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House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Cambridge can grumble about whatever he wants. He has admitted that he has explicit information that other members do not have. What is wrong with us?

I would suggest that the government should withdraw the bill and note rush it through this Parliament.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. The debate on Bill C-51 has now lasted for more than five hours. Accordingly, the speeches that will follow will be limited to 10 minutes.

I will give the floor first to the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes for a 10-minute speech.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise as a member of the Standing Committee on Health, and also as a consumer, to speak to Bill C-51.

The Bloc Québécois has been saying for a long time that there is a lack of surveillance over foods from countries other than Canada. We ask that importers of such products meet standards similar to the ones we have here for products manufactured in Quebec and Canada. The Bloc Québécois also wonders whether these importers should not also be subject to a number of criteria to ensure that public health is not threatened by products manufactured elsewhere.

Of course, Bill C-51 would introduce innovations such as a tracing system, a register of adverse effects especially for drugs, a recall management system, a new measure to eliminate damaging effects on public health. However, the bill also contains slightly vaguer measures that, according to the bill, would be clarified by regulations.

It is because of this vagueness that we must meet in committee with the Minister of Health, in order to find out why the bill leaves so much room for regulations. It is also important that the committee hear experts from various associations and even members of the public. Once the committee has done its work on Bill C-51, we expect the minister to be extremely open to amendments that will improve the bill.

At this point, I would like to mention a few vague provisions that will require clarification when the bill is studied in greater detail in committee. We know that Bill C-51 makes changes regarding drug advertising. Subclause 15.1(2) of the bill prohibits advertising of prescription therapeutic products. I quote:

No person shall advertise a prescription therapeutic product to a person other than a practitioner unless they are authorized by the regulations to do so.

Here, once again, the bill mentions regulations yet to come.

Nonetheless, this regulation would allow prescription drugs to be advertised. It is possible to do so under paragraph 30(1)(h).

The Governor in Council may make regulations for carrying the purposes and provisions of this Act into effect, including regulations... respecting: (i) the labelling, packaging or advertising—or the offering or exposing for sale—of foods, therapeutic products or cosmetics.

Current legislation at least bans the advertising of prescription drugs. However, as we know, it is possible to get around the legislation. There are two choices for advertising drugs: the product can be named but not described and the ad can show people enjoying themselves living a better life, or the problem can be described but not the treatment and people can be told to consult their physician.

We know that the bill appears to be going in precisely the same direction. Consumer associations in Quebec and Canada have asked the government a number of times to plug this loophole.

Perhaps this should be cleared up in committee.

There is also the marketing and approval of drugs. Currently Health Canada is assessing the possibility of setting up a new type of drug licensing called progressive licensing. Bill C-51 includes some of the concepts involved in this progressive licensing approach. It would allow information to be collected and analyzed on an ongoing basis after the drug is marketed. It is only after the drug is marketed that a greater number of people will be exposed to it and that other important data on the drug could be established.

It is good to look at the entire life cycle of a drug to see whether it works. Quite often when clinical trials are done, the number of guinea pigs, as they could be called, is relatively limited, which sometimes prevents us from seeing in detail the possible interaction a drug may have with other drugs the patient is already taking. What is more, as Professor Carleton from British Columbia told us in committee, genetics can also come into play when assessing drugs.

However, considering this approach, we need to ask questions. Will the process be rushed? Will drugs end up on the market before they have been carefully examined? Another question we should ask is whether drugs will be put on the market before they are fully ready to be put on store shelves and in pharmacies.

Subclause 18.7(1) of the bill seems to open the door to that possibility. It states:

Subject to the regulations, the Minister may, on application, issue a market authorization to a person in respect of a therapeutic product other than a designated therapeutic product if the Minister is of the opinion that the person has established that the benefits that are associated with the therapeutic product outweigh the risks.

(2) The market authorization is deemed to be subject to the terms and conditions that are prescribed from time to time.

(3) The Minister may issue the market authorization subject to the additional terms and conditions that he or she considers appropriate.

We would like to speak to the minister to find out, for example, what are the criteria he will use to evaluate and make that decision in accordance with proposed subclause 18.7.

The bill also states that the minister will establish a register where information on adverse effects will be available. Subclause 20.8 of the bill says:

The Minister is to establish and maintain a publicly accessible register in which is to be kept the prescribed information about therapeutic products.

However, we also read in the bill that the information in the register will come only from health care institutions. No register will be set up to gather complaints from consumers or patient associations, for example. Only health care institutions will be able to contribute. What is the reason for this? It would be interesting to hear the minister's response to this as well.

This register raises another question. We currently have the MedEffect register. What will happen to it? Does this mean that this register is ineffective? Once again, it would be interesting to come back to these questions in committee.

The bill also talks about inspectors. This is important. Currently, there are many inspectors who work within the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agri-Food performing the same duties as this bill proposes. These people play an important role in food inspection. We wonder how Bill C-51 would affect these people and if the federal government would be interfering in Quebec's jurisdiction with this bill.

There is also the question of natural health, which—

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member.

We shall now proceed to questions and comments. The hon. member for West Nova.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on his remarks. He is a diligent member of the health committee, and I cannot help but notice his impressive new haircut. I understand he shaved his head to raise funds in support of people with cancer. What a commendable thing to do.

I am sure he has followed this bill's progress, as have I. All the witnesses who appeared before the committee, not specifically for this bill, but to examine some of the drugs on the market and the drug approval process, generally spoke in favour of progressive licensing for drugs, which this bill specifies.

The member realizes, as I do, that many Canadians were afraid that this bill would make it more difficult to access natural health products. The minister indicated that this bill was in no way meant to target those products or change access to them in any way. It is not meant to make access any easier or any more difficult. It is not meant to change the licences to sell such products or any such matters. He said that was a completely separate issue.

Now we are told the minister intends to make a number of changes to the bill, changes that will affect these products. I think this will change the principles of this bill and I would like to ask the hon. member if he agrees with me.

We were asked to support the principles of this bill at second reading and to study it thoroughly in committee. Now, those principles are being changed. When we go back to committee, it will be with a bill that is different from the one we have been studying so far, the one we have been discussing with experts, the one on which the research branch of the Library of Parliament has been advising us. I would like to hear the hon. member's comments on this.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank my colleague from West Nova who noted my new haircut and also that it was not a moment of madness that led me to shave off all my locks, but a heartfelt gesture in support of children suffering from cancer. Together with 7,300 other participants who shaved their heads, we managed to raise $3,800,000, which will give hope to these children.

With regard to his question on natural health products, at present, there is a great deal of confusion. People are wondering whether the new regulations will contradict the Natural Health Products Regulations. It will be very important for the minister to be clear about this when the bill is studied in more detail in committee. We must allow Canadians to address the committee and we must work together to shed light on the matter and to ensure that all legislation is respected and that people are safely able to use the products they currently turn to.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by the member and also congratulate him on his support for children with cancer.

He went through many of the problems with the bill and mentioned many of the reasons why I, personally, do not support the legislation and why the NDP caucus is not supporting it either.

I want to raise particularly the question about natural health products and Chinese traditional medicine, which is very important to people in my riding. It is a long and distinguished tradition, maybe even longer than western medicine, yet it seems to be compromised by this legislation.

I wonder if the hon. member could comment as well on that issue and the fact that even the Conservatives now seem to realize that there are very serious flaws with this legislation, necessitating amendments at this particular stage in the process.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I must inform the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes that he has 30 seconds to comment.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to wrap it up in under 30 seconds. I already touched on this subject in answer to the question from the hon. member for West Nova.

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas is quite right. We must ensure that natural health products are governed by a code, a law, but we must also ensure that the bill before us does not interfere with the law in place and that all citizens will be able to use those products that—

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to at least begin to address the issue of Bill C-51, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

There are very important issues raised in this legislation. It is not the first time a government in Canada in recent years has tried to change this legislation. In fact, this is about the fifth time in recent years and there has never been great success in overhauling this legislation.

It appears that the current government is facing the same kinds of problems. We now hear that even the Conservatives are proposing major amendments to their own legislation given the public outcry about it.

There are many serious problems with this legislation, things like the provision for direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. We have seen that this bill may open that door. We also know the American experience that many of us have some exposure to. We are concerned that that might increase costs to consumers. How will this affect the appropriate proscribing of drugs in Canada and how will it really contribute to the skyrocketing cost of drugs in Canada in our medical system?

There is also concern about progressive licensing and changes to the drug approval process. We have seen this aspect of our drug safety measures chipped away at over the years. In fact, the disappearance almost 10 years ago of the only drug lab that did the necessary kinds of testing, and post-market testing and surveillance is important to any drug and therapeutic product regime. That is another problem.

While we are concerned in this corner that the changes in this legislation may open the door to the kind of harmonization that is taking place under the security and prosperity partnership agenda, we are also concerned that there is too much ministerial discretion and too much regulatory discretion provided for in this legislation. We do not see that as appropriate either.

Like most members, I have heard from many--

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order. I regret that I must interrupt the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas. When we return to the study of Bill C-51, there will be eight minutes left.

We will now have statements by members under Standing Order 31. The hon. member for Lethbridge has the floor.

Canadian ForcesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, June 2 marked 11 years since the election of myself and the rest of the class of '97. Reflecting on those years, I realize how fortunate I have been to represent the great people of southern Alberta and the tremendous opportunities I have had while performing those duties.

None of these opportunities can compare to have been able to associate with our men and women serving in the Canadian Forces. Two weeks ago, as chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence, I and ten of my colleagues had the opportunity to visit Afghanistan for the second time.

It was truly an inspiration to witness the courage and dedication of our men and women as they carry out the mission that has been assigned to them. I witnessed the focused determination of personnel, both civilian and military, as they continue to do what needs to be done in a country ravaged by war. The progress they have made in the 16 months since our last visit is remarkable.

Though it will take time to sort out the complex problems that still exist in Afghanistan, those proudly wearing the maple leaf on their shoulders and carrying it in their hearts continue to be leaders in rebuilding Afghanistan.

Portuguese CanadiansStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, today, June 10, is Portugal Day, a day we celebrate the great poet, Luis Vaz de Camoes, and also when we honour the contributions made by Portuguese Canadians in Canada and a relationship that dates back centuries.

Among the notables in this history are Gasper Corte Real, who in the 15th century discovered Conception Bay, or Pedro da Silva, who in 1705 was commissioned as the “first courier” in New France.

We also honour those on Canada's west coast like Portuguese pioneer, Jose Silva, also known as Joe Silvey, who braved enormous challenges in the late 1800s to become the first British Canadian citizen of Portuguese origin, and the first known European to marry an aboriginal. He also introduced net fishing along the west coast and opened Vancouver's first bistro known as “The Hole in the Wall”.

In 2003 Portuguese Canadians celebrated the 50th anniversary of official immigration to Canada when vibrant neighbourhoods developed in places like Portugal Village in Toronto.

Today, we recognize people like Bill Moniz, who works tirelessly to document Portuguese history in Canada or groups like ACAPO, who organize Portugal Day parades in Toronto each year that draw over 300,000 people.

As the first Portuguese Canadian member of Parliament, it is my honour to ask that all members of the House join with me in honouring Luis Vaz de Camoes and in celebrating Portugal Day.

Income Tax ActStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this Thursday, members of the House of Commons will have an opportunity to vote on Bill C-207 at report stage from the Standing Committee on Finance. I introduced this bill in 2006.

Since then, a number of individuals and organizations have expressed their approval for a tax credit for new graduates working in designated regions. Some 60 municipalities, RCMs, youth forums, educational institutions, youth employment centres and chambers of commerce have decided to support Bill C-207.

New graduates working in Haute-Mauricie, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the upper Laurentians, the North Shore, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and northern Quebec would be entitled to a maximum tax credit of $8,000.

We need measures to stop youth out-migration and promote the retention of skilled workers in economically depressed regions. Bill C-207 meets that need.

Phone CompaniesStatements By Members

June 10th, 2008 / 2 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are owed hundreds of millions of dollars by land line phone companies as a result of overcharges and the money has been placed in so-called deferral accounts. But Canadians have yet to have their money refunded due to the actions of the former monopoly Bell Canada.

The CRTC has ordered that the funds be returned to those who it rightfully belongs, namely, consumers. Instead, the phone companies took the CRTC to court and lost. But instead of complying with the Federal Appeals Court decision, Bell Canada, in an attempt to fleece its own customers, has decided to appeal to the Supreme Court delaying the rebate for possibly two years.

What is truly outrageous is that Bell Canada is claiming in its appeal that the deferral accounts do not exist and the CRTC does not have the power to order the refund.

A monumental hijacking of Canadian consumers must be put to an end. Bell Canada should withdraw its appeal to the Supreme Court immediately and issue the refunds to its customers now. What have the Conservatives done during this time? They have cut Bell's corporate taxes and rewarded it. Shame.

Myra CanyonStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, in September 2003 the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfires entered the Myra Canyon and destroyed 12 wooden trestles and damaged two steel trestles on the historic Kettle Valley Railway, part of the Trans-Canada Trail.

It gives me great pleasure to inform the House that, as a result of the cooperation of all levels of government and the help of many fine citizens, the trestles over Myra Canyon have risen from the ashes and have been rebuilt to historical specifications using British Columbia wood and labour.

On June 22, the Myra Canyon trestles will officially open to the public who will once again have a chance to step back in time and view the valley from a truly historic vantage point.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite all Canadians to come to the Okanagan this summer, visit our orchards and vineyards, travel over Canada's only floating bridge, the new William R. Bennett Bridge, but most of all, walk or cycle the trestles and breath in the history of this memorable Canadian heritage site located right above Kelowna, British Columbia.

ImmigrationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, until yesterday, the government said that it needed Bill C-50 to secure skilled workers for our country.

Will it now start by addressing the issue of undocumented workers? They number over 200,000, many of them Portuguese. They possess proven and needed skills. Most of them have been here for more than three years. They are already integrated, the certification of their credentials already verified by their employers. An architecture for providing them with permanent residency was already put in place by the previous government, along with the money to get it done.

The current government has squandered two and a half years of opportunity, doing nothing. Meanwhile workers, crucial to our economic development, are prevented from making a contribution and getting on with their lives. They languish in uncertainty.

The government has the money and now it has the legislative authority. Does it have the political will to do the right thing and land these undocumented workers now?

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday Canadians had another opportunity to peer behind the weasel words and political trickery being used by the Liberals to conceal their planned permanent new carbon tax.

Appearing on national television, two senior Liberal MPs could not even keep their stories straight over the course of a single half hour. At 5:02 p.m. the member for Halton, the Liberal leader's senior communications adviser, called the secret plan a carbon tax and confessed to the fact that the plan was a tax after all.

Less than 20 minutes later, the member for Richmond Hill anxiously performed damage control, saying “there is no carbon tax” at all.

Tax, no tax, a kind of tax, a hidden tax, tax shifts, carbon tax, green shifts, every day there is a different label, a different excuse, a different trick.

When Canadians hear politicians weaseling about the wording of a tax, they better hold on to their wallets. The Liberal leader is hoping to pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians, but they will not be tricked.

Michelle BacheletStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to highlight the visit of Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean president, to Quebec City. It is a huge honour for all Quebeckers to host the first woman to be elected a president in Latin America.

She is also the first head of state of a foreign country to visit Quebec as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of Quebec City, the birthplace of the Quebec nation.

During her visit, she will meet with the Premier of Quebec and the Speaker of the National Assembly, before giving a speech in the Legislative Council Chamber. She will also unveil a commemorative text at the equestrian statue of Bernardo O'Higgins in the Parc de l'Amérique-Latine.

On behalf of the Bloc Québécois, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to Ms. Bachelet. I hope she enjoys her time in Quebec.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, as more details are being leaked about the Leader of the Opposition's proposed carbon tax and the great lengths the Liberals are using weasel words to conceal the real nature of this tax from the public, it is clear the party is trying to trick Canadians into paying a permanent new tax.

As I have stated before on the floor of the House of Commons, citizens of my riding in Kitchener—Conestoga depend on driving for their livelihood. Whether it is the farmer operating a tractor, the long haul truck driver, the small business owner or the daily commuter, without question, this proposed tax will eat away at their standard of living.

Canadians are not naive. They will not be fooled by Liberal word games and phony green packaging. The public has caught on to the Leader of the Opposition's real tax shifting plans. This permanent new punitive tax will destroy jobs and drive up the cost of gas, electricity and everything else Canadians buy.

This is a tax the Leader of the Opposition previously said was bad policy and would oppose. Now he is flip-flopping. With this new Liberal tax trick, Canadians can be certain that their taxes will shift in one direction only: way up.

M. Evenchick Jewellery Inc.Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, another piece of Hull's history will disappear very soon. In a few weeks M. Evenchick Jewellery Inc. will be closing its doors for the last time.

The business was founded more than 80 years ago by the current owner's grandfather. In 1922, Meyer Evenchick came to Ottawa and founded a costume jewellery production business. The business moved to Hull in 1958.

Under his son Abbey, the company had over 80 employees. It was the first company to import cultured pearls from Japan. At the time, it sold its products to over 300 stores, including Eaton's, The Bay and Birks.

Globalization has had a huge impact on the company. Since it is cheaper to produce handmade jewellery in Asia than in Canada, grandsons Brian, Mark and Lawrence could no longer compete. The badges the Government of Canada orders for DND must be 80% Canadian, but...

Our thanks to the Evenchick family, proud builders of the community of Hull.

Leader of the Liberal Party of CanadaStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, not once but for the 28th time, incredibly, the Liberals failed to stand up and represent their constituents on important votes. Last night only 60 Liberal MPs voted, despite the Liberal leader's empty claims that his party was against the budget.

It is nothing new. The Liberal leader has continuously spread meaningless election threats, right after his first statement as a leader in December 2006 and just eight days ago when he declared a summer election was in the cards.

When it comes time to putting his money where his mouth is, he backs down and tells his caucus to sit on their hands or not even bother showing up.

With the details emerging about the Liberal plan to gouge Canadians with a carbon tax and a Liberal caucus that is obviously deeply divided and very worried about defending its tax trick during an election, it is no wonder the Liberal leader is backing down.

Leadership is not about sitting on one's hands in the House. Leadership is about standing up in the House for one's constituents and voting.

Food and Drugs ActStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand today in opposition to Bill C-51 because it fails to address the fundamental health concerns of Canadians.

I have received overwhelming amounts of correspondence from constituents, including health practitioners, who are deeply opposed to the dangerous loopholes and ministerial power grab, which will impact the production and availability of about 60% of the natural health products, which most Canadians use to stay healthier.

As currently drafted, Bill C-51 would limit access to many health products and allow the fast-tracking of new drugs that have not been proven safe. Bill C-51 blends in with the SPP agenda, which is about harmonizing regulations across the board with the United States, resulting in lower standards. For example, the drugs Vioxx and Avandia were accelerated irresponsibly into the American market, causing the deaths of thousands.

These examples show the dangerous effects of fast-tracking drug approvals. I call on all Canadians to join us in this fight against Bill C-51, to maintain the highest standards of health, safety and accessibility.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, my heart goes out to all the people who were taken away from their families and sent away to residential schools. This I can relate to from personal experience.

Residential school survivors have experienced many things from being torn away from their families at a very young age and being sent to school so far away that they were lucky to see their parents once a year. Many did not go home for years. Imagine the culture shock of being immersed in another language and culture, with different foods and clothing and with some losing their language.

No matter how deeply scarred they are, many Inuit residential school survivors say they that want to be mentioned and acknowledged as Inuit residential school survivors. A generic apology is not enough, as each people suffered uniquely. Inuit should be recognized as such.

Foremost, the apology must be sincere and unconditional for the many injustices, for ruined lives and for the children who never returned home. Then true healing and reconciliation may begin for many.