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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

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre, Aboriginal Affairs; the hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's, Employment Insurance.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank and congratulate all members of the Standing Committee on Health, on which I sit, for all their work on this bill.

I believe this is proof that, when we have a good bill, one that is well drafted and one we can work on, when the amendments proposed by the opposition are adopted by the majority, and when the committee operates under good discipline, all of these elements move things along even more quickly and solid common sense always prevails. That is what has led to the bill we have before us which will have the support of the Bloc Québécois, the NDP, the Liberal Party and the government, or so I understand. That same solid common sense is what makes me a sovereignist.

Getting back to Bill C-6, according to an Auditor General's report, the government had known since at least 2006 that the current legislation, the legislation amended by Bill C-6, did not protect the public properly.

It was not until the incident in the summer of 2007, when toys containing lead were recalled, that the government indicated its intention to amend this legislation. Three months later, it made the official announcement of its action plan to ensure food and consumer product safety.

At that time, the Bloc Québécois had called on the minister to tighten up safety requirements for dangerous products so the manufacturing, promotion and marketing of any product that might present an unacceptable risk or be harmful to health could be banned.

We also called upon Ottawa to put the burden on manufacturers to inspect their products and prove that they are not hazardous to consumer health and safety. This is included in the amended Bill C-6.

We also insisted that the approach taken by the government should not put the industry wholly in charge of the safety of consumer products, thereby leaving the public's health in their hands.

One of the amendments I proposed called for beefed-up financial and human resources in order to ensure there would be enough inspectors to enforce the law that Bill C-6 will eventually become.

This bill is a good one and is based on fine principles. We all agree with this bill in principle. However, the problem we come up against every time is the number of inspectors. The Bloc Québécois often raised this issue in committee, because if we implement this bill without having the necessary inspectors or the financial and human resources that are needed, it could quickly become useless.

The Bloc Québécois succeeded in getting an amendment through calling for beefed-up human and financial resources so that the law is properly enforced.

We cannot leave it up to the industry to regulate and manage itself. That could create problems. It is not that we assume that any industry is acting in bad faith, but a company could unfortunately make a mistake in its data or in its research on toys, food or something else.

We want to ensure that the government makes good on a promise it has made many times but unfortunately never kept. It was to ensure that it had enough inspectors.

In committee, we heard from Mr. Burns, vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. He told us essentially the same thing: if we do not have enough inspectors to enforce the law, the bill will do absolutely nothing.

The Auditor General had also pointed out that Health Canada did not have enough inspectors to do the work properly. Her findings were consistent with what Mr. Burns said and the questions I repeatedly asked in committee.

Even though the bill requires that companies ensure that products are harmless, the government will have to ensure that there are enough inspectors, as I said.

We support Bill C-6 as amended. I would like to provide some background. This bill is the old Bill C-52, which was tabled on April 8, 2008, and passed at second reading in May 2008. It is part of the food and consumer safety action plan, which the Conservative government announced on December 17, 2007. Budget 2008 allocated $113 million over two years to implement the plan. We have yet to see what kind of structure will be put in place and whether more people will be hired to ensure consumer product safety.

Currently, the federal government's primary legislative instrument regulating consumer product safety is the Hazardous Products Act, which was enacted in 1969. Over the past 40 years, technology and inspection systems have advanced tremendously in the industry, Health Canada and the federal government. The new Bill C-6 has come not a moment too soon and may in fact be a little too late. The government could have done a course correction a long time ago. Unfortunately, frequent elections have killed various bills, including Bill C-52, which was at second reading.

Part I of the Hazardous Products Act deals with regulated consumer products or those prohibited from being advertised, sold or imported into Canada. Some 30 products and categories of products are regulated, including toys, chemical products and about 25 other prohibited products, such as baby walkers, lawn darts with elongated tips, and products containing toxic materials, such as jequirity beans, which contain a resin-like toxin. The manufacture, import and sale of these products may also be regulated and restricted by other laws.

Bill C-6 repeals Part I of the Hazardous Products Act and replaces it with:

At present, in the event that a consumer product that is not regulated or prohibited poses a health or safety risk, it is up to industry to voluntarily issue and manage a product recall. The federal government’s authority in this regard is limited to issuing a public warning and, in the event that it is deemed necessary, subsequently taking steps to regulate or prohibit the product under the HPA.

Bill C-6 appears to tighten up the safety requirements for hazardous products. It creates prohibitions with respect to the manufacturing, importing, selling, advertising, packaging and labelling of consumer products, including those that are a danger to human safety. It also makes manufacturers and importers accountable, and requires them to ensure that their product is not a danger to human health and safety.

However, although clauses 7 and 8 are more strict concerning the responsibilities of manufacturers, importers and anyone selling similar consumer products, clause 6 refers to requirements set out in the regulations. Clause 6 states:

No person shall manufacture, import, advertise or sell a consumer product that does not meet the requirements set out in the regulations.

So, just how some of the requirements for consumer products will be tightened up will be stipulated in the regulations, but the committee will not have any details.

Still, we believe that the government is acting in good faith, and as proof we have the creation of an advisory committee on labelling, for example. It is now in the hands of the government, which plans on discussing with the opposition parties how the issues of labelling and potentially hazardous products will be referred to the committee. We are putting our faith in the government on this. It is very rare, but in the case of the advisory committee on Bill C-6, we are going to give them a chance.

The bill defines an “article” as a consumer product, which is a product, including its components, parts or accessories that may reasonably be expected to be used for non-commercial purposes, including for domestic, recreational and sports purposes. This definition naturally also includes its packaging, any object used to manufacture, import, package, sell, label, test or transport a consumer product or advertise it, or the documents pertaining to these activities or any consumer product.

The bill contains five measures to reverse the burden of proof regarding safety. First, let us examine the safety of consumer products. At present, there is no constraint whatsoever imposed upon manufacturers or importers. They do not have to demonstrate that their products pose no danger or threat to consumer safety. Bill C-6 proposes to reverse this burden of proof and to impose it on manufacturers in future, under the supervision of federal inspectors from Health Canada and other departments.

The bill suggests that manufacturers and importers of consumer products will be required to test their products for safety on a regular basis and, significantly, to disclose the results of these tests. As I mentioned earlier, we cannot allow only the manufacturers to examine these tests. Far be it from me to doubt their good faith, but independent government inspectors should conduct surprise tests from time to time. It is extremely important to me that we ensure that the studies are conducted properly and that there are no irregularities in these reports. I would have to say that, in the committee proceedings, based on what I heard and the questions I asked of Option consommateurs representatives—who were very well received and kindly answered our questions—and businesses or groups of businesses, having surprise inspections did not pose a problem. Many companies encouraged us to do so and to have enough inspectors, as did Mr. Burns, the vice-president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

Inspectors need to be given greater authority. As I have already indicated, the Auditor General stated in a report that in order to ensure that this bill is implemented and effective, inspectors on the ground will have more powers when Bill C-6 comes into force. For that to happen, consumer products will have to be subject to recall or a licensing amendment. These inspectors will be the means to enforce this bill's most important provisions. However, such an increase of duties and responsibilities can raise a certain number of concerns and questions, which is why we hope to pass an amendment to ensure more human and financial resources

Bill C-6 also gives the minister new powers concerning recalls. At this time, health authorities do not have the power to recall consumer products found to be dangerous. Recalls are issued on a voluntary basis by manufacturers and importers themselves. Bill C-6 corrects the inadequacy in the current legislation. That is why we want this bill to pass quickly, since at this time, industries recall products on a voluntary basis, and that goes for toys and all other consumer products. We must ensure that the minister has the means to recall products herself, instead of simply leaving it in the hands of the companies.

Bill C-6 would give the minister the power to recall any products that are defective or endanger consumer safety. However, the regulations will stipulate the requirements and the conditions under which the minister can act.

Stricter punitive measures will also provide a greater deterrence. The fines imposed on manufacturers were usually around $5,000. Now, with Bill C-6, an offence could lead to a fine of up to $5 million and the guilty party could face up to two years in prison.

Issuing a $5,000 fine to a company that might make millions or billions of dollars a year is rather laughable, especially when we are talking about safety, and we could jeopardize the safety or even the lives of the youngest members of society: our children.

We have already seen extremely hazardous products with lead toys. A simple $5,000 fine means nothing to these large and multinational companies. I think that it is an excellent idea to make the fines higher.

With a fine of $5 million and the possibility of imprisonment, at least companies will pay much more attention during their research, to ensure that products will not cause problems, as well as during recalls.

Bill C-6 proposes the creation of a system for preparing and maintaining documents, similar to a product traceability system. The bill states:

13. (1) Any person who manufactures, imports, advertises, sells or tests a consumer product for commercial purposes shall prepare and maintain

(a) documents that indicate

(i) in the case of a retailer, the name and address of the person from whom they obtained the product and the location where and the period during which they sold the product, and

ii) in the case of any other person, the name and address of the person from whom they obtained the product or to whom they sold it, or both, as applicable.

(b) the prescribed documents.

(2) The person shall keep the documents at their place of business in Canada or at any prescribed place and shall, on written request, provide the Minister with them.

(3) The Minister may, subject to any terms and conditions that he or she may specify, exempt a person from the requirement to keep documents in Canada if the Minister considers it unnecessary or impractical for the person to keep them in Canada.

This requirement to keep the product provenance documents for a set period as determined by our studies in committee will make it possible to quickly trace merchants who are in possession of the product, as well as its origin. What is more, should an incident arise concerning this product, in Canada or anywhere else in the world, the manufacturer or importer has an obligation to notify the minister.

Returning to the text of the bill:

14(2) A person who manufactures, imports or sells a consumer product for commercial purposes shall provide the Minister and, if applicable, the person from whom they received the consumer product with all the information in their control regarding any incident related to the product within two days after the day on which they become aware of the incident.

I am getting the two minute signal, but I could have gone on for hours. I will just say quickly that we examined similar legislation on the international level. We checked with companies in committee. So we did a good job.

I would like to congratulate the chair of our committee for her extraordinary job of keeping us on track. Not that the members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP are an unruly lot, far from it. She did, however, do an excellent job of making sure everything moved quickly and in an orderly manner. Once again, my congratulations to her on that.

I also wanted to point out that we have worked extremely hard, we listened to both consumers and businesses, and I believe we have here an excellent bill, which, as amended, will receive the assent of the entire House.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all the members of the committee and certainly the member for Repentigny. He contributed in a major way to the success of this bill, and I want to thank him for that.

Clearly, by raising the strength of our product safety system up to the level of our major trading partners, we are safeguarding the marketplace against the risk of becoming a dumping ground for substandard products.

In his speech, the member for Repentigny pointed out some very important aspects of the bill that strengthened what the committee was trying to find out.

I believe that we have created an ideal package of consumer protection by combining measures to improve prevention, monitor high-risk products, and act swiftly if a dangerous product enters the country.

Would the member for Repentigny please outline some of the very important aspects of the bill that would very greatly improve the safety of our products here on Canadian soil?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier in the debate, this bill is extremely important, in that it puts us on an equal footing with our trading partners, to prevent dumping in Canada. Before I conclude, I looked at the regulations in other countries, including European Union countries that had laws similar to Bill C-6, although it is one of the most advanced pieces of consumer product safety legislation in the world, and we are proud of that.

It is therefore extremely important, as my Conservative colleague said, that we be on a more or less equal footing and that our regulations be consistent with international regulations so that Canada is not used as a dumping ground.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that we are simply deluding ourselves if we think that the free market is going to self-regulate. Clearly, voluntary measures do not work. The banks in the United States could not regulate themselves. The financial services sector in the United States went through a whole deregulation process and we saw what happened when regulations are stripped away and supposedly have a free market operate to the benefit of the public.

Just two years ago the government, for example, passed legislation requiring all-inclusive pricing by the airlines in Canada, meaning that rather than advertising a price of $99 for a flight from Vancouver to Montreal, the full cost had to be provided. Parliament passed that legislation over two years ago and still the Conservative government has not implemented that legislation.

Last September the airlines agreed in Canada to the flights rights proposals of the former minister of transport. They voluntarily limited tarmac delays to 90 minutes. Guess what? Only three months later, they were holding passengers hostage for eight hours on the tarmac.

Why does the member think that without proper labelling legislation in this bill and other tough requirements--

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Repentigny.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that my colleague still feels so strongly about the bill on air travel that he introduced in this House during the session. I can honestly say that I agree completely with what my NDP colleague said. As I mentioned several times during my speech, we cannot let companies regulate themselves. Even with no bad faith or ill will on the part of the companies, having independent government inspectors would ensure that the studies conducted by these companies are valid.

That is the main reason I fought in committee to ask questions of the Professional Institute of the Public Service, companies, Option consommateurs, lobbies and consumer advocacy groups, so that the government understood the message that we have a serious shortage of inspectors. That is why we succeeded in getting through an amendment to the bill, with the government's support, calling for beefed up financial and human resources. I hope that the government will comply with this act and not do as it has done in the case of most of its legislation, which is fail to comply with it.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague from Repentigny for sharing his knowledge of Bill C-6 and for his hard work on this file. I have a question for him.

Other countries have similar laws, but inspectors from other countries go to countries of origin to inspect products before they are exported. Does Bill C-6 provide for the same kind of inspection before consumer goods leave the countries in which they were made? After all, if products are found to be unacceptable and polluting after they arrive here, they will end up in our landfills, where they will continue to pollute our water tables, among other things. Is there some way to conduct inspections before these products are exported, before foods leave their countries of origin?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi. It is clear that he cares about the environment, like all other Bloc Québécois members. I would like to thank him for all the good work he has done on this file over the years.

Unfortunately, I have to say that there is no mechanism to institute inspections in countries where products are made. My colleague's concern is absolutely justified. I completely agree with him. It will now be up to the government and the advisory committee to take aggressive action to ensure that we will not be importing troublesome products that will pollute our water tables and harm our wildlife.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues over disclosure by the minister was reintroduced. There was an NDP and a Bloc motion that brought that back. Perhaps the member could briefly discuss the issue of ministerial disclosure and why it is important. It was part of Bill C-52, the precursor to this bill, and is now part of this bill.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I had not yet been elected when Bill C-52 was before the House. However, I have to say that we worked very hard with the NDP to ensure that some of the clauses in Bill C-52 were included in Bill C-6, and most of the amendments were passed.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak at third reading on a very important bill that has seen a very thorough process throughout the House.

I would like to thank my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois for their work on the amendments. I would also like to point out that all the parties were able to work together on this very important bill. It has truly been a process of cooperation and we have made many important changes to this bill.

Bill C-6 has been identified as a key concern over a number of parliamentary sessions and a number of governments. Promises were made to change the Hazardous Products Act and other related legislation to bring them up to the 21st century, so that we would be truly in line with consumers' thinking about what is appropriate when it comes to consumer safety and health protection. This legislation has been a long time coming.

This legislation is not perfect. We wish it had much more in terms of teeth and much more emphasis on the precautionary principle. We in the NDP believe that the most significant thing government can do in this day and age is to bring in legislation that follows the do no harm principle, that ensures that all products, whether children's toys or household cleaners or consumer gadgets, are safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

That is quite different than the risk management model which says consumers should be warned that a product is not necessarily safe, and if they run into problems and that information is brought forward to government, it might deal with it.

The bill moves a bit toward the precautionary principle but only with baby steps. It could have gone a lot further. The precautionary principle stops in the whereas' of the bill.

I am not going to dismiss this legislation because we in the NDP are going to support it. We are going to support it because we think it is important, it is long overdue, and we have made some changes to make it better. Unfortunately, we did not get all of our changes.

Many of the groups that worked so hard on the bill were disappointed. I am thinking in particular of the Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Canadian Cancer Society, three groups that worked tirelessly on the bill and worked with all members of health committee. These groups informed us, taught us, proposed amendments, made suggestions, and educated us. We learned a great deal from them. I am very grateful for the major role that they played throughout the legislative process.

In the end we were forced to concede to changes that were fairly small in nature, but significant at least in terms of finding some way down the road to protect Canadians, even if they do no harm principle was not firmly entrenched in every aspect of the bill.

We did that by ensuring, and this is where I want to take some credit on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus, an amendment in the bill that requires the bill, once it is passed, to come back to both the House of Commons and the Senate for scrutiny in terms of regulations.

There will be a chance to provide some kind of oversight once the government begins to find ways to implement a legislative initiative that is so vital and so important in terms of the health and well-being of Canadians.

We are also pleased to support an amendment proposed by the Liberals which would add an advisory committee to the gambit of tools available to the government. With the assistance of the government, members of the committee, and the whole House, we saw that the amendment was included with a royal recommendation and is now part of the bill. That was another indication of co-operative work on the part of all of us.

That means there will be a body of experts who will devote themselves to furthering the broad principles of the bill and will try to apply the precautionary principle, the do no harm principle, in more ways than is apparent at present.

The bill has certainly been noted for many significant reasons. It has very substantive recall provisions with significant punishments attached. I do not want to underestimate the significance of those provisions.

Over the last number of years we on this side of the House have raised numerous concerns with the present government and the Liberal government before it about unsafe products on the market.

For years we have been dealing with lead in children's toys and phyllates in plastics that are put in the mouths of babies and children, which are toxic, dangerous and cause very serious life-threatening debilitating problems.

We are pleased that the government has provided for a way to ensure that once we have identified serious problems, action can be taken. I think we will all agree that the problem with this bill is that it is not readily apparent how action will be taken and products that are problematic in the first place are identified.

We did not get an amendment in this legislation that lists hazardous products. We did not get, as the Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society wanted, a provision in this bill that would ensure that all products with hazardous substances would be listed in this legislation, and they would be labelled accordingly.

In that way there would be some certainty for all Canadians that even if the government did not take steps to ban a product, remove a product, or recall a product, at least consumers would know what substances were in that particular product. If they believed that there was enough science to be of concern for usage of that product, then they could at least take personal responsibility.

That was a very important contribution to the process throughout this bill. All of the organizations I have mentioned, time and time again, pointed out just how important it would be for us to take those lists of carcinogens and hormone-disrupting and endocrine-disrupting substances, toxins and chemicals and list them, and have them denoted and labelled, including the labelling of all products.

We did not get those amendments, and there was certainly major disappointment. Now, our job is to ensure that the government lives up to its commitment to say that if we can prove that something is a problem in terms of health and safety then the government will take action. Well, we will hold it to that, and we will try every step of the way to remind it of those obligations.

I hope that through the advisory committee and through the reporting back to this House, we will have some extra checks in place.

Suffice it to say, this bill falls short of where some of the international community is at with respect to very dangerous chemicals and substances. The European Union has in fact taken the steps of listing all such carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and dangerous chemicals and toxins, and is moving toward a phased-in process of labelling.

That is something this country cannot avoid. In the long run we will have to do the same. It is too bad because this bill should have been the ultimate, having waited for 40 or 50 or 60 years, in improving the Hazardous Products Act. This should have been the moment when we actually did a perfect job and produced legislation that was the best in the world. We fall short of that objective and we will now have to play some catch up.

I want members to know that I believe the obligation will be on this House and all members of Parliament to push that envelope, to advance that agenda. We have to make sure that in the end we have in fact delineated all such toxic substances and provided consumers with the information that they need to make responsible decisions.

We have to follow the right to know principle. There is no way around it in this complex world with so many dangerous substances and so much technological development. With such rapid change all around us, at the bare minimum we have to at least ensure that consumers are made aware of the necessary information.

It came as a shock to us to have some witnesses come before our committee and say that this would be too complicated, too much, that consumers would be overloaded, not able to choose, and would end up making the wrong decisions and would be too confused.

As we said back to those witnesses, consumers are on top of the ball. They are certainly advanced in terms of understanding and are looking to government to provide them with the information so they can make responsible decisions.

Consumers are looking for safe food, drugs, water, products, toys, pharmaceuticals and medical interventions. They expect the government to ensure that all of the products we have to take and need for our health and well-being are safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

I must say that we did accomplish something that was important in terms of the natural health community. Early on, the forces in this community, those people who produce, manufacture or use natural health products, rose up and said that they felt that there was no place in this legislation for those products. They said that we had to differentiate between consumer products and natural health products. The government listened and we certainly pressured it to do so. It agreed to amend the bill so that nothing about the bill would have any bearing on natural health products.

However, it did raise an interesting dilemma for the government. It showed that we have a third regulatory mechanism by which we deal with natural health products in this country that is failing. Small businesses that produce and sell these natural health products are coming to the government on a constant basis, demanding some action to improve the process and reduce the backlog.

The government itself has suggested that there is a deadline of 2010 by which all consumer and natural health products must be through the process, receive their DIN number, and be licensed or else sent back for further research. As things now stand, there are something like 36,000 applications before the government and no sign of that diminishing. Never mind the backlog. With the number of applications that have come in on a daily basis, a significant number have not been dealt with and have been added to the backlog.

The problem is only getting worse. Many of the groups, including the Canadian Health Food Association, have called on the government to start to get a handle on this and live up to its promise to end the backlog and to say whether or not this 2010 deadline means anything. If the government is not anywhere close to meeting its obligations to deal with all products by that time, they would prefer that the deadline be changed.

They would prefer more cooperative work to be done between the natural health food industry, retailers, consumers and the government to ensure that proper regulatory measures are taken to approve products and not simply to deal with the backlog by getting rid of and denying applications, which seems to be the pattern.

The government seems to be saying that it is going to deal with the backlog and it is doing it by denying more applications than not. It thereby reduces the backlog in a most unfortunate way, without the science, evidence of effectiveness or the true test of whether or not any of these products are falsified or not accurate in terms of their description and identification.

That is a problem that emerged from these discussions. It must be dealt with and it must be dealt with before the government even begins to think about reintroducing Bill C-51, which had amendments to the Food and Drug Act. We know the uproar that happened last year and the year before about natural health products. We know that there were hundreds and thousands of letters, emails, meetings, faxes, individuals speaking up, rallies and demonstrations about the government's inappropriate approach with respect to natural health products.

The message for the government is to get its act together on this because it is only going to come back and be haunted if it does not. We have to find a way to treat natural health products as a separate category, not as a food, drug or consumer product, but as a unique product that is important for Canadians and contributes a great deal to the health and well-being of Canadians.

I have said enough on that. Let me now go to the question of a government that introduces legislation that says it is concerned about consumer products and safety and yet, at the same time, cuts back in its latest budget a heck of a lot of money that is supposed to ensure a national office for workplace hazardous materials information systems, otherwise known as WHMIS.

This is an important office, which ensures there is a centre in government, a focal point for assessing and providing information around health and safety in terms of materials that are dealt with in the workplace and ensuring that all workers are given the benefit of information about hazardous materials they work with, that there is active international right-to-know legislation before them, that there is a global classification system that includes all the previously identified dangerous chemicals, not leaving some out because of pressure from the industry.

This cutback amounts to about $2.6 million over two years. The Canadian Labour Congress and other national labour organizations have clearly indicated that this cutback will eliminate the national office. It will totally cut back the focal point within Health Canada to ensure that WHMIS has an active national office. It is a serious cutback and it flies in the face of all the government's talk about wanting the best possible legislation for ensuring consumer safety and protection for all Canadians, no matter where they work or what kinds of jobs they are doing for our economy.

I urge the government to reconsider that cutback and to sit down with some of the trade unions and labour movements and talk about what is needed to ensure workplace health and safety and to ensure that there is active right-to-know legislation and a regulatory process in this country. Otherwise, we will have done a great disservice to workers. We will have denied their right to work in safe conditions and ensure the risks they take are minimized as much as possible.

In response to a question I asked in the House, the government announced last week that it was finally going to eliminate all lead and phthalate products beyond certain trace levels from the market. We applaud that move, but that has come about 12 years after we started raising this issue.

In almost the first year that I was elected as a member of Parliament to this place, we started raising the question of phthalates. I remember holding press conferences with samples of baby toys, teething rings, rubber ducks, plastic knapsacks and umbrellas, which kids put in their mouths, that are made of phthalates and that were then demonstrated to be dangerous in terms of the health and well-being of babies and children.

Some 12 years later, we finally have a government that is acting. Good for it for finally doing so, but what the heck took so long? Why did it take so long with lead as well? I raise these issues because if that is the pattern, it does not bode well for the application of Bill C-6, the very legislation we are dealing with at this moment. It very much depends on the will of government, the intentions of politicians and the acceptance of scientific data.

The government continues to drag its feet and ignore the science, as it is doing right now with bisphenol A. It bans bisphenol A when it comes to baby bottles but not other products. A lot more must be done to ensure that substances are identified so that products can be banned if they are dangerous beyond a reasonable doubt, so that Canadians can live with the notion that everything on the market is safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by recognizing the efforts of the member for Winnipeg North, who has done a very thorough job. She is very tenacious in her efforts to improve the lives of all Canadians.

She is correct in pointing out the shortcomings of this bill, one of which is the lack of labelling on products containing hazardous materials. It is obvious that we should be putting that in any type of bill. Can anyone imagine not having a labelling process that points out what hazardous materials are in products? It seems to me to be a basic starting point.

We will have to watch the government carefully to make sure it does not ignore the enforcement of its own legislation. I would like to ask the member whether she trusts the government to follow through on the aspects of this particular bill.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Elmwood—Transcona, for his work on consumer products and advocacy for consumer rights.

In fact, we had numerous amendments proposed by many of the informed experts in this field, and we tried to advance those amendments through the legislative process.

I again want to thank members of those organizations for their diligence on this front. I think about Aaron Freeman of Environmental Defence, Lisa Gue with the David Suzuki Foundation, Rob Cunningham and Claire Checkland with Canadian Cancer Society, Anu Bose with Option consommateurs, Cynthia Callard with Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, Ondina Love with the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists, Ken Neumann with the United Steelworkers, Richard Kinar with the Brain Injury Association of Canada and many others who worked hard getting information to us and who proposed amendments.

We tried to convince the government to do some sort of labelling requirement in this bill, and it was rejected.

We tried to get substances within products listed so we are looking at this in terms of the chronic issues that emerge from dangerous substances, not just whole products like a poisonous bottle of whatever, but those substances within a product that could over a period of time hurt one's health and well-being and contaminate the environment.

The question of bisphenol A comes to mind. We can get rid of the number 7 plastics and the bisphenol A in terms of water bottles, but when they go into the garbage dumps and then break down and leach into the environment and back into our water system, we have a big problem.

We tried that. We did not get it.

All I can say is that the government knows it is going to have to move on right-to-know legislation, that it is going to have to move on full disclosure, that it is going to have to move on full labelling. We are going to count on the expert advisory committee to make those recommendations. We are going to monitor every one of the regulations, and we are going to ensure that the government lives up to this wish and concern on the part of all Canadians.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her long-term efforts at protecting consumers. They are very much appreciated.

I have had the opportunity of working in the environmental field for some time, and part of that was with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. One of the issues we were looking at was the ability of the enforcement officers in the field to actually detect problems, everything from the illegal trade in endangered species to the detection of hazardous products.

When I was the chief of enforcement, we faced a serious issue of importation into Canada of contaminated fuels. There are a lot of issues where we have hazardous substances we may not have presumed in products and that may not be easily regulated.

One of the things we did while we were at the commission is to run training programs for customs officials. Customs officials are overwhelmed with checking a myriad of laws at the federal level. Unfortunately, with the preoccupation with 9/11, I think we have probably backed off in giving attention to things like training and attention to the detection of contaminated products.

I wonder whether how we are actually going to enforce this act was looked at in committee. Where are we going to put our resources to actually prevent these contaminated substances from coming into the country?

I am glad the member raised the issue about disposal. Even with the preoccupation of these better light bulbs, people do not realize they are full of mercury and we have simply passed the problem of disposing them to the municipalities.

I thank the member for her comments, and I look forward to her reply.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, in fact enforcement provisions, inspection capabilities and surveillance were raised by the committee over and over again. We know that this bill, no matter how good it sounds on paper, is only as good as the active resources in the field monitoring and doing surveillance.

We were shocked that there is no real plan to ensure appropriate inspection staff or enforcement officers are in place. The government's budget allows for some increase in inspection officers, but only about 40 over the next 5 years. That is hardly commensurate with the general direction offered by this bill and the requirements of Bill C-6. It is based on the notion that we need to check things at the border, that we have to be able to do spot checks in manufacturing outlets in this country, that we have inspectors going into toy stores and other retail outlets. Yet, we do not have the capacity to do so.

This legislation could offer very little protection to Canadians, unless we can convince the government to add resources to it.

We tried very hard to get changes on a couple of issues, and we just could not. Before I get to that, let me say that with respect to workplace inspectors and surveillance, we had great presentations from the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. We also had important representations from the United Food and Commercial Workers, in particular, Larry Stoffman, who brought us information, as well as the steelworkers. We will continue to be vigilant on that front.

There are two other issues of importance. One is with respect to tobacco.

Although we have other legislation coming forward that deals with flavoured tobacco products, which is good, we could not convince the government to include an amendment in this bill to ensure that it is also listed as an area where consumer safety and health protection laws would apply.

Although the officials were very helpful on many fronts, and I appreciate their help on this bill with the amendments and their explanations, we could not convince them or the government to include tobacco as a precautionary measure, to ensure that it has the double protection of our tobacco laws and our consumer protection laws. Why they could not do that, I do not know.

Finally, with respect to noisy toys, I want to give the government credit. It is an issue of mine. I have a private member's bill to ensure that we lower the decibel levels of toys allowed on the market. It did not get accepted as part of this bill, but the officials and the government made a clear commitment that they will be bringing in regulations to bring our standards up to the highest level anywhere in the world, to ensure that children are protected from very noisy toys and that their hearing is not hurt because of unacceptable levels of noise and unsafe toys.

The House resumed from June 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-280 under private members' business.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #84

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from June 4 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.

Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of QuebecPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion M-288 and on the amendment under private members' business.

The next question is on the amendment.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #85

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the amendment carried.

The next question is on the main motion, as amended.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe that if you seek it you would find agreement to apply the vote on the previous motion to the current motion.