Madam Speaker, I will take a moment this morning to outline the position of my party, the Bloc Québécois, on the report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on the avian flu outbreak in B.C. last year. The Bloc Québécois welcomes this report for several reasons.
First, a general comment. What happened in British Columbia in 2004 was a very sad thing for the poultry industry and poultry farmers. We have to learn a lesson from this; we cannot just go on as if nothing happened. For the past to be a guide for the future, we have to learn from our mistakes and ensure they are never repeated, be it here or anywhere else.
In that context, the Bloc Québécois wants to support the committee's recommendations concerning the avian flu episode while reiterating some of its positions on human and animal health.
This experience with the avian flu outbreak must make Quebeckers and Canadians realize how crucial it is for the provinces and the federal government to implement effective animal health policies. While some would like the free market to work some magic and resolve all problems in the area of animal and human health, we have to seriously consider the advisability of implementing policies and regulations to at the very least contain such problems, if not prevent them.
This is why the Bloc Québécois made sure that the recommendations contained in the report recognize the essential role of those provinces which, like Quebec, have field expertise in dealing with animal health. Need I repeat that Quebec has a traceability system and its own food inspection and animal health agency—the Centre québécois d'inspection des aliments et de santé animale, or CQIASA—which is the envy of everyone the committee heard during its study of Bill C-27?
Of course, prevention in animal and human health comes at a price, as some people have quite rightly pointed out. That is why the Bloc Québécois thinks that such public health policies and preventive measures, in order to be fair, stable and equitable, cannot rely on either the free market or agricultural producers.
They cannot rely on the free market, of course, because it has a regrettable tendency to value potential profits above public or animal health. Such policies cannot rely only on producers either because producers are already financially overburdened as a result of disastrous harvests, the closing of borders to their livestock, and the steep decline in world prices for agricultural products.
Therefore, it falls to the government, that is, the citizenry as a whole, to assume the duty and responsibility of covering the inevitable costs of ensuring the quality of the meat, fruit and vegetables that all of us, in Quebec and Canada, find on our plates.
Quebec provides a telling example in this regard: for those who criticize our high tax levels, here is another argument demonstrating the wisdom of this approach. Quebec takes the health of its people very seriously and hopes that the other provinces will follow suit. We must remember, at a time when trade among the various countries is increasing, that it is essential for the public health authorities of our various trade partners, both provinces and countries, be agreed on the best possible practices and policies. We cannot make any mistakes when it comes to human health.
Let us return briefly to the avian influenza report. I would like to inform the House that the Bloc Québécois is especially pleased with some of the recommendations here.
Recommendations 1, 2 and 3 perfectly reflect the concerns of the Bloc Québécois, particularly by wanting to give the public more responsibility for the crisis that occurred and coming out in favour of adequate prevention of such crises in the future.
I will read the recommendations.
The first recommendation states that an independent commission of inquiry should be struck with the mandate to investigate the 2004 avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia.
To prevent the reoccurrence of outbreaks, the commission must review the effectiveness of the emergency preparedness and implementation strategies that were deployed in British Columbia, regarding zoonotic diseases.
The second recommendation says that the Auditor General of Canada should be asked to audit the effectiveness of various emergency preparedness strategies related to animal diseases, studying first the 2004 avian influenza outbreak in British Columbia, with an emphasis on strategies related to zoonotic diseases
The third recommendation is that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency establish a “Special Animal Disease Response Team,” comprising CFIA, provincial and local experts, that can be quickly deployed with appropriate equipment, and that is responsible for overseeing practices of emergency preparedness plans and procedures.
The seventh recommendation is that any industry recommendations or actions for a pre-emptive cull to limit the potential spread of an outbreak of animal disease must be submitted to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The agency, in consultation with the affected provinces and industries, must be proactive and responsible for authorizing and supervising any such pre-emptive cull.
Recommendations 3 and 7, which I have just read, emphasize that the federal government cannot go it alone and must call on the expertise of the provinces and the industry.