House of Commons Hansard #72 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was artists.

Topics

Medical IsotopesRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The chair thanks the hon. member for Winnipeg North for her submissions on this point. Certainly there have been a lot of questions on the subject in the last few days and plenty of media coverage.

On the other hand, I note that tomorrow is a supply day. We are nearing the end of the supply period and there are going to have to be a couple of more supply days. This matter could clearly be the subject of debate on these days if the parties within whose allotment the days fall wish to do that.

Therefore, my inclination at this time is that despite the possible concerns in terms of the importance of the issue, which I certainly share with the hon. member, I am not sure that it constitutes an emergency within the provisions of the standing order. I am not inclined to grant the debate at this time for the reasons I have just indicated and given the possibilities for debate on other occasions in the House.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

moved that Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, be read the third time and passed.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

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.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have spoken with some of the members on the other side and I would like to again make the request to withdraw my private member's bill, Bill C-301. Could you seek the consent of the House for that.

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3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The member for Yorkton—Melville is seeking unanimous consent to withdraw his private member's bill, Bill C-301. Is that agreed?

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3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Oshawa, the parliamentary secretary, is an individual whom I have learned to work very diligently with in the past. I know his deep commitment to this legislation. If he brings to the health committee his same ability to make the industry committee work as he did last year, I have no doubt there will be further results for that good member.

It is in that spirit that I want to ask the hon. member something he probably will not find all too different from my line of questioning on committee last week.

It seems to be that the intentions of the bill are certainly there, and many people support this. However, I question whether there is a need for a new bill at all. Could we have simply amended the Hazardous Products Act, which has helped Canadians for the past 40 years? It has certainly been responsible for the kind of changes that were necessary from time to time, particularly as we saw products from around the world that were dangerous in nature and that brought forth concerns about things like product safety, toys, food and so on.

What is in the bill that could not have been done by simply amending the Hazardous Products Act and cause, in effect, a year and half delay, while the government was doing a bit of its own window dressing to make it and package it under something that it could have been originally?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague said, we have worked together quite well in the industry committee. I did enjoy his presence at the health committee and the questions he posed.

There are a couple of the things in the bill that we did not have in any other bill. The most important is probably the general prohibition, which is very important today. We have a changing economy, a globalized economy. This allows us to remove unsafe products immediately from the market. With the old bill, we were unable to do this.

We also have AMPs, these monetary penalties in the new bill. The size of the fines have increased. More Important, we have a new advisory council.

We heard from stakeholders during the debates in committee. As I said during my speech, the member for St. Paul's brought this very important amendment forward, which will make the legislation even better.

We had a great response during committee from the stakeholders. I am very proud of the legislation and I look forward to all members of the House supporting it.

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3:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, our party is pleased the bill has come forward, particularly with the number of amendments we put forward, as well as amendments by other parties, which we thought were useful and also supported.

I hold the concerns of my members on that committee with the delay in moving on a comprehensive system of labelling. Increasingly, day by day, we find that a lot of the products used by Canadians contain very harmful substances.

Could the member advise us on what the government is doing to expedite moving on this? Could he tell us who will be represented on the advisory panel that will be established to look into expediting a comprehensive system of labelling?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform my colleague that labelling was brought up and we found it was a very controversial issue. That is why we put forth the advisory council. With the advisory council, the department has the ability to put forward experts, who are not available within the government, to advise the minister on these very important issues.

I would like to advise her as well that during the consultations and during committee, we found that Canada was applauded for the things we had in place for hazardous substances and for Canada's chemical management plan. We have that in place with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I look forward to further results from the bill as it moves forward. The legislation is over 40 years old.

I want to also thank the NDP critic as well as the Bloc and Liberal critics for their co-operation in making this an even better bill.

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4 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, following the committee process, I know we are reasonably happy with the final result, although I want to ask the member to give me a better explanation of the whole issue of tobacco.

I understand we proposed removing the unique specific exemption within the Tobacco Act and including it along with the other laws listed in the bill's schedule of exempt legislation. This would have allowed the treatment of tobacco, like other dangerous products, to be changed if future circumstances dictated.

This amendment was voted down along with other proposed amendments to the schedule. One was the grandparenting of existing tobacco products, subject to any new products, to normal health requirements. The other was simply to add the Tobacco Act to the schedule.

Given our concern about the whole issue of smoking and tobacco issues in the House, what are the member's thoughts on this process and why it developed the way it did?

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4 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member brings forward a question that we heard several times during consultations in committee.

The bill works with ignition issues, as far as papers, with tobacco, but one of the things we learned in committee was that tobacco was governed under an entirely different act. It is a very unique product and because the government has a specific act for it, it was felt by the majority of committee members that it should be dealt with in this separate act.

The member may be aware of the co-operation we see in committee right now with An Act to amend the Tobacco Act, as far as banning tobacco products that are geared toward children. We had some great presentations yesterday. I think he would agree with me that we are moving forward in tobacco control. With the changes we are putting forward, this will again make Canada a leader in the world.

I look forward to the co-operation of the NDP, like the great co-operation of the critic in putting forth her ideas in improving the Tobacco Act.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member will want to continue and perhaps ask questions of those of us who will be speaking in a few moments, but I have one small question for him.

Why would the legislation now proposed not contain within it, at the very minimum, product certification by those who produce, distribute and sell within Canada, a certification which would ensure the authenticity as well as certify the safety of the products, rather than waiting for an accident to happen and then compelling the company, under penalty of law and possibly criminal sanctions, to come forward with that information? It ought to be the obligation of businesses to ensure this is in fact the case, which makes it a lot easier for our enforcement agents to do their jobs.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have different certifications in Canada, for example, the CSA, or the Canadian standards. However, what is really important in the bill is the general prohibition. It allows the government to act immediately to get any products brought into the market off the market regardless of certification. This would occur even before any certification.

As the member knows, when one goes through a certification process, it takes a bit of time. With the general prohibition in the legislation, it allows the Canadian government to act quickly and with certainty. By having it in the bill, it also brings us up to what our trading partners are doing in this regard.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to support Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, on which our committee worked collegially for extended hours, having heard testimony from consumer products organizations, to environmental defence organizations, to toy manufacturers and struggled through challenging issues for both consumer health and well-being and for industry.

Reducing risk to human health has been a preoccupation of people, physicians and politicians for the last 5,000 years. Virtually every major advance in public health has involved the reduction or the elimination of risk, with the result being that the world is a safer place today. It is safer from accidents and deadly or incurable diseases and safer from hazardous consumer goods.

Therefore, it is the government's duty to do all it reasonably can to accurately assess and reduce risks, such as making sure that food, medicines and other products are safe. Although government can rarely hope to reduce risks to zero, it can aim to lower them to a more acceptable level and should openly and transparently communicate risk and risk-reduction strategies to the public.

The Canadian government introduced Bill C-6 in January 2009 to ensure through regulation that risk is reduced and that Canadians have access to safer consumer products. It is important for members to understand that natural health products will not be regulated under Bill C-6, but rather, under their own regulatory framework, the natural health products regulations under the Food and Drugs Act.

Bill C-6 focuses on three key areas: working to address problems before they happen, through building and improving safety throughout the supply chain; targeting the highest risks through conducting tests upon a minister's orders; and rapid response to protect the public when a problem occurs. The bill is needed as the laws overseeing consumer safety have not been thoroughly reviewed in over 40 years, and chemicals, technology and trade have all changed significantly.

For example, we live in an increasingly chemical society. Toxic chemicals are found in everyday consumer products, including art supplies, kitchenware, personal products, pet food, toys, water bottles and many products intended for babies. It is important for members to understand that over 100,000 chemicals were on the market before the 1980s and an additional 3,000 have been developed since that time. While some hazardous chemicals such as DDT and PCBs are banned, others are still widely used despite the fact that they cause cancer, mutation, or interfere with the body's reproductive function, take a long time to break down, accumulate in the body and are toxic, and have serious and irreversible effects on humans and the environment.

When researchers test the air in our homes, the average reading for volatile organic compounds increases in areas where cleaners are stored. CBC's Marketplace showed Pledge registered over 270 parts per billion; and Clorox wipes, over 1,000 parts per billion. Anything over 500 could be a problem for people with sensitivities. Lysol disinfectant spray, however, recorded 1,200 parts per million, a thousand times higher than Clorox.

Bill C-6 is important because it would fill many regulatory gaps and give government the power to issue recalls and raise fines. Companies and their directors, officers and employees may be held criminally liable for contravention and penalized up to $5 million. Specifically the bill would prohibit the manufacture, importation, advertising and sale of a consumer product that is a danger to human health or safety, is the subject of a recall, or does not meet the regulatory requirements that apply to the product.

The bill would require that all persons who manufacture, import or sell a consumer product for commercial purposes maintain documents identifying from whom they obtained the product and to whom they sold it and provide regulators with all related information once becoming aware of an incident. These mechanisms will help ensure that products can easily be removed from store shelves when a recall is made.

Bill C-6 would also give regulators the power to order manufacturers and importers to conduct tests on a product, provide documents related to those studies, and compile any information required to confirm compliance. The bill would also give inspectors new wide-ranging powers, including the power to order a recall if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that a consumer product is a danger to human health or safety. These powers may be invoked even when there is a lack of full scientific certainty.

This is a real strength of the bill, as scientific standards for demonstrating cause and effect are extremely rigorous and often time-consuming and substantial damage to humans may result during long testing. For example, many experts strongly suspected that smoking caused lung cancer long before overwhelming proof became available. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of smokers died waiting for a definitive answer. Thousands of others, however, quit smoking because they suspected, as there were 7,000 articles by 1964, that tobacco probably caused lung cancer.

When a product raises threats of harm to human health, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

The committee struggled through key questions such as should the bill phase out or ban known carcinogens and other toxic chemicals in consumer products? Science is continually evolving and experts might not always know how dangerous chemicals really are, particularly for children, who are not little adults.

In fact, children have special vulnerabilities to the toxic effects of chemicals, because they are constantly growing. They breathe more air, consume more food, and drink more water than adults in proportion to their weight. They virtually live on the floor. Everything goes into their mouths, and their basic body systems are still developing. Exposure to chemicals at critical stages in their physical and cognitive development may have severe long-term consequences for health.

Priority concerns for children include exposure to air pollutants, arsenic, lead, mercury, pesticides and persistent organic pollutants. Dr. Gideon Koren, a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children, asks:

How can we, as one of the most advanced countries in the world, allow these to enter our household for small children, without the appropriate testing to see that it's safe?

In October 2008, Canada became the first country in the world to ban the import and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles containing bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical used in the lining of canned beverages and food. The chemical mimics estrogen in the body, and researchers have found links between BPA and numerous health problems, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and metabolic disorders. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of over 90% of Americans tested.

Committee members also explored whether the bill should include a mandatory testing and labelling scheme, whether the government will dedicate the necessary resources to enforce the bill, and whether the bill goes far enough to protect the health of Canadians from toxic imports.

The United Steelworkers remind us that recalls and fines happen after the fact. Canada needs a strategy that repairs trade deals that have led to toxic imports crossing our border in the first place, such as in 2007, when millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled by both the EU and the U.S. The European Commission subsequently identified over 1,600 products that were considered risky.

Other important questions addressed by the committee included what is a safe chemical and a safe threshold, and can cumulative and synergistic effects of exposure be addressed?

A May 2009 study suggests that chemicals, including BPA, pesticides and phthalates, found in many cleaning, cosmetic and food products pose a real and cumulative threat to male fertility, namely feminization of boys in the womb. Prior to this study, demasculinization effects due to chemical pollutants in the environment were reported in many species of wildlife.

While exposure to a single chemical may cause no harm, the cumulative effect could be at least partly to blame for sperm counts falling, by blocking the action of testosterone in the womb.

Richard Sharpe, the researcher, reported:

Because it is the summation of effect of hormone-disrupting chemicals that is critical, and the number of such chemicals that humans are exposed to is considerable, this provides the strongest possible incentive to minimise human exposure to all relevant hormone disruptors, especially women planning pregnancy, as it is obvious that the higher the exposure the greater the risk.

The committee also considered the possibility of a phase-out schedule, what chemicals should be considered, how might a carcinogen be identified, and according to what lists of hazardous chemicals. Will the Globally Harmonized System of the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, or GHS, be available in the future? Would a labelling system make sense, and if so, what products should be labelled and how should they be labelled?

The discussions were fulsome and wide-ranging. Other important questions were, what guidance, if any, does the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, otherwise known as Proposition 65, provide? This law requires companies to warn the public of potentially dangerous toxins in food. California has filed lawsuits seeking a range of warnings, including the mercury content of canned tuna and the presence of lead in Mexican candy.

A particular concern to industry is acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer that forms in starchy foods cooked at high temperatures, such as french fries and potato chips.

The committee also explored what other approaches have been taken to eliminate toxic chemicals in the production process and whether substitution of safer alternatives is required. What do other jurisdictions, such as the European Union, Massachusetts, and now Ontario, have to offer?

A key commitment under the Ontario Toxics Reduction Act is to reduce Ontarians' exposures to toxic substances by requiring businesses that employ 10 or more people and involve 10,000 kilograms or more of specific substances to report and track harmful chemicals and develop pollution prevention plans. The implementation of these plans, like a successful law in Massachusetts, is voluntary.

Bill C-6 is an important step to protecting Canadians and was largely and widely supported by witnesses.

I would, however, like to stress that we cannot continue to repeat the key mistake of the past, namely responding late to early warnings as we did with benzene and PCBs.

Ever since anemia was diagnosed among young women engaged in the manufacture of bicycle tires in the 19th century, benzene was known to be a powerful bone marrow poison. Recommendations made in the U.K. and the U.S. in the 1920s for substitution of benzene with less toxic solvents went unheeded. Benzene-related diseases of the bone marrow continued to increase dramatically through the first half of the 20th century. Benzene was not withdrawn from consumer products in the U.S. until 1978, and this was done by manufacturers on a voluntary basis.

A chief medical inspector of factories wrote in 1934, “Looking back in the light of present knowledge, it is impossible not to feel that opportunities for discovery and prevention of disease were badly missed.”

Bill C-6 would significantly improve the product safety regime in Canada, which would translate into improved health and safety for Canadians. Product safety is in everyone's best interest and everyone has a role to play, Canadians, government and industry.

A relevant lesson from history is that animal slaughterhouse wastes were recycled into animal feed since the beginning of the 20th century. In the mid-1970s the U.S. department of agriculture decided that carcasses of sheep afflicted with the disease scrapie should not be used in animal or human foods. Tragically, the U.K. government decided that its industry should be left to decide how its equipment should be operated. It was not until 1996 that processing standards were introduced.

In the United States government oversight and relatively inexpensive restrictions may have prevented the mad cow epidemic. In the United Kingdom industry self-policing provided ideal conditions for the development of the progressive fatal disease that affects the brain.

How many chemicals are therefore currently on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act's environmental registry? How many of these have been comprehensively tested for any risks to ecosystems and people? What is the projected timeline for testing untested chemicals?

Members should think about what chemicals they are exposed to each and every day, from washing their hands to brushing their teeth to shampooing their hair to eating their breakfast cereal. What timeline for testing for toxicity, longevity in the environment and bio-accumulation in our bodies is acceptable?

Going forward, the question that begs to be asked is this. What world do we want 25 years from now, in 2034? It is my fervent hope that Bill C-6 is the beginning of a dialogue with Canadians with regard to what chemicals we are exposed.

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4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Etobicoke North on her excellent speech and on the wonderful work she did in committee on Bill C-6.

During the entire process of the committee's examination of the bill, I had questions about the number of inspectors that will be on the ground to conduct verifications. As we have seen in many other areas under federal jurisdiction, the serious shortage of inspectors has drawn attention to the many gaps and shortfalls in the verifications carried out by those inspectors.

I would therefore like to know how my colleague, and the entire Liberal Party, sees this adjustment in the number of inspectors.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague and friend who has worked very hard in committee, asking very probing questions.

Inspection is very important. It is a tremendous part of enforcement. Part of what the bill would do is ask that industry self-identify so if there were a problem, industry would come forward. That will be part of the enforcement.

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her very thoughtful presentation on what is a very critical bill. I may have missed it, but she may have specifically spoken to the precautionary principle, which is supposed to be the underlying principle of all our environmental health laws in Canada. It is a principle that we have signed on to through the United Nations.

It is incumbent upon the government to take intervening action and not wait. As an environmental lawyer, after waiting many years and giving the power to recall, I would like the member comment on two things.

First, should the government perhaps give more attention to asserting its powers to intervene and preclude the sale or use of certain products in Canada to prevent the introduction?

Second, as I understand with a lot of these products, while a lot of them can harm humans who are intended to use them, there is a sidebar further impact when these substances enter into the environment and previously unthought of or perhaps not assessed impacts occur to our ecosystems.

Could she comment on those two issues and does she think the bill has adequately addressed those matters?

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree that the precautionary principle has to be front and centre in the legislation, and it does occur in the preamble.

The example I used was that there were 7,000 articles on tobacco by 1964. Some people did show precaution and they stopped smoking. Therefore, the precautionary principle does have to be front and centre.

Regarding the banning of chemicals, it was something at which the committee looked very carefully. There were a lot of questions regarding carcinogens, neurotoxins and hormone interruption. I come back to what I talked about in my speech, that we were the first country to ban BPA.

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member has made a very interesting speech once again in the House, but I see one of the big deficiencies of Bill C-6. The labelling of consumer products containing hazardous materials has been more or less left out of the bill.

That, in addition to the whole area of enforcement, which I have a lot of suspicions the government will not be overly strong on the enforcement side of the bill, caused me to have great concerns about the bill, regardless of the fact that we plan to vote for it and support it.

Does the member share those concerns about the whole issue of labelling and how might we look to the future to ensure the bill gets enforced properly so we catch problems before they become huge problems?

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. member brought up two issues. One was labelling and the other was enforcement.

Labelling was a key discussion throughout the committee hearings. We have to decide which chemicals are important. There was tremendous discussion around carcinogens, neurotoxins and other chemicals. What lists would we use? Would we use IARC? There was difficulty coming to agreement on this. What is important is we have started those conversations and I think those conversations will continue.

On the hon. member's second point, enforcement is key in any bill. Part of this enforcement is requiring that business self-identify. The government has increased the penalties to up to $5 million.

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on labelling as well. I understand that it was discussed extensively at committee. In fact, the member for Winnipeg North had proposed some amendments that would deal with a comprehensive system of labelling consumer products. It was defeated at the committee, but the government did indicate that labelling would be the priority of the new advisory panel expected to be set up through a government amendment.

Could the member comment specifically on whether this advisory panel will do the work for which Canadians have asked?

Canadians want appropriate consumer labelling on consumer products. They want to know what they are purchasing. They want to know what the impact will be to their families. I know in this case we are talking about hazardous products, but when I was on the health committee in the past, we were also talked about labelling genetically modified organisms, for example.

Could the member comment on what she thinks is critical for this advisory panel and whether she thinks this is a good first step?

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June 10th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is very encouraging that we have an advisory panel for the bill. We recently passed Bill C-11, which is around biosafety and biosecurity. At that time, we also called for a scientific advisory group, experts in the field who would have the best judgment to suggest which viruses and bacteria belonged in what schedules. Having the advisory panel go forward on this bill will allow the experts to continue this good work.

On her second point, yes, Canadians are very interested in labelling. Recent studies suggested 90% to 95% would like to see labelling and right to know.

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question with regard to children's products. A couple of amendments that would have provided more consumer choice were brought forward in committee, but they were defeated.

As a parent, I have discovered that some of the toys I have purchased for my children were made with inappropriate chemicals and substances, which were supposed to be banned in the first place. Would specific amendments have been more appropriate?

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4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, child safety has to be paramount. Children cannot buy their own products, so we have to provide safe consumer products for them. As an example, Canada was the first country to remove BPA.

Recently we had problems with 1,600 products from China. Child safety was certainly a key point of discussion in committee. There was strong support from children's safety organizations. It is important we continue to push to do better. Chemicals need to be banned from children's products.