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House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cuts.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is wonderful to have a Minister of Health who is a former health minister in Nunavut. She is well aware of some of these challenges, and Health Canada is addressing these with vigour.

In terms of Nutrition North Canada, Health Canada has received $2.9 million annually to support culturally appropriate retail and community-based nutrition education initiatives in 76 fully eligible first nations and Inuit communities to deal with just that. The initiative increases northerners' knowledge of healthy eating and improves their skills in selecting and preparing healthy store-bought and traditional or country foods.

To support retail and community partnerships at the local level, Health Canada is working with retailers who operate in isolated northern communities on initiatives that promote healthy choices within stores that are affordable.

As I mentioned before, I remember being just shocked when I went into a grocery store in Iqaluit at the cost of some of the perishable items. They are sometimes five or ten times the cost it would be in Ottawa or Barrie where I live.

Obviously this is an important program. The $2.9 million is very well used to support this in ensuring that healthy foods are available in these remote communities.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was laughing when you gave me the floor because I had just asked my colleagues if the subject had changed.

The member talked about a number of first nations health policies. That is fantastic, but that is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the fact that the government opposite says that Health Canada is a bit like home insurance: you can insure for half the value of the home because there will never be a problem and the house will not burn down.

My question is: what is the member talking about?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, my opposition colleague finished up by talking about insurance and asking how this is relevant to our discussion on the Food and Drugs Act. Obviously the nutrition of Canadians is central to the Food and Drugs Act. The fact that some Canadians are in more vulnerable situations is incredibly relevant. Health Canada has always played a leadership role and under our current Minister of Health has increased its leadership in this area. I am incredibly proud of the work she and this government have done. Nutrition is of critical importance to Health Canada.

We need to ensure we do our best to protect these individuals by providing them with access to healthy food and healthy lifestyles.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for the extraordinary work he does in his community, especially his local hospital. He has been an incredible champion for his local hospital and for the health care of all the people of Barrie. He was a mentor of mine when I was elected.

I wonder if he might comment on how devastating the unilateral Liberal government cuts of 1995 were on his local hospital and the growing community. That followed five years of NDP government in the province of Ontario where no investments were really made in health care. I wonder if he could reflect on how the two opposition parties have really let down his riding in the past.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, what an appropriate question from such a wonderful MP for Oak Ridges—Markham. Obviously, the cuts to Ontario medical schools during the NDP government in Ontario had a devastating effect across Ontario. We still face doctor shortages today because of it. The 40% slashing to provincial transfers for health had a devastating effect on health systems across the country. I am just so happy that we have a Conservative government in Ottawa that has put a focus on the health of Canadians and done incredible work in enhancing Canada's health care system, not like the slash and burn days with the provincial NDP and federal Liberals.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, in the Kingston Whig-Standard on June 10, 1991, someone made this comment: There is a choice between jobs and the environment. The same person, later in his career, went on to say, “We didn't get it done” with regard to the environment. Who was that person? The former Liberal leader.

So I find it very interesting today that my colleagues from the Liberal Party are talking about environmental protection when clearly their track record speaks to the contrary. They saw greenhouse gas emissions rise significantly under their mandate, while they took no action to combat climate change. They also saw questionable economic policies, which they support to this day.

By contrast, our Conservative government has taken a balanced approach to protecting the environment and promoting economic growth. Since we have taken office, we have seen an enormous expansion of the Canadian economy and we have seen stability through recessionary times, but we have also seen improvement in Canada's environment. We have had stability in funding programs for environmental programs that see real results. For example, earlier this year we announced our inventory of greenhouse gas emissions for 2009-2010 and, even though during that period our economy grew by 3.2%, which is a great thing, our greenhouse gas emissions held steady. Why is this? It is because of balance. It is about working with stakeholder groups, with the public, in a way that we can ensure economic growth while seeing real reductions in emissions.

To contextualize this, I want to talk a bit about our government's investments and track record in the environment, to set some things straight, because we have heard so much rhetoric about cuts to the environment and no action, whereas that is really the case with the former Liberal government. Since 2006, we have invested billions of dollars in cleanup mechanisms, clean-energy technology, clean-energy regulation actions, cleanup for federal contaminated sites; we have developed transportation sector regulations and next-generation clean transportation initiatives, which we support through budgetary measures; and we have invested $27 million to improve Canada's weather services. It goes on and on.

Frequently, my colleagues from the Liberal Party vote against these measures. So I am not sure how they can stand up in the House of Commons and talk about cuts when they do not support programs that work in our country. Furthermore, when we look at the economic action plan 2012, which is a plan to create jobs and economic growth, we also see significant investments in the environment. We have $50 million of increased funding for the protection of Canada's species at risk, we are committing to the creation and funding of a new near-urban national park in Rouge Valley, we are committing to continued support for Canada's lakes including Lake Winnipeg and Lake Simcoe and we are providing expanded tax relief for clean-energy generation equipment. All of these sorts of things are positive, outcome-based measures to protect Canada's environment, yet my colleagues opposite vote against these. They characterize these as cuts.

My colleague has been talking about the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Funding for this agency is stable; it has actually increased this year. She voted against that. I just find it surprising that the members have not taken the time to look at the budget bill and realize that there are some very good things to support Canada's environment in this budget, and there is continued support since 2006 when we took government.

There was some argument in the House earlier today about Ontario's environmental policy. Recently, we have seen some policy in that province increase electricity costs by 41%, where we have actually seen a reduction in jobs because of that policy. Again, it is not about balance. We want to see real outcomes while ensuring economic growth, and our government has a track record of doing so.

I will continue with regard to greenhouse gas emissions and regulations around that, because we have heard a lot about that today. Our sector-by-sector regulatory approach, which we are committed to funding through the budget, will actually see a real reduction. We have committed to 17% from the 2005-level target, which we are close to meeting. The International Institute of Sustainable Development said we are on the right track with that policy and our budgetary measures speak to that and support it.

The other thing I wanted to talk about was budget 2012 providing further funding of $35.7 million over two years to further strengthen our tanker safety regime, including ensuring appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks related to oil spills and emergency preparedness and response. This means that in certain confined Canadian waterways, tanker operators must take a marine pilot with local knowledge on board before entering a harbour or a busy waterway, and in special circumstances more stringent measures may be taken. This is another concrete example of a budgetary measure where we are protecting Canada's environment but also ensuring we are being wise stewards of taxpayer dollars.

I do not know why we cannot talk about real solutions here. We are not talking about the reality of this budget. It includes very strong measures to support environmental protection. We are seeing positive outcomes with our government's plans, including the air quality management system. We are seeing reductions in particulate matter. We also have our clean water management plan, which is seeing real cleanup in Canada's Great Lakes. We are seeing a reduction of pollution in these areas. I would hope my colleagues opposite would realize that there are measures in here that are designed to work, but they also designed to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

I will close with the responsible resource development component of budget 2012.

Over the next 25 years, the Canadian energy and mining sectors are projected to provide trillions of dollars in economic growth for our country. Therefore, for us as legislators, the question is this. How do we recognize that this is a competitive advantage for our Canadian economy? How do we develop these precious resources sustainably but ensure we have environmental protection? This is a question we take quite seriously.

Certainly, coming from Alberta, a province that is at the forefront of this issue, I hold the issue very close to my heart. I think we are striking the right balance. The responsible resource development section of budget 2012 will ensure economic growth that we can drive to decision points through a rigorous environmental assessment process. Not only is the environment sensitive, but so is our investment sensitivity climate. Therefore, on some of these projects where there are very narrow windows to market, we can actually drive that to a decision in a predictable and timely way. By no means does that mean we will see reduced environmental protection. That is just not the case. We feel we can have that rigour in environmental assessment through an open, transparent and predictable process but also ensure we have a timely decision-making process for industry.

I do not understand why we cannot have that debate in this House. It is always focused on rhetoric on one side or the other. This is about balance in this country and ensuring that Canada's competitive advantage for our economy is secured, but also that our natural heritage continues to be protected for years to come. Therefore, I urge my colleagues opposite to actually take the time to understand the components in the budget, to realize that there is a large amount of investment in Canada's environment and to move forward from there. We have seen over the last six years that we have had a great track record of investing in Canada's environment and seeing real results.

The last point I would make is to ask my colleagues opposite to point to key measures the Liberal Party has taken to actually move Canada's environmental protection regime forward. Again, I think it is important to note the failure of their government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It signed us on to a protocol that now would only see 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions included in it. We have been taking a more robust approach in asking all major emitters around the world to come to the table to have binding targets, to have transparent reporting on their emissions. That was just not the case in the previous Liberal government.

I hope today that, instead of focusing on falsehoods and rhetoric, my colleagues opposite will have a look at what is in the budget, which is millions of dollars for Canadian environmental protection, and support it because it will mean the long-term economic prosperity of our country but also the environmental protection of Canada's great natural heritage.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asks why we cannot have a debate in the House, but it seems that every time we try to have a debate, the government imposes closure, but I digress.

The member also talked about concrete budget measures to protect our environment. I recall one so-called concrete budget measure, two Conservative budgets ago. I think it was to fund carbon capture and storage in Alberta. We just found out, again as it was announced with great fanfare and the Prime Minister did a photo op, it was announced last week that TransAlta was pulling the plug on this project.

Is it because the government's environmental regulations just have not been strong enough to encourage TransAlta to undertake this project, which it has now abandoned?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, carbon capture and sequestration is a great area of technology in which our government has invested.

In fact, in budget 2012 we supported numerous initiatives to support research and development across a spectrum of clean energy technologies, which have been very successful. In fact, there are other carbon sequestration projects that are working quite well in Canada right now. We see that at the Weyburn site. This is very exciting.

If my colleague is so concerned about supporting CCS projects and clean energy projects, why would he vote against a budget which so strongly supports research and development and innovation measures across the country? His party continues to vote against this.

If the member truly believes in research and development and continuing innovation in our country, he should support this budget and the millions of dollars of support in that sector?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to address some of the questions that my hon. colleague asked.

I will not so much digress, but kind of put a different spin on this. The government has been quite closed about its activities. It sort of lets things out in broad strokes, but when it comes down to the details, it is not very forthcoming.

What I hear from my constituents, although I live in an urban riding, is their concern about what they do not see in the budget, the nuts and bolts of how these things will be accomplished so they can make informed decisions.

That is the message we bring, the question of how the government will do this. To say it is going to do something is one thing, but how is it going to be done? What are the nuts and the bolts, the actual play by play of the budget?

Could my hon. colleague respond to that?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about putting a different spin on things, and I am really glad to hear that. The spin we hear from the NDP, when it comes to the economy and the budget, is that it is opposed to whole sectors of our Canadian economy. It has gone to the United States to lobby against Canadian jobs.

When the member asks about the implementation of our budget, it is a concrete plan for jobs and economic growth in our country. We believe in implementation through a balanced approach. We want to ensure that we have sustainable economic development of our natural resource sector, protection of Canada's environment, but also to ensure that we are wise stewards of taxpayer funding.

Again, it is a different spin. If the member is so concerned about the budget, I certainly hope that he will support the investments we make to protect Canada's environment and social services across the country in a sustainable way.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Toet Conservative Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is a sense in the House, and I hear it all time, that industry and resource development are automatically the enemies of the environment.

As we have been doing a study in the environment committee, we have been doing the national conservation plan and setting up a framework for that. We have had several witnesses testify about the fact that, clearly, they have a different perspective. They have talked about the fact that industry is as keen on development and protection as anyone.

Could my hon. colleague expand on and comment with regard those witnesses who have testified to this?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the vast amount of work he has put into the environment committee and this study.

We have heard from ENGOs, academia and industry that we can find that sweet spot, that balance on working landscapes to protect the environment and ensure that we have sustainable resource development. That is really what this study has been about, developing a plan that has national conservation priorities that people can adhere to, where we can leverage programs that are working in communities.

I thank the member for his continued support of this plan.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Malpeque.

Why does the Conservative government insist on copying the Americans on whatever works the least for our neighbours to the south? Does it not feel like this is the U.S. Congress, in light of this gigantic, omnibus budget bill, which touches on everything and runs in all directions?

The Conservative government has turned a budget implementation bill into an omnibus bill, an ideological steamroller that allows the Conservatives to push through important measures that deserve a thorough review, but without too much controversy or any serious, careful examination. What we are doing here today is nothing more than a mock debate.

Never before have we seen a Canadian government try to amend so many laws under the guise of budget implementation. Back in 2010, the Conservative government used the same scheme to amend no less than 24 laws, but this time, the government is smashing its own record. It is using a 431-page budget bill to amend no less than 70 laws. In almost every case, these amendments have little to do with the budget or any financial issues in general, but they have everything to do with the Conservative ideological agenda.

In fact, barely 30 of the 431 pages have to do with any fiscal measures, while no less than 151 pages amend legislation surrounding environmental protection. That is why our colleague, the hon. member for Etobicoke North, proposed that the government at least agree to remove the part regarding the environment and introduce it as a separate bill.

The government is once again showing its complete contempt for the parliamentary process and its utter disdain for parliamentary democracy as we practice it here in Canada. As a result, the Standing Committee on Finance will be the only way to review, albeit in a jumble and all at once, an unheard of quantity of changes and shifts, often serious and significant, but on which the committee has little or no expertise. And yet this government is completely unwilling to consider any amendments, by saying that it is not in our tradition to make amendments to a budget implementation bill.

In doing so, the government is thwarting not only Parliament, but also Canadians, who will not be allowed to speak out on the pros and cons of these many measures.

We cannot intelligently debate or properly scrutinize in a budget issues as crucial as the weakening of several pieces of legislation and the elimination of a number of environmental regulations, the end of protecting fish habitat, the power given to the government to reverse decisions by the National Energy Board, the weakening of the Food and Drugs Act and the power given to the minister to make exemptions from that same act. Nor can we properly scrutinize in a budget bill the countless changes made to areas as disparate as assisted human reproduction, the abolition of the inspector general position at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the gradual change in the old age security eligibility age to 67, the cancellation of thousands of immigration applications, the end of the requirement that the Auditor General audit the financial statements of a series of agencies including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the end of the requirement that the President of the Treasury Board report to Parliament every year on how he is implementing the Public Service Act, and so forth.

All these complex and contentious matters cannot be properly examined at the same time. The Liberal motion we are debating today warns the government against this questionable haste that jeopardizes the health and safety of Canadians, especially in a context of budget cuts where the government is cutting the scientific capacity of Environment Canada, Statistics Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to name only three examples.

It is not as though the Conservative government has shown an exceptional capacity to openly and thoroughly debate a number of issues simultaneously. On the contrary, this government avoids questions, turns a deaf ear to objections and does not want to hear contrary arguments. For example, how many times have we asked the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to justify why he is closing the rescue centres in St. John's and Quebec City, a move that many experts say will put lives in danger on the St. Lawrence River, in the gulf and in the Atlantic.

Why are they closing these centres when there is every indication that there will be no real savings, when the minister's own staff is skeptical about it, and when the Commissioner of Official Languages has pointed out serious shortcomings in the delivery of these essential services in French? Members of the Conservative government and caucus will bear responsibility for this thoughtless, ill-conceived and dangerous measure taken without proper debate.

I will give another example. It is cruel of the government to, without a valid reason, force tired, ill and disadvantaged Canadians to work two more years before they are able to receive an old age security cheque from the government for $540 a month. The government maintains that this measure is the only way to ensure the sustainability of the program. However, we have been trying to tell the government that many studies, including its own, those of the chief actuary, the parliamentary budget officer and the OECD show that such is not the case.

What does the government think of these studies? It should stop evading the question. I challenge my Conservative colleagues to show that I am wrong about these studies, which they probably have not read. I invite them to read these studies before punishing Canadians and forcing them to work to the age of 67. Such serious matters should not be buried in a budget. They should be diligently studied and properly debated.

In conclusion, we must vote in favour of the Liberal motion, not only because the measures I just talked about are inherently bad, dangerous and unfair and not only because they stem from the ideological dismantling of the federal machinery under the guise of improving federal finances, but because they are an affront to parliamentary democracy, which does not belong to the Prime Minister or the Conservative party, but to the Canadian people.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to something the parliamentary secretary said a little while ago, that it was too bad we could not have debates in the House about the environment. That is exactly what we are doing here. I want to thank members for raising it. However, we are faced with a situation in which buried in a budget bill are some good things and some bad things, but mostly bad things about the environment and about what will happen to the regulation system in Canada's environmental regulatory structure.

Could the member comment further on some of the very bad things that are coming to us as a result of this being in a budget bill, not in an environment bill?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is completely right. The question is why put in a budget, for example, the power for the minister to decide otherwise that the National Energy Board would make about a mega project like a pipeline? This is something that should have been scrutinized as such, in a bill as such, or an amendment of the existing law. However, do not do that under the cover of a budget. This is completely unacceptable.

It is one example among many others where, clearly, the government is using the budget as an excuse to come with this agenda without any debate, not only with us but with the people of Canada.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, my question is similar to the last question, but it is on the process.

What we have with the budget and the budget implementation act is a 425-page document, 150 pages of which basically cover areas of the environment where oversight agencies are being gutted. We are seeing the fisheries habitat being undermined, the ability to monitor fisheries habitat and to protect it. Yet the bill, with 150 pages related to a whole series of complicated areas in the fisheries and the environment will not go to an environmental committee to be studied in-depth or to the fisheries committee to be studied in-depth. It is going to a finance committee. I really think that is unacceptable.

Could my hon. friend comment on what he thinks of this process and how it really affects the ability of this place to debate serious issues in an all-comprehensive way?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an insult to they that Canadians are so proud of. They are very proud of their parliamentary democracy, but the government has no respect for it.

The government has decided to go ahead without proper debate on a bill that is going in directions that would weaken a lot of our laws. The government wants to avoid controversy and go through with its agenda without respecting any democratic process within this House, but it is the Canadian people who will be affected. I am very upset about this and I want to take the opportunity to say this to my Conservative colleagues in the hope that they will speak to their Prime Minister for once.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that my Liberal colleague pointed out that a number of changes have been included in the budget. I would like to draw his attention to page 363 of the third part of this huge document, which covers changes to the Telecommunications Act. These changes will enable telecommunications companies with less than a 10% market share to enter the market.

This is the first time this has come up. We have protected our Canadian companies for a long time. I would like my colleague to comment on that. Does his party support this government measure or not?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has put her finger on another topic worthy of our consideration. Why is that included in a budget bill? I listed some of the subjects, but there are others. She is quite right to mention another very important issue, the question of Canadian ownership of our industries, particularly in the field of culture and communications.

That is something the Standing Committee on Finance will not be able to study thoroughly. I wonder if they will even be able to spend half an hour on it, although Canadians, through their parliamentary representatives, should be examining this fundamental issue. This House is being transformed into a copy of the worst examples the American Congress can offer.

In the meantime, this government, which wants burden us with two elected chambers and no mechanism to resolve disputes between them, is trying to transform the House of Commons into an American Congress in the worst sense of the term. Good things sometimes happen in the United States, but we do not need to copy their worst practices in terms of parliamentary procedure.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this Liberal opposition day motion.

I think it is important to mention a couple of key points in the motion to put it into perspective. The motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government, and specifically the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of the Treasury Board, has failed to learn the painful lessons from Walkerton which proved that cuts to essential government services protecting the health and safety of Canadians are reckless and can cause Canadians to lose their lives; and further, that the House condemn the government for introducing a budget that will repeat the mistakes of the past and put Canadians in danger by reducing food inspection, search and rescue operations, and slashing environmental protections, and call on the government to reverse these positions.

It really is not too late for the government to pull back on some of the proposals it has in the budget and the budget implementation bill. There are very serious areas that need to be reconsidered.

The budget, on page 261, states that $56.1 million will be cut from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. That means cuts to operations of the federal agency responsible for monitoring food imports and food production, the agency that is the first line of defence for consumers in this country.

On page 168, the government has attempted to claim it is spending an increase of $51.2 million to CFIA. The government's response, when asked about the cuts, always comes back to this $51.2 million. I want to outline what that is really all about: it is $51.2 million to the CFIA, public health, and Health Canada all together. That will not redress the seriousness of the $56 million cut, and it will indeed undermine our secure food safety system.

We all remember—and I certainly do, because the Minister of Agriculture joked about this at one time—that it was under this government's watch that 23 Canadians lost their lives as a result of listeriosis. Now what do we have coming from the government? We have cuts to the very agency mandated to protect our food supply and cuts to some of the various policy and administrative initiatives that were started as a result of the Weatherill report following the listeriosis crisis.

However, the threat posed to Canadians through these cuts is only part of this growing crisis. On page 219 of the budget, the government has decided that in terms of labelling issues, consumers can fend for themselves. If they find something they do not like or do not trust, they can call the company involved.

Oversight of labelling should be a responsibility of the Government of Canada. It has the authority and the expertise. It has the power to tune up companies that may abuse the labelling issue, but instead, now the government is saying there is going to be a tool on the CFIA website that a consumer can look at to determine whether or not the label is correct. Then the consumer can go to Superstore or Loblaws or Sobeys, or whatever, and face the management and complain about the label. What good is that going to do? Not a thing. It is the government abdicating its responsibility for labelling in Canada. That is what is really happening here.

The announcements directly contradict assurances the minister gave Canadians only days ago about food safety and labelling for meat and other products. Appearing on the CBC radio program The House on April 14, the minister said that the CFIA “will continue to do spot checks on the shelves after the fact and make sure that the audits follow through, that the labels are factual and that they have the information consumers need”. He added, “When it comes to meat, labels are still pre-approved and they’re still checked before anything hits the shelf.”

The agriculture union, on the other hand, differs from what the minister said, and it has provided more public information than has the minister with regard to the budget.

In terms of cuts to the CFIA, a total of 308 positions will be lost, 247 indeterminate and 61 term positions. Just fewer than 200 of those are located in the national capital region. Technical positions are prominent are among the remaining cuts right across the country. The loss of some 100 inspector positions completely undoes the staffing action taken in the wake of the listeriosis crisis.

While the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food insists that front-line inspectors will be unaffected by budget cuts, CFIA executives say, “I don't know how you take 10% of your budget and not deal with the front line”, meaning that front-line inspectors are actually affected by these cuts.

Ever since the government came to power, we have had this problem with it when it talks numbers. The parliamentary secretary, in answer to a question today, talked about the numbers of people the Conservatives have put in place in terms of inspection since they have come into government, but when we ask for specific numbers—how many people are in each position and specifically what they do—they can never answer that question with actual numbers. When we ask the president of CFIA at committee, the officials can never really give us an exact number of inspectors.

As we know on the F-35 issue, we cannot believe and we cannot trust the government, and in this case we are talking about food security.

Let me turn to a question on the broader aspect of food safety. On the one hand, we are talking about food that is in stores and imported foods and the responsibility of the government to ensure, for the protection of Canadians, that the supply of food is safe; on the other, we are talking about the responsibility to ensure that no actions by pests happen in Canada moving across the country, which is a great difficulty in terms of our food supply position.

Today I asked a very serious question of the minister. We know from having talked to people in Newfoundland that six inspector positions at Port aux Basques and Argentia are being eliminated. Inspectors in those six positions inspect vehicles for soil that may be up under the tire wells or on the vehicles in some fashion, soil that could have golden nematode or potato wart in it.

Generations of federal governments have accepted the responsibility that potato wart and golden nematode do not move off the province of Newfoundland to the mainland through soil on vehicles and create problems in the potato industry in my province of Nova Scotia, in New Brunswick or in the rest of Canada. This is a very serious issue: if we had golden nematode on Prince Edward Island, our number one industry, the potato industry, would be virtually destroyed. We would be shut out of the markets around the world.

This is a serious problem, and the government, through its cuts, is putting industries on the mainland at risk by not washing and inspecting those vehicles. It claims it will do some inspections, but the parliamentary secretary in his answer today said that, “CFIA resources should not be involved in vehicle washing”; I ask, why not? It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that contaminants do not move across this country.

As a last point, food inspection agencies in other countries—whether it is imported food, food within the country or preventing contaminants from moving—are paid for out of the public treasury. The government tries to download costs onto industry, whereas other countries pay from the public treasuries and it is not seen as a subsidy under WTO rules.

On the one hand the Conservatives are putting the industry at risk and on the other they are making our food industry, our farming industry, non-competitive in this country. The government is going in a direction that is absolutely hare-brained and wrong-headed.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am shocked by the hypocrisy that was just demonstrated by the member for Malpeque. I would say I am speechless, but here I am asking a question about it.

The bottom line is that the member has completely forgotten his own party's tragic record in government when it comes to protecting producers in this country. When it came to BSE, which nearly wiped out an entire industry called agriculture in this country, the Liberals were so negligent in their handling of this serious issue that farmers in my own area lost millions of dollars, wealth they have yet to regain. That was all as a result of inaction on the part of the Liberal Party.

When the member stands in this House and speaks in the fashion that he just did, he is forgetting his own party's record. The hypocrisy of his speech is at the heights of which I have not heard since elected in 2006.

This government has acted responsibly. We have acted emphatically in support of agriculture and Canadians from coast to coast. The Liberals are the ones who cut provincial governments. They are the ones who wear all of those scars from the 1990s. Shame on them.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

By golly, Mr. Speaker, if that member wants to see hypocrisy all he has to do is watch his answers from question period any day in the House of Commons. He can watch them on TV and he will see hypocrisy at its height. That is what we get from that member every day in the House of Commons as we question Conservative election fraud, robocalls, and on and on goes the list.

I will say that the member should be worried about food safety. As I said in my remarks, it is under that government's watch that 23 people died as a result of listeriosis. The cuts in this budget would put food safety at risk once again in this country. Food safety is being put because the Conservative government has its priorities wrong with expensive F-35s, more jails and the list goes on. The member needs to--

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I am sure there are other hon. members who would like to pose questions.

The hon. member for Pontiac.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, unlike my colleagues, I actually want to ask a question.

I paid close attention to my hon. colleague's contribution to this debate. I am particularly concerned for my riding, which has many farmers. They are concerned about the impact of food safety on two fronts. First, they are concerned that Canadians will lose confidence in their products and consume more foreign products. Second, they are concerned that this could have a health impact on their families.

Could my hon. colleague comment on those two concerns from my riding?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, if there is one thing we can be assured of it is that Canadian farmers produce high quality products. However, we have to understand that we are dealing with perishable products and things happen in transport and by lack of refrigeration. Things happen in processing plants, as we have seen with listeriosis.

From the farm side, we can be assured that there is absolute quality, but with the government's move, there is actually less inspection of imported products. That is worrisome.

Canadian producers are required to produce under certain rules. They are not allowed to use certain pesticides, herbicides and so on that could be dangerous to human health. They have to produce under tight environmental rules as well. As a result, their cost structure is quite high.

Those producers have to compete with producers in other countries who may use some of these products. There are two problems here. One, they may be non-competitive because other countries' producers do not abide by the same rules and quality standards that we do. Two, the inspectors at import positions are not in adequate numbers to do the job to check the quality of the product coming in. It is a serious issue for consumers and producers.