Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-6.
Hundreds of products have been recalled in the last couple of years, many of them from offshore. In fact, 65% of the products sold in this country are imported. Not many are made here.
I want to speak about children's products. When my children were little, I remember seeing labels on toys, blankets and so on, mainly children's products, that indicated they were made from 100% unknown fibres. I used to smile at that. I knew what it meant. They were probably clean and new fibres, but they were unknown fibres. Hopefully this bill will address that kind of label, as well as counterfeit labels.
Canada's Hazardous Products Act is 40 years old this year. It has not been very effective in identifying or removing dangerous products. It leaves Canadians at the mercy of product recalls which mainly originate in the United States. We take action later.
Bill C-6 will enable us to recall products in a timely fashion. It addresses some of the weaknesses. It will empower the government to order a recall of dangerous products. It will increase government authority to require information and action from manufacturers and importers. It will require mandatory reporting by manufacturers and importers of incidents involving death or injury from a product's use, and to inform Canadians of any potential harm. It also will apply heavy fines to violators.
There are some good parts in this bill and I am certainly supportive of it. Despite these changes, however, improvements are still needed if the bill is to be effective and supportable. I will talk about some of those proposed amendments in a moment.
Right now there is too much discretion for inspectors, and action is pretty well optional, even when it is believed that human health might be at risk. The government is not required to inform consumers of safety issues that have been identified. This area needs to be tightened up.
Sometimes it is just a question of language. Instead of stating that something “may” be done, the legislation should state that there is a responsibility to do something, or that something “must” be done. The bill must have a more proactive, aggressive approach to product safety.
With respect to consumer protection, the previous Liberal government had 12 years to do something and as of 2005-06 nothing had been done.
I would like to make a quick comment concerning a business in my riding, because it is relevant in this particular situation regarding consumer protection and harm to Canadians.
GRK Fasteners is an importer and exporter of fastening products. Ninety-six per cent of the products that GRK Fasteners produces and repackages in Canada are sent to the United States and only about 4% of the products are sold in Canada. It is very harmful to Canadians and harmful to this company, and the 40 or so people who work for GRK Fasteners, that the company has been hit with a 170% SIMA duty. That needs to be reconsidered and dealt with soon. This company is doing absolutely no harm to Canadians, as 96% of its products are exported to the United States.
It is very interesting that the government can overlook some things that harm Canadians, but it is really harming Canadians, small business and jobs such as those at GRK Fasteners in Thunder Bay. That company's only option may be to move its operations to the United States. We are talking about 40 manufacturing jobs in Thunder Bay. It is interesting to make that contrast.
Getting back to the bill at hand, the public is hungry for reliable product safety information. Companies in Canada manufacture high-quality safe products. Quite frankly, we expect others to do the same and to be able to prove it.
There are some proposed amendments to the bill for when it gets to committee.
The first is concerning health and the environment. The general “prohibition” in the bill should be expanded so that no consumer product can be imported or marketed if it is a danger to human health or safety either through direct exposure or via the environment.
A section should be added prohibiting substances on the list of toxic substances from consumer products, with a very few exceptions, for example, when the substance is not a hazard in the consumer product itself. I think we could be reasonable on that kind of amendment.
The legislation should include a duty for the government to act when the government is made aware of a risk regarding a consumer product. I think everybody in this House would agree that would be a reasonable amendment. There should be a duty for the minister to inform the public when he or she is made aware of a risk regarding a consumer product.
In deciding whether a danger to health or safety exists, the legislation should require the government to consider: the release of harmful substances from products during use or after disposal, including to house dust and indoor air; the potential harm from chronic exposure to the substance; the potential harm to vulnerable populations; the cumulative exposure to a substance Canadians receive from the products of concern and other environmental exposures; and the substitution principle, that is, whether safe substitutes exist.
The legislation should create a hot list similar to that for cosmetics, listing carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and neurotoxins. These substances should be prohibited in products with temporary exceptions granted only to the extent that the product is essential and only when alternatives do not exist. At a bare minimum, any product containing such chemicals should be required to carry a hazard label, as is required in a number of states, including California and Vermont, and in the European Union as well.
The legislation should establish a list of product classes at highest risk of containing or releasing hazardous substances. There should be explicit guidance prioritizing the routine inspection of these product classes. The legislation should require labelling of all ingredients, as is already the case with cosmetics and some other products.
I prefaced my remarks by saying that I certainly support sending this bill to committee. I have just outlined some of the amendments we would like to see to the bill. I am certainly open to any questions that may come from the floor.