This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hours.

Topics

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the government on the proposed amendments, particularly adding traditional knowledge, which is a very important amendment, and I appreciate that.

I have a question on one particular amendment. Perhaps the member could outline this further for people who might not understand the complexities of the categorization of these natural products. Although he did a very good job in his speech, could he go over the regulatory regime where in 2004 they were categorized?

If I understand it, the government has agreed to an amendment that would solve the concern and the legislative environment. Right now every product, whether it is a drug or a food, would be subject to a lot of the conditions in the bill. Now there will be an additional amendment to will deal with a lot of the concerns we have had expressed to us. This will identify natural products in the legislative framework as something different.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will answer the member's question in two different ways.

First, the government will propose to committee that we send another amendment, which I did not get to, and that is to set up a separate advisory committee. That committee would be an external advisory committee made up of stakeholders, manufacturers, health care professionals, the public, consumers who would have input on any changes that need to be made with respect to upcoming natural health products.

As the member will probably know, and this is the second part of how we intend to do that, under a regulatory regime, the minister and future governments would have an easier time of making changes to how natural health products would be impacted.

As we have seen over the last six or eight years, this issue has come and gone many times. The misinformation we read on the Internet is largely in part some of the past experiences we have had. By creating a separate legislated category, that will become significantly harder to do.

What we have seen in the past is folks have argued that natural health products should be food. We understand there is a regulatory regime with respect to Codex, which is very complicated. As a government, we are getting a little fed up with some of the safety factors with respect to food.

We really do not want to put natural health products there. We certainly do not want to suggest that natural health products are drugs and have them fall under the regulatory regime of the pharmaceutical industry, which would require a huge amount of investigative research before getting to the market. These are generally safe products, so we did not want that.

There seems to have been a workable regulatory category for natural health products. The government would like to propose an amendment that it is a legislated category. I do not think we will change the name, and I would not propose we do that. However, instead of the food drugs act, it would be food, drugs, natural health products act. It simply recognizes them as a separate product, which makes them safe and makes the issues permanent for Canadians. Canadians will have the same access to these products as they have had over the years past and now on into the future.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the member had to say. I counted at least seven amendments, if not more, that would change the bill, whether it is the legislative or third category, definition of health product, traditional use, the recognition of, separate advisory committee, compliance, et cetera. The health critic for the NDP had a lot of concerns right from day one. It as if the way the bill is drafted now is not acceptable.

I hear many concerns. Rather than passing the bill as it is at second reading, why would the House not send it to the committee without recommendation and then have those amendments put in at the health committee after some hearings? If we say yes to Bill C-51 the way it is structured now, how can anyone blame the natural health product industry, or the herbal medicine practitioners and all those folks who are extremely fearful because of the way it is structured and written? There is a lot of fear out there and I do not blame them because of the history.

The hon. member also said that he understood because of the past history of this industry being attacked. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there. Would it not be a much better approach for the House to not say yes to the bill as it is drafted? The government is already proposing all these amendments? If we approve the bill as it is at second reading, then during the summer how will anyone understand and know for sure these amendments will be accepted at the health committee?

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, the way the process in the House of Commons works is a bill is presented at first reading and at second reading the House gets to debate it. We get to stand in the House and express our concerns about the bill, or the concerns we have heard from our constituents through emails or phone calls. The minister, as I mentioned, has met with a number of stakeholders and has done an incredible amount of work listening to folks.

What happens now, for the member's information, is the bill gets voted on at second reading and heads to committee where all these changes happen. Committee then brings the bill back amended for third reading. I think the member has probably confused second reading with third reading. This is exactly what we do at second reading. We have the debate at second reading in the House. All members then get to put their proposed changes or their ideas forward. Then it goes to a smaller committee, not a committee like this with 308 members, of 12 members who have the time and budget to bring in stakeholders, witnesses, manufacturers and consumers. They add information.

The committee then sits down after that and members debate all the information they have gathered. They write a report and make recommendations. They vote on the actual wording of the amendments, so they dot the i's and cross the t's. Then the bill comes back fully changed and the House gets a third shot at third reading to vote it down.

To vote it down now would put Canadians at risk. The way it is now is not good. That is why we are changing it. I encourage my friends from the NDP to stop the misinformation because this is important for Canadians. This is becoming an extremely good legislation. If these amendments are picked up at committee and if other amendments proposed at committee are looked with the due diligence that committees tend to do, then that is exactly how Parliament should work for Canadians.

I ask all members of the House, including the NDP, to vote the bill through at this stage and the committee will do its job.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to my colleague that, in general, the bill is interesting. It also addresses important demands made by the Bloc Québécois. However, we would like to ensure that, during committee work and study of the amendments, careful and close attention is paid to the entire issue of natural products.

This bill proposes changes to how things are done. Those involved in these sectors, which have grown significantly in recent years, are afraid that a framework will be imposed that is similar to the one governing medications, for example. In that regard, we must ensure that there is appropriate oversight but that it is not so heavy-handed as to paralyze this field.

Can the hon. member provide assurances that this is the government's intent?

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Goodyear Conservative Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the member had been here for my speech, he would have heard that this was exactly the government's intention with these proposed amendments. We intend to show the value of natural health products in the preamble of the legislation. We intend to define natural health products under a legislated definition and a legislated third category.

We will restrain the power of inspectors. We want to constrain their ability to do search and seizures. There will have to be warrants. None of this misinformation is true. We will use the history of the product, be it traditional history based on, for example, first nations or Chinese medicine and traditional knowledge of doctors. We will be doing all of that as well as protecting personal information and creating an advisory committee for the—

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-51 today. This is an issue that deals with something of top concern to people across the country and certainly people in Vancouver Quadra, and that is the issue of health care. More importantly, health prevention and maintaining health is a critical part of what we do as people, families and mothers.

This bill speaks about not just protecting health from adverse issues through products that might be dangerous but also touches on how we can maintain our health and prevent health challenges by using natural products and complementary medicines, and using the medical system in a proactive and preventive way.

It is a very important bill which I am pleased to speak to. It touches on the protection of consumers from products that are tampered with or contaminated. It talks about protecting consumers. The products that they think they are buying and consuming need to be such products. There needs to be the ability to recall products that are problems and an important update to this legislation that is very out of date. From those perspectives, this is an important bill.

I will touch briefly on my background using complementary medicine. I, in fact, applied to become a naturopathic physician. Way back in my early career choices, I applied to the John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine in Seattle having completed all of the prerequisite requirements to enter a college of naturopathic physicians. Since then, I have become a mother of three children and raised those children using almost exclusively complementary medicine.

Of course, the medicine provided by our MDs and hospitals has a very important role to play. When my daughter broke her leg, I was very grateful that there was an emergency department. I was able to take her in and she was given great care. She has healed properly and is able to climb mountains and plant trees without a problem.

The allopathic medical system also has an important place in our lives. However, so does complementary medicine. Using naturopathic physicians as primary physicians has been my family's choice. Using homeopathic remedies, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and a variety of alternatives has been an important part of maintaining the health of my family members.

From that perspective, I have been very concerned about possibly infringing on the choice that people might make to use naturopathic, complementary and other alternative modalities, and the products that they use, many of which have been used in traditional medicines for hundreds, if not thousands of years, and are important to maintaining health, preventing problems, and managing chronic diseases.

An additional aspect about the complementary medical system is that it tends to be supportive of people taking self-responsibility for their health, changing some of the lifestyle aspects that may not be conducive to their health, stepping forward to take responsibility in preventing problems by eating well, and using nutritional and herbal supports before there are clinical problems.

That self-responsibility is increasingly important in our society. As demographics change, the allopathic medical system is over-burdened with the demand on it and the costs are escalating, and taking larger and larger percentages of provincial budgets.

I have been listening to the concerns of people in my community of Vancouver Quadra from the perspective of the fines and enforcement measures in the proposed bill. I appreciate the member for Cambridge mentioning some of the amendments that the government was considering. I have also been listening to people from the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, both in British Columbia and nationally.

While I recognize that there are real concerns with this bill, notwithstanding Health Canada's attempts to reassure people that it would essentially change very little with respect to natural products, I want to flag some other concerns.

One of the concerns, of course, has to do with the intent to lump natural products in with therapeutic drugs. An article in The Vancouver Sun points out how completely unacceptable that would be. The article reports on a study which took place at the Vancouver General Hospital. It essentially concluded that 12% of patients who were rushed to the emergency room were there because of adverse affects from medications. The study findings were published that day in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The 11 international authors of the study said patients with medication related complaints were more likely to be admitted to hospital beds after they had been seen in the emergency room and occupied those beds far longer than others, a result the authors described as striking. The study estimated that 70% of such visits were preventable through better prescribing, dispensing, and monitoring of patients.

I would like to quote from lead investigator Dr. Peter Zed, who was working at Vancouver General Hospital during the study but is now at the Queen Elizabeth Health Sciences Centre in Halifax:

We've proven in this study that we've got a problem in the health care system with patients who experience bad effects from medications and we have to figure out how to reduce those problems.

Problems stem from a variety of issues, including patients being prescribed the wrong drugs, given wrong dosages, having allergic interactions with drugs, and patients not following instructions for how and when to take their medications.

The key that one can take away is the fact that essentially one in nine emergency room visits at Vancouver General Hospital relate to pharmaceutical medications. This is a very different category of product than natural products such as herbs and traditional Chinese medicines.

Some adverse affects have been put forward by Health Canada. Members across the aisle have suggested that natural products and herbal medicines also can have adverse affects. I am not going to argue that there may be cases where a product is not 100% what it is claimed to be in the container or that there may be a contraindication with other medications people might be taking.

However, one in nine emergency room visits are due to pharmaceutical drugs versus the record of natural products, herbal medications, homeopathics, organotherapy, and other kinds of products that would be lumped in with pharmaceutical drugs in the bill as it reads now.

I am pleased to hear that amendments to create a third category are being considered, given that until very recently Health Canada was denying that there would be negative impacts from the way the bill was structured. I am going to be very vigilant in following the debate as this goes forward.

I have a letter from a constituent. Brian says:

I am writing to you as one of your constituents to express my concerns about Bill C-51 and the impact it will have on the ability of my naturopathic doctor to treat my health concerns safely and effectively as well as my access to natural health products that I currently purchase. As an informed patient, I have chosen to be treated by a naturopathic physician utilizing natural therapies and substances to ensure optimal health. I would like some assurances that my choice to see a naturopathic doctor or purchase natural health products in the store will not be negatively affected by Bill C-51.

I am focused on the response of the naturopathic physician community because that is where my knowledge is strongest and those concerns remain.

I have a public posting from a naturopathic physician in Nelson, B.C., who is the current president of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia, Dr. Lorne Swetlikoff. He acknowledges that:

--Bill C-51 appears well intended and seems to strengthen the manner in which all health products will be regulated. [However] as you delve into the details of the bill you discover the potential for disaster [that] it poses for the practice of naturopathic medicine in Canada.

A couple of the examples of the concern that is being raised by the naturopathic community is that:

The bill introduces a new term called “prescription therapeutic products” to refer to any product, including a natural product that is not included under the current natural health product regulations and states that they will be accessible only by a “practitioner”.

However, of great concern to Dr. Swetlikoff and other naturopathic physicians is that:

--under this bill, prescription therapeutic products require a prescription from a “practitioner”. Currently naturopathic doctors do not have prescribing authority and are not designated as a practitioner in Canada [under our federal laws].

So, essentially, that would mean that there would be many products that naturopathic physicians utilize to maintain the health, to protect and prevent problems, of their clients, and to manage chronic diseases, that would no longer be accessible to them. Of course, they could be prescribed by an MD, but medical doctors are actually not trained to utilize those kinds of herbal and non-pharmaceutical drug products. So, they could become inaccessible.

I think it is critical to understand that this does affect many patients because many people use the services of naturopathic physicians. They are physicians who have been trained seven-plus years in post-secondary institutions and to now say that a naturopathic physician can no longer prescribe a patient to use a herb like St. John's wort is completely outrageous. That area needs to be addressed as the bill moves forward.

I had the privilege of having worked with the provincial government when I was in cabinet between 2001 and 2005 to raise the profile of complementary medical modalities and the effectiveness of those modalities on prevention and chronic disease management, and the need of additional professionals to take care of patients who in my province of British Columbia have a shortage of family doctors available. So, it is very important to integrate complementary and alternative medicine into our health care system and not to isolate it and marginalize it.

So, in British Columbia I worked with the government and the naturopathic association to ensure that we in British in Columbia have a broader scope of practice for naturopathic physicians that better reflects the kinds of services that they are trained to provide. I am pleased that recently a law was passed that supports a scope of practice that will allow those physicians to prescribe, to have hospital privileges, to refer to specialists, and to request laboratory procedures for their patients.

That is a step toward integrating naturopathic and other alternative medical practitioners into our health care system, which is exactly what we need so that people can have choice, so they are not isolated, so that there is not a duplication where a patient needs to see a naturopathic physician and then has a whole different track to see an MD because of the historic separation between those practices.

Integrating them is very important. I have been pleased and privileged to be able to work toward that in British Columbia, but it is not the case in all provinces. In provinces where a naturopathic physician cannot prescribe, Bill C-51 would unfortunately and very negatively curtail the ability of naturopathic physicians and other complementary physicians to provide proper care, service and support to their patients.

I was also pleased to hear about the proposed amendments. The member for Cambridge described some of them.

We need to ensure as the bill moves forward that there is proper consultation, and not just consultation but incorporation of the views and the requirements of the different stakeholders that have an interest in this. I would contend that this has not happened adequately or we would not have had this great amount of concern and fear on the part of the public, a fear that to some degree I have shared.

I have been working with naturopathic physicians, as I have said, but also with people who represent the manufacturers, the importers, the distributors, the wholesalers and retailers of these health products, to make sure we understand which of these concerns are valid. Substantially, these concerns are valid. We should move forward in a way that fully addresses them, that does not just window dress this by hearing them and then moving forward with a bill that overregulates a sector whose products have demonstrated very little harm.

I will repeat what I said in my introductory remarks, which is that consumer safety is an important role of government. That is part of what we do. We regulate and legislate to protect consumers from demonstrated harms, but as a society we have to always balance between that kind of protection and an overregulation which would cast a net so broadly that it would bring in products and issues that really have not been demonstrated to be harmful to the people who choose to use them.

I would say that is what Bill C-51 does. By casting such a wide net, it actually risks doing more harm than it prevents, by frustrating people who are taking responsibility for their health, and by applying huge fines, which might be appropriate in the case of a billion dollar pharmaceutical firm but not in an industry in which the largest players are much smaller. That kind of draconian compliance and enforcement tool is simply not appropriate in the natural products category whereas it might be in the pharmaceutical drug category.

I am pleased to be able to participate in this debate. I will be taking an active interest and involvement at the caucus committee, where my colleagues will discuss this, and also at the parliamentary committee. I intend to be a visiting member and ensure that the naturopathic physicians' concerns, as well as the concerns of other stakeholders, are clearly articulated.

I will do what I can to ensure that they are incorporated so that as we move forward Bill C-51 does what it is intended to do, which is to be a positive and important tool in protecting the safety and well-being of the consumers of the products it covers without overregulating and creating barriers to the use of those natural products that are so important to so many of us.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the way the bill is drafted, we know that probably 60% of natural health products will fail. As well, the inspectors will have huge powers to look for compliance. In fact, we have heard that Health Canada is trying right now to recruit more health inspectors from universities. There is great concern in the community that the way the bill is drafted would cause great harm to the natural health products industry.

I heard the Conservative government say that it wants to change the preamble, have a different enforcement mechanism, restrain the inspectors, have the third category legislative area, have a different definition of health products, redefine what traditional use means, including native, first nation and the 5,000 years of Chinese herbal medicine history, and a separate advisory committee.

It begs the question: why would the government not just withdraw the bill, redraft it properly and bring it back when the fall session starts? Right now we are being asked to vote for or against the bill the way it is drafted now. Even though there is some promise that amendments will be put forward in the committee, we do not know, first, whether the committee will accept these amendments and, second, whether these amendments will even be in order given how fundamental these changes are and how extensive they would be.

Why would we not say no to the bill before us, pick the good parts, redraft the bad parts and start all over again? Certainly the bill as it is now is not acceptable. Even the Conservative government says so. Why would the Liberals not join with the NDP and say no to the bill the way it is crafted now?

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I share the member's deep concern about the bill. I am in complete agreement that extensive changes are needed.

However, this coming vote is a vote in principle. The principle is that patients have safe, effective and high quality products and that regulating pharmaceutical drugs and natural products for the purpose of reducing risks to health, enhancing safety and accuracy of products makes sense. I am in support of that principle.

As I said in my remarks, the way the legislation is written currently does not provide the balance we are looking for and I have major concerns about it, but those are concerns that need to be taken seriously as the bill moves forward. I would strongly exhort the government members and the other members of the committee to take the time that is needed for their work.

The committee work can be an opportunity for hearing from the stakeholders that have critical information to provide. This should not be rushed through. These are very complex issues. It is critical to find that balance of providing consumer safety without overregulating and without unintended negative consequences.

I also share the concern that we can have the right licensing compliance and enforcement rules but if we do not have the capacity to have enough inspectors or licensing officers to carry out the licensing in a timely way, then effectively it becomes a barrier, unintended or otherwise, to the use of those products. This is a major concern that also has to be addressed as the bill moves forward.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member made a very good and knowledgeable speech. I congratulate her. I was particularly interested in the fact that one in nine admissions to emergency at Vancouver General Hospital is pharmacologically related.

One of the concerns that the bill sort of addresses, and I am not quite sure whether the government has proposed amendments in this area, is the apparent discrepancy between what natural health products claim and what the evidence is to support the claim.

I wonder if the hon. member has given some thought to whether there should be some bringing together of the claims of the product with the evidence to support the claims for the product, be it empirical or anecdotal.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would contend that many of these natural products do not contain claims. Perhaps some do. I think the natural products industry is pretty careful not to make claims. I purchase many products that I know work. I know that based on my 35 years of experience in using them, not because the label on the bottle says to take this and it will strengthen that.

The idea of evidence also brings to the fore the difference between natural products, herbal products, homeopathic remedies, et cetera, and pharmaceutical drugs. By and large, pharmaceutical drugs are developed and sold by major corporations that can spend hundreds of millions of dollars in testing and collecting evidence to support their claims. They then have a patent on a product and can charge huge amounts.

There are some medications that run into hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with regard to being provided to the market. That is certainly not the average, but the pharmaceutical firms invest a lot in research and evidence gathering and they can then recover that.

Who is going to spend the money for double-blind trials on a herbal product for which there is no patent and no way of recovering the costs of putting that research in place? It is simply not practical, so we cannot require the same standard of testing and evidence for a natural product, because otherwise that becomes an unintended barrier to its use.

I believe approximately that one-half of the population of British Columbia uses complementary and alternative medicine at some point during the year for their health, health care and prevention. We do not want barriers to those people taking responsibility for their health.

I had a forum in greater Vancouver a couple of years ago in which I brought together the leading thinkers in naturopathics, in traditional Chinese medicine, in the natural cancer centre associated with VGH, in massage therapy and in some of the other modalities. I brought that group of leading thinkers together in a forum at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, which is in New Westminster, with the then minister of public health, Carolyn Bennett, to talk about how we could better integrate complementary and alternative medicine into our health care system, for all those good reasons that I have already expressed.

The key that came out of that meeting and the key request that the leaders in those other modalities had of the then minister of public health was that the federal government should be investing in research. The federal government should be providing research funding to generate the evidence, because these practitioners and physicians have experienced the evidence of the effectiveness of their products. That is why half of British Columbians seek their help: because their products do work and they do no harm. These natural products, the homeopathics, the tinctures, the organotherapies, do not send people to the emergency rooms.

We need that evidence, but we need the federal government to fund the research for it. Otherwise it will not happen.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-51.

First off, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois has been demanding for a number of years already that we look at that issue further. It seems to me that Canadians and Quebeckers are somewhat tired of occasionally being the victims of products that adversely affect their health and that of their children. There have been scandals recently. Just think of the toy scandal, for instance, involving children who suffered lead poisoning.

Quebeckers and Canadians are aware of some degree of deceit in the department stores where they buy everyday consumer items, among other things. Everyone knows that when we pick up a jar of pickles from China, the label sometimes shows that the product was made in Canada. There is false representation every step of the way. The Bloc Québécois raised that issue many years ago, calling on the government to clean up this whole area of drugs, agricultural products and cosmetics. We are pleased in that sense that the issue is being brought before the House today.

The Bloc Québécois will make sure that what I just talked about is reflected in the legislation. We have seen before obligations, everyday things, come into force under a bill, which did not reflect reality at all. That is what we want to pay attention to. It is not because the bill's title refers to tidying up the area of drugs, cosmetics and agricultural products, because the intention is stated in the title, that we should be lax.

In fact, let me say outright that the position of the Bloc Québécois is to vote yes at second reading stage, but there will surely an opportunity to take a very serious look at the bill at the Standing Committee on Health to ensure that reality is defined properly and reflected in the bill.

I have seen governments—and this one is no exception—come up with bills that they claimed would fix some social problem or other, bills that included various guidelines, amendments and new restrictions or that made laws more permissive. We need to sort out exactly what we want this bill to achieve. Naturally, the parties, including the opposition parties, will each have their way of seeing things. All I want to say is that the Standing Committee on Health will study the bill thoroughly.

For now, I will try to communicate the Bloc Québécois' opinion of what is before us now as faithfully as possible.

We also have to talk about how the government reacts and what it is doing to make sure that all products available to consumers are safe.

A number of interesting things have happened over the past few years. I certainly remember how people practically called the Bloc Québécois heretical because it wanted labelling on products. Back then, we were told, “No, no, no.” That was probably 10 years ago now.

We thought we had made some progress, but just last week, one of our colleagues introduced a bill on labelling, and the government worked with the Liberal Party to defeat it. Such things make us wonder about this government's true intentions.

I hope that we will be able to put together a good bill here, and I hope that when it becomes law, the government will actually enforce it. It is easy enough to say, “Here's the law”. It is something else entirely to enforce it, a process that is sometimes not taken seriously.

For example, take what we were told not that long ago, maybe seven or eight years ago when the labelling issue was up for discussion. People were talking about genetically modified organisms. There should have been thorough studies, and, like the United States' Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada should have studied the repercussions and the ins and outs of this issue. But the minister at the time, who is now rector of the University of Ottawa, said, “Oh no, we don't need that”.

Monsanto, a global company specializing in genetically modified products, has conducted all the studies and concluded that it was perfectly safe. In my opinion, that is a serious mistake. It is like asking a Ford dealer if Ford products are any good. What do you think his answer will be? He will say that Ford makes the best products. GM, Chrysler and Toyota representatives would say the same thing about their products.

Government organizations have to ensure that these companies comply with standards. Because of globalization and international competition, standards often vary from one country to the next. That is how we end up with Chinese pickles sold in jars made in Canada. When we are aware of that, we start noticing that the standards are different as well. Therein lies the danger.

Agriculture is affected the most by that. There are many producers in my riding. It saddens me to think that, in the U.S. and Europe among others, the agricultural industry is financed and subsidized, because in Canada we are more catholic than the Pope, so to speak, not subsidizing our agricultural industry in order to comply with the WTO. Yet, there is irrefutable evidence that the United States and the European countries are not complying.

As I said earlier, environmental standards and quality assurance standards for agricultural products in countries like China are different from ours. It is therefore easy for the Conservative government to suggest that we may not be competitive enough. Competitiveness is one factor, but when countries are permitted to subsidize their agriculture and products are allowed into Canada to which standards different from ours, much lower standards, are applied, that does not help our economy and it also puts the health and safety of Canadians et Quebeckers at risk. Attention will have to be paid to this in connection with the bill before us today.

Another interesting aspect of the bill is the tracing system. This is extremely important. When an agricultural product is recalled, we need to know where and in what conditions it was made. Until now, there has been nothing—or almost nothing—like this in place. We are happy to see that Bill C-51 contains provisions on traceability. The bill may also include the register of adverse drug reactions, at least we hope so.

Regarding the recall management system—I just mentioned recalls—if a product is found to be faulty or hazardous, there has to be a way of determining how it will be recalled. Often, hazardous products are recalled in a rush, and there is no way of knowing whether all the products have been taken off the shelf in all shopping centres. This also applies to drugs and cosmetics. We will therefore pay attention to the recall management system.

There is one thing in the bill that we will pay close attention to: regulations. This is a flaw in the House of Commons and Parliament, not just Canada's Parliament, but parliaments in general: often, bills will give responsibility for regulations to the governor in council, in other words, the cabinet, and the minister will make recommendations to the governor in council.

I experienced that myself with a bill concerning veterans that would have seen money paid annually to widows of veterans so that they could remain in their home. In the regulations, three or four months later, we noticed that the governor in council had chosen a date on which the law would be enforced, and before which anyone else involved would be left out. We made our strong opposition known.

It is the same thing with these bills. As soon as the minister and the governor in council, meaning cabinet, get too much leeway, there are surprises. If I have time, I will speak about our concerns with this bill if the minister and the governor in council are given too much leeway in regard to the regulations.

I want to issue a caution right now. The Bloc Québécois absolutely does not want natural food products to be considered drugs or cosmetics, meaning that they would be bound by this bill.

My colleague from Quebec City explained that officials had told the committee not to worry, but we are worrying nonetheless. Just because something is raised in committee does not mean that one day—maybe because of the regulations—there will not be a problem.

Many people obtain these products without a prescription, and I think that they are still in a position to do so. These people should not fall directly under this legislation; it must not apply directly to natural food products.

As I was saying earlier, the Bloc Québécois will pay close attention to this in committee, to ensure that natural food products are not affected by this bill. Earlier I heard statistics that nearly 50% of the population uses complementary or alternative medicine, and these people should not end up being victims of this bill.

We are also concerned about encroachment because it is well known that the Bloc Québécois is very protective of Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. A certain number of inspector positions will be established pursuant to the bill. However, we notice that there will be duplication in certain areas. Therefore, we have to be careful because, at present, several duties have been delegated to Quebec inspectors. In my opinion, if more federal inspection positions are created, it is important that there not be a duplication of services in general. That runs the risk of being very expensive for taxpayers and of causing friction also. We believe that it is important to try to avoid encroachment.

With respect to this bill, we also examined the famous ban on drug advertising. I find it interesting. I love American sports and often listen to football, hockey, baseball, or basketball games on American stations. But I also have time to work. Sometimes, I listen while ironing my shirts because I have to come to Ottawa on Monday and I have no one to wash my shirts. Believe it or not I listen to the football game while ironing my shirts or sometimes while reading documents. I can chew gum and walk at the same time.

However, on the topic of an advertising ban, there is a new American dream—drugs. It is incredible. Everyone knows the ads for Cialis and Viagra. We see a very healthy looking man with his girlfriend, wife or life partner and he is always bursting with energy. That is the new American dream: a fulfilling sex life. Yes. It should not surprise us; we see it on television. That is what the ads aim for. And a few minutes later, in another ad, they are selling Celebrex. If you have a bit of joint pain, you should hurry to your doctor to get a prescription for Celebrex. It is important because it not only solves the problem, but it also reduces your chances of arthritis in the future. We can see where this ad leads. There are many more. There is Lipitor—their ad says that if your cholesterol is the least bit elevated that it is dangerous and you should go to see your doctor.

In a few years, American advertising for drugs has gone from $50 million to $1.8 billion. Pharmaceutical companies are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts and because of their generous spirit. Investing $1.8 billion in advertising ensures that people will stock up on drugs. This causes many things, including over-consumption.

The companies do not tell us this, but the person who wants to live the American dream today, the one who watches football and wants to become Adonis, will have to take Cialis or Viagra, Celebrex to avoid any aches and Lipitor to ensure low cholesterol. That is the new American dream.

We cannot allow this to happen in Canada or in Quebec. It is extremely important to ban the advertising of drugs. Advertising leads to excessive consumption. And what does excessive consumption lead to? It not only causes side effects in people, but it also causes the price of drugs to rise.

Today, almost 40 million Americans are unable to afford the drugs they need. I have even seen busloads of people, sponsored by U.S. senators, come to my riding to buy drugs because they were affordable. The ban on advertising of drugs should continue.

Another aspect of the bill before us is progressive licensing. This is something new. Previously, Health Canada conducted studies and if all the studies were conclusive and all the clinical trials were conclusive, the drug would be released. Now there will be a new approach that could be more progressive. The drug could be released before the experiments are completed.

There are some people who may need that. When people are truly desperate, they sometimes need to resort to extreme or innovative treatment. Even though some drugs have not yet been approved by Health Canada, it is possible under certain conditions that progressive licensing of those drugs will be allowed. Nonetheless, this cannot be used as an excuse to license a drug with great haste. That is the risk we run.

I have a minute or two left. I just want to come back to some of the regulations that could be risky. Clause 30, which addresses the regulations, very clearly states that the minister may make regulations for carrying the purposes and provisions of this act into effect. Potentially, the minister can act in various areas, including product labelling, purity standards, the way in which clinical trials are conducted and the exemption of products from the legislation.

If we open the door to concepts as basic as those and put them in the hands of the minister, we run the risk that the government will take advantage and that the provisions of a bill will go too far or not far enough at the discretion of the minister and the Governor in Council.

These questions are extremely important. I would like to reiterate the Bloc Québécois' position. The Bloc Québécois has been waiting for this bill. We have waited long enough for this bill, so we will take the time needed to study it carefully at the Standing Committee on Health. In that regard, I trust my colleagues on that committee. They will do an excellent job.

The position I just mentioned is the Bloc Québécois' position. We reserve the right to vote against it at third reading. At second reading, we will vote in favour of the bill. In committee, we will do our job and, depending on the gains we make, we will dispose of this bill at third reading.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member mentioned advertising, because I do not want to see more advertising either.

A constituent, Brian, wrote in an email:

Bill C-51 was brought to my attention by a person who has successfully controlled the symptoms of his diabetes, arthritis and bipolar depression with diet and supplements. He is afraid he will lose his right and ability to do this under Bill C-51. He will then have a choice to go back on Big Pharma's anti-psychotics and other drugs, which did not work well and caused intolerable side effects, or to sink into psychosis and eventual death. That's an example how loss of choice will affect an individual.

I want to make sure that does not happen. I hope the member would agree.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, clearly, natural health products are an important issue. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies do not see things the same way. If there is a chance we might try to control pharmaceutical companies and to control natural food products, that could negatively affect the latter products.

I would like to tell my hon. colleague from Yukon that we have thought of that. For many people, I think the use of natural health products often prevents them from falling into the trap of pharmaceutical products and side effects. So, yes, we will look into that question at the Standing Committee on Health.

Food and Drugs ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have eight minutes remaining for questions and comments following oral question period.

We will now move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River.

Saskatchewan Forest FireStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I was in the riding over the weekend and learned there was a large forest fire near Uranium City, a town in the most northern area of Saskatchewan. I was then informed that the residents of the city have been evacuated because the fire is dangerously close.

My thoughts and prayers are with the residents who have been evacuated and their families and the lives they have had to temporarily leave behind.

I would like to personally thank each and every one of the people who have stayed behind to fight the fire for their personal dedication and sacrifice. I would ask the entire House to wish for their continued safety.

I thank the authorities who are managing the forest fighting in Saskatchewan for all their continued help and efforts. Everyone appreciates the work and dedication they bring to their positions.

I will be visiting Uranium City later this month. I look forward to seeing everyone and their families safe back in their homes, enjoying everything that northern Saskatchewan offers each and every one of us. My thanks to all.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodStatements By Members

June 9th, 2008 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the agriculture committee has been studying the product of Canada labelling issue since early April and is currently finalizing a report that will be presented to Parliament on Wednesday, June 11. With no regard for the study that is under way, on May 21 the Prime Minister announced the onset of new consultations with many of the same stakeholders who were witnesses to the committee study.

The Prime Minister's announcement is an affront to the work of all members of the agriculture committee and to the contributions of the stakeholders who appeared as witnesses to the study. As a result, in an unusual measure, the agriculture committee passed the following motion at its last meeting:

That the Prime Minister recognize and respect the work of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and ensure that the work of the Committee will not be sub voted and that the recommendations based on input from Canadian Stakeholders will be implemented and that the Prime Minister confirm his willingness to accept the work of the Committee.

The members of all committees deserve--

Agriculture and Agri-FoodStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

Western Festival in Saint-TiteStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 9, at the national gala of the Quebec tourism awards, the Festival Western de Saint-Tite won the prestigious gold medal in the category for festivals and tourism events with an operating budget of $1 million or more. It is a great honour to be recognized by the entire Quebec tourism industry, and certainly a huge reward for the citizens, volunteers and businesspeople of Saint-Tite.

In 2007, this international event celebrated its 40th anniversary in great style, and shattered an attendance record with more than 725,000 festival-goers. It also generated some $50 million in economic spinoffs. Such great success over the years would never have been possible without the invaluable contribution of its 550 volunteers.

I am very pleased to invite all Quebeckers to the 41st edition of the festival, which will be held from September 5 to 14, 2008, and which promises to be just as fantastic as the last.

Gang CrimeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, a serious threat is growing on our streets as gangs get bigger and more sophisticated each day. Innocent people are being killed.

In my riding of Surrey North, Chris Mohan, a young man with a bright future, was gunned down as he was leaving home to play basketball. Another man, Ed Schellenberg, who was doing maintenance work across the hall, was killed. Two families have been left empty and grieving.

Last weekend our community came together to remember what should have been Chris Mohan's 23rd birthday. His mother, Eileen, echoed a call the NDP made in the last election. She wants a federal program for young gang members who want a safe way out of the gang lifestyle. The witness protection program does not meet these needs.

Last November I held a press conference demanding urgent action from the Conservatives, a national strategy to fight gangs. So far, my call has fallen on deaf ears. How many deaths will it take for the government to listen?

Carbon Tax ProposalStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal leader's carbon tax has no friends, certainly not among Canadian premiers. Even Ontario Liberal Premier McGuinty has spoken out against this punitive tax. Last week Saskatchewan Premier Wall said this tax would “knee cap” Saskatchewan's economy. Premier Stelmach perhaps said it best, “The western provinces are really supporting Canada's economy right now, so why would we want to move further and diminish our competitiveness and hurt the Canadian economy”?

Why indeed? Why does the Liberal leader want to raise the price of gasoline? Why does he want to raise the price of home heating fuels? Why does he want to raise the price of electricity? Why does the Liberal leader want to endanger manufacturing jobs in Ontario and cripple more than 500,000 jobs in Canada? Why does the Liberal leader want to raise input prices on our grains and oil seeds farmers just when they are starting to turn the corner and make a profit? How can taxing Canadians out of their jobs and their livelihoods be revenue neutral?

Paul and Thérèse AbudStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to salute Paul and Thérèse Abud, who were honoured yesterday evening by the Cercle culturel historique Hilarion Cyr in Saint-Léonard.

Mr. Abud immigrated to Canada from Lebanon in 1957 and became a full citizen not long after that. Mrs. Abud was born in Canada to Lebanese immigrants. With their family, they moved from their first home in Dalhousie to the Saint-Léonard region, bringing with them a degree of diversity and a desire to help the community's economy.

In addition to being a businessman, Paul Abud also became actively involved in his community. Among other things, he was a member of the municipal council and president of the chamber of commerce. He was also involved in Louis Robichaud's equal opportunity program.

Mrs. Abud was also active in business and was, among other things, chair of the board of directors of Foyer Notre-Dame and a member of the library board.

I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Abud for everything they have done for their community. They can be proud of their accomplishments, and we are proud of them.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is not even Halloween, but the Liberal leader is offering Canadians a major trick, a big, fat, permanent carbon tax. Never mind he vehemently opposed a carbon tax when running for leader. Never mind he recently called it bad public policy. Never mind he said “there will be no carbon tax”. He has now given it a green disguise.

The Liberal leader has made tens of billions of dollars in non-budgeted spending promises and he has stuck Canadians with the devastating tax bill.

The Liberal tax trick will only treat Canadians to higher gas prices, higher electricity bills and higher food costs, punishing seniors on fixed incomes, punishing rural Canadians and punishing young families. The Liberal tax trick means permanent job losses for auto workers and skyrocketing input costs for farmers.

The Liberal leader will make himself sound green by taking plenty of green from the wallets of Canadians. Canadians, do not fall for this punitive Liberal tax trick. They should treat themselves to a Conservative government.

Marie-Pier Boudreau GagnonStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Marie-Pier Boudreau Gagnon on qualifying for the Olympic Games in Beijing. She will compete in solo, duet and 8-person team synchronized swimming.

Courageous and determined, this young, 25-year-old athlete left the family home at the age of 13 to train, first in Quebec City, then in Montreal. Marie-Pier trains for 42 hours a week to reach her Olympic dream. She is the pride of the Rivière-du-Loup area, and will soon be the pride of all of Quebec and Canada.

After her Olympic career, she hopes to study business administration at university. She would like to go into international law. She is a wonderful example of perseverance.

The Bloc Québécois and I want to warmly congratulate you, Marie-Pier, for qualifying, and we wish her good luck in her present and future endeavours.