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House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was product.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 219 will be answered today.

Question No. 219Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

With respect to the use of Canada’s Victoria Class submarines: (a) did the HMCS Corner Brook stop for critical repairs at a United States Navy (USN) facility located along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States in 2008 and, if so, (i) what was the USN facility, (ii) what specific repairs or upgrades, besides the repair to battery ventilation fans, were carried out on this specific submarine; (b) how many tons per day of diesel fuel is consumed by HMCS Corner Brook and other Victoria-class submarines at normal cruising speeds; (c) what is the cost to the Canadian Navy, per ton or per litre, for diesel fuel for Victoria-class submarines; and (d) what is the total fuel capacity of a Victoria-class submarine, in tons or litres?

Question No. 219Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, in response to a) HMCS Corner Brook conducted one non-scheduled visit and one scheduled visit to United States Navy facilities as part of a multi-month deployment for exercises and operational employment that began in February 2008. No critical repairs were conducted, but rather routine repairs and maintenance took place during these periods. Critical repairs are conducted for issues that affect the submarine's immediate capability to execute a mission.

(i) The non-scheduled stop occurred on Feb. 17/08 at United States Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. The planned visit to United States Naval Station Mayport, Florida, began Feb. 22/08 in company with HMC Ships Iroquois, St Johns, Ville de Quebec and Preserver.

(ii) No upgrades were made during either visit. One urgent operational repair, forward submerged signal ejector blow down drain selector valve, was conducted in Norfolk. This repair was not defined as critical since the defect did not affect the submarine's immediate capability to execute the mission. 12 other repairs of a more routine nature were conducted while in Mayport. In addition to the replacement of #1 main battery ventilation fan, this routine work included the replacement and/or repairs to propulsion, auxiliary and ancillary equipment such as: auxiliary motor control units, gauges and control switches, high pressure/low pressure lines, as well as casing components. Such work is routine during port visits.

It is in the nature of naval operations for defects to accumulate, both in surface ships and submarines, through normal wear and tear, and weather effects, while operating at sea for extended periods. While at sea, on board repair capabilities and technical expertise, as well as integrated redundancies for the key systems, allow vessels to maintain their operational capabilities until reaching the next scheduled port of call where maintenance work can then be completed, as occurred for Corner Brook and the other ships of the task group while in Mayport.

In response to b) The number of tons per day of diesel fuel consumed by HMCS Corner Brook and other Victoria- class submarines pertains to submarine capability, and is therefore classified. The standard of measure used for fuel within the navy is in cubic metres: 1000 litres per cubic metre. The amount of fuel consumed varies with the speed of advance. Typically there are two figures used to describe submarine fuel consumption, one for transiting, and one for patrolling on station. The term "patrolling on station" refers to that stage of operations where the submarine has reached an assigned patrol area and conducts operations as tasked. In the case of diesel submarines such as those of the Victoria-class, this usually implies operating submerged using the electric propulsion mode at slow speed for extended periods of time, thereby greatly reducing the fuel being consumed.

In response to c) Submarines burn the same type of fuel as used in Canadian Navy surface ships. The average cost of fuel for HMCS Corner Brook has been $790.00 per cubic metre in 2007, with the current cost at $940.00 per cubic metre as of 12 Mar 2008.

In response to d) As with the question regarding rates of consumption, this information pertains to capability and is therefore classified. In particular, when these two items, consumption and capacity, are brought together, the true operational range, time to arrive on station, and endurance can be accurately estimated, and is therefore considered sensitive information.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

April 28th, 2008 / 3:25 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 217 and 220 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The questions enumerated by the hon. parliamentary secretary have been answered. Is it agreed that Questions Nos. 217 and 220 be made orders for returns?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 217Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

With regard to the National Defence Official Languages Program Transformation Model: (a) who exactly must be bilingual under the Model; (b) do all National Defence members have the right to receive orders from their superiors in English or French and what is the rationale for this; (c) has National Defence ever required all its members to be bilingual; (d) is the Model consistent with the Official Languages Act and on what criteria is this answer based; (e) does the Model run counter to all the efforts made in the past to comply with the Official Languages Act; (f) what method is used, and by what means, to ensure that working groups within units can provide services in both official languages when necessary; (g) how will the adoption of a “functional” approach ensure that National Defence complies with the Official Languages Act more fully than in the past; (h) which recommendations by the former Commissioner of Official Languages were not included in the Model and why; (i) where are the English, French and bilingual units located; (j) can a unilingual member serve as superior to someone who does not understand the member’s language; (k) will the Model increase the isolation and lack of understanding between the linguistic groups, in addition to aggravating tensions between Anglophones and Francophones, and have these aspects been considered; (l) what evaluation criteria and processes are used to designate a unit bilingual, Anglophone or Francophone; (m) will only bilingual and Francophone units receive services in French; (n) will the Model provide greater opportunities for advancement and equality for Francophones and why; (o) will the Model affect the number of positions for English and French teachers, program designers, curriculum developers for English and French courses and technical and administrative staff and, if so, how; (p) who will be required to reach the CBC level; (q) how will priority be given for language courses and what is the rationale for this; and (r) can the December 2006 Canadian Forces' Linguistic Designation of Units, Positions and Functions project be consulted and what was the rationale behind it?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 220Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Concerning grants and contributions from Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec (CED-Q) to non-profit organizations (NPO) for each of the fiscal years since 2003: (a) what NPOs have received grants and contributions from CED-Q; (b) what is the amount of these grants and contributions; and (c) what is the description or nature of the NPO projects supported by CED-Q?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

ForestryRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The Chair has notice of a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Vancouver Centre. I would be pleased to hear her on this matter now.

ForestryRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand in the House today to request that an emergency debate take place beginning at 6:30 p.m. tonight, pursuant to Standing Order 52, regarding the mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia's forests.

The pine beetle has decimated hectares of British Columbia's pine forests and moved to Alberta. With the fire season around the corner, it is urgent that we debate the human safety risks in communities, as well as the economic and environmental devastation caused by this crisis.

ForestryRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have considered the matter raised by the hon. member for Vancouver Centre at this time.

There is no doubt in my mind that the pine beetle infestation in the forests in British Columbia is a serious matter. I note that a take note debate was held on this matter in 2004, so it is not a new problem. It is an old problem. Accordingly, I have concerns that it may not meet the demands of the Standing Orders in respect of an emergency and, accordingly, I am going to refuse the request that she has made for an emergency debate at this time.

I think it is one of those things that certainly would be of interest, but I am not sure that it constitutes an emergency given the ongoing nature of the problem, which is the worry.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativeMinister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

moved that Bill C-52, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it was a little more than two years ago that Canadians elected a government that had clearly set out its priorities and that began to fulfill its commitments. Not only did we make good on our promises, but we also took measures to tackle new issues that require a quick response.

The safety of consumer products is a prime example of our commitment to act in order to get results. This is why I am pleased to launch the debate at second reading on Bill C-52, an Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

Put simply, the Government of Canada cares about consumer safety and acts accordingly.

The bill we are now debating follows through on our Speech from the Throne commitment to “introduce measures on food and product safety to ensure that families have confidence in the quality and safety of what they buy”.

This bill is a key component of Canada's new food and consumer safety action plan which the Prime Minister announced on December 17, a plan that budget 2008 supports with $113 million over two years. Our plan's objective is simple: to modernize and strengthen Canada's safety system for food, consumer products and health products. Let me take a few moments to remind fellow members about the circumstances leading to our action plan and this proposed legislation.

The fact is that the vast majority of suppliers that make, import, distribute and sell consumer products to Canadians take safety seriously. Those businesses value their reputations. They appreciate how important those reputations are to their success. However, problems can and do arise, perhaps even more in a time when so many different companies in different countries may be involved in creating and distributing a single product before it reaches a store shelf.

For example, we saw problems last year with reports of children's toys with high levels of lead. As minister, I can tell this House that when we heard reports of threats to consumer safety, our government responded with all the tools at our disposal within the existing regulatory framework, but even so, I could see that our processes had not kept up with the market.

The Hazardous Products Act has not been thoroughly reviewed by this chamber in 40 years. As a result, consumer product safety in Canada has been based on a legislative framework that takes a one size fits all approach to regulation. Often the federal government can do little more than react to problems. Even something as important as product recalls have been up to individual companies.

The time has come to use a new approach. The time has come to use the approach advocated in the food and consumer safety action plan. In fact, this is the approach that the government intends to use under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

In addition to the legislative changes we are seeking through this bill, we have already started taking action to better protect consumers. For example, our new children's products and food safety website enables Canadians to search online for recalled food and children's products.

Bill C-52 seeks to provide even more tools. Let me take a few moments to describe the legislation.

This proposed act would replace part I of the existing Hazardous Products Act. It reflects our new approach, updated for the globalized economy, based on three priorities: first, active prevention, to stop as many problems as possible before they occur; next, targeted oversight, so the government can keep a closer watch over products that pose a higher risk to health and safety; and finally, rapid response, so we can take action more quickly and effectively on problems that do occur.

In terms of active prevention, the new legislation seeks to establish a regulatory framework that would enable our government to offer better safety information to consumers. It seeks to encourage industries to build and improve safety throughout their supply chains. It seeks to encourage problem prevention.

The proposed legislation includes a key step forward for prevention. It would prohibit the manufacture, importation, advertisement and sale of consumer products that are a danger to human health and safety. This commitment to prevention is strengthened even more by the stronger compliance, promotion and enforcement activities found within this bill.

This bill proposes stiffer fines of up to $5 million for serious contraventions, and would leave the ceiling open to a court's discretion when the supplier is found to have acted wilfully or recklessly.

To encourage compliance, this bill seeks to give inspectors the option to use administrative monetary penalties as a less expensive, more efficient alternative to criminal prosecution.

In terms of targeted oversight, we need a much more focused approach and a much more informed approach. Accordingly, Bill C-52 would enable the Government of Canada to require suppliers that produce consumer products to conduct safety tests and to provide the results of those tests to us to verify compliance. This data would enable inspectors to focus on products that could pose the greatest risk to consumers.

In terms of ensuring a rapid response, Bill C-52 would allow the government to take faster action than ever before to protect the public when a problem occurs.

As I mentioned earlier today, there is limited government authority currently to pull unsafe consumer products from store shelves, but largely, it is up to the suppliers. In practice they normally respond quickly because that is the right thing to do, of course, for their consumers and for the good of their brands, but there is no guarantee of that in the law. Under this proposed legislation we would gain that authority. If we have access to much better information and records for the businesses involved, our product safety inspectors would be able to respond more rapidly when the need arises.

This bill would require industries to keep records so that they and federal inspectors can trace consumer products from manufacturer to importer to wholesaler to retailer so action could be taken quickly and effectively when needed. This would be a major step forward and one that is seriously needed in an era of complex global supply chains.

These three elements of our new approach—preventing problems, targeting higher risks and taking immediate action when a problem occurs—confirm that the Government of Canada cares about protecting consumers and acts accordingly.

Does the existing safety net for Canada's consumer products work? The numbers show that it does, but Bill C-52 seeks to ensure that the system works even more effectively.

I hope that all parties in this House will stand in support of consumer product safety. I expect that they will agree with me when I say that the vast majority of industry takes consumer safety very seriously. It is only a small percentage which act irresponsibly and whom we will go after, allowing law-abiding Canadian businesses to compete on a more level playing field.

I believe that all members should join with me in supporting Bill C-52, proposed legislation for updating a safety system so that it becomes second to none in the world, because Canadian consumers and Canadian businesses want and deserve nothing less.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking the health minister for bringing this subject before the House.

There are a lot of questions to be asked about the bill. I look forward to seeing the bill at committee. We will be supporting sending the bill to committee so that we can look at the details. We generally agree on the principles.

I would take this opportunity to ask the minister, while he is available, to answer questions on two elements of the bill.

First is the introduction of the power to effect a recall. As the minister mentioned in his opening remarks, currently it is being done on a voluntary basis and with quite good effect. Industries have recalled their products quite willingly.

My concern is that if we go to a power to recall, over time will it become an obligation on the inspectors to recall? To protect the people of Canada from potential lawsuits in the future, rather than negotiating a recall or action with the private sector as is done currently, will they find themselves in an obligation to recall situation? Has the minister considered this or had discussions about it?

Second is the staffing requirement. The way the bill is structured, it will require collaboration from border security agencies, Health Canada inspectors, as well as CFIA inspectors. Of these three groups, the one with the least ability currently would be Health Canada, which has the lowest number of inspectors, and the bill puts a lot of responsibility on Health Canada. How will the staffing shortfall be handled? Has he given this serious consideration?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to discussing the particularities of the bill in committee as well so that parliamentarians can have an opportunity to get into the guts of some very important legislation.

In terms of the obligation to recall, I would expect that if there is a concern about health and safety, the first obligation is to work with the industry, as is done today, to effect a recall. We want to have the power to recall if those discussions break down. If for some reason that we cannot ponder in this place because it would be so counterintuitive and diabolical, the manufacturer or the distributor refused to take into account the evidence of health and safety risks, then the Government of Canada would have an ability to recall. It is only in those cases that I believe the legislation would kick in in its new form.

In terms of staffing requirements, the hon. member is quite correct. There is a need for more inspectors as well as the higher fines. Upon the legislation becoming law, we would be staffing up in that respect.

I would mention to the hon. member and to the chamber that this bill is budgeted for in budget 2008. There is indeed over $500 million over the next five years budgeted to enact this law, should it pass the chamber.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc has been asking for legislation like Bill C-52 for a long time. We are very happy and will support it. We will also work hard on it in committee.

Since we are fortunate enough to have the minister here introducing his legislation, I would like to ask him why it says that the minister may, under the stated conditions, exempt anyone from the requirement to keep records or traceability information in Canada when he deems it pointless or inconvenient. I would like the minister to tell us what the circumstances are under which he will do this.

The minister should also tell us whether he is prepared to increase the number of inspectors. Legislation like this can only be enforced if there are more inspectors. What are the minister’s plans in this regard?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his questions.

I would like to tell the House that it is important for this bill to be studied in committee.

In reply to my colleague’s questions, it is possible under certain circumstances that our government already has in its possession documents or other information to answer these questions. Depending on the circumstances, there could be a requirement to obtain other documents. There may be another way, though, of protecting the documents. I am open to a discussion.

In regard to the Health Canada officials responsible for protecting the documents, as I told my colleague, it could be other officials.

I expect that as soon as the bill is passed by Parliament, we will draw up an action plan to hire other employees in the future.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, further to my colleague's remarks, we certainly are looking forward to this bill and to seeing it go to committee where it can be discussed in detail. It is certainly a positive step forward.

I look at the two bills, Bill C-52, which we are dealing with here today, and Bill C-51, as intertwined. A lot of the concerns we hear on the agricultural side of the equation are about the definition of “product of Canada” and the requirement for truth in labelling in terms of food and so on. One can buy product of Canada olives, but we do not grow too many olives in this country. I think that shows the fallacy of the current definitions.

In the intertwining of the two bills and the requirement for Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which falls under Agriculture Canada, to work together and be properly resourced, is the financial ability going to be there to resource both sides of the component? Also, looking at the two bills together, are we going to get to truth in labelling so that when Canadians buy a product they can be sure that the definition applies to the products they are buying?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raises some very good points. I can say a couple of things about them.

First of all, obviously Bill C-51 also will be debated in this chamber. I would have liked to do so tomorrow, but we have an opposition day tomorrow. We defer to our friends in the opposition, but the hon. member can expect debate on that bill at some time in the near future.

I share the hon. member's concern about resources. I can assure the hon. member that this is budgeted for in budget 2008, with more inspectors and more assistance for CFIA. I think it is important that we also move forward on the product of Canada issues. My friend, the Minister of Agriculture, is taking the lead on that file, but I am encouraging him, as the member is, to move forward. He will indeed move forward.

I agree with the hon. member. Certainly in my riding of Parry Sound—Muskoka we do not grow olives. It must be the same in Malpeque. Perhaps in Pelee Island there is an opportunity to do so, but that might be the only place in Canada where it is the case.

In all seriousness, these issues do have to be addressed. It is certainly our intention to do so.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to this bill. I think it is an important bill. It is a welcome action from the Government of Canada. As an opposition party, we look forward to playing our role within Parliament to improve this bill: to ask the proper questions and to hear from Canadians who may have concerns. They may or may not be supportive and may wish to suggest amendments that can be brought to the committee or to the House to ensure that this bill achieves what it attempts to do, which is to protect Canadians.

I am sure the minister will recognize, as will every member in the House, that it is easy enough to protect Canadians. We can make every commercial activity in this country so restrictive that nobody will ever get hurt, but ensuring the protection of Canadians while permitting trade and business to happen, and allowing farmers, producers and manufacturers to do their work, requires a balancing act. As we look at the implementation of this bill, we are going to have to look at whether we can achieve both of those things and make sure that in the future they continue to happen properly and that we do not go too far one way down the slippery slope.

There is a case in my riding right now with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency risking the ongoing success of a long term employer because of an issue of product safety. It is an issue of perceived product safety and how we deal with it. In this case, it has been shown that the product is quite safe, while we cannot give the same level of assurance to the products we buy off the shelf that compete with it. That creates great concern. I look forward to examining how we will do it.

As the member for Malpeque has brought out, we are dealing with two bills. I do not think we can look at these two bills in isolation. That is probably one of the reasons why the government brought forward Bills C-51 and C-52 at the same time. While in the House today we are dealing with Bill C-52, I am looking forward to dealing with Bill C-51.

Bill C-51 has been in the discussion stage for a long time. It has been in the consultation stage and there has been work with industry to bring it forward, but it is a lot less so for Bill C-52, which seems to involve more knee-jerk reactions because of problems that arose, especially in the fall. When we do things quickly or on that basis, there is always risk. As a Parliament and a committee, we are going to have to ensure that we study this properly and make the necessary modifications so that it achieves what it wants to do, which is to protect Canadians.

The principle of the bill, as I suggested, would be difficult to argue with. I think everybody would agree with it. If I were to term it in any one way, it would be to say that it makes people become responsible for their actions and puts some serious financial penalties on people who do not. If people are trying to profit from legitimate activity, they have some responsibility for that. The first responsibility would be the safety of their consumers and customers, as well as their workers and anybody who comes in contact with their products. I think everyone would agree with that principle.

We have to be careful, because here we are talking about the importer, manufacturer, retailer, distributor or whatever person possible being inspected by Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or the Canada Border Services Agency at any time. In my mind, under this law they would all bear the same responsibility.

What we are telling them is that they have to keep a registry and have knowledge of the chain of supply. That is easy enough to do as a distributor who brings into the country a number of products and distributes them. It is easy enough to do as a manufacturer bringing in the inputs, doing some manufacturing changes, transformation, alteration, repackaging and whatnot and putting them out on the market. Then it is easy enough.

It gets a bit more difficult for a retailer who is not part of a large chain. An independent or a smaller operation may have similar products that it buys from a few places. When it is selling from its business it might be difficult to know exactly where each and every product was sold. It might not able to track them.

I am looking forward to seeing what is meant by this and how this tracking would be applied. Are we creating a system that would be very expensive to operate, so expensive that small entrepreneurs will be forced out of the market, especially at the smaller retail level, those that we would typically call “mom and pop” operations?

We have seen it in the feed store industry already. Out of our concern for BSE and our requirements to label and track all the feeds and all the inputs into those feeds, we have come to those sorts of problems.

If we do not do this correctly, we could bring that type of a problem into where it is not warranted. I will agree that where we have risks to human health, we have to take the appropriate action. If it means that under certain conditions certain individuals or businesses should not be in possession of certain products, then that would be understandable. However, we can very easily throw the baby out with the bathwater if we do not do it properly and if we do not have the proper safeguards.

I have a bit of concern with one of the areas. I had the opportunity to raise it with the minister. I agree with the principle, and I think we all should, that there should be a power to order a recall. I think we understand that. However, if we look at the situation where we are now, we do effect those recalls by negotiations and by discussions. I have not been advised of any situation where the current practices have not worked and where an unsafe product has remained on the market because a distributor, a manufacturer or a retailer refused to remove it from the market. I do not know of any situation like that in Canada. However, it could happen, so the power to recall makes sense.

Sometimes if we give a minister or a department the power to do something, over time it evolves into an obligation to do things, because people test it in the courts or suggest that if that operation had not been done and the minister had effected his power to recall in such and such a case, then we would not have had this operation. Then what happens is that the next time there is a case that looks remotely similar, the minister's inspectors, to protect the Canadian public, as they should, effect or force a recall. That is the risk.

I am not saying that this is what would happen in this instance or in this case, but I would want to be sure that our first actions at all times are negotiations, that they are on the lines of where they are going now, where the inspectors of Health Canada or CFIA are working with the importer or the manufacturer on the Canadian side to see if there is a way to do it without effecting a recall. What happens is that quite often we are able to resolve the situation without human risk, without risk and without bankrupting Canadian corporations. If we effect or force a recall, we could create undue market fears, loss of shelf space for companies and those types of activities, which could become very dangerous. Those are things we absolutely want to avoid.

Let us remember also that we do not have the same sort of power over the people our Canadian manufacturers, distributors, entrepreneurs or importers are competing against, because the regimes in the domestic markets of our competitors might not be the same. I think we have to remember that.

We also have to look at the way it would be administered. Would we be doing this in a way that maximizes the use of the current bureaucracy? Or would we have to replicate everything else and therefore make it more complicated? Are we going to have an importer working with multiple departments to do the same process? Would we have some coordination?

When the finance committee looked at counterfeit products coming into the country, we saw that the Canada Border Services Agency was unable to inspect these products because it was understaffed. There is no way it can do an active inspection so it needs some sort of system that triggers a look at certain imports, stocks or lots. If we expand the requirements without creating a coordinated administration of it, we run the risk of having an overly bureaucratic process.

We have said over and again that we want smart regulations in this country, that we want to streamline red tape and administration processes. This is an excellent opportunity to do it from the onset as we are establishing a new program.

On the question of the penalties being higher, I do not think anybody would argue with that. I think it is a good idea but what people question is whether this has any effect because the penalties are never applied. As there are never charges under the current system, would it be meaningful to increase the penalties? I would suggest that it would be but we need to look at why they are not applied now and whether there are other ways, other than the court process, that we can use.

I was very pleased to see that in the bill the administrative sanction route is being considered where the minister and his inspectors would be able to apply monetary and administrative sanctions on the importer or manufacturer outside the court process a lot faster and more efficiently. I think that is a good idea.

The other thing is the use of injunctions rather than having to charge an entrepreneur, that an injunction can be applied for in court to cease an import, the distribution or certain manufacturing processes or procedures. I think it is a lot better way to go than having to charge and having a long, drawn out court battle that is unsure in all cases and certainly would lead, not necessarily to the protection of an individual's well-being, but certainly would have a negative impact on our capacity to compete.

The question on the effect on competitiveness is important. In that respect, I would like to see the bill dealt with not only by the Standing Committee on Health but also by the industry committee. I have a feeling that at the health committee we will be able to accommodate the people who want to give us that perspective.

How do we implement these principles and not reduce the competitiveness of Canadian business? I think that is what we should be seeking. Our first responsibility is the protection of human health and we cannot for any reason abdicate on that responsibility but we must look to do it in a way that protects our competitiveness in our domestic market, as well as in our exports. I am looking forward at the committee to be able to do these things.

I am pleased that the bill has been brought forward for debate and I believe our party will be supporting the bill going to committee. I look forward to having these discussions at committee, seeing the specifics of the bill, seeing how the implementation will happen and having the opportunity to present amendments at the committee or in the House. I hope officials of the Government of Canada will be prepared to indicate to the committee the order and types of regulations that are called for and what they would look.

We do take a bit of a leap of faith in the House of Commons as members of Parliament when we give powers to the minister or to the government to enact regulations to affect the intent of a bill that is passed by the House because we do not see those regulations again. They are done, in most cases, by order in council and, in very few cases, are they ever brought before Parliament again, either directly or through one of these committees. I think it would be quite useful if government officials could give us an indication or an idea of the type of regulations that will be required in this case.

I look forward to having a more fulsome discussion of the matter at committee.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the health critic for the Bloc Québécois, I am very interested in this bill on consumer product safety. The act has not been revised since 1969. The Bloc has been asking the government for a bill to clean up the old legislation, which is no longer adequate for today’s needs. There were gaps that needed to be filled and requirements that needed tightening and we needed to ban the manufacture, promotion and marketing of products that are a health hazard and sometimes even fatal to people who come into contact with them. There is currently no requirement for manufacturers to test their products. With this bill, the onus will be on them to prove that their products are safe.

The Bloc Québécois has repeatedly raised the issue of consumer safety over the last few years. Canadian standards cannot be different from those in other countries, for example, when unusual amounts of lead are found in certain products. There is good reason, therefore, to wonder about the effectiveness of the current legislation. Many products have been recalled over the last few months. There was the toothpaste from South Africa containing substances that were a danger to human health and the Fisher-Price products containing materials that were dangerous and toxic to children. Mattel, the American toy manufacturer, also recalled several million toys made in China in this case. There was too much lead in some toys that many children have, such as Barbie dolls or GeoTrax toys. Fortunately, all these products have been recalled because they were dangerous to children.

The Auditor General looked into this back in 2006. She pointed out all the problems with Health Canada and its ability to control dangerous products. She said that the managers of the product safety program were unable to fulfil their mandate because they lacked the tools. They did not have enough human resources. The resources they had were not used very well and the legislation was not very effective at protecting Canadians. The government has known about all this ever since 2006.

The bill is certainly a step in the right direction, but as my colleague, the Liberal health critic, said, we still do not know anything about the regulations. It is the regulations that will show how the bill will be fleshed out and implemented.

There are five measures in the bill to reverse the burden of proof when it comes to safety. The first concerns consumer product safety. The second extends the powers of the inspectors. The third gives the minister a new power to recall products. Fourth, the penalties will be quite onerous, and fifth, products will have to be traceable.

Let us take a look at what the first measure about burden of proof means. Currently, no constraints are imposed on manufacturers. They do not have to prove that their products are not dangerous and do not pose a threat to consumer safety. Bill C-52 would reverse the burden of proof and impose it on manufacturers. Even today, Health Canada itself must conduct tests to prove that a product is dangerous and poses a threat to consumer safety. Bill C-52 proposes forcing manufacturers and importers of consumer products to test the safety of their products regularly, and, most importantly, to disclose the test results. The bill would also require businesses to declare all measures taken or illnesses caused because of their products. This puts the onus on manufacturers and importers, because it forces them to prove that their products are safe, which is what the Bloc Québécois has been calling for since last September.

The second measure has to do with increasing inspectors' powers. As the Auditor General stated in a report, in order to ensure that this bill is implemented and effective, inspectors on the ground will have more powers when Bill C-52 comes into force.

For that to happen, consumer products will have to be subject to recall, relabelling or a licensing amendment. These inspectors will be the means to enforce this bill's most important provisions. As we will see later on, we are concerned about adding to duties and responsibilities, and we have a lot of questions about this.

The third measure is the minister's new recall power. Until now, health authorities did not have the power to recall consumer products found to be dangerous. Recalls were issued on a voluntary basis by manufacturers and importers themselves. Bill C-52 would give the minister the power to recall any products that are defective or endanger consumer safety. It is high time Health Canada took this kind of action. We will have to see whether the minister's discretionary power turns out to be effective or not. For the time being, we do not know how that power will be managed.

The fourth measure is intended to provide for real, deterrent penalties. Manufacturers could have be fined $5,000. For a manufacturer that imports or sells a lot of products, that figure was laughable and trivial. Now, the offence could lead to a fine up to $5 million, and the offender could be liable to imprisonment for two years.

Deterrents in the United States and the European Union are said to be much tougher. In the European Union, fines can be as high as 5% of the company’s annual revenue. The United States imposes fines that go as high as several million dollars. It is therefore plain that this will be one measure that could be effective in dealing with a company that failed to comply with hazardous products regulations and standards.

On the question of products being traceable, it is important to know where the product was made and the route it travelled before it arrived here. There will have to be safety reports regarding all supply sources and all components of a particular product. This system has all the features of a traceability system. We shall see what happens when the regulations are made. For the moment, we cannot see how this entire traceability process will be regulated.

This measure seems to us to be fine for now. However, the bill will be studied in committee where we can ask questions and hear from the industry and from organizations that work to ensure the quality and safety of the products that consumers buy.

The alarm was sounded by the Auditor General in 2006: there were not enough inspectors to enforce all of the regulations. There were 40 inspectors in Canada, 10 of whom were in Quebec. That is a very small number for this very big job. Because this bill will expand their responsibilities, the Minister is not yet in a position to tell us how many inspectors he will need, to ensure that the task to be assigned to them by this bill can be properly carried out. He is therefore not in a position to tell us what kind of support they will be given, how their responsibilities will be increased or the human resources that will be required to meet this need.

This was one of the criticisms levelled by the Auditor General in respect of all of the responsibilities assigned to officials.

It is therefore important that resources be increased, and that proper training be provided for these officials, who will see their duties grow. We are well aware that training was not adequate. For example, some of them did not even have training to do food inspection in agriculture. These were people who worked in plants, but who had no specific training to do the job right when it came to the quality of certain foods.

Will there be sufficient funds? Here again, no one has an answer. There was $113 million allocated for enforcing the law in the next two years, for new proceedings, but not for hiring and training new inspectors. So we have a lot of questions to ask the Minister and his officials when this bill is discussed in committee.

As I said, the bill appears worthwhile at this stage, in terms of the broad principles and the desire to have safer products. The public has been very concerned for some time now about the high number of recalls and about products that have affected public health.

We need to act quickly, but is the government prepared to make regulations to tell us how this legislation is going to operate? Will there be adequate funding? The Minister could not give us a satisfactory answer today. We hope that in committee someone will be able to tell us how this money will be allocated. Will it be allocated to training? How much money will be allocated, given the number of inspectors?

There are also two new structures. How much will they cost? Do we not expect most of the money to be allocated to them? We hope it will not be allocated solely to administration, and that it will also be spent to provide proper support for the officers who will be responsible for overseeing the food safety evaluation process.

We know that the government has been making mistakes for two years.