House of Commons Hansard #250 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-24.

Topics

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

I see the hon. member for Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that the vote be deferred to the end of the time provided for oral questions tomorrow, Wednesday, December 13.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 13 at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

I see the hon. member for Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think if you seek it you will find unanimous consent to see the clock at 5:30.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

moved that Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to stand here today as the sponsor of Bill S-228, the child health protection act.

I would like to begin by commending the hon. Senator Greene Raine for introducing this bill last fall, and for her tireless efforts to support healthy choices for our children.

This bill was grounded in the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology's own study on obesity in Canada, published in March 2016, and was debated by that committee during its review of the legislation.

It has long been established that advertising works. What I mean by this is that advertising is an effective tool for influencing potential customers' attitudes and behaviours. If this were not true, then advertising would not be a long-standing multi-billion dollar industry. This principle applies to all potential customers, including children. Now, more than ever, our children are exposed to a barrage of advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages. It therefore follows that those who are marketing their products to children will be affecting children's eating decisions. In fact, recent trends confirm that this is indeed the case.

One in three Canadian children is either overweight or obese. We know that obesity is linked to chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. During my career as a physician, I witnessed these trends first-hand on a regular basis. I noticed more of my patients who presented were overweight or obese, and I was seeing instances of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in younger and younger people. Public health data across many countries confirms that this trend is widespread. Alarmingly, whereas 20 years ago type 2 diabetes was a disease primarily of older adults, this diagnosis is increasingly being made in children. It is obvious that we need to take bold action now. Our children's health and lives are at stake, and they deserve better.

This issue falls squarely within the Minister of Health's mandate to introduce new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.

The extent to which our children are exposed to the advertising of foods and beverages that are high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats cannot be overstated. For example, according to a recent study of the 25 million online food and beverage ads that Canadian children see every year on their favourite websites, 90% are for unhealthy products. As a result, our children are eating fewer fruits and vegetables than recommended and more unhealthy foods and beverages.

Taking action today to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages means that we can help children have a healthy start in life, based on a foundation of healthy eating choices, and protection from the influence and manipulation of those who would market unhealthy foods and beverages to our children. Bill S-228 serves to provide such protection.

If Bill S-228 is to give our children the protection they deserve, it is imperative that, before being passed into law, we take steps to ensure that this legislation will withstand any legal challenges that may come about. This is why I will be introducing amendments to this bill.

The first amendment would change the definition of “children” from under 17 years old to under 13 years old. Although some stakeholders have expressed reservations with changing the age, it must be understood that there is a very real potential that this bill could be challenged in its present form under the law.

In recent months, as Health Canada has consulted with stakeholders, it has become increasingly obvious that any regime built on restrictions aimed at older teenagers would be subject to considerable legal risks associated with the restriction on freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These are risks I cannot ignore, because a court loss could jeopardize this entire effort. The proposed change will allow us to take bold action to protect our most vulnerable populations now.

There is a strong precedent for defining a child as under 13 years of age in the context of advertising restrictions in the province of Quebec. In fact, the Quebec legislation withstood a charter challenge and was fully upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. That clear precedent supports the decision to amend the definition of children to those under 13. However, I will not stop there.

Recognizing there is evidence showing the vulnerability of teenagers to marketing, as well as the experience in Quebec where industry shifted marketing efforts to teenagers when restrictions were imposed on younger children, I will move an additional amendment to Bill S-228 at committee. Specifically, I will move an amendment to require Parliament to conduct a mandatory review of the legislation, with a particular focus on the definition of children, within five years of the act coming into force.

The objective of the parliamentary review will be to monitor whether the lower age limit results in increased advertising to teenagers and whether any provisions of the act need to be adjusted to ensure the continued and full protection of our children.

I have also been informed that the Minister of Health has instructed Health Canada to invest significant resources over the next five years and to work closely with the health stakeholder community to ensure the necessary research is undertaken to determine whether new forms of advertising are impacting children and whether teens are being exposed to more marketing as a result of restrictions on marketing to younger children. I applaud the minister for her leadership in this area.

Through the parliamentary review of the legislation, the government will also be obliged to report publicly on compliance with the bill and on progress toward our common goal of healthier children of all ages. This work will ensure that, if necessary, we will have the data needed to support a broadening of restrictions at a future date.

While parents have an important role in choosing what their children eat, it is difficult for them to compete with or to completely control their children's exposure to marketing. Parents and caregivers deserve a supportive environment where children are not constantly targeted by unhealthy food marketing.

Bill S-228 is but one effort to tackle the epidemic of obesity and chronic disease in our country. If anyone doubts my resolve or the resolve of our government, he or she need only look at the comprehensive suite of measures we have under way. These initiatives range from restricting marketing to children; to new front-of-pack labelling to flag foods high in sugar, salt, and fat; and to a revamped Canada Food Guide.

One of the fundamental responsibilities of a government is to protect its most vulnerable citizens and few citizens are more vulnerable than our children. I expect that everyone in the House can appreciate how significant Bill S-228 is for the health of our children today and for generations to come.

We will not let up in the fight to reduce obesity and chronic disease. I ask all members for their support on this important issue.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think all of us want young people and children to eat healthy, and parents have some responsibility in that.

I have been hearing quite a bit about the bill. I am coach of Timbits hockey. Tim Hortons sponsors kids hockey for five and six year olds across Canada. It also supports young people in playing soccer. McDonald's happens to support atom hockey across Canada.

Could the member assure us that the bill in no way would preclude them from continuing to support children's sport, which is important. It is part of a healthy lifestyle for our young people.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have heard much of the same concerns from stakeholders. I agree that the promotion of sport and activity is important and essential for the health and well-being of our children.

We have discussed these issues with stakeholders and with the Minister of Health. I can assure the member that the government will be reviewing this to ensure there is no adverse effect on sport sponsorship programs for children.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his work on the health committee.

Everyone is in favour of reducing obesity. However, Quebec has had this implemented for 40 years, and it has had no effect on the obesity rates. The same is true for Chile and the U.K.

What fact and evidence-based science does the member have to show this would actually reduce obesity?

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, as for the effect of the bill in Quebec, many factors are causing obesity in children. I would like to see the data and the study the member is referring to, that this has had no effect on the health of children and rates of obesity.

However, we know advertising and marketing influence behaviour of young people. We know in other initiatives, particularly on restriction of advertising of smoking, that it had very measurable effects on rates of smoking.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am sure my colleague would agree that many different groups in society, and I think of Winnipeg Harvest for example, and many different educational facilities, in particular for early and middle years, want to see government, in this case private members, take initiatives that will have positive impacts for our children.

This idea is shared by many Canadians. It would have a profound and positive impact. To accept the legislation, at the very least moving it forward, would allow the stakeholders to come to the table, provide some of the information, and address some of the concerns raised today. Could he share his thoughts on that?

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, I agree. There are many aspects to the bill and what can be done. We also know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we need to develop a dialogue and take action at the government level. It is the primary responsibility of a government to look after our most vulnerable citizens.

I look forward to input from all levels of government, from all parties, and from all stakeholders.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Before the hon. member for Brantford—Brant begins, I want to let him know, as he may be aware, that we may be interrupted in a few minutes. We are waiting for an indication of when that will happen, so we are not entirely sure.

The hon. member for Brantford—Brant.

Child Health Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brantford—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand before the House to speak to Bill S-228, a bill that calls for changes to the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages directly to Canadian children under the age of 17.

Bill S-228 is meant to address childhood obesity. We can all recognize that childhood obesity is a legitimate public policy concern. As members of Parliament, parents, aunts, uncles, members of the community, we all want to see our children and youth thrive and live healthy lives. However, Bill S-228 is far from the solution. It is a distraction from the urgent need to explore the real causes of childhood obesity, namely, the lack of balance between diet, screen time, and physical activity.

Evidence does not support that marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages is the true cause of childhood obesity in Canada. Childhood obesity is a complex and multi-dimensional problem. A holistic approach that takes into account the full set of causes of childhood obesity would better serve Canadians in the interest of truly protecting our children from the negative impacts of obesity on their health and well-being, thus encourage long lives filled with healthy lifestyles.

The main issue I wish to address after reading Bill S-228 is where the evidence and science is that supports the very purpose of the bill. Statistics Canada data suggest that added sugar consumption has been declining over the past two decades. During the same period, obesity rates have continued to rise. This finding was extremely significant, considering the bill states in its preamble that there is widespread marketing of food and beverage to children and restrictions to the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children must be mandated to curb the rapid growth of childhood obesity in Canada.

I strongly encourage my colleagues in the House to read Bill S-228. It should not take them more than five minutes of their time. They will note that the bill as currently drafted is extremely vague and leaves too many doors open to unintended consequences. We do not know yet what constitutes unhealthy food.

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

Mr. Speaker, Her Excellency the Governor General desires the immediate attendance of this honourable House in the chamber of the honourable Senate.

Accordingly the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.

And being returned:

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill S-228, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act (prohibiting food and beverage marketing directed at children), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Child Health Protection ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The hon. member for Brantford—Brant has seven minutes remaining in his speech.