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House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was food.

Topics

Information CommissionerRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour, pursuant to section 38 of the Access to Information Act, to lay upon the table the report of the Information Commissioner for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2008.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(h), this document is deemed permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.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, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to one petition.

Canadian Wheat Board ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-57, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (election of directors).

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

Public AccountsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 15th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts entitled, “Chapter 5, Keeping the Border Open and Secure--Canada Border Services Agency of the October 2007 Report of the Auditor General of Canada” .

HealthCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Health.

I am pleased to report that the committee has considered the main estimates under health for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009, and reports the same reports the same less the amounts granted for interim supply.

Library of ParliamentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting the second report of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament.

In accordance with its order of reference of Thursday, February 28, 2008, the committee has considered vote 15, Library of Parliament under Parliament in the main estimates, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009, plus the amount voted in the interim supply and reports the same.

Mr. Speaker, the new, vibrant Library of Parliament committee, with due respect, does understand that it is the Speakers who ultimately approve the estimates and we are merely giving this to you in your advice.

Canada Labour CodeRoutine Proceedings

May 27th, 2008 / 10:05 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-550, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave).

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to introduce this bill for first reading.

This bill would amend the Canada Labour Code to allow employees to take unpaid leave from work for the following family-related reasons: a) the inability of their minor child to carry on regular activities because the child suffers a serious physical injury during the commission or as the direct result of a criminal offence; b) the disappearance of their minor child; c) the suicide of their spouse, common-law partner or child; or d) the death of their spouse, common-law partner or child during the commission or as the direct result of a criminal offence.

It would also amend the Employment Insurance Act to allow these employees to receive benefits while on leave.

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

Prevention of Torture ActRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-551, An Act prohibiting the commission, abetting or exploitation of torture by Canadian officials and ensuring freedom from torture for all Canadians at home and abroad and making consequential amendments to other Acts.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce a comprehensive private member's bill on the issue of torture and the use of information derived from torture. I appreciate the support of my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek in seconding this bill.

This bill would make it a criminal offence to use information known to be derived from torture. It would prohibit Canadian officials from transferring prisoners who would be in danger of torture abroad. It would create a government watch list of countries known to engage in torture. It also would prevent the use of national security provisions in the Access to Information Act from withholding information to this House or to the Canadian public about torture, which is something that was front page news for many months this spring in respect to detainees in Afghanistan.

I want to express my thanks to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, particularly Jason Gratl, for their help in drafting this bill.

I call upon all members of the House to support this proposal when it comes before the House.

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

World Oceans DayRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations between the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion. I move:

That, it is the will of the House that the Government of Canada use its position and influence at the United Nations to have June 8 formally recognized by the United Nations as World Oceans Day.

World Oceans DayRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member for Vancouver Island North have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

World Oceans DayRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

World Oceans DayRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

World Oceans DayRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

World Oceans DayRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

AsbestosPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition signed by many thousands of Canadians who call upon Parliament to recognize that asbestos is the greatest industrial killer that the world has ever known and that more people die from asbestos than all other industrial toxins combined.

The petitioners point out that Canada remains one of the largest producers and exporters of asbestos in the world. In fact, we dump 220,000 tonnes per year into third world countries. They also point out that Canada spends millions of dollars subsidizing the asbestos industry and blocking international efforts to curb its use at places such as the Rotterdam Convention.

Therefore, these many Canadians from all across Canada call upon Parliament to ban asbestos in all its forms and institute a just transition program for asbestos workers; to end all government subsidies of asbestos, both in Canada and abroad; to stop using our foreign embassies and our civil servants as globe-trotting propagandists for the asbestos industry; and to stop blocking international health and safety conventions designed to protect workers from asbestos.

Unborn Victims of CrimePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Norman Doyle Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition from a number of people in St. John's East.

The petitioners are calling upon Parliament to enact a law that would recognize unborn children as separate victims when they are injured or killed during the commission of an offence against their mothers, allowing charges to be laid against the offender instead of just one.

Of course, when a pregnant woman in Canada is assaulted or killed, because we offer no legal protection for unborn children today, no charge can be laid in the death of an unborn child.

Therefore, the petitioners are calling upon Parliament to enact a law to that effect.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.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, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak about Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and about our amendment, which proposes that the bill not be read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for the purpose of reconsidering Clause 2 with a view to making sure that both economic and environmental effects of introducing these regulations do not cause a negative impact on the environment or unduly influence commodity markets.

The New Democrats support the use of biofuels and will continue to do so. A well-managed biofuel program in Canada could have a positive effect on climate change while also helping farmers. We refuse to simply give the Conservatives a blank cheque on this. We have asked that the bill be referred back to committee so that the members of the House can take a second look at it.

I have many constituents who have written to me about the bill, none of whom were supportive of the bill in its present form, which just does not have the controls to limit the reach of the bill. Here is an example. A constituent said:

I worked in Tropical Agricultural Research for 25 years in Asia and Africa. I find this new bill that gives a $2 billion subsidy to biofuel a crime. Following in George Bush's path will lead to a whole range of second and third generation problems. Once big business gets on this technology integrated in its system it will change the market so even more hunger and death will ensue.

I want to give members an idea of the range of comments that I have received. Another constituent said:

I was very disappointed to learn that Canada is now joining the 'food for fuel' club with its vote to mandate ethanol content in gasoline. Never mind the dubious environmental merits of such a move, with food prices spiraling out of reach of the world's poor, such a decision seems morally repugnant at best.

I'm not sure if there is an opportunity for this bill to be revisited.

However, there is an opportunity.

I will not go on, but the emails and the letters I have received are all of this type.

Despite these legitimate concerns, the NDP's proposed amendments to the bill were defeated. Therefore, I urge the members of the opposition in particular to reconsider and to think about our responsibility as parliamentarians to do no harm.

Our amendments would have served to introduce accountability and sustainability into the bill: two essential elements that are clearly lacking in Bill C-33 in its current state.

As it reads now, it will have several impacts. I would like to list some of them.

One of them was raised in one of the emails on food security. A number of governments, in conjunction with large multinational corporations, are pushing farmers to grow crops not for food but for fuel. That has had devastating effects. The Convention on Biological Diversity Alliance states in a recent media advisory:

Agrofuel plantations are already destroying the remaining rainforest reserves in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia pushing farming communities to abandon food production. Agrofuel production is irreversibly displacing agricultural biodiversity.

On this subject I would also like to quote Darrin Qualman of the National Farmers Union. He stated recently:

“There's a misconception that the world has a surplus of food--that we have food to burn. But the truth is, in seven of the last eight years, humans have consumed more food than farmers have produced”.

In that short time, the international supply of food has dropped from 115 days worth of food down to just 54 days worth. If we continue this trend for even one more year...food prices will skyrocket and incidents of food riots and rationing will become commonplace.

We have already seen the beginning of this.

Mr. Qualman goes on to say:

It's irresponsible and unrealistic to call for increased agricultural production from a system that is already unable to produce enough food for people, never mind cars. According to the experts, we need to concentrate on fixing what's broken rather than adding more stresses to an already overburdened system. It's critical that we halt the drop in food stocks and begin to reverse the hunger trend....

Mr. Qualman's words highlight the NDP's concerns about pushing ahead with this legislation without having thought it through.

It is impossible to speak to the bill without talking about the effects of agrifuels on biodiversity, because this bill as it stands ignores this potential problem.

Today, experts estimate that biodiversity is being lost at a rate estimated to be 100 times the rate of natural loss, and this despite the fact that in 2004 some 192 signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed to reduce the rate of biological diversity loss by 2010.

Governments like ours have failed to act decisively to counter this loss. They continue to commit to biofuel quotas without regard for that diversity and the global food supply.

It is clear that increasing energy use, climate change and CO2 emissions from fossil fuels make switching to low carbon fuels a high priority. According to Science magazine of February 2008, biofuels are indeed “a potential low-carbon energy source”. This is why we do support the concept of biofuels, but the magazine article continues, saying, “but whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced”.

I would like to quote from one of the articles, which says:

Increasing energy use, climate change, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels make switching to low-carbon fuels a high priority. Biofuels are a potential low-carbon energy source, but whether biofuels offer carbon savings depends on how they are produced. Converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce food crop–based biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a “biofuel carbon debt” by releasing 17 to 420 times more CO2 than the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions that these biofuels would provide by displacing fossil fuels.

This is why my colleagues proposed amendments to consider the impact on land changes, as well as the amendment that we are now proposing to refer the bill back to committee for a second look.

Scientists are calling on the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% over the next 40 to 50 years to reverse climate change.

Substituting biofuels for gasoline would indeed reduce greenhouse gas emissions because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of feedstocks, but they also say that these analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher prices and convert forests and grasslands to new cropland to replace the grain diverted to biofuels.

Using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land use change, they found that corn based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% saving, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for many years to come.

The government's strategy to limit the effects of climate change is more than inadequate. In fact, with this bill it could cause new damage. As the Science magazine article described, if we allow centres of biodiversity such as rainforests, grasslands and other agricultural systems to be cleared to grow biofuels, biofuel production actually increases the global greenhouse gas emissions it is supposed to reduce.

Clearly, all biofuels are not equal. The way this is done is key. In an analysis of the Ontario biofuel options, a report recently concluded that solid biofuels offer the least expensive biofuel strategy for government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario. The report's major discovery is that government incentives applied to large scale solid biofuels would surpass even the most effective existing subsidies, such as those for wind power, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

These findings suggest that a solid biofuels policy would be an effective and sustainable means to develop the Ontario and Canadian economies in that area. Such a program would support market opportunities for the forest industry and for farmers with marginal farmland.

It is clear that these are the areas that we think the government and members of committee should explore in giving the bill a second look, and they also should impose some restrictions to move away from the food for fuel approach.

There is another element that I wanted to speak to as well. That element is the increasing corporate control of the agrifuels industry. It is alarming to note that small scale food producers and harvesters are being eliminated through the centralization and control of the food chain, from seed to sewer, by large multinationals, including Monsanto, Cargill and others.

This has happened in the United States. It has been demonstrated through the use of commercial contracts, seed laws, patents and intellectual property rights, not to mention proprietary genetically modified seeds. These corporations are rapidly gaining a stranglehold on agricultural biodiversity and in the process are removing the livelihoods of food producers worldwide.

Therefore, it is important to move ahead with this kind of legislation, being attentive to meeting the needs of farmers but also protecting some of the key issues that I have raised.

I also want to raise an issue that has not been much discussed in this process. That is the government's mediocre program with respect to energy efficiency. This is an area where the government, if it were serious about really taking action to reduce the impacts of climate change, it would put in place more solid programs to help Canadians reduce their consumption of fossil fuels.

With the recent announcement by the B.C. government of its energy program, I was comparing it with what the federal government is offering at the moment to Canadians who use fossil fuels to heat their homes, for water and/or with all the electrical appliances we use. The incentives are so minimal.

This is where the federal government really could set some objectives to help Canadians retrofit their homes and actually make savings. At the moment, the potential for low income Canadians, for example, to retrofit their homes is so limited. This is precisely the group of Canadians that should receive some help.

I want to give a couple of comparisons that I noted in regard to the difference in the subsidies. In British Columbia, for example, on an air pump B.C. is offering something like $1,450, while the federal government is offering something like $400. It gives us an idea of the difference in the magnitude of interest that the federal government is putting into energy efficiency.

Indeed, one of the most important sources of potential energy savings is in the energy that is being wasted at the moment. A serious energy efficiency program would have multiple positive effects.

Let us consider the amount of energy that is being used. Recently British Columbia provided a breakdown of the way we use energy in our homes: 46% goes toward heating and 30% goes toward water. Let us think about these two sources we use in our homes and consider the kinds of programs. If, for example, the government decided that each year hundreds of thousands of homes would be retrofitted, ensuring that Canadians had the support they needed at all income levels, this would be a beginning to actually reduce the use of fossil fuels before jumping into programs that may or may not be effective. As an example, an efficient clothes washing machine or dishwasher uses less power and less water. Efficiency also provides a higher level of comfort, so it is not a question of sacrificing quality of life.

In conclusion, I would like to speak to a couple of issues which, in my opinion, are important to consider in this bill. The government has undermined and indeed has reversed the efforts of individuals and groups on environmental issues. The government's track record on environmental issues is shameful. That is the only way to put it. How then can we simply give it free rein on the question of biofuels? That is the question all opposition members should be asking themselves.

With the kind of record the government has, can we give it free rein on this question? Canadians have made it clear that we simply cannot. Any solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss must be complementary, not mutually exclusive and must not undermine each other. Above all, our guiding principle must be, as I said earlier, to do no harm because, as decision makers, we are responsible for the harm that we cause through actions, as well as the harm that we fail to prevent.

With this in mind, I urge all of my colleagues to reconsider the harm this bill could cause if we do not apply some provisions to control its reach.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Victoria raised many points. I listened to her closely, and I congratulate her for having touched on so many of the issues. However, there is one that I did not hear her mention. She most likely did not have the time to discuss it. It affects my region in particular, and many others in Quebec.

I am talking about the large number of farmers increasingly deciding to move toward what we call food sovereignty. I do not want my colleagues to worry—we are not talking about Quebec's sovereignty, but food sovereignty. This concept aims to make us increasingly independent in terms of food, to allow us to create our own supply and to have a safe supply at a better price. Obviously, in terms of the environment, this system aims to pollute as little as possible. If we buy products that come from closer to home, there is no transportation and so on.

If she would, I would like my colleague to talk about this difficult choice that producers may face—go along with the market economy, that is, choose to use their land in a way that keeps cars on the roads and adds to pollution, or focus on an economy of proximity by taking into account sustainability and feeding the people around them.

I would like to hear her ideas on this issue.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question. It is an important point.

I believe that I tried very quickly to make the point that it is possible to develop a biofuel program while also helping farmers. But my colleague has raised another point, which relates to the issue of food security and sustainable farming.

In that regard, the government could help even more. Earlier, I alluded to the energy programs that the government could set up to help ordinary Canadians who are trying to reduce their fuel consumption. However, I did not have time to discuss what we could call sustainable farming. I know that in my community, Victoria, more and more farmers are growing organic produce and increasingly selling it in smaller markets. This is becoming more profitable.

In my opinion, the government could help. It could offer concrete support that would promote local markets and regional development instead of continuing to help multinationals to the detriment of small farmers who make every effort possible. It must be repeated that this is not about blaming small-scale farmers who want to earn a living. Basically, that is the problem. They are being offered subsidies to make a lot more money instead of incentives for sustainable farming. That is what is inconsistent about the bill.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Victoria for pointing out in the context of her speech about biofuels and the valuable debate we need to have about demand side management generally. I was taken by some of her comments regarding the efficiency of demand side management versus the generation of new units of energy.

I believe I heard her say that a unit of energy harvested from the existing system by demand side management measures is exactly the same as one produced at a generating station or taken out of the ground as a unit of energy from fossil fuels, except for a number of important differences. One is that unit of energy harvested from the existing system is available at approximately one-third the cost of digging it out of the ground or producing it at a generating station. It is also available and online immediately. In other words, if we turn off a light switch as we leave a room, that unit of energy we have saved can be resold to another customer in the same instant instead of the seven year lag period it might take to build a new generating station or to dig another oil well.

Also, the demand side management measures that my colleague is recommending create as much as seven times the person years of job opportunities as those created by the harvesting of natural resources such as in the oil fields or building hydroelectric dams.

These points are rarely raised in the debate about alternate fuels. In the context of biofuels we should be looking at a holistic approach toward how we are going to answer our energy demand needs in the future with dwindling energy supplies.

I do not believe any province in this country or certainly the national government has done nearly enough to investigate the enormous potential in demand side management of our precious energy stocks and resources. I think it would be helpful to those MPs listening today if my colleague expanded on the need and importance of demand side management and energy retrofitting.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the largest pools of potential energy is that which is wasted through inefficient use. My colleague raised an excellent point, which I did not get an opportunity to cover, about the number of jobs that could be created from an advanced, solid energy retrofit program for homes and buildings, both government and commercial buildings. If we set a target of 200,000 homes per year, and it could be any number, we would begin to see some real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

On the issue of wasting energy, I heard about standby power or vampire power. The growing number of appliances contributes to this phenomenon. Today's average home contains more than 20 appliances, including computers, stereos and other equipment. Even in standby mode these appliances use more than 10% of the electricity in our homes. The government could take action to prevent this kind of waste, as could Canadians themselves. The government could set higher standards, which would be a good start. It could also provide greater incentives and greater help to Canadians to buy higher efficiency appliances.

The Prime Minister recently said that nothing could be done to help Canadians with soaring gas and heating oil prices, but he is wrong. Not only could the government take action to help Canadians reduce their consumption, but jobs would be created which would help our flagging economy.