This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

3:50 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeMinister of State (Finance)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pursue where the parliamentary secretary was headed with those proposed amendments to the Food and Drugs Act.

We realize that expediency is very important but we also want to be reassured that safety is paramount, as do all Canadians. We know that we need to do this to foster innovation to help our food industry in this country grow and prosper and to be able to provide more and safer food.

Would the parliamentary secretary reaffirm for us that the primary focus is on ensuring that safeguards are in place to preserve our great food safety record in this country.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all of the good work that he has done. As I said in my speech, under his leadership, we have put over $50 million into ensuring that the food in Canada is healthy and safe. These amendments would not have any impact on the scientific processes or the rigour of the reviews of these new products. The amendments would only change the approval process after the scientific assessments and consultations have been concluded. They would provide tools to allow safe new products with potential health benefits for Canadians to get to market much more quickly. This has been a problem. Sometimes it can take months or years for these great products to get to market.

I can give some examples of the types of products that would be authorized more efficiently and effectively and maybe I will get a chance to do when answering another question.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. parliamentary secretary's interventions in the House are always measured and reasonable. I am hoping he can help me figure something out with respect to the budget.

In strengthening food safety, on page 168 of the budget, $51.2 million will be provided over the next two years to continue with the recommendations in the Weatherill report. That $51.2 million will be spread between CFIA, the Canadian Health Agency and Health Canada. Therefore, as I understand it, three different agencies will be getting $51 million over two years.

On page 261 of the same budget, $56 million in ongoing cuts will be made to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Overall, we do not know what that nets out for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Will it get an even one-third of the money? What kind of money comes from the Weatherill report? How will the $56 million in cuts that are only being made to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency be felt in terms of food inspection?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can reaffirm for my colleague that we did take the recommendations of the Weatherill report seriously. That is where we will be focusing and targeting the investments we are making.

As the member knows, Mrs. Weatherill actually made over 57 recommendations. There were issues that needed to be dealt with. We have taken those targeted investments to ensure we have looked at every one of her recommendations because, at the end of the day, it is our government's commitment to the health and safety of Canadians that is most important and Canadians expect that.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, as hon. members know, Canadians experience better health outcomes than citizens in many other countries. Statistics Canada recently reported that life expectancy in Canada has reached a new high of 80.9 years. We also know that the infant mortality rate has declined since 1982 and, based on data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, we know that almost 90% of Canadians believe that their health is good, very good or excellent.

I am also pleased to note that Canada is a world leader in tobacco control. In fact, smoking is at an all time low in Canada, dropping from 22% to 17% over the last decade. In 2009, we passed the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act. Our government is proud of this work and is refocussing our anti-smoking efforts toward populations with higher smoking rates while investing in initiatives that work. We have also provided leadership to the world on health warning labels and we are the first country in the world to have them on cigarette packages.

Even with the improvements that Canadians now enjoy in their health and safety, we understand that there is a great need yet, much to be done and further improvements to be achieved by promoting healthy living and combatting chronic disease.

Today, chronic diseases and injury are the main causes of death and ill health in Canada. Fortunately, through healthy living and eating, a large proportion of these diseases and injuries can be prevented or delayed. I am proud to highlight the actions taken by our government to ensure that Canadians can feel safe about the food they eat and understand the steps they can take to contribute to their own good health.

Today, societies the world over are all too familiar with the impact of cancer. That is why we support cancer prevention efforts through our joint work with provincial and territorial governments, as well as stakeholders from all across Canada. Funding has been renewed over the past five years for the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer so it can continue its work.

Through the lung health program, the Government of Canada is also helping to improve the health of Canadians. The Government of Canada's $3.5 million investment in phase 2 of the lung health program demonstrates a strong commitment to preventing and managing respiratory diseases in Canada.

The Government of Canada has supported the national lung health framework, a stakeholder-led initiative from its initial stages in 2006-08, with an additional three-year, $10 million investment in 2009. Resulting projects from the lung health program have produced tangible results for Canadians, increasing awareness of as well as improving prevention, early detection and management of lung disease in Canada.

Our government is also working to prevent diabetes and improve health outcomes for Canadians living with diabetes. Through the Canadian diabetes strategy, we are taking a proactive, long-term approach to prevent and control diabetes. Today, many Canadians understand that, in addition to good nutrition and regular exercise, managing one's blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels can substantially reduce the risk of developing diabetes and its complications or can slow the progression.

Food safety is the top priority for our government. We have invested wisely in strengthening our ability to reduce food safety risks. This means enhanced surveillance, early detection and improved emergency response. As a government, we have acted on all 57 recommendations in the Weatherall report and invested significant dollars into improving the food safety of Canadians.

Budget 2012 contains a commitment of more than $50 million to be invested over the next two years. As a result, Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and CFIA will continue their ongoing support to strengthen and make more effective our food safety system. I have some examples of those improvements.

We have improved the national surveillance of listeriosis by adding listeria to the national enteric surveillance program. We have strengthened responses to the outbreaks of national or international food-borne illnesses. The food-borne illness protocol has been updated, strengthened and tested with our provincial and territorial food safety partners. In addition to the listeriosis project, we are planning to conduct community-based surveillance in food-borne and water-borne diseases in two different locations across the country. Plans are in place to expand this testing to five sites.

With budget 2012, we are implementing further improvements to our food regulatory system. These changes will reduce the regulatory burden associated with managing the food system while maintaining our rigorous testing and assessment to ensure Canadians continue to enjoy safe and secure food.

Every day we hear about the links between healthy weight and healthy living. We also hear about the risks of obesity. This topic and our government's efforts to help Canadians of all ages and walks of life understand this connection between healthy living and good health has been part of this debate. Today more than one in four children and youth are overweight or obese. Rates among children and youth have nearly tripled over the last 25 years, and rates are even higher amongst our aboriginal populations.

All of this comes with a clear human cost. Simply put, obesity increases the risk of developing several major chronic diseases. As a result, promoting and maintaining healthy weights in the early years is critically important. It sets a good foundation for healthier living over time. Overweight and obesity also comes with greater health care costs to the Canadian economy. The direct health care costs of overweight and obesity has been estimated at $6 billion a year and the indirect costs are roughly an additional $1.1 billion per year in Canada. That is astronomical.

Last summer, Canada participated in a United Nations meeting on chronic diseases. At that meeting there was clear recognition that obesity was a global health problem and countries have placed a high priority on tackling it. In 2010, federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health endorsed the declaration on prevention and promotion that makes health promotion and disease prevention a priority for action in all jurisdictions across Canada.

In addition, since obesity is such an important issue, governments also endorsed curbing childhood obesity, a federal, provincial and territorial framework for action to promote healthy weights. The summit on healthy weights, which took place in February, was another example of federal, provincial and territorial collaboration. This topic has been very important to Canadians all across our country. It was an opportunity for representatives of diverse sectors to focus on healthy eating, active living, creating supportive environments and promoting multi-sectoral partnerships. Summit participants identified actions to promote and maintain healthy weights in children and youth.

For most Canadians, responsibility for school health lies with the provincial and territorial governments and school boards. Children's nutrition provides another example of federal, provincial and territorial governments working together for Canadians. The joint consortium for school health is a federal, provincial and territorial partnership that brings health and education sectors together to promote the health of children and youth in the school setting.

The Canada prenatal nutrition program is yet another important collaborative program. It assists communities in providing nutritional information and breastfeeding support to prenatal and postpartum women facing challenging life circumstances. Work is also under way to champion healthy living within jurisdictions through collaboration with relevant sectors, such as health, sport, physical activity, recreation and education.

I am pleased to see that the federal government is leading so much of this work. Leadership means bringing everyone together, ensuring we share knowledge and best practices, encouraging dialogue and ensuring we take collaborative action. The federal government will continue to act as a convenor in mobilizing all partners and partnerships. In this way, we can build on all the good initiatives and resources across the country.

I was particularly pleased to note that, at the summit on healthy weights, the federal Minister of Health announced $4 million to add new elements to the nationwide healthy eating awareness and education initiatives in collaboration with others. This will promote healthy eating, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, and will provide nutritional advice to Canadians. It is also critically important to build our understanding and fill gaps in our knowledge about obesity so we can help to make a difference in children's lives.

To that end, our government is investing in obesity-related research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, or CIHR. CIHR's Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes has made obesity a strategic research priority since 2002 and it provided $34 million in 2010-11 alone for research that helps us assess and identify the most effective interventions.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Kildonan—St. Paul, not only for her work on this file, but for the work that she continues to do for children and the protection of our families.

We know that obesity among children has been accelerating. It has almost tripled in the past 25 years. We know that obesity in children is complex and comes with many problems and impacts upon their lives, causing hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and a number of others. The important part is also the cost: $6 billion per year and an estimated $1.1 billion in indirect costs.

I wonder if she would help members in the House understand what has been done by this government so that we have some influence and how we have engaged other jurisdictions in this sector to help with this important problem?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, never before in Canadian history have we had to say that our youth and our children are obese and that it is something we have to work on.

As I talked about in my previous speech, it is the collaboration between the provincial and territorial governments, all the levels of government and the population working together to recognize that obesity is a huge problem with our youth and children. Activity, nutrition and awareness need to be promoted within families, not only within governments. At 65 years of age, I actually learned how to swim. That is a direct impact of the government getting that knowledge out there so we can work together to stop this.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just heard the hon. Conservative member say that it is important for our children to eat healthy food.

How are we supposed to protect our children from unhealthy food when the number of inspectors in the agency is being reduced and the agency's budget is being cut?

I am asking this question of the hon. member opposite. I think we agree that our children must eat healthy food, but I do not think she knows how to guarantee that.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, food safety risks have been addressed, and continue to be addressed, by our government. There were several measures launched in 2009 to enhance surveillance and early detection and to improve response capabilities to food-borne illnesses and emergencies, and to the food safety system itself. In 2012, our government put in $51.2 million over the next two years to continue these measures.

So, there are many things about the food system that have been incorporated. Inspectors are extremely important. Our government is ensuring that all these measures are put in place so the job can be done effectively and food can be very safe for all Canadians.

I know the government's actions in response to the recommendations of the Weatherill report have been outlined in several progress reports to Canadians. I invite the member to look at the final report to Canadians that was released in December 2011. There are very specific things there that will reassure her about food safety in this country. I cannot go over them now because of the shortage of time.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Random—Burin—St. George's.

As a physician, I want to support this motion because evidence-based policy is at the heart of the practice of medicine. We learn from successes and failures. When a patient dies under our care, we do an in-depth post-mortem and find out why and how to prevent future deaths. Government must be similarly responsible. Cuts must be made carefully, to do no harm to those who depend on the government for their safety and health.

Let us look at a cautionary tale. Under Premier Harris of the Ontario government of the mid-1990s, significant cuts were made to health and safety to find efficiencies, which is a word we hear a lot from the Conservatives, by privatizing water safety and cutting the public health system and the environmental system. It promised, as the Conservatives are promising, that these cuts would not affect public health and safety. However, those cuts resulted in the tragic Walkerton incident where water, contaminated with E. coli and Campylobacter jejuni, caused the death of seven residents and serious illness in 2,300 other people who still have many of the remnants of that illness today.

I think it is strange that the current government did not learn from that disaster when three senior cabinet ministers in the current government were senior cabinet ministers in the Harris government at the time. The Minister of Finance was attorney general, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was the minister of community and social services and the President of the Treasury Board was the minister of the environment when those cuts occurred. Justice Dennis O'Connor, who headed the public inquiry investigating the Walkerton disaster, linked it clearly to the cuts and to the privatization of water testing in 1996. Significant “budget and staffing reductions” made by the Harris government “had resulted in reductions in the frequency of inspections, site visits, and contacts” between government inspectors and staff operating the Walkerton water system. The government ignored numerous warnings that cuts and privatization would cost lives, as it is doing now.

If 2000 seems too far in the past, I would like to jog the memory of the three ministers who were in the Harris government at that time and who are now senior ministers in the current government. When people die as a result of poor public policy, government must accept responsibility and learn from its mistakes. If I recall, then-premier Harris had a very long apology to make. The government can recall another incident in 2008, which is closer to home and closer in time, under the watch of the current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, when 22 people died and 57 became ill as a result of a listeriosis outbreak in a factory. Cuts to food inspection meant that inspectors often spent as little as 15 minutes examining plants. CFIA was already understaffed at that time, when those cuts were made in 2008. Yet in this budget, the minister of agriculture cut the already decimated Canadian Food Inspection Agency by $56.1 million and 100 inspectors, on top of the $33 million that was already cut last year. Canadians have the right to expect the food that they buy is safe, especially in light of history.

There is an important thing to remember here. As Albert Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Yet, the current government in 2014 and 2015 will cut $200.6 million from Health Canada and 840 science-related jobs. The cuts to public health will equal $68 million. A public health agency is supposed to look after the health of the public and protect it from infectious diseases.

The natural health products directorate in Health Canada will also be cut. It looks after the safety of natural health products. Many times, due to poor manufacturing standards, harmful contaminants are found in imported natural food products. The directorate is supposed to ensure that what Canadians are buying in natural food stores is safe. So there is another example of cuts that are going to endanger the lives of people.

We see cuts in the aboriginal health programs: suicide prevention, for instance; maternal and child health programs in the Inuit communities. Suicide rates among the Inuit are 11 times the rest of Canada, yet these cuts are going to occur anyway. There is an unacceptably high rate of infectious diseases due to overcrowding and lack of potable drinking water in aboriginal communities, yet these cuts are going to be made. There is a 40% cut to the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami health budget and this is going to be unacceptable, as we have heard from the leaders there.

It is unconscionable to cut from the most vulnerable and deprive them of the tools they need to improve their lives, especially given the Prime Minister's moving apology, which in hindsight seems quite the performance.

Health Canada, as federal regulator under the Food and Drugs Act, is responsible for assessing and monitoring the safety and efficacy of drugs marketed in Canada. Just last fall, the Auditor General reported that Health Canada had not adequately fulfilled its responsibility for ensuring the safety and accessibility of prescription drugs, often taking multiple years to assess and respond to pharmaceutical drug safety issues which put the health and safety of Canadians at risk.

The Auditor General said Health Canada does not collect information to assess and make decisions. The Auditor General found that targets could not be met due to lack of resources. But again, Health Canada is being cut $200 million this year. The Auditor General said the transparency of clinical trial information is lacking, even after five years of the Conservative government promising to fix it. Why? Because of lack of resources in the food and drug directorate. Yet this is being cut.

Health Canada has become so inefficient and ineffective that Canadians are becoming more dependent on the United States food and drug administration to flag food and drug safety incidents. The Auditor General found that the department of health has not fulfilled most of its responsibilities for assessing pharmaceutical drugs. Yet there are cuts to this department.

Thirty per cent of the budget of the Canadian federal tobacco control strategy is being cut, yet the strategy has been the cornerstone of Canada's strategy to curb tobacco use. Having the amount of adults who smoke lowered by 10% and 60% among youth is an important thing. Tobacco causes lung cancer, heart disease and vascular disease. Yet at the same time the government is cutting 35% of the tobacco control budget. It will collect $480 million more this year in annual federal tobacco taxes.

The lives of an estimated 37,000 Canadians every year are lost due to stroke, cardiac disease, heart disease and vascular disease. Five million Canadians still smoke. Smoking costs our health care system $4 billion a year in direct health care costs, but the tobacco control budget is being cut.

Overall, unconscionable cuts to health care would put the lives of many Canadians at risk. The government made the choice to do so and to put the lives of these Canadians at risk by cutting essential services in health, environment, food safety, and search and rescue operations while investing $10 billion in jails and $30 billion in F-35 fighter jets.

Some cynics have suggested that investing in jails is the government's solution to mental illness and homelessness, but the role of responsible government is to ensure that even in the most difficult times, Canadians can count on essential services that protect their health and their safety.

No one is being a Pollyanna here. Everyone knows that in different fiscal times cuts have to be made. However, when a government places jets and jails ahead of the health and safety of its citizens, it can be accused of incompetence. When a government ignores the evidence of the Ontario government's experience with loss of life in Walkerton and its own experience with the listeriosis outbreak, that incompetence becomes callousness. It can be justly accused of playing politics with Canadians' lives.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have been speaking a lot today about food safety.

While I support the motion, I do it primarily because I am familiar with the cuts to environmental protection and what that will mean for Canada in the future.

I am curious about the member's view of the Weatherill report. I found it interesting in the Weatherill report that her initial conclusion and the climate in which she made her decisions about the listeriosis outbreak was that we live in a world in which large-scale manufacturing and single plants are more likely. By their very nature, producing cold cuts in large-scale factories such as Maple Leaf Foods as opposed to lots of small facilities that support local farming communities was inherently more dangerous than the smaller local producers.

Does my hon. friend have any comments on the benefits of local agriculture as opposed to large, concentrated industrial facilities?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, we all want to support small farms, small businesses and small manufacturing enterprises. After all, these are the people who produce about 65% of the jobs in our country.

However, it does not really matter whether it is a very small enterprise or a very large enterprise, there must be inspection of the sanitary surroundings, whether people are taking the due precautions in terms of washing their hands, wearing gloves, wearing hairnets, wearing masks, and that the food itself is tested before it is packaged and it leaves the store and goes on to the shelf.

This is the only way that Canadians, especially Canadians who are compromised because of their health and chronic disease, who have Crohn's disease and who have other problems, know the food they eat is safe.

That is why Canadians pay taxes.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her speech on a topic that appears to worry everyone, because the members on the other side spend all their time making decisions without properly consulting the public about issues as important as this one.

We get that feeling over and over. For instance, there was the pharmacy crisis with the closing of the Sandoz plant. Does the hon. member not agree that the government employs a kind of magical thinking regarding self-regulation by companies that are expected to audit their own operations and decide whether everything is in order?

In the pharmaceutical crisis, we saw that the market does not regulate itself all on its own, and that government intervention is necessary. Does she not see a parallel here, regarding the Conservative government's short-term vision?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we see is a bunch of trained seals who stand and clap every time someone speaks across the way and who parrot everything they are told.

However, the way the cuts have been made, 100 inspectors out of the food inspection program when it has already, as a result of lack of resources, as Justice O'Connor said, caused a listeriosis outbreak, what happens?

Canadians are not fools. The government continues to say, “trust us”, when its track record is so terrible, including the F-35 and not telling the truth about that in the House, including assuring people things will be fine and they are not. We have seen E. coli, listeriosis, salmonella in food because of a lack of resources in food safety.

It is okay for the government to say, “trust me”, but I do not think anybody does anymore.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak to the opposition day motion put forward by the Liberals.

Clearly, when we look at this most recent budget and the associated legislation from the government, the Conservatives have proposed drastic cuts to essential services and legislation that protects Canadian citizens, including cuts to Canada's food safety infrastructure, public health, environmental protection and public safety. Conservatives argue that money will be saved by finding efficiencies and deny that the drastic measures they proposed to take will put the health and safety of Canadians at risk.

I find it impossible to understand how the government can cut an entity like a search and rescue facility and not see the danger inherent in that. In fact, if we look at the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, the 12 employees there and the number of lives that have been saved as a result of their work, and we are talking about 600 lives saved annually as a result of the work that has been done, where they have helped take part in rescue missions, how can the government not understand or see that by cutting the maritime rescue sub-centre and the service it provides that lives will be lost? That is what is so serious about this.

We have both a maritime rescue sub-centre in Quebec and one in Newfoundland and Labrador, in St. John's. The Quebec sub-centre has been given a one year reprieve. It has to do with the language issue, and that is perfectly understandable. In fact, it is not a reprieve it needs; it needs to ensure that the centre does not close at all. The same is true for St. John's.

We can point to example after example of where lives have been saved. People will give sworn testimony that if it were not for the maritime rescue sub-centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, their lives would have been lost. That is what is so fearful here. The government suggests it will save a million dollars by closing down the sub-centre in St. John's, making it part of the joint rescue centre in Halifax and the one in Trenton. Talk about putting a price on lives. That is what is so serious about this.

The centres should not be closing. What I do not understand is the Auditor General will report in the spring of 2013 on search and rescue. Why is the government at this point in time moving ahead? Why is it not waiting until we get the report from the Auditor General, an independent party, someone who is going to look at this from a non-partisan view? We should be getting his recommendation with respect to search and rescue, instead of taking the chance that by closing down life-saving centres, like the maritime rescue sub-centres in both Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, we end up with the possible loss of lives.

No matter who we talk to it is not conceivable that there will not be loss of lives because we know how dangerous it is to work on the ocean. We know how volatile conditions can be in Newfoundland and Labrador when working out on the ocean. This does not just apply to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. This applies to people who work in the offshore industry who are from all parts of the world. This applies to people who travel on Marine Atlantic who are from all parts of the world. This applies to people in the fishery. It applies to anyone who is on an ocean going vessel who is trading products from other parts of the world. It is not just a Newfoundland and Labrador issue. This issue impacts all Canadians, but it also impacts people in other parts of the world.

This is one aspect of what is so serious about the cuts that the government is making to essential services.

Then we look at what is happening with respect to the hosing down of the vehicles in Port aux Basques and in Argentia. Again, these are both ports in Newfoundland. The vehicles need to be hosed down because the soil in Newfoundland is contaminated. It has what is called the potato wart and it has potato cyst nematode. The problem we have is if that contaminated soil leaves Newfoundland and Labrador, it could ruin the potato crops in Prince Edward Island and in New Brunswick. This is something that no one wants to see happen.

We had an incident several years ago where that very thing happened. Because the contaminated soil got to P.E.I., the U.S. stopped importing potatoes from P.E.I. for a period of time. We do not need to see this happen. We are talking a multi-billion dollar industry. For the sake of what? How much money is the government saving by refusing to continue to do the hosing down of these vehicles?

Interestingly enough, the government has said that it is still going to continue, but it is not going to take responsibility for it. Who has responsibility for the safety of the food that Canadians consume and other people consumer if it is not the federal government?

It is saying that, yes, the vehicles will have to continue to be hosed down, and a power hose is used to do this. They are inspected and hosed down to ensure that the contaminated soil does not leave Newfoundland and Labrador. However, if the government is going to stop taking responsibility for that, whose responsibility does it then become? The government has made reference to the private sector.

I am sorry, but I would like to think that governments would take responsibility for food, not leaving it to the private sector, in terms of the safety of the food that we are eating.

We have a handful of jobs. We have four jobs in Port aux Basques and two in Argentia, and the government has said that it is sorry, but that those jobs will not continue to exist because it does not need them anymore.

I do not understand how the government can possibly look at this and consider it a cost savings, something that it needs to do or anything of the magnitude that it needs to deal with its deficit. There are so many other measures that it could take, in fact, especially when we look at the building of megaprisons and this whole idea of giving corporations of tax breaks.

There is a time for everything, if the government is going to give wealthy corporations a tax break. There is nothing wrong with profit, but at the end of the day, there is a time to do it and how much. This is not the time to do it, especially if, on the other hand, the government has to cut jobs like those at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, those jobs that are so important. These are in rural communities, by the way. Port aux Basques and Argentia are two rural communities. Do members know how important that handful of jobs are in those rural communities? It would the same as if we were talking about 1,000 jobs in a larger community. These are well-paying jobs that need to stay in those communities for the very reason that it ensures the safety of the food Canadians will eat.

When the budget was brought in, the government talked about the 19,200 jobs that would be lost and said that maybe 7,000 or 8,000 would be through attrition. That still means about 13,000 jobs will be cut. If the government is going to cut that many jobs, it is going to impact services, there is no doubt about it, and it is going to impact essential services.

To suggest that the majority of those jobs would be cut from the centre, for example, from Ottawa, is foolhardy. We know differently. Newfoundland and Labrador is today seeing jobs being cut, not just from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, not just from the maritime rescue sub-centre, but also from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Let me give an example. Fishers need to renew their licence. A lot of these fishers do not own computers. A lot of these fishers do not even know how to access the Internet. What do they do? They go in to the rural offices where there is someone at the counter, it is a counter-front service, who will take their money, help them apply for their licence and off they go. It is easy. It is a service among the services that the front-line individual provides.

However, the government is saying that they have to go online, that it will not provide that service anymore. A service, one job in a rural community, again, is very important to that rural community, but is also very important to the people who avail themselves of that service.

We are seeing cuts to Service Canada and cuts to Environment Canada. Everywhere we look we are seeing cuts all in the name of dealing with a deficit that was brought on by the government when it knew better. Now Canadians are having to pay the price.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that my colleague spoke so passionately about the budget, but I would like to ask her how her party failed, profoundly, to provide any meaningful climate change action while in government? While her party was in government, greenhouse gas emissions rose by 30%.

We are hearing a lot of rhetoric today about environmental protection. Could the member please explain that dichotomy?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, the issue we are dealing with here impacts a number of fronts, including the environment.

All we need do is listen to the Minister of the Environment and the parliamentary secretary to know that what we did was way and above what the government is doing with respect to the environment and the measures that were put in place.

The reality of the situation is that the government is doing absolutely nothing. It has the worst record so far in terms of any government when it comes to the environment. We see jobs being cut. We see scientists being muzzled. The reality is that, as far as the government is concerned, there is nothing to worry about in terms of the environment.

The government should talk to the scientists and the environmentalists, the very people the government is trying to muzzle, and it will hear first-hand how important it is that we pay attention to the environment.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

April 30th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle NDP Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague what she thinks of the government's decision to scale back environmental processes.

I do not see how the government can scale back environmental processes and expedite them without missing information. If there are 100 criteria to assess as part of an environmental impact assessment, and the government decides to speed things up, there are two ways to do that: either increase the number of people doing the assessments or assess fewer criteria.

Take airplanes, for example. If 100 points must be inspected to assess the condition of a plane, and inspectors decide not to inspect 50 of those points, then the plane crashes, maybe the problem was with one of the 50 points not inspected.

I think it is dangerous to apply that logic to the environment. What does my colleague think?

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I think it is common sense. If the government is going to talk about a regulatory process, whether it is with the environment or some other aspect of society, the reality is that if it is inconclusive, if it is not all-encompassing, something will get left out.

When the government is trying to shortchange or shorten a process, something will get overlooked. What is what is so fearful is that we have a government that is quite prepared to shortchange this, to cut corners in order to move things through quickly without any respect or consideration for the environment. Instead, it responds to big business and oil companies when, in reality, we should be working hand in hand.

Everybody should recognize the importance of ensuring we have a comprehensive environmental process that can work hand in hand with the businesses that are concerned and certainly with Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, we have heard speaker after speaker from the Liberal Party talk about all the great things they have done.

The reality is that the Liberals had 13 years in government and accomplished absolutely nothing when it comes to the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions actually increased under the Liberals' watch. They signed the Kyoto protocol but then admitted that they never had any intention of actually implementing it. They just thought it might be a good policy thing to win some votes for them.

On this side of the House, of course, we have invested in parks. A beautiful new park in my riding is coming online, the Rogue Park.

We have invested over a billion dollars in securing our natural heritage around this country, working with our partners, Ducks Unlimited for example.

I wonder if the hon. member has actually taken the time to read the budget and look at all the wonderful announcements contained in this budget to help people with jobs and the economy. If the member has done that, will she stand in her place and actually vote with this government, because that is what the Canadian people--

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's, a short answer, please.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, in terms of the member's commentary, there is a lot that could be debated there. The reality is that I cannot get passed the negativity in the budget in terms of the cuts to see anything positive worth talking about. Jobs are being lost, essential services are being cut and it is the government that is doing it.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Pensions; the hon. member for Davenport, Housing; the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Pensions.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Barrie.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the distinguished member for Calgary Centre-North who tells me that her home is referred to as awesomeness.

I am glad to rise in the House today to join my colleagues in this important debate. I am here to speak to what our government is doing to ensure that first nations and Inuit receive the nutrition they need to lead healthy lives.

We recognize the link between access to healthy food and the promotion of health, well-being and the prevention of chronic disease. One of the reasons we are modernizing our food regulations is to keep up with the needs of Canadians. The changes put forward will not only help our government maintain a high level of scientific rigour but they will allow decisions to be implemented faster, cutting red tape and delays for the approval process in providing Canadians with safe products. They will help our government respond more quickly to the pace of change in science and innovation and play its role in continuing to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

These changes will not just help all in Canada but will specifically be of benefit to first nations people and Inuit. We are making strategic investments to promote nutrition and improved access to healthy foods in first nations and Inuit communities.

Food security is linked to a variety of factors, and meeting these challenges requires the contributions of multiple sectors working together. Our government is working with aboriginal partners, provincial and territorial governments, and other sectors to look at how to best address these factors and help improve food security.

With an annual investment of $60 million, the nutrition north Canada program is one response to the complex issues facing the challenge of healthier foods for northerners. The program provides a retail subsidy that helps northerners living in isolated communities access healthy food at lower cost. The program focuses the subsidy on perishable healthy foods that have to be flown into isolated northern communities all year round.

I remember two years ago when the health committee, of which I am a member, toured Nunavut and looked at some of the health challenges. The cost of perishable goods was enormous in some of these isolated northern communities. Obviously, this is something the federal government assists with and it is a very important issue that we are addressing.

Preliminary program data demonstrates that nutrition north Canada is supporting improved access to healthier foods for northerners. Between April 1 and September 30, 2011, more than 80% of the subsidy went toward healthy foods, such as produce, milk and dairy products, meat and alternatives, and grain products.

As part of the nutrition north Canada program, Health Canada receives $2.9 million annually to support culturally appropriate retail and community-based nutrition education initiatives. These activities increase the knowledge of healthy living and eating habits, develops skills for selecting and preparing both healthy store-bought foods and country foods, and strengthens retail community partnerships.

Community activities include the promotion of healthy foods, cooking skill classes, school-based projects, in-store taste tests and grocery store tours. Health Canada has also supported communities with planning, training and developing partnerships with local stores and other community partners.

Early success is reported for the nutrition education initiatives 2011-12, which include stronger linkages with local stores, stronger nutrition and healthy eating education, cooking skills development and coordination with other community programs. Over 300 community-based activities were offered in 2011-12 and over 50 community workers were trained.

The nutrition north Canada program also subsidizes country or traditional foods when available through local stores or when bought from processing plants that are registered with the program. Even though this is a first step for nutrition north Canada, it shows that the government recognizes the importance of country foods to the health and well-being of first nations and Inuit.

A healthy way of eating that includes traditional or country food has been associated with lower levels of heart disease and diabetes. These foods contain less fat and sugar than many store-bought foods and contribute important nutrients needed for good health. Other benefits of traditional food include physical activity during harvesting and have cultural and spiritual significance.

Our government also recognizes the importance of quality nutrition in enabling children to reach their fullest developmental and lifetime potential. We are working with first nations leaders, other levels of government, partners and stakeholders to ensure access to high quality health programs that promote a healthy start in life for first nations and Inuit children.

Maternal and child health programs, like those supported by Health Canada, have been shown to have a positive effect on the physical, psychological and social development of all family members.

The aboriginal head start on reserve is one of the programs supporting the healthy growth of approximately 9,000 first nations children and their families living in over 300 first nations communities across Canada by funding community-based early childhood intervention programming that addresses the developmental needs of children from birth to six years of age. Health Canada's aboriginal head start program promotes the health and wellness of first nations children and their families through culture, language, social support, education and parental involvement programming, health promotion and nutrition.

In the aboriginal head start program, children learn how to make healthy food choices through snack programs or meals using Canada's food guide. They may go on field trips with staff, parents and other family members and participate in traditional food-gathering activities.

The maternal child health program supports home visiting by nurses and family visitors for first nation pregnant women and families with young children.

Health Canada is helping to address factors that impact maternal and infant mortality in first nations and Inuit communities by providing information on maternal nutrition and supporting the programs that aim to promote healthier lifestyles and behaviours, such as the reduction of smoking. The program also helps by increasing access to quality prenatal care and regulated birth attendants. The maternal child health program provides a co-ordinated approach to maternal and child health services with strong links to elders, nursing and other community-based programs.

Together with the maternal child program, the Canada prenatal nutrition program is working to improve the adequacy of the diet of prenatal and breastfeeding women; increased access to nutrition information services and resources to eligible women, particularly those at high risk; increased breastfeeding support; and increased knowledge and skill-building opportunities in maternal and infant nutritional health programs among those involved in this program.

The brighter futures program provides funding to first nations and Inuit communities for activities supporting improved physical and mental health, child development, parenting skills and healthy babies. Funding facilitates community-directed and designed programming that addresses local priorities. As such, communities may choose to use the funding to promote linkages among social and health programs, including education, health, child and family, and provincial systems.

With the goal of supporting healthy childhood development and overall mental health, communities may choose to use brighter futures funding to support activities such as in-school breakfast programs, traditional food cooking classes and healthy eating and nutrition workshops.

Through these programs, this government is also supporting the work to address the challenge of childhood obesity. This issue is of particular concern for aboriginal children and youth as rates of obesity are significantly higher among this group than among the general Canadian population, and aboriginal children are becoming obese at a very young age. Obesity is strongly linked to high rates of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. First nations people are three to five times more likely to experience type 2 diabetes than non-aboriginal Canadians.

Since 1999, the aboriginal diabetes initiative's main objective is to reduce type 2 diabetes by supporting health promotion and disease prevention, including healthy eating and active living, through activities and services delivered by trained community health workers and health care providers. More than 600 first nations and Inuit communities have access to health promotion and diabetes prevention activities through the aboriginal diabetes initiative.

I hope I have helped to inform this important discussion today by outlining the efforts and partnerships that our government is undertaking to build healthier first nations and Inuit communities. The issues I have outlined today point to the needs that we as a government must focus on and work together with first nations and Inuit leaders and provincial and territorial partners to support first nations and Inuit communities in having the healthiest lifestyle possible.

Opposition Motion—Health and safety of CanadiansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his concern about health. We are concerned about the health of all Canadians across Canada but particularly our first nations people. We are concerned about obesity and diabetes.

Nutrition North Canada is helping to provide good-quality foods, the kind they cannot grow in the north, by providing a subsidy to retailers and wholesalers for perishable and nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, bread, meat, milk and eggs.

I am just wondering if my colleague could expand a bit more on what Health Canada is doing to make sure the support for these communities to choose healthier foods is made available.