moved that Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in the House for third reading of Bill C-36, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.
I know, from discussions with my colleagues, that we all recognize the need to modernize product safety legislation in this country.
The Hazardous Products Act is 40-year-old legislation that was developed at a time when consumer product marketplaces were very different. At the time, a greater number of products were produced domestically. Today, many of the products available for sale to Canadians are imported, supply chains are complex and innovation drives rapid product change and development.
Our current legislation requires us to develop regulations and prohibitions as a basis for ensuring product safety. Because of this, Health Canada has remained focused on particular products or product classes that are reviewed through a targeted sampling and testing program. New regulations continue to be developed to address risks as they emerge.
The regulatory process is a lengthy one. It leaves us with few tools to quickly address serious product safety issues as they emerge. My department has not had the tools to act quickly to prevent product-related incidents. In Canada, we have a post-market consumer product safety regime, which means that we do not certify new products coming into the market. A post-market regime makes sense for consumer products and helps ensure a free flow of goods but it demands a modern legislative framework.
Where we have regulations in place, products must meet the requirements they describe, but there are thousands of products that are not regulated. We do not have the mandatory incident reporting in Canada. There is currently no obligation for industry to report product-related problems. We have no authority at this time to require testing or that test results be provided to ensure compliance with our legislation. When we do identify a serious risk with a product, we do not have the powers of mandatory recall.
While it is true that we have a very co-operative industry in Canada, an industry that strives to be compliant, the fact that we cannot rely on mandatory powers of recall frequently requires us to undertake lengthy negotiations for volunteer recall, even if the severity of the situation demands swift action.
My colleagues in this chamber know that this legislation is close to my heart. I have travelled throughout Canada to discuss product safety with parents and stakeholders. I have travelled internationally to promote our work on product safety with foreign jurisdictions. I am a member of a government that recognizes the need to increase funding for product safety and put our money where our mouth is with the food and consumer product safety action plan.
Through the food and consumer safety action plan, we are doubling the number of inspectors throughout Canada. We are increasing our funding for outreach to ensure that industry understands its obligations and that consumers have the information they need to make good product choices.
We are also building an efficient system to support the requirements in this legislation for mandatory reporting of serious product-related incidents and we are increasing our work in the development of standards. Standards will be an important tool in the future for ensuring product safety and for helping industry to address risk.
These tools are putting us on a strong footing for a system built on active prevention, targeted oversight and rapid response. They will support the hard work that has already been done by Health Canada in the areas of product safety and bring us up to date, not only with what is required in the modern global marketplace, but also with the product safety regimes of our major trading partners. This legislation is an important part of that plan.
What would this legislation help to achieve? The proposed act focuses on three areas: active prevention, targeted oversight, and rapid response.
I will first speak to the active prevention. The proposed consumer products safety act would 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 would allow Health Canada to address consumer products in Canada that pose an unreasonable danger to the health or safety of the public.
When I appeared before the Standing Committee on Health, we discussed the emerging problem of cadmium in children's jewellery and examples of how the general prohibitions might be used right now if they were in place. Health Canada has worked hard to address product safety in Canada. The work that has been done to help ensure that children's products are safe is one of the best examples of this.
As many of my colleagues in the House know, Health Canada currently has some of the strictest limits in the world on the use of lead in children's products. It is a toxic if ingested. My department regularly enforces these lead limits, and officials are also on alert for the presence of other heavy metals in children's products. That is how we discovered the presence of cadmium in children's jewellery.
Cadmium is also toxic. Because it is cheap material, it is being used to make children's jewellery. If we could be certain that these items were only going to be worn by young people there might not be a problem. However, as many of us know from our own children, it can be a challenge to keep items out of their mouth. When swallowed, cadmium can cause a range of ill health effects.
Because there are currently no regulated limits on the use of cadmium in children's jewellery, the department has exercised the limits of its authority under the Hazardous Products Act by releasing advisories to alert parents about these items and by asking the industry for a voluntary ban on its use.
It is worthwhile to consider how we might be managing this emerging problem with cadmium if the Canada consumer product safety act were in place. The knowledge that under certain circumstances cadmium causes an unreasonable danger would provide us with the basis to use the general prohibition that is included in this legislation. Our inspectors could be working right now to remove unsafe cadmium-filled children's jewellery from stores. The department would not necessarily have to wait up to two years for the development of regulations in order to have the ability to act. We could be issuing recalls for these products if we found that industry was not willing to act swiftly on a voluntary basis. The general prohibition is an important provision for helping to prevent consumer product incidents before they occur.
In terms of active prevention, another important provision in this legislation is the updated fines. Compliance and enforcement would be strengthened through maximum fines of up to $5 million for some of the worst offences or more for offences committed knowingly or recklessly.
The current fines under the Hazardous Products Act could easily be perceived as simply a cost of doing business. The new maximum fines are a step up from the current maximum penalty of $1 million. They will be an important deterrent and they will bring us into step with other major trading partners.
What about targeted oversight? Targeted oversight is especially important in the context of products where the risk 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 manufacturer or importer to conduct safety tests and to submit results to the ministry in order to verify compliance with the act. It would also require suppliers to notify Health Canada of defects and of serious product-related incidents. These would include near miss incidents where injury has been averted.
Let us consider cribs. At the moment, as many colleagues know, my officials are consulting on whether we should ban traditional drop-side cribs in this country. We have developed this proposal and we are talking to Canadians about it because we know from mandatory reporting in the United States that these cribs can cause safety risks.
Our colleagues in the United States have been very generous with information they gather through their mandatory reporting. They have worked co-operatively with us on recalls and they assisted us in determining whether problematic products have been sold in Canada. We work with them on a daily basis.
We look forward to having access to our own incident data generated as a result of the provisions for mandatory reporting. This is a provision that will be critical for us as we transition to product safety programs built on the strategic intelligence it generates.
The proposed legislation also includes measures to allow for a rapid response to problems once they are identified. We must not forget that we always hope to avoid problems and prevent injuries related to consumer products, and that is why we are investing in active prevention and targeted oversight. However, we have a post-market regime for consumer products in Canada and we have almost as many entry points for products into this country as we have products. They are coming to Canada from around the world.
Under the proposed new act, Health Canada would be able to move quickly and decisively when a problem occurs. This would be done through the ability to order recalls of unsafe consumer products and by requiring suppliers to maintain accurate records to enable quick tracking of products.
Health Canada will work closely with industry to ensure this legislation is understood and properly implemented. Workshops and other information-sharing opportunities will be used to promote awareness of the new provisions and requirements.
Through Bill C-36, our government is demonstrating its commitment to consumer product safety. We are demonstrating our desire to meet Canadians' expectations by proposing action Canadians want and need.
The bill before us today reflects a cumulative wisdom of both Houses of Parliament and extensive long-term consultation on the part of Health Canada. When it came before this House previously as Bill C-6, the standing committee heard from government witnesses and from 33 other witnesses representing over 24 organizations. In total, five separate sessions were devoted to review and discuss former Bill C-6, two of which were extended. In those sessions, all voices were heard and all opinions were closely considered. The results of the committee's hard work was an amended bill that reflected the underlying policy intent of the bill, as well as other key aspects of concern to some witnesses.
Our government's amendments included delivering on a commitment to make it crystal clear that natural health products would not be regulated by this act. The opposition amendments address two key areas: consultation and information-sharing. When the government reintroduced the bill, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, in June of this year, it retained those amendments.
In its previous form as Bill C-6, Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, it was subject to considerable scrutiny in other places. Our colleagues were concerned that perhaps the legislation provided too broad a scope for inspector powers. Before we reintroduced this legislation last June, we worked hard to analyze those concerns.
Of the six changes incorporated into Bill C-36 before its reintroduction in June, three spoke to concerns about the perceived scope of inspector powers and four spoke to concerns raised by opposition senators. We removed the words “and they are not liable for doing so” from the provisions that allow inspectors to pass over private property. We defined storage so that it would be clear that it would not apply to goods stored by individuals for personal use.
In Bill C-36, the minister is now made expressly accountable for the authority for recalls and other orders. And, in responding to concerns about the review of orders, the bill now sets out a 30-day review period.
The government also adjusted the legislation to improve the wording in the bill, “provisions for an advisory body”, in order to clarify what is meant by public advice. Last, the government added the prohibition on BPA and baby bottles.
We heard from colleagues in the upper chamber that these changes largely address their concerns, but after the legislation was introduced in June, they remained concerned that some of the technical amendments they had made to the bill, when it was before them as Bill C-6, had not been incorporated into Bill C-36.
We want this legislation to pass, and so we have again worked hard to address these concerns. That is why the government introduced four amendments at clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-36.
Some colleagues have asked that the requirements of the Privacy Act be made explicit in this legislation. We have done this with the amendment to clause 15.
We have also incorporated a series of technical amendments to address and distinguish the two Houses of Parliament. Some of these amendments address the unique nature of each place and the fact that their committees are structured differently. We have amended clause 38 to address those concerns.
We have also amended clause 39 to ensure that a timely rationale is provided in cases where certain regulations are made without being laid before Parliament.
We have amended clause 60 to address the concerns raised in the other place that clause 60 lacked clarity about the role of the minister in reviewing a notice of violation. This change required a further technical amendment to subclause 56(1).
Given these changes and the committee's previous close scrutiny of this legislation, I am pleased to see the bill reported back to this House with only a small number of amendments.
It is my sincere hope that this House will pass Bill C-36, and that it will reflect the efforts many people have made to address all the concerns. As I stand at third reading today, I feel optimistic that we will soon have dramatically improved consumer product safety in this country.
As I speak today, I remain hopeful that this House, in its wisdom, will pass this legislation. I am hopeful that this legislation will rapidly become law. It is my wish that this bill be afforded a smooth passage.
I would like to address one last issue pertaining to this legislation. It is critically important to make the distinction, as this legislation does, between administrative proceedings and proceedings in the criminal courts. Under the administrative monetary penalty system, a person or supplier that has been found to be out of compliance with the act or regulations could be issued an order to take an appropriate corrective measure. If that person or supplier does not take the appropriate action, he or she may be subject to a notice of violation. If a notice is issued, the person or supplier will be subject to the monetary penalties under the administrative monetary penalty system.
This system encourages compliance and addresses non-compliance with orders for recall and other corrective measures. These measures can be an effective tool for gaining cooperation from regulated industry. Violations can result in an administrative process that is more responsive and less expensive than prosecution in the criminal courts. A criminal record would not result from a violation.
I will be watching the progress of this bill closely. I will continue to meet with parents and stakeholders to talk about the importance of having a consumer product safety regime. I set high standards on officials to develop effective, efficient, reliable systems to support the new provisions in the bill.
As I wrap up my remarks, I would like to pause to consider the hard work that has gone into this legislation and into getting it to this point in the legislative process. The parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Oshawa, has worked tirelessly to support the goal of passing the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. To him I extend my thanks.
I would also like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Health for their hard work on this bill. Every member of the Standing Committee on Health voiced support for this legislation, and demonstrated this support by making the bill a priority and focusing on its swift passage.
I therefore want to thank my colleagues on the committee for their support, collaborative approach, and shared concern for the safety of consumer products in Canada. I also want to thank all the Canadians and stakeholders I have met who share my desire for new product safety legislation and the many benefits it will bring. I look forward to their ongoing support for bringing this bill through the full legislative process to full implementation.
To conclude, I want to stress that Canada's current consumer product legislation is 40 years old. We have fallen behind other jurisdictions. An update is overdue and the bill before us today benefits from a wide diversity of experts' views.
Canadians can be assured that the government—