcohol industry.

The subcommittee examined several examples of warning labels on alcohol products from the United States. In all cases the warnings were generally inconspicuous and difficult to read. Going back to following the example of what was done with cigarette packages, it is essential that the warning labels adopted for Canadian products not emulate the United States' example. They should be carefully designed for maximum visibility and impact.

I would hope that when this bill eventually passes and becomes law we would look at what was done as a result of recommendations from the health committee on the labelling of cigarette packages as a prime example of a success story. We believe that properly designed and printed warning labels are an essential part of a comprehensive strategy for increased public awareness and education about the risks that maternal alcohol consumption poses for the fetus.

In particular, we continue to hear that 60% of the people in our penitentiaries suffer from either FAS or FAE. The cost to society as a whole, to government and the taxpayers is enormous on issues like this.

I would like to think that it all comes down to the issue of education and ensuring that people know what the dangers are of consuming alcohol while pregnant. We want pregnant women or women who want to become pregnant to realize what effect alcohol has on the fetus. We have to do everything possible to ensure that men, women and children are educated so they understand there are severe dangers. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and think that alcohol will not harm anybody. Statistics and studies have shown that it causes a huge amount of harm.

Going back to the subcommittee report, one of the recommendations was:

The Sub-Committee recommends that the Minister of Health and Welfare Canada should amend the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations to require that containers for beverage alcohol sold in Canada, including beer, wine, and spirits, should carry an appropriate warning label alerting all consumers that consumption of alcohol during pregnancy places the foetus at risk for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) or Foetal Alcohol Effects (FAE).

That was in 1992. This is not a new issue. It is an issue we have been battling for a long time. My colleague from Mississauga South and members of the health committee have worked very hard to ensure that we actually get warning labels established.

This is not something new. The United States already does it. Maybe the U.S. labels do not do as good a job as we would like them to, but they are doing a job. There are 20 countries that already have alcohol warning labels. I mentioned the United States. The other countries are: Portugal, Spain, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Armenia, Iceland, Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

Where is Canada? I have always been very proud to think that Canada was leading the way on many issues. Of all of those countries, I would have thought that Canada would be in front and not at the back of the pack and still not providing warning labels. It is clearly something that is way overdue. Other countries are considering it. I would like Canada to adopt this bill, so we can move forward on the issue of warning labels. Hopefully it would prevent a lot of men and women in the future from suffering from both FAS and FAE.

We would all be really proud if we were able to pass this bill and start to see warning labels. Let us make sure that we educate Canadians, especially young women, on the dangers of alcohol. Let us do everything we can to protect future generations.

Food and Drugs ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from April 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-52, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders



Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-52, the budget implementation act.

As I stand here today to represent the concerns of my constituents of Mississauga—Brampton South with respect to the 2007 federal budget, my comments and remarks will focus on three areas: economic competitiveness; social issues and the lack of social investment; and how the budget has damaged our reputation abroad.

I am glad to hear today that the Minister of Finance has withdrawn a major part of a controversial budget measure. I believe it is widely accepted that this has been the worst policy to come out of Ottawa in over 35 years. He understands now that he should allow interest deductibility to ensure Canadian companies can be more competitive abroad. The Minister of Finance also mentioned in his remarks this morning that he would put forth a panel of experts to review Canada's international tax system. More work needs to be done in this area and he has a great deal of explaining to do.

As I indicated, my remarks on the budget will focus on the economic aspect of the budget. It is so important at the federal level that the government show leadership with respect to how to improve competitiveness in our country.

One area, as I have indicated, is the reversal of the Finance Minister on interest deductibility. I will outline the concerns we had raised in the past and why this decision was made by the Minister of Finance. It was through the hard work of our finance critic and our leader of the official opposition that really put forth a clear cut message to the Canadian public of how poorly thought out and poorly conceived this measure was.

The proposal in the 2007 budget eliminated deductibility of interest accrued to finance foreign assets. The Conservatives are forcing Canadian companies to compete with one hand tied behind their backs. Competing businesses in the U.S., Japan and Europe all have this tool at their disposal. The Conservative government at least was planning to take this away.

Companies in the U.S. Japan and Europe are all able to write off interest on loans taken out to finance foreign assets. Canadian firms have also been able to that for more than 30 years. This is a very important tool to promote competitiveness.

At a time when the entire world is headed forward, the Conservative government is making it increasingly difficult for Canadian companies to compete globally.

I raise this question in the House because I do not understand why the Finance Minister has difficulty with foreign companies acquiring Canadian companies, but he does seem to have a fundamental problem with the ability of Canadian companies to compete abroad. Removal of the interest deductibility would compromise the competitiveness. Again, I am thrilled the minister has made this reversal. There are probably many measures that I will discuss, which I hope he gets to re-evaluate and reconsider and maybe change the direction of the budget.

Not only is it something about which the Liberals and many Canadians have expressed concerns, but also in the business community as well. The president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said this with respect to the budget:

We don't see any broad-based tax relief either for taxpayers or businesses.

The government promised in November that they were going to make Canada more competitive and control spending and I think they broke that promise today.

I will also highlight a theme of broken promises in the budget as well. One area where I believe the Conservative government really misled Canadians was with respect to tax fairness, as it stated. The Conservatives cut the GST, but they increased personal income taxes.

We all know that to improve productivity, it is absolutely vital we have more disposable income for our Canadian public. To improve disposable incomes and to help build greater productivity, the first target for a tax reduction should always be income taxes, not consumption taxes.

In the previous government we lowered the tax rates for low and middle income Canadians in order for them to make greater investment in the economy and save more money. The Liberal government brought forth a comprehensive package to eliminate billions of dollars in taxes for low and middle income Canadians. When the government cut the GST rather than implement our personal income tax, the Finance Minister really constrained his government's fiscal capacity.

A study released on March 29, 2006, by the independent non-partisan research institution, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, found that the 5% of families earning over $150,000 a year would receive nearly 30% of the benefits of the Conservatives tax cuts, an average of $2,000 roughly savings in each year. Therefore, 5% would receive 30% of the benefit of the tax cut. However, almost over half of Canadians families earning less than $40,000 would only receive 20% of the benefits of the Conservative tax cuts, an average of $163. Their tax fairness policy is about broken promises and appeasing the more affluent in society.

Another issue that again highlights the government's inability to improve productivity and competitiveness and focuses on its trend of broken promises is income trusts. The income trusts reversal hurt Canadian investors, particularly seniors. The decision to cut income trusts wiped out more than $25 billion in savings overnight and reversed a key Conservative campaign promise, a promise on which many people relied. They took their hard-earned savings and invested it in income trusts. Seniors whom I have met at the town hall meetings I have had over the past month have clearly shown their frustration with the government. They are completely appalled with the government for breaking such an important promise and they do not understand the rationale behind it. The government swiped billions of dollars from seniors through income trusts savings as well.

We have already seen not only in income trusts a broken promise, but now we are beginning to see a trend in foreign acquisitions. We have already seen great Canadian companies such as Inco, Molson's, Defasco and Hudson's Bay Company taken over by foreign entities, and Alcoa may be next.

The Conservatives took this initiative with the income trusts by crippling it and using the non-refundable 31.5% instead of the Liberal plan. We put a plan forth of a 10% tax rate which would be refundable to all Canadians, creating an opportunity for Canadians who have invested in income trusts.

Tom d'Aquino, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, has said that the decision with respect to income trusts:

—may seriously undermine the competitiveness of Canada's homegrown champions—the companies that are most active and most successful in building global businesses from head offices in Canadian communities.

It is clear, if we look at the government's agenda when it comes to economic policy, it has crippled our ability to remain productive and has hurt our competitiveness. It has shown the government has continuously broken promises that it made to the Canadian public.

However, it does not end there. Another area in which my constituents have expressed a great deal of concern is with respect to social justice issues and social policy. There was absolutely no mention in the budget of homelessness or affordable housing, an issue that resonates in my constituency, across Ontario and across the country as well.

Constituents of Mississauga—Brampton South understand how important this is. The government has cut money from Status of Women, youth programs and the list goes on and on, and again, no investment in these initiatives.

My last is with respect to international trade. This is an area where I believe the government truly had an opportunity to put Canada on the map. It had an opportunity to showcase Canada to the world.

When we were in power, as the Liberal government, we put forth the Can-trade $485 million initiative, which invested in branding Canada. The Conservatives completely wiped that out to replace it with a measly $60 million over two years. It has closed consulate offices and cut funding. The Auditor General's report clearly demonstrates a lack of strategic planning, low morale and the department as well. Therefore, the government has a lot of explaining to do when it comes to the budget.

I am very fortunate that I represent a constituency which is very diverse and has a population of about 130,000 people. It is a hub of economic activity. I have an airport there, looking to the government to show leadership in reducing airport rents. I have major highways and we are looking for funding for infrastructure. Many head offices are looking to expand their businesses abroad and build strong Canadian brands outside of Canada. My residents want to enjoy a high quality of life, but they are very disappointed with the government's poor economic policies, a lack of compassion in investment in the most vulnerable in our society. The government is hurting our reputation abroad.

We are taking steps backwards and we need to provide good public policy, not bad public policy. I think the Canadian public is very impressed that through its hard work and sound management we are in a strong position to create a better and prosperous future for our children. Canadians looked forward to the government to continue to reverse some of its policies. In the meantime, I and the Liberal Party will not support the budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member forgot to mention a couple of other promises the government has broken.

Members may or may not know, but Ottawa was recently blessed with the visit of over 70 war brides from Ontario and the Maritimes. They came to Ottawa to have a terrific weekend, to be together and to enjoy their stories. Many of them are widowed.

One of the things they talked about, when I met them for breakfast this morning, was the veterans independence program. Some of the women get it; others do not. However, they were unanimous in their approach that all widows of all veterans should receive the VIP.

In fact, the Prime Minister also believed that when he was in opposition. He went so far to believe it that he wrote a letter saying that all widows and all widowers and all veterans would receive the VIP immediately upon forming government. He is now government. Sixteen months later, these widows, most of them in their late eighties, are asking, where is it?

I want to give my hon. colleague an opportunity to respond on behalf of the veterans and widows of his riding. What does he think the Prime Minister should do? It is quite a simple answer in that regard: extend the program immediately, as he promised so that these widows and their veterans can get on with their lives.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:10 p.m.


Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the passion illustrated by my colleague shows the frustration with the government's consistent pattern of breaking promises.

The VIP should be extended. This is an issue that speaks to the government's style as put forth by the Conservative Party. It is a style that pits province against province, the wealthy against the poor. It is about gimmicks. It is about writing cheques. It is not about building a strong and united country. It is not a way of building good public policy going forward.

Therefore, I understand those frustrations. There are many broken promises. I think the Canadian public is beginning to understand the Conservative government's style in the way it has implemented the budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has waxed poetic about this notion of fairness and how he is essentially what appears to be opposed to it.

He mentioned income tax, for example. He suggested that income tax reductions would be the fairest approach to extending tax savings to Canadians. However, how would he ever get tax savings into the hands of the 30% of Canadians who do not even pay income tax? Would he answer that question?

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, we brought forth a very comprehensive tax policy when we were in government, a tax policy that looked at the lowest-earning income segment of society, ensuring we got people off the rolls so they did not have to pay taxes. We reduced personal income tax amounts for the lowest threshold as well. This was all done by the previous Liberal government, but it was reversed by the current Conservative government.

This policy was widely accepted and promoted by economists, by people who understand the economy. They accept that this was the best means to help the people in the lowest income bracket and that a consumption tax really helped the most wealthy. I provided statistics and information to that effect, when I said that the wealthiest 5% of the people benefited from this consumption tax. That study was done by a non-partisan organization.

Again, I think the government does not understand tax fairness, hence why the Minister of Finance today had to reverse his decision on a very poorly conceived policy, the worst in 35 years coming out of Ottawa.

I hope the government begins to learn that this should be one of many reversals it should undertake with respect to its budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:15 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that I only have 10 minutes to address Bill C-52 because I could take far longer to talk about what has been omitted and the poor budgetary policy contained within this budget.

However, after a year of the government, it is quite obvious that it has taken all its lessons from the former Liberal government. We have seen in the past year the softwood sellout, which was started by the Liberals and continued by the Conservative government. I will come back to that in a moment. We have seen the continued push on SPP, deep integration, started by the Liberals and continued by the Conservatives.

What we see in the budget is the continued push for corporate tax cuts rather than actually dealing with real issues that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are experiencing. There are $9 billion in corporate tax cuts that are being continued. The Conservatives are continuing the Liberal practice of shoveling corporate tax cuts off the back of a truck. What we see here is just a continuation of the failed Liberal policies we saw over 13 years, by the Conservatives.

What is the context of this budget? What should have been addressed? As Statistics Canada told us just this week, and after study after study has proven, is that we are experiencing in Canada a clear and growing prosperity gap. In fact, “gap” is perhaps too innocent a term. It is indeed a prosperity gulf.

As Statistics Canada reported as recently as last week. but as its studies over the past decade have shown, since 1989 the real income for most Canadian families has actually gone down. It is a reality that the Conservatives have not grasped and the Liberals did not grasp before that.

If we look at the figures since 1989, since the signing of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the poorest 20% of Canadians have seen their incomes collapse. They have lost a month of income in real terms. It is no wonder we are seeing burgeoning numbers of homeless Canadians across the country when the poorest Canadians are actually living on a month's less income than they were in 1989.

It continues with the lower middle class. They have lost two weeks of salary in real terms. Even the upper middle class has seen stagnation. They have not gained a dime more since 1989. They are living on the same income they were living on in 1989.

Who has profited by the failed Liberal economic policies continued by the Conservatives? We all know that it is the wealthiest of Canadians. The wealthiest 5% of Canadians have seen their incomes skyrocket. Corporate CEOs and corporate lawyers in the boardrooms of Canada are doing better than ever before. In fact, coming from Vancouver on the red-eye last night, I read another article about CEOs giving themselves multi-million dollar pension incomes. While the corporate sector has been pushing to cut back on services that working Canadian families need desperately, they are giving themselves unprecedented awards, even for mediocrity.

That is the context of this budget. Eighty per cent of Canadian families are earning less now than they were in 1989. It is a prosperity gap. It is an income crisis that must be addressed.

What do we see in the budget? In the midst of that income crisis; in the midst of a homelessness crisis that we have not seen since the 1930s where 300,000 Canadians will be sleeping out in the parks and on the sidewalks of our nation tonight; in the midst of a fall in real income for 80% of families; a gutting of our manufacturing sector; and the giveaway of our resources, raw logs from British Columbia and oil and gas resources from Alberta, at fire sale prices, which only profits corporate CEOs and corporate lawyers, we have a budget that addresses more corporate tax cuts and continues subsidies paid by Canadian taxpayers to the profitable oil and gas sector.

I come from British Columbia and when I left on the red-eye yesterday to get back to Ottawa, gas prices were at $1.30 a litre. A study that came out last week clearly showed that there was no justification for gas prices being more than 97¢ or 98¢ a litre right now given the current international price for a barrel of crude oil. We have this gouging by the big oil and gas companies, a favourite of the Conservative government, but in addition to that, as these companies reap record profits, the Conservatives shovel more money at them, taxpayer money.

The Conservatives do not deal with homelessness or with the crisis in the health care sector. They shovel hundreds of millions of hard-earned Canadian taxpayer dollars at the oil and gas sector. It is absolutely appalling.

What is in the budget? There is no national housing strategy and no national transit strategy. There is nothing on employment insurance. It contains nothing on establishing a $10 minimum wage, which is something the NDP has been calling for now for some time. Obviously, if we were to take a look at the poorest of Canadians, we would see that 20% of Canadians have lost a month's salary over the past 18 years. That needed to be addressed by the government but, since it only listens to the boardrooms of the nation, it did nothing to deal with this crisis of income and nothing to establish a $10 minimum wage.

The budget has no poverty reduction strategy and no plan to end student debt that is now at record levels. The budget has no cancellation of the corporate tax cuts started by the Liberals. In fact, the Conservatives just continue to shovel that money at the corporate CEOs and corporate lawyers.

The budget has nothing for pharmacare, home care, long term care in the health care sector; nothing for improved access to health care for aboriginal peoples; nothing about coordinated training of medical professionals; and nothing about catastrophic drugs. The budget has no significant new money for aboriginal Canadians who, along with Canadians with disabilities, are the poorest of the poor of Canadians.

The budget says nothing about autism. There is no ban on bulk water exports, which is an issue that was started by the Liberals and being continued by the Conservatives. We see nothing for seniors and no increase in the old age supplement as my colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, just mentioned. We see nothing about providing the kinds of benefits that veterans and their widows and spouses deserve. We see no action following the NDPs' promotion of the veterans first motion that was adopted by this Parliament. The government talks the talk but it does not walk the walk and, therefore, nothing for veterans.

What we see across the country is absolutely no effort by the government to change track after 13 years of Liberal obsession with corporate tax cuts at the expense of everything else. We see nothing to deal with that income crisis.

I will now talk about British Columbia because that is the most egregious part of this budget. The Minister of Finance rose in the House and said in his budget speech:

From the majestic peaks of the Rocky Mountains [in Alberta] to the rugged shores of Newfoundland and Labrador, many of the most beautiful places on earth are in Canada.

This budget completely neglected British Columbia. We see that on the equalization formula that was adopted. We see absolutely no action at all in any of the key areas that British Columbians have been crying out for and pushing the Conservative government to take action on.

What have we seen from the government on the pine beetle which has devastated the interior of British Columbia? The government actually withdrew the funding last year that had been allocated to the pine beetle, even though it was far below what was needed. This year it has allocated pennies on the dollar. We have seen a lot of photo ops and press conferences but very little action has been taken.

The Conservatives promised to take action on leaky condos but no action has been taken.

It is no surprise to me that the poll which came out this weekend shows the Conservatives third in British Columbia now. The NDP are at 30% , the Liberals at 29% and the Conservatives at 23%. Quite frankly, they do not deserve British Columbians' support because this budget does not include British Columbia.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Burnaby--New Westminster has worked a lot on the trade deal with regard to the softwood lumber sellout where jobs have been disappearing across this country. The same thing has been happening in the auto sector where we have witnessed the loss of thousands of jobs across Ontario and Quebec. Recent statistics show that since January, 52,000 jobs have been lost in manufacturing alone. This has been catastrophic to families across this country who depend on the auto sector and the manufacturing sector in general to pay their bills and save for the future.

The budget has a lack of vision with regard to manufacturing. One specific thing I would like to touch on is the feebate that was introduced arbitrarily by the Conservative government. Canadian taxpayer dollars will be going to Beijing, Seoul and other places outside of Canada as these incentives will go predominantly to non-domestic auto manufacturers as opposed to a made in Canada strategy that we have been proposing. We literally will be stripping millions of dollars from this country. The Yaris, for example, will receive an injection of cash of about $34 million that will be used against our own domestic producers.

I would like to ask my colleague about a plan for manufacturing and industrial development, especially based upon his work on the softwood lumber file. Even in Windsor West, believe it or not, a very successful furniture making factory in post-end production disappeared in recent weeks because of the softwood lumber sellout.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:25 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Windsor West has done a terrific job, along with his colleague from Windsor--Tecumseh, in fighting back on the appalling poor strategy of the government in terms of auto jobs.

The reality is that the present government is just bad news for working families right across the country. We saw this with the softwood sellout. The former Liberal minister of trade took an agreement with him when he crossed the floor to the Conservatives. We knew, after hearings last summer, that the agreement would result in a catastrophic loss of jobs. The Minister of International Trade knew that and he signed it just the same because he wanted to be in the good books of the Bush administration. He gave away $1 billion. I guess that gift was expected to provide some quid pro quo.

It turned out exactly as the NDP said it would. Five thousand jobs have been lost and $1 billion has been given away since that egregiously bad softwood agreement was signed. Now the Bush administration is saying that Canada should stop all future forestry programs at the federal and provincial levels and stop all support to softwood communities. What a bad deal. What a pathetic government to sign an egregiously bad sellout of this country.

The government has continued it now in the auto sector, as my colleague from Windsor West just pointed out. It has now set up an environmental plan that actually supports the auto sector in other countries, not the Canadian auto sector.

We need to wonder where the Conservatives are coming from. Without questioning the impact, they are taking all the bad Liberal policies that have led to this income crisis in the country where most Canadian families are now earning less than they were 18 years ago, and they are going further. They are rushing forward with a whole series of concessions to sign a trade agreement with South Korea that we know will devastate our auto sector even more.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:30 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

The shipbuilding sector too.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:30 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

The shipbuilding sector as well, as my colleague from Sackville--Eastern Shore points out.

The government has been a disaster for working families.

Budget Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

12:30 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with some eagerness and reluctance at the same time that I rise to speak on the budget. Reluctance in the sense of having to look through a document again to realize its shortcomings for the people of my region in northwestern British Columbia and eagerness to be able to point out to my colleagues in the House and Canadians across the country what bad government looks like when the balance of views and opinions across the country are misaligned and put out of context.

The result is a budget that was presented to Canadians some weeks ago and supported by the Bloc, which it seems is in some disarray this morning having had a leader, not having a leader, maybe having a leader again and perhaps not having a leader by the end of the day.