House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rehabilitation.


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:10 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, a short time ago, there was a hearing under way between DND officers and industry experts in the field of providing equipment and the like to the Department of National Defence. In that hearing, they had a slide projector, and this report comes from Dave Pugliese's “Defence Watch”. When the slide came up on the screen to present their thoughts on fixed wing search and rescue, the screen was filled with a giant question mark. It has been a question mark for the Department of National Defence for quite some time.

I come from an area that is one of those bases, the 103 Search and Research Unit at 9 Wing Gander. This issue has been going on for quite some time. The Minister of National Defence said on repeated occasions how this would be done. In December 2008, the minister announced that he planned to move quickly on the search and rescue acquisition, procuring an aircraft in early 2009. It has not happened.

A study is being undertaken by National Research in conjunction with three departments, Industry Canada, Public Works and Department of National Defence. Therefore, I have two questions.

First, is the bidding process going to begin soon? Did National Research recommend that it start from scratch?

Second, does the Air Force have in mind what type of aircraft it is considering to replenish the fleet in fixed-wing search and rescue, particularly the Buffalos on the west coast and the Hercules on the east coast?

6:15 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the question from my hon. colleague from Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.

To situate my remarks, let me first say a few words about the project. In line with the Canada first defence strategy, the government stands by its 20 year commitment to the renewal of the Canadian Forces, and that includes fixed-wing SAR. We plan to acquire up to 17 aircraft to meet search and rescue operational and training requirements of the Canadian Forces in that area.

In terms of the acquisition project itself, let me first say that the Department of National Defence has a priority to deliver the best equipment to our men and women in uniform while finding the premium value for Canadian taxpayers.

We need aircraft that has the capability to fulfill the tasks at hand.

For this reason, National Defence, Public Works and Government Services, and Industry Canada completed consultations with industry on fixed-wing search and rescue in July of last year. The requirements for this project have also been reviewed by an independent third party to further ensure they meet the highest standards. We are talking NRC.

In the fall of 2009, the government engaged NRC to conduct an independent review of the requirements of the fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft. The NRC released its report on March 12 and the recommendations made in the report are being reviewed. There were no specific recommendations that the member was talking about. It was a wide range of items that NRC looked at and it had various recommendations in each of the areas. It was a very helpful report.

The department's project office, in conjunction with Public Works and Government Services Canada as well as Industry Canada, is now working on a recommendation for the government which will point the way forward in acquiring new aircraft. We expect that recommendation to be ready later this year. Once this process is completed, we will, as always, move forward in a transparent and accountable way toward a contract for an aircraft that meets our operational requirements. It is not that we have an aircraft in mind; we have a capability in mind because that is the important thing.

Evidently this is a time-consuming process not only because it calls for the highest technical standards, but also because it involves several departments. In the meantime, the Canadian Forces will work with industry to ensure that sufficient spare parts are available until the Buffalo fleet is retired.

I have flown all over Canada in my air force career. From my CF-18 cockpit I have spent a lot of time looking at vast expanses in the north, the uninviting waters of the Beaufort Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. I have even spent a fair bit of time over the hon. member's beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador flying out of bases like Goose Bay and Gander. For all the charm of the countryside and the beauty of the people of that province, there are some pretty desolate areas in our tenth province.

I was lucky enough never to have to give an aircraft back to the Queen, but I do understand the importance of the best possible search and rescue capability. It is critical to all Canadians and others who may rely on this service and it is critical to those brave men and women who deliver the service. That is why we have to be careful to get this right. It has taken longer than I would like, but I have learned that this is the norm around here.

Nevertheless, our government is committed to moving this project ahead as soon as possible and no one will be excluded from an evaluation, except by not meeting the requirements for this no-fail mission.

I am confident the hon. member and all Canadians will be very happy with the final result.

6:20 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have to correct the member on one point. He mentioned Newfoundland and Labrador being the tenth province. I would have to call it the first province, quite frankly, but I am a little biased.

I respect the member's career without a doubt, but the level of transparency here is one that is alarming for many of the industry experts. Many of them do feel, which he addressed, that it is being favoured in one direction. There are two Canadian companies that feel for the most part they are effectively being frozen out of this.

There is one thing I noticed recently. I am not sure if this goes to capability or the type of aircraft, but it may be a hint as to the direction in which the Conservatives are going. The town council of Gander received a letter from the minister stating that Gander is not a place to house Hercules aircraft. Therefore, would that not indicate the Conservatives have an aircraft in mind by turning down Gander as a place to house fixed-wing search and rescue?

6:20 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is an apples and oranges statement. The simple fact is Gander is served right now by rotary-wing SAR with the Cormorant aircraft. The fixed-wing SAR bases are known. Everything is open. There is no one who has been excluded or frozen out. That is simply a false statement.

As I said, we have a capability in mind. Whatever the aircraft is, it has to deliver a capability. That is being refined now especially with the help of the study by National Research Council. Once that is refined it is going to go to Public Works and Industry Canada. We are going to move forward on that. Anyone who feels that he or she has an aircraft or a capability that will meet the specifications will be more than welcome to submit.

6:20 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue we have before us today came about during question period when I talked about HVP, the additive to food. The additive is one that is procured from the United States. It is made in the United States and added to product.

However, during the period of time in question, product was being sold in this country with that additive. There were cases of salmonella and a product recall in the U.S. It had to be communicated to us because we did not test the material. The argument goes that it is made in the U.S. True enough, it is made in the U.S., but the difficulty I had with it was that, when the minister was questioned, he said it was acted upon immediately. The truth was that CFIA actually knew on February 26 and did nothing for at least four days. It did nothing about notifying the public until March 2. My difficulty with immediacy is that it is not quite immediate; it is more like a delay.

The problem is that we do not know where HVP is being used. We have numerous products on our shelves, for example, chicken-flour soup mixes, chicken-noodle flavoured soup mixes and chicken high-protein soup mixes, and the list went on. We had myriad products out there and no one was able to trace the HVP additive to the product, other than by what they heard from the FDA. We were relying on our counterparts in the U.S. to find out what was wrong with the product and notify us, and then we would notify the public. One of the notifications we got for the public and certainly we got some media coverage, but the minister's response was, “Check the web”.

For a lot of folks in this country, there is no checking the web. They do not have a computer. The difficulty of getting information out to people is also an issue that the CFIA and the minister's department clearly have, if the answer is, “Check the web”.

Really it boils down to this. When we have this many products that are globally sourced in the agricultural sector and now in the food sector, how will we assure Canadians, when those products come into this country to be consumed, since we are not testing them at the border, that the product is indeed safe for the consumers who we are obligated to protect as a food inspection agency? It is not the FDA that is responsible.

I would point out to the parliamentary secretary, who will answer, that the FDA inspectors are now going outside of their own borders. We know they come into this country. We now know they are going into China as well, and they will test product before it goes to the U.S. market.

Really, at the end of the day, what assurances can we get that these globally sourced products will meet the rigorous standards we need to have inside this country? Do we intend to test them to ensure they are safe? If we find out they are not safe, how do we intend to make sure immediacy is immediate, not days later?

6:25 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss this very important issue for Canadians.

To answer one of the questions my colleague put to me, the simple fact is that CFIA acted as quickly as possible, based on the available information.

The government is determined to continually improve efforts made to protect the safety of our food supply. Recent recalls of hydrolysed vegetable protein (HVP) put food safety at the forefront of the public's concerns.

I am keenly aware of these concerns but it should be understood that it is impossible to create an environment where there are no risks to food safety.

We have learned lessons from the past that will help us to continue improving our policies and our processes.

Since our Conservative government committed to implementing all 57 recommendations of the Weatherill report, I can say that many of the commitments required from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have already been met.

Actions taken to date have focused on prevention, surveillance, detection and better response, and have included such initiatives as: the hiring and training of 170 new front line inspectors, building upon the 538 the government has hired since March 2006; strengthening the CFIA's directives regarding the control of listeria in federally-registered ready-to-eat meat processing plants; equipping CFIA inspectors with better tools and technologies, such as laptops, cellphones and faster network connectivity; updating federal-provincial-territorial protocols for managing food-borne illness outbreaks; and enhancing laboratory capacity and research into the development of rapid test methods.

The CFIA and Health Canada have developed a new screening method for listeria in meat, which allows for a more rapid response during food safety investigations. Furthermore, as my colleague mentioned, we have launched a food safety portal on the web,, which provides Canadians with comprehensive food safety and food-borne illness information.

The CFIA has worked closely with American officials when salmonella-affected products were first identified. The agency is working in close collaboration with U.S. regulators to make sure we have accurate and timely information so that we can remove recalled products from store shelves. To date, there have been no illnesses associated with the HVP-related recalls.

It should also be noted that we have tougher food safety requirements than we have ever had before. We take food safety very seriously and we are in the process of improving our system at all times.

6:25 p.m.


Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary's response. Unfortunately, during his response I did not hear anything about what we are going to do about globally-sourced food products that we are assuming are inspected by someone else to a standard that we find acceptable. There was no indication in the response he just gave to the House that somehow we are going to know.

The U.S. is being proactive. It is saying there are countries from which it globally sources food products that it has some concerns about. In fact, it has some concerns about Canada. That is why its inspectors have been in some of our plants and demanded certain inspection processes of us that we were not doing for ourselves. We are doing them now. The minister has decided to change tack and actually do it now.

I did not hear that in the response, so I put it to the parliamentary secretary again. What are we doing about ensuring globally-sourced products meet the requirements and are, indeed, safe?

6:25 p.m.


Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe I did answer that question. The first thing I said was that the CFIA acted as quickly as possible based on available information. The system is working. No illnesses resulted from the salmonella contamination and recalled products were in fact identified and pulled off the shelves.

The second thing I mentioned is that we are working in close collaboration with, for example, U.S. regulators and the U.S. food and drug administration on these types of matters. We are also working in close collaboration with our provincial and territorial partners. This is one of the key issues identified in the lessons learned document that came about due to the listeriosis difficulties we encountered early last year.

The member does not have to take my word about food safety here in Canada. The member for Malpeque, who is the Liberal agriculture critic, has said, “I personally believe that our food is safe”. I must mention as well that Mr. Bob Kingston, head of the Agriculture Union, has said that we have a pretty good system.

6:30 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 6:31 p.m.)