Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for sharing her time with me this afternoon. In a number of ways we have some very similar views and I will be looking to expound upon those this afternoon
As some hon. members have mentioned, this breaks down to a principle of governance. Is there a role for government in stepping in on the food industry and starting to legislate things that the industry would rather direct itself? I will be making some arguments this afternoon that say yes, we absolutely do need to step in, because the self-regulatory environment is the environment that allows for industry to do as it will, over time having self-monitoring and allowing this process to go on. It is harmful and in fact is costing us lives and billions of dollars in our health care system.
I would like to talk about junk food, because in a sense that is what we are talking about here. We are talking about food that is junk, that we would consider garbage in some senses, because of its harmful effects on people every day, particularly young people. I stand here as both the environment critic for our party and the youth critic. I will mention this a little later on and speak about why I think this is both an environmental and a youth issue.
This is about economics. We will have a debate next week on the costs of health care, about how much to spend on health care, about promises of billions more, and about Canadians demanding more support for their health care services. Very little discourse is given over to preventive medicine, to preventive effects that we in the House, in this legislature, can make to actually positively affect our health care costs.
We seem to worry about Canadian citizens only when they end up in the emergency room. We seem to worry about them only when they end up on the operating table. Then we discuss how much money we have to spend on them, as opposed to taking simple, low cost initiatives like we have in front of us here in banning trans fats and making a statement to industry that this is no longer acceptable.
The decision on this should be easy. I agree with my colleague from Churchill that when a government does not know what to do about an issue, it decides to study it. It sends the issue to committee where it is studied some more in blue ribbon panels.But we have the studies. We have looked at trans fats. They are a very serious determinant of health. They have a very negative effect on health. My colleague is absolutely correct. Trans fats are not just bad for us; they will kill us. The science is in on it. This decision should be easy.
There is a question about exactly what we are waiting for. In fact, it seems to be a point of indecision about not wanting to make any bold moves. In this government, frankly, obviously due to the representation that we see in front of us here today, the concern over this issue is not very strong. The government would like to pass it along, perhaps to another study group, rather than take any bold initiative. Many of my colleagues on all sides of the House have been very frustrated with the lack of forward progress on any particular issue. Health care is another one. Simply throwing billions more at the issue is not the answer. Romanow talked about reform and here is the place to do it.
Industry will always balk at regulations. That is its job. That is the job the lobbyists perform at the little soirees we attend here. It is their job to make sure that the regulations, the so-called red tape, are not in place so that the profit motive can remain ultimate. They always ensure that Canadian companies have the most profitability and that there are no regulations to prevent anything. That is simply wrong, of course, and that is the whole idea of having a legislative body.
There is a long and sordid history of industries resisting any form of legislation which they know to be right. A good example is that of the auto industry and seat belts. For many years the auto industry simply said that seat belts cost too much money to put into cars and that it would ruin the industry if any sort of legislation anywhere was ever implemented that forced automakers to put seat belts into cars.
I dare say that if any automakers came forward today and suggested that they would make a new model of car without seat belts, they would, first, not be able to sell any, and second, would not even be able to get the car out into the market, because it would be illegal. That is because at some point government stepped in and said that seat belts were a good idea, that self-regulation was no longer working. That technology existed for years.
Technologies do exist to replace trans fats. We have heard that from industry. I have some quotes, one from the Canadian Food and Consumer Products companies, which states that the companies share the ultimate objectives set out in this motion: to provide consumers with healthier alternatives to trans fats. They say that they understand the importance of identifying replacements for their trans fat foods as quickly as possible and their member companies are moving expeditiously to do so.
I would like to give them a little more encouragement. I would like the House to say that not only are they encouraged to do so, they are mandated to do so and they must do so in order to bring their products to market. This is not an anti-industry movement, as opposed to what any other member in the House might say.
Another example is asbestos, which was quite a contentious issue for many years because it was a debate on environment and health versus jobs. But at some point somewhere a government took leadership and said that asbestos was killing us, causing cancer, and killing our children in our schools. Yet the House is still faced with the challenges of asbestos in many of the walls of the House, again because of a lack of leadership, a lack of direction on something that we know kills us. Perhaps there is some motive in there, but I would rather not speculate.
Smoking is another example. It is clearly targeting the youth market. As youth critic, I understand how the smoking industry works and what it focuses toward. Trans fats almost can be lumped, so to speak, into that same issue and same focus.
Of course these foods taste great. Of course they are appealing, particularly to young people, and of course these foods are something they are going to demand in the marketplace. The marketplace goes after young people. When motivating families to buy certain foods, the marketplace does not go after parents. It goes after the children, who are much more susceptible and easy to manipulate.
Therefore, looking at simply taking trans fats out and replacing them with something that is much healthier would be far more important than simply saying that the industry will do this on its own.
The very last environmental example I would like to raise, which is another industry one, is that of CFCs. Just the other day I was reading over some documents about when governments around the world were looking to ban CFCs. We know they are harmful to the ozone and human health. Industry said then that the industries would collapse, that children would die because there would not be any refrigeration for vaccines, that it would be a travesty, thousands of jobs would be lost and it would not help the environment. Then it was again a government that took some leadership and said that this was important.
Years later, industry is doing fine. The reports we are getting back from industries now are that this has been a profitable piece of legislation for them. They have made tens of millions of dollars from this one piece of legislation to ban these things.
Again industry says there is no need to legislate, no need to ban and no need to make certain directions. I call to the attention of members the examples I have just given. Industry's mandate is not to serve the community. It is not to serve the country of Canada. Its mandate is to make profit for its shareholders. I have no problem with that. I ran a small business myself and I understood my mandate. My mandate was to make sure that I could keep my employees going and I did well by the community.
Our mandate here is different. Our mandate here is to ensure that we have a viable economy in Canada while ensuring the health of Canadians. Our mandate is also to try to control costs, which we expend all the time, costs such as those we are going through right now in the budgetary consultations.
To simply say that health care has enough money in it is wrong. To say that the answer is to throw more money at it is also wrong. We have to look at the ways that Romanow considered to absolutely reduce the costs and to, again, prevent people from ending up in hospitals in the first place.
Type 2 childhood diabetes is a serious concern in my riding. I have a very rural riding with a great native population. Native leaders are constantly coming to me saying that we have to do something about the epidemic of type 2 childhood diabetes. Clearly this act would push us toward doing something about that.
I will end my discussion here simply because this is a call for leadership from the government. After hearing some support from government, I am a little unsure if it is ready to go out and bring the big stick, as it were, toward industry. Again, there is a call on this lack of leadership. For once, please, in the new House, in this conciliatory Parliament, in a Parliament where we actually consult with one another, let us do this.
We have done this. We have consulted with people in the health care industry and in the manufacturing industry and we know this can be done. Government needs to fulfill its role, which is to provide leadership for Canadians and protect Canadians.