House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was help.


6:35 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we see the excesses from the other side one more time. What we do is that the previous Liberal government took every measure possible to gut our food safety system.

Unlike the Liberals, our government has increased funding and inspectors to food safety. We originally added 200 new inspectors and put $113 million into the food safety and consumer action plan. We have just announced an additional $75 million for food safety and another 160 food safety staff to address the Weatherill report.

Contrast that to the Liberals. Food safety was cut by the Liberals in 1994, again in 1995. If that was not enough, they did it again in 2005. To justify his cuts, former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin said:

Surely we can all agree that it is simply silly for a food-processing plant to have a federal meat inspector, a federal health inspector, a federal fish inspector, not to mention a provincial health inspector and a provincial food inspector tripping over themselves on the same day, in the same plant...

The record is clear. The Liberals gutted our food safety system.

6:35 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the agri-food industry and food processors have a dilemma, and they do not know what to do about it. For example, according to the standard, for an item to be labelled “made in Canada”, 98% of the ingredients must be produced in Canada, which is totally unrealistic.

The Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State for Agriculture, the member for Jonquière—Alma, insisted on the 98% standard for labelling items as “Made in Canada”.

We know that even as he was insisting on that, the committee was discussing the matter with the processing industry, which said that the standard was completely unrealistic because it is virtually impossible for products like cookies, blueberry jam from Lac-Saint-Jean and ice wine from Ontario to have less than 2% foreign ingredients. We know that many sweets, such as cookies, contain a lot of sugar. No industry can achieve the 2% goal, so nobody will be able to use the “made in Canada” label.

From April to June, while the committee was doing its job and meeting with different processing industries, they went ahead with a bill. Last April, I addressed the first questions to the minister. He wanted to proceed with a 98% standard, everything was all right and he had consulted the industry. But that was not the case. The industry told us that it did not make sense. For example, the Leclerc company in Quebec told us its cookies could no longer comply with the ridiculous legislation put in place by this government and this minister's stubbornness.

Last July, the industry made many presentations to the minister. He stated that he had listened to the complaints and that he wanted to correct the situation. He says that he wants to correct the situation but then he says that he will write to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board to keep him informed.

What is the Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture) doing to correct a situation that is untenable for many food processing industries?

It also means that the committee's work was ignored. We told him. We warned him and told him it was untenable. And yet, in committee, everyone had agreed on 85% as an acceptable standard. Once again, as is the case with the employment insurance bill, they are ignoring the people's concerns and want to move forward with a bill that does not take reality into account.

I have raised this in the adjournment debate today to make the minister understand that it is time to act and that it is not difficult for him to meet with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board because he is his colleague. He should immediately change the 98% rule and lower it to a percentage that is realistic for the agri-food industry and food processors.

We will come back to the House. We raised concerns last week but the government does not seem to understand the urgency of the situation.

6:40 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan


David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, while the member opposite as a member of the Bloc can only criticize the government, our ministers and Quebec MPs continue to represent very strongly the people of Quebec.

I want to thank the House for giving me the opportunity to respond in greater detail to this question regarding the product of Canada labelling guidelines.

For years Canadians have wanted food labels that clearly reflect Canadian content of products. That is why the Government of Canada implemented new product of Canada guidelines on December 31, 2008.

I will provide a bit of history.

The Government of Canada launched the food and consumer safety action plan in December 2007. This initiated our consultations on the product of Canada labelling.

On May 21, 2008 the Prime Minister launched consultations to solicit the views of Canadians on the use of product of Canada and made in Canada claims on food products and in advertising.

This government consulted more than 1,500 people who completed an online survey; others wrote or called in their comments. Canadians overwhelmingly supported the revised product of Canada guidelines.

Our government listened. We undertook a thorough review of the current guideline on voluntary product of Canada and made in Canada claims on food products. Now the Bloc wants to revisit the issue even though Canadians have already spoken.

Under the revised guidelines, manufacturers in Canada have choices on how they label their products. They can use the label “product of Canada” or they can use the label “made in Canada” as long as they tell Canadians where the ingredients come from.

If “product of Canada” appears on the product label, all or virtually all of the ingredients and processing must be Canadian.

The “made in Canada” label will be used when the food product is manufactured or processed in Canada regardless of whether the ingredients are imported or domestic.

Under these new guidelines, Canadian consumers can be confident that the current labelling requirements provide accurate and informative labelling information on prepackaged food products.

6:40 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary's response suggests that nothing is going to change.

Even government officials warned the Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of State for Agriculture that it would be very difficult to meet his criteria. I understand that the guidelines were an attempt to change labelling regulations and that people have the right to know where products come from, but we do not produce sugar cane. That is why the 98% standard is totally unrealistic. I really think that it is unreasonable to tell food processors that they can label their products as “Made in Canada” only if 98% of the ingredients are made in Canada. If I understand correctly, we are being told that there will be no effort to educate the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and that the policy will not be reconsidered. Maybe people should be told that this standard is unrealistic and that an 85% requirement is sufficient to tell people where ingredients in a product come from.

6:45 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, despite what the member may say, the fact is that these labels, “made in Canada” and “product of Canada”, are needed by industry, are wanted by Canadians, and are needed and wanted by Canadian producers. Lee Townsend of Wild Rose Agricultural Producers said recently at committee that this will “most definitely” help farmers.

Canadians are concerned about the safety of imported food. When Canadians pick up a food labelled “product of Canada”, they expect it to be Canadian inside and out.

According to an Angus Reid survey, over 90% of Canadians agree with the direction of these new guidelines.

Furthermore, Canadians know it is unpalatable to hide foreign ingredients under a “product of Canada” label.

Canadians want to know what was in their food and our Conservative government has delivered.

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:46 p.m.)