Mr. Speaker, as most hon. members here know, when a government bill is introduced, the same member cannot deliver a speech more than once at each stage. Therefore, at second reading stage, like today, it would normally not be possible to speak more than once to this bill, an act respecting the safety of consumer products. In the present case, it will be possible because this is the third time this bill is being introduced by this same government. Why is this so? Because the Prime Minister said so. He decided, through various manoeuvres, to draw out the debate on this much anticipated and necessary bill.
That is why, when I read the Minister of Health's press release that was printed and distributed on June 7, 2010, I could not help but laugh. I will read an excerpt:
“The safety and well-being of Canadian families and children remain a top priority for our government,” said [the Minister of Health]. “Canada's current product safety law is now over 40 years old and we need to do more to update and improve this law to help protect our families from harmful products.”
About four years ago today, the Auditor General pointed out the problem and emphasized that we should redouble our efforts to modernize this old legislation going back 40 years. She submitted a report in November 2006 that showed the Government of Canada was aware of the risks that consumers were running as a result of the lack of funding for the product safety program and knew that managers could not comply with their mandates. That was in November 2006. So what happened after that? Let me summarize the period of time since November 2006.
In the summer of 2007, thousands of toys made in China were recalled by their manufacturers because of the lead they contained. The Bloc Québécois said at the time that the minister should act without delay to tighten the safety requirements for dangerous products in order to prohibit the manufacture, promotion and marketing of any product entailing an unacceptable risk of harmful effects to health.
Although the Auditor General made her determination in November 2006, it was not until December 2007 that the government announced—not that a bill was being introduced—but that an action plan had been created to ensure the safety of food and consumer products. The government promised a bill in the days or weeks or months to come. It finally appeared in April 2008. A year and a half had passed, therefore, between the Auditor General’s findings and Bill C-52.
You know something about this, Mr. Speaker, because you were affected like all of us. The bill was prevented from continuing through all the stages of the legislative process and becoming much-needed legislation because in September 2008—despite the fine fixed-date election bill the Prime Minister had decided to introduce and get passed—he decided, because he was the Prime Minister and could use his prerogative, to call a general election and slam the doors on Parliament. Never mind the very necessary and important bills that are pending, let us have an election. That was in September 2008. So the process for passing this bill on the safety of consumer products was dragged out even longer.
The only thing that happened at the end of January was that the bill was introduced. Actual debate began only in April 2009. Once again, there were delays. I can tell you that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health was not where the process was dragged out, because in five meetings we were able to hear all the people involved and all the people with an interest in the issue. Amendments were presented and we managed to find common ground among all the parliamentarians on the committee. However, we did not make it to the end of the legislative process for the bill, because in December 2009, Parliament was prorogued. The Prime Minister, again because he is the Prime Minister and he has the power to do it, decided to shut down Parliament, to leave us in our constituencies and not to allow the House of Commons to complete the entire legislative process then underway, and in particular the process of passing the consumer products safety bill, a bill that, I repeat, is necessary and one that people are waiting for.
In March 2010, Parliament returned. But did the government introduce the bill? No, it waited a few months. In June 2010, Bill C-36 was introduced, the one we have before us and that we will be debating today and in the days that follow. And since June, have we been debating this bill, a bill that is needed and that people are waiting for? No, we have been waiting, we let the summer go by, and here we are on October 7, debating it at second reading.
It is somewhat odd that we had to wait four years and still not have passed it, and be starting, once again, to consider passing the bill, a bill that has, in general, the agreement of the parliamentarians in this House. This is cause for concern, to say the least. That is why I smiled a little when I read this paragraph from the minister. A little farther on in the same news release, the minister tells us that she looks forward to speaking with us about the bill in greater detail in the coming days. We have had to wait until October for her to address the subject in this House.
Furthermore, we are falling behind, and everyone knows it. Earlier, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons had to rise and ask for unanimous consent to have only one round of speeches. Everyone knows that we are behind, but if the government, headed by the Prime Minister, truly—