Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to launch the debate at third reading of Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.
We heard at second reading that there is strong support in this House for strengthening consumer product safety. This proposed consumer product safety legislation seeks to provide improved oversight of a broad range of products, including toys for our children, and it aims to fulfill a promise made by this government in last November's Speech from the Throne.
To begin, I would like to highlight the legislation's key points. The proposed act focuses on three areas: active prevention, targeted oversight and rapid response.
First, let us talk about active prevention. The act will introduce a general prohibition against the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety.
The new legislation will allow Health Canada to address consumer products in Canada that pose an unreasonable danger to the health or safety of the public. Compliance and enforcement will be strengthened through maximum fines of up to $5 million for some of the worst offences. That is a big step up from the current maximum penalty of $1 million, and this change would put us in step with our major trading partners.
Our government plans to work closely with the industry to ensure changes are understood and properly implemented. Workshops and other information sharing opportunities will be used to promote awareness of the new legislation.
Second, Bill C-6 focuses on targeted oversight. This is especially important for products where the risks may not yet be fully understood or that pose the greatest potential hazard to the public.
The proposed act would give the Minister of Health the authority to order a supplier to conduct safety tests and submit results to the minister. It would also require suppliers to notify Health Canada and, in some cases, its partners through the supply chain of defects or serious product-related incidents, including near miss incidents where injury has been averted.
Finally, this proposed legislation also includes measures to allow for a speedy response to problems once they are identified.
Under the proposed new act, we want to be able to move quickly and decisively to protect the public when a problem occurs. To do so, we need the ability to order recalls of unsafe consumer products and require suppliers to maintain accurate records to enable quick tracking of products that need to be pulled.
To implement these prevention, surveillance and rapid response activities, more consumer product safety inspectors will be hired, creating a more complete safety net for all consumer products. Through Bill C-6, our government is demonstrating its commitment to consumer product safety by proposing action that Canadians want and need.
The amended Bill C-6 we have before us today reflects the extensive analysis of the members of the Standing Committee on Health. Over the past month, the committee heard from government witnesses and 33 other witnesses representing over 24 organizations.
In total there were five separate sessions devoted to review and discussion of Bill C-6, two of which were extended. In these sessions all voices were heard and all opinions were closely considered. The result of the committee's hard work is an amended bill that we think well reflects the underlying policy intent of the bill, as well as some other key aspects of concern to some witnesses.
There were thirteen amendments to the bill, of which six were put forth by the government and seven by the opposition. Government amendments included delivering on a commitment made by the Minister of Health to make it crystal clear that natural health products would not be regulated by this act.
The other government amendments were housekeeping in nature to clarify technical aspects of the bill. For instance, Bill C-6 was amended to specify that documents that a person must retain shall only be retained for six years.
The seven opposition amendments addressed two key areas: consultation and information sharing. The first group of amendments introduced provisions into Bill C-6 to ensure that the Standing Committee on Health would be consulted on foundational regulations that will be created under this new act.
The government remains committed to moving quickly with proposed regulations and believes that new regulations made under Bill C-6 will benefit from the analysis and advice from the Standing Committee on Health.
The second group of amendments demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that Canadians have the information they need. As such, the standing committee approved an amendment to Bill C-6 to explicitly state that the minister may disclose to the public information about a danger to human health or safety that a consumer product poses.
Finally, at report stage, the House agreed that Bill C-6 should be amended to include provisions for an advisory committee, which would support the implementation of the proposed Canada Consumer Products Safety Act. I thank the hon. member for St. Paul's for this suggestion.
The advisory committee will provide a forum for the exchange of informed views from the full range of experts, building on the skills and knowledge that already exist within the department, and it will provide valuable information on industry trends that may need to be addressed within the legislation or its supporting regulations.
As I conclude, I would like to remind my colleagues that Canada's consumer product legislation is 40 years and has fallen behind other jurisdictions and its update is overdue. By benefiting from a wide diversity of expert views, Canadians can be assured that this government is committed to building as strong and effective product safety regime as possible.
As a result, Bill C-6 will put in place modern safeguards and strong compliance enforcement mechanisms, and Canadian consumers deserve that. With Bill C-6, the government will have the tools it needs to act swiftly and decisively to help protect Canadians. We want there to be a greater incentive for companies to think safety first more than ever before.
We want to level the playing field for reputable companies by having a stronger hammer to bear against peddlers of unsafe goods.
I know all parties in the House support consumer product safety. I believe all members should therefore join me in supporting Bill C-6.