Mr. Speaker, while the food safety legislation has been before the House for debate and has passed, it has not taken away the interest and concern of Canadians in food safety.
I am pleased this evening to have the opportunity to follow up with a question that I put to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, to which I got a response from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture. That question was put on October 2 last year.
The essence of my question was the same as a series of questions I had put to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. Those related to the fact that while the minister was bringing forward legislation ostensibly to increase and protect food safety for Canadians, there was very little attention being given to the improved enforcement of that legislation.
Obviously, we were raising a lot of questions in the House because of the fallout of the food recalls from XL Foods in Alberta and the impact that had on Canadians who were concerned about what they could serve their families for lunch and dinner, and also the impact on the beef industry in Canada. We were deeply concerned and wanted to move expeditiously to strengthen the food safety regime to protect the industry.
One of the stalwarts of Alberta historically is the cattle industry. Because I have a long-standing experience in the field of environmental enforcement, I have followed very closely activities at the federal and provincial and territorial levels, including some first nations governments, in moving toward more effective enforcement compliance policies to make sure that their laws and bylaws are effectively inspected and enforced.
I and my colleagues had a deep concern, which we shared with the House on a number of occasions, that the government did not seem to be admitting to the problems we were experiencing with respect to effective enforcement of the food safety laws. While the government was attempting to bring forward strengthened laws, there was no admission that the government also needed to strengthen food safety enforcement.
We were a little concerned when I raised this question on October 2 that the response by the parliamentary secretary was to suggest to the House and in turn to the public that our party intended to oppose the improved food safety law. That, in fact, was complete misinformation and indeed, when the bill finally came forward, we all voted for it.
The concern was that our party had put forward a series of amendments, 11 in fact, most of which were directed at ensuring effective enforcement of the act. Regrettably, the vast majority of those amendments were refused.
We continue to have the concern that while improved legislation has come forward, there is a number of significant matters that would have improved and enhanced the food safety regime in this country. One of those was whistle blower protection.
Obviously, given the situation in some of the plants, it is very important that the workers feel free to bring to the attention of authorities problems they see on the floor that might affect food safety, particularly when they suspect there might be a violation. The government rejected that amendment.
Other amendments included improved labelling of food, requiring that there be specified training for the officers designated for complaints verification. We also wanted to include a provision that is common in most regulatory laws, and that was to specify that a peace officer had to assist inspectors where requested. There was a whole series of provisions which would have simply modernized the food safety regime in Canada. Regrettably, the government rejected them.
I am hoping in the response I get today that the government will indicate it has finally decided to open up a discussion with the public with inspectors, with those who work in the food safety industry, to talk about a more effective enforcement compliance regime for food safety.