Madam Speaker, Bill C-60 proposes the creation of a public agency called the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. As its name indicates, this agency will be responsible for providing federal food inspection services, and related services, such as recalls and food poisoning investigations, as well as managing food safety-related emergencies.
In the government documentation, we are told that this new agency will "make it possible to eliminate duplication and overlap and to consolidate resources, while increasing efficiency and decreasing by approximately 10 per cent the overall federal costs relating to food inspection".
What is, in fact, involved is consolidation and rationalization. The overall objective of this measure is to create a more efficient and more effective inspection system.
The fusion of federal activities will facilitate implementation of an inspection system that conforms to the HACCP-hazard analysis at critical control points-approach to food inspection. The motto of the new agency would be "protecting the Canadian consumer".
Already, a sizeable number of Canadian food processing firms have adopted some elements of the HACCP approach. While, at present, this represents a preventive approach, it has some obvious advantages: first, a guarantee of exceptional safety for the consumer; second, an internationally accepted standard for export sales; third, an economical means of reducing recalls and waste.
The HACCP approach involves a hazard analysis at critical control points. In other words, we must identify risks, list preventive measures and express criticism as the situation unfolds.
To get back to the idea of creating the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, we agree there should be a single federal food inspection authority in the future. On the other hand, we cannot support this bill in its current form, and I will tell you why.
Note that there are 94 clauses in this bill. As presented by the government, this bill might become a real patronage haven. Since clause 5 allows the governor in council to appoint a president and an executive vice-president of the agency to hold office during pleasure for a term not exceeding five years, the minister might be tempted to appoint a friend.
And if that were not enough, clause 10 enables the governor to appoint an advisory board of 12 members.
Worse yet, clause 22 allows the minister to approve the agency's corporate or five-year business plan. As we know, as soon as possible after it is established and at least once every five years after that, the agency must submit a corporate business plan.
In fact, if we let the minister choose the president and vice-president of the agency as well as the 12 members of the advisory board, he can also control the agency by directing its key policies. All this does not put the government's transparency in a very good light.
That is not all. Under clause 17 in the bill, the government gives the agency and its executives the power to license, sell or otherwise make available any patent, copyright, industrial design, and so on. In this regard, I did not see any sales or allocation criteria. Would the cost be lower to a contributor to the Liberal campaign fund? As
I said earlier, the government is trying to control the agency and turn it into quite the patronage haven.
With Bill C-60, the government is looking to consolidate inspection activities relating to food as well as animal and plant health, and related activities including food recalls, the investigation of instances of food poisoning and the management of emergency situations related to food safety. To fulfil its mandate, the agency will have a staff of approximately 4,500 and an initial budget of $300 million. It should be operational early next year, in 1997.
Its 4,500 employees will come from three departments: some 3,900 from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; 400 from Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and 200 from Health Canada. The jobs of these 4,500 employees will be secured for two years. One wonders now what will happen to them after. And where it says that the new agency will look into the need to introduce voluntary leave incentives, I hope the agency will reduce its staff through attrition only, that is to say, as people retire.
At present, the federal government spends approximately $340 million per year to fulfil its duties and responsibilities regarding food inspection across the country. This figure is taken from schedule B to the working paper on the federal food inspection system-organizational choices of July 1995. This expenditure is shared three ways between Health Canada, Agriculture Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Under Bill C-60, total costs will be reduced by approximately 10 per cent or $44 million annually as of 1998-1999. With such a reduction of the food inspection budget, the status quo is not in the least guaranteed as regards cost recovery.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture supports the establishment of one food inspection agency, as proposed by the Minister of Agriculture in this bill. It did express some reservations, however.
It gives its support on the condition that this reorganization not lead to new cost recovery measures. Moreover, it expresses the strong desire to see producers represented on the advisory council. In this regard, I think the proposal is excellent.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also strongly hopes that, as far as compensation to be paid for costs incurred with respect to treatment is concerned, clause 71 will include "and for other measures". Thus, additional costs will be included, such as with respect to quarantine, cleaning, replacement of damaged or ruined property, restocking, etc.
The impact of such an addition to the legislation would ensure farmers do not lose out because they have reported a disease. As we all know, the riding of Lotbinière, which I am honoured to represent, is Quebec's largest agricultural riding.
Quebec supports the establishment of the agency because it amalgamates the inspection services. From now on, there will be only one interlocutor. But it would be contrary to Quebec's position if the federal government, through this agency, unilaterally established national standards. It would be a very good thing to have a new sharing of administrative responsibilities in the food inspection sector, while making sure no one has to give up its own fields of jurisdiction, and no change is made to the division of powers provided in the Constitution.
The Union des producteurs agricoles, the UPA, agrees with the Quebec government. It does not want the provinces, particularly Quebec, to have a say regarding the activities of the future agency.
The Bloc asks that the provinces, including Quebec of course, be consulted and listened to regarding the agency's activities in the coming years. It makes sense and it is only normal for the federal government to act with the agreement of the provinces in the food inspection sector, since consumers' health and interests are at stake. However, the federal government must respect the existing fields of jurisdiction.
Costly overlap must be reduced. Grouping together the inspection services of the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food, Health Canada, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is a step in the right direction. We must promote harmonization and streamline standards so as to reduce the burden of regulatory requirements and promote the competitiveness of our businesses.
In closing, we must, I repeat, promote joint action, but according to the partners' respective fields of jurisdiction. In this regard, I refer government members to sections 91 to 95 of the Constitution Act of 1867.