We'd like to call meeting number 59 of the Standing Committee on Health to order.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we will have a briefing on possible regulatory changes. Today we are examining Bill . We have some witnesses who will be able to help us with that.
At the end of the meeting, we'd like to carve off a little bit of time, perhaps a half hour or 20 minutes, in which we'd like to move on to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill , if the committee is prepared to do that. We're hoping to get to that place at that time.
Before then, we have some witnesses with us. From the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, we have Paul Haddow. Also, from the Department of Industry we have Alain Beaudoin. It's good to have both of you.
We'll also introduce those who are here to help out with the question and answer period. From the Department of Health we have Daniel Chaput, and from the Public Health Agency of Canada we have Dr. David Butler-Jones. From the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, we have Emmy Verdun. It's good to have you with us.
With that, we will proceed with the presentations. We have two of them. We'll start with the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.
Paul Haddow, the floor is yours.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to appear before you today.
My name is Paul Haddow and I am the Executive Director of the International Affairs Division of the Department of Public Safety of Canada.
We understand that at a previous meeting of the committee certain questions were raised and the issue of the security and prosperity partnership came up. There was a desire on the part of the committee to have more of a briefing on that issue because it formed a bit of the context for some of the discussions you were having on specific regulations.
Together with my colleague, Alain Beaudoin, at Industry Canada, we coordinate the security and prosperity pillars, as we call them, of the SPP. I am responsible for the security side of things, and within the security agenda there are a couple of areas of interest to the committee. Those are the areas of bio-protection, broadly speaking, as well as the issue of emergency preparedness and response.
I should point out that I will just provide the high-level briefing to give you some context, as we have the experts here on specific work in the various components of the SPP.
If I may, Mr. Chairman, I'll just provide a bit of background.
Soon after 9/11 there was an initiative undertaken by Canada and the United States called the smart border accord. It was an opportunity to address security issues with respect to customs and immigration primarily. It was spearheaded on the Canadian side by Deputy Prime Minister Manley, and on the American side by Governor Ridge, who subsequently became Secretary Ridge. Underneath this initiative, a number of issues were identified that needed to be addressed in the aftermath of 9/11. Both countries were embarking on a new approach to security issues, and it was thought that they should do it together to the extent possible, so they could achieve their security objectives in a way that allowed for a continued flow of low-risk people and goods.
This initiative in 2002 was highly successful, to the point that the remaining government departments were saying that they too had an agenda with the United States on these sorts of issues and that we should expand the smart border accord beyond customs and immigration issues to cover the full range of issues impinging on the border between Canada and the United States. As a result of that, Mr. Chairman, the three leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States met in Waco, Texas, in March 2005 and established the security and prosperity partnership, which was essentially a much-expanded version of the smart border accord, and a trilateral version of the accord. So it was expanded in scope, and included the membership of Mexico. It was founded on three equally important pillars, those being security, prosperity, and quality of life.
Soon after that, Mr. Chairman, officials were tasked to put together a work program encompassing the scope envisaged by the three leaders. With respect to the security side, there are some ten working groups, encompassing everything from cargo security to passenger security, emergency preparedness, aviation security, bio-protection, and science and technology. This program encompasses about 15 departments across government.
In putting together a work program that would follow through on the vision provided by the three leaders at Waco, ministers met and officials developed a comprehensive work plan. Essentially, departments were asked what their pending issues were between Canada and the United States and between Canada and Mexico; that was the question we posed here in Canada. Various departments put forward their ideas of issues they wanted addressed or issues that weren't on the agenda, or issues they wanted treated more as priorities. Those activities, comprising over 300 initiatives across the various departments, were rolled up.
Then the next summit took place in Cancun, Mexico, in March of last year. The Government of Canada's position was that yes, the SPP was a success to the extent that it had gathered up a comprehensive work plan covering all the issues that people wanted to get addressed. But with between 300 and 400 activities, how could you prioritize that? So the idea was to bring some focus to this new, expanded agenda.
That was done in Cancun, where the leaders selected a small number of priorities in the security area. They included developing a pandemic plan for North America, for strengthening the cooperation and coordination in the area of emergency preparedness and response, and to continue to do work on making borders within North America smarter in the sense of achieving the same level of security, but in a way that encouraged the flow of trusted goods and travellers.
My colleague Monsieur Beaudoin will speak on the priorities in the prosperity area.
I should point out, in concluding, Mr. Chairman, that unlike the NAFTA, for example, the SPP is not a treaty. It's not a formal international agreement. It's essentially a work plan developed by the three countries, and this initiative has the benefit of the attention of the three leaders every year, so it's given a priority at the highest level. But the work plan itself is developed bottom up, from various departments.
I've mentioned there are ten working groups on the security side. Each of those working groups has their own consultative mechanisms. So, for example, I know that CFIA and Health Canada, when they put together the program for bio-protection, consulted extensively with their normal stakeholder groups and provinces, and that was replicated--different styles, etc.--across the various working groups.
As we look forward, we want to maintain a set of priorities that reflect Canada's objectives. I think it's fair to say that had it not been for the SPP we would not have had a North American pandemic plan in place. We would have had a plan for Canada, a plan for the United States, and a plan for Mexico, but the idea of explicitly connecting those plans between Canada and the United States, and between the United States and Mexico, recognizing the borders, I think that would not have happened had there not been an SPP. So that's an example of the kinds of bottom-up benefits that this initiative brings to the agenda of the Government of Canada.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'll leave it at that. Any questions would be welcomed.
Good morning. My name is Alain Beaudoin and it is my pleasure to be here today to talk to you about the Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America.
I am the Director General of the Innovation Partnerships Branch at Industry Canada. One of my responsibilities is to coordinate the prosperity agenda for the government.
Before proceeding, I would like to say that I appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade on May 10 to speak about the Security and Prosperity Partnership for North America. The remarks I am going to make today are essentially the same as those I made to that committee. I believe you have a copy of my remarks, for reference.
First, I will give a little background, because I do not want to repeat what my colleague Mr. Haddow has said. The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, the SPP, was launched in March of 2005 as a trilateral mechanism to strengthen North American competitiveness and enhance the security and quality of life of the citizens of the United States, Canada and Mexico through greater cooperation and information sharing.
In Canada, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has the mandate to manage our North American relationship, of which the SPP is one component. The Minister of Public Safety leads on the security agenda, and the Minister of Industry is responsible for the prosperity agenda.
While respecting the sovereignty and unique heritage, culture and laws of each country, the prosperity agenda of the SPP seeks to enhance the competitive position of North American industries in the global marketplace. It also aims to provide greater economic opportunities, while maintaining high standards of health and safety. To this end, the United States, Mexico and Canada work together with stakeholders to strengthen competitiveness, reduce the cost of trade and enhance the quality of life.
Because of its trilateral nature, the SPP is a complex mechanism. It is implemented through the activities of the trilateral working groups that are responsible for outreach with a variety of stakeholders within each country. The prosperity agenda is composed of nine trilateral working groups in key sectors of economic activity: e-commerce and information and communication technologies; energy; environment; financial services; food and agriculture; health; manufactured goods and sectoral and regional competitiveness; movement of goods; and finally, transportation.
With input from stakeholders, working groups have agreed to work on a number of bilateral and trilateral initiatives to advance the prosperity agenda. All these initiatives have been made public. If you have not already done so, I invite you to look at the SPP website. It provides detailed work plans and documents the progress achieved so far in implementing these initiatives. Briefly, this is how the SPP works. Now the question is how Canada can benefit from it.
As you know, key factors have fundamentally challenged the way global firms, including Canadian businesses, operate. Low-cost telecommunication systems and transportation and the availability of low-wage skilled workers in other parts of the world continue to profoundly transform business activities into global supply chains. There are advantages to this transformation. Even small and medium-sized businesses that use supply chain integration and technology can expect significant cost reductions in quality and time to market, but North American businesses are feeling intense pressure to remain competitive. While Canada is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, our prosperity depends in large part on our ability to access international markets. To remain prosperous, it is essential that Canadian businesses adapt accordingly and be able to deal with issues of supply chain management, such as seamless logistics. For Canada, these issues culminate at our border with the U.S.
It is common knowledge that nearly $2 billion is traded each day between Canada and the U.S. Our economies are highly integrated and increasingly work in a seamless fashion. About 34% of our bilateral trade is intra-firm, and over 77% is intra-industry. This has led to the emergence of integrated and globally competitive commercial platforms fundamentally rooted in North America.
This is where the SPP can be instrumental. The SPP aims to enhance and encourage continued prosperous trade between North American countries while ensuring security. The SPP is but one part of Canada's positive and productive relationship with the governments of the United States and Mexico. The SPP is a non-binding partnership. It seeks to find practical solutions to concrete issues. It is one mechanism to ensure a strong relationship with our NAFTA partners and is not intended to duplicate or replicate existing mechanisms. As such, the SPP is not intended as a replacement for NAFTA, nor is it intended to serve as an alternative to existing trade negotiation mechanisms.
At their last meeting in March 2006, the three leaders of Canada, the United States, and Mexico agreed to focus on five priorities to advance the SPP and ensure tangible results. The five priorities are strengthening competitiveness, emergency management coordination, cooperation on avian and human pandemic influenza planning, energy security, and ensuring smart secure borders.
This renewed focus reaffirmed the leaders' commitment to advance a positive agenda for North America.
Achieving regulatory alignment within North America is one of the most important contributions to strengthening competitiveness. Through enhanced cooperation under the SPP, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico seek to make their regulations more compatible to reduce costs, by eliminating duplication and redundancies, and minimize barriers to trade. This is being achieved while ensuring continued high standards for health and safety, and protecting our environment.
The leaders also agreed to create the North American Competitiveness Council, to provide governments with advice and recommendations on ways to improve competitiveness.
To build on this agenda, on February 23, Ministers Bernier, Day and MacKay met with their American and Mexican counterparts here in Ottawa. They reviewed progress on the five priorities in advance of this year's leaders' summit, currently scheduled for August 2007.
Ministers also received the report of the North American Competitiveness Council, which was released publicly. This report made 51 recommendations in three areas: border-crossing facilitation, standards and regulatory cooperation, and energy integration.
In conclusion, the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America has been conceived as a step-by-step, practical approach to improve the way governments work together to enhance competitiveness, ensure our security and quality of life. All of this takes time and continued commitment.
As the chair said at the beginning of the meeting, he and the government are hoping to lead this meeting into clause-by-clause of a bill that the government would like to get through this committee and back to the House as quickly as possible. I guess whether we do that or not will somewhat depend upon your answers.
I was quite struck, Mr. Haddow, by your statement that this is a bottoms-up process. While I can understand that administratively within the bureaucracy you asked the people who worked for the government to identify those issues they thought needed resolution, and therefore they came up with the original ideas, I don't think they were given a choice as to whether or not to participate, because, as you also said, this is a priority at the highest level of the government. It seems to me they were told this was going to happen and then asked could they please identify the issues they would like to see resolved. When the direction comes from the top, I don't think there's any choice for bureaucrats to participate or not, so I'm sure they all worked like beavers to come up with these 300 issues.
Mr. Beaudoin, you talked about one of the goals being an improved quality of life, but how can you possibly deliver that when quality of life is defined differently in the United States, in Canada, and in Mexico? You just have to look at the goals of the three countries and you can see that quality of life is measured differently depending on where you live.
You also said that your website documents progress. Progress according to whom? If in fact the 300 issues that have been identified and the work plans that have been developed to deal with those issues are all coming out of the bureaucracy, how do you know that Canadians will think it's progress?
It seems to me this thing is rather circular. The bureaucrats identify it, they develop a work plan, and if they get their own way it's called progress. Seeing as we really don't know what's going on and no one ever comes before us to describe the latest initiative, the latest issue, the latest work plan, and the latest result, then how are the people of Canada to know that this is truly progress and will improve or enhance their quality of life, or indeed improve their security?
The other thing--
Thank you for being with us today.
You all read on the weekend about the case of Andrew Speaker, who has contracted a communicable form of tuberculosis. I know that measures were taken. When the diagnosis was made, he was told not to travel. However, because 14 days went by before the authorities were notified, Mr. Speaker had time to make several trips.
How would you explain this lapse in the chain of events, which could put people's lives in danger? They are trying to find everyone who travelled during the same period, particularly people who were in the most contact with him.
I would like to ask Mr. Butler-Jones what went wrong. We are in the process of enacting Bill . We are told there is no problem, but we have to know what went wrong, so that the situation does not happen again. Was there a flaw in the system used by public health authorities in the United States for communicating information?
I am in contact with Julie Gerberding at the CDC in the United States. We will be meeting to draw lessons and identify all measures that might help to avoid this kind of situation happening again in future.
I will speak English, because I want to be very precise and my English is much better.
The challenge here was that an individual, who fortunately may have been minimally infectious but was not very infectious, chose to travel to a number of countries, and then not to follow up on the advice they were given. We do see that from time to time. Every jurisdiction sees that.
We will be reviewing that with our American colleagues, as we have with French, Italian, and the Czech and the European CDC, in terms of what measures might have facilitated earlier engagement with this person, so they would not have travelled, etc.
Subsequent to that, as soon as we found out, we then engaged with the airline, with the Americans and others, to identify who the travellers were so they could be followed up.
The thing with tuberculosis, which is different from some other infections, is that there's a long period between the exposure of someone and when they may be infected, and an even longer time before they can infect others. We actually have some time to get the story right, to figure out what really went on, so that when we actually do contact these people we will have the best information possible in dealing with them.
That's why over the weekend we worked with the various authorities, the airline and others, to get the manifest, and then the information became more public after that, which did facilitate finding some of the people faster, but there was still abundant time to do so.
If it had been something like meningitis or some other disease that you actually have a short window to follow up and do whatever measures possible, then as soon as we had known it very quickly would have been a public issue.
Basically what was presented before was the best public health advice. Our view was--and as I think you heard from provincial officials, from a public health perspective--the risks that we're trying to address largely are not from the United States. If, however, the circumstance changed, then what we would have done is brought in regulation, which we have the power to do, to include land conveyances.
That said, we've heard the committee's view, which I think reflects people's views generally, and certainly the view of the minister, that in the circumstances we should try as efficiently as possible to include land conveyances. So we've said, well, there is no additional risk. Sometimes when you do something, you actually increase the risk. There's a principle in medicine: first do no harm. So sometimes you introduce something and you actually increase different risks. My assessment is this does not add to the risk. It may have some benefit, but one of the other things that will be useful is if we did have another event, we would not have to bring in a regulation. It's already in place in terms of land conveyances. Secondly, it may actually facilitate movement at the border in terms of having advance notification and people can figure out what needs to be done or not--take that person aside, etc.
In terms of the costs, we're going to absorb those costs. We're not sure exactly how much it will be, but part of it, the biggest costs, will be in making sure those who do the land conveyance are aware of it, have the 1-800 number, etc. We do see 88 million or 89 million people come to Canada every year, 79 million of those from the U.S., with 66 million of them by land. The vast majority of those are individual conveyances. They're not buses and trains, etc. There is still a requirement under the Quarantine Act that if someone is sick, even if they're in a personal car or van, they are supposed to declare that.
Essentially, there is a web of responsibilities. Public health is a local activity. Fundamentally, people get sick locally, issues happen locally, and disasters happen locally. They may happen in a whole lot of places at the same time, but they are local.
So there are provincial and territorial public health acts and local medical officers, nurses, inspectors, and others who manage things—infectious diseases, etc.—locally. Sometimes it just gets too big for them, at which time they engage us. We also operate the reference laboratory in Winnipeg, and others.
At the same time, in terms of planning ahead, we have the public health network, where there is this constant development and review of what are the best policies, programs, and ways of getting at the control of diseases, etc. And then we work internationally.
At the same time, when I was a local medical officer in Sault Ste. Marie, I had a good relationship with my counterparts in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and the upper mainland, and others do that, as we do from state to province and vice versa. These issues cross all our borders, and we need to be in constant communication, and to the extent to which we can coordinate our activities, we'll be more effective doing that.
In terms of what might happen, I'll just give you a very recent example with the case of measles in terms of how Canada would deal with that. We held the students behind because I was not satisfied that we'd minimized the risk sufficiently in that context to allow the students to get on the plane. At the same time, we were in conversation with the Japanese. We let W.H. Njoo know what we were doing, and we were working very closely with local authorities, etc., in terms of how best to manage it.
It was a difficult situation—not easy, very complex—but people pulled together, and fortunately one planeload of students left yesterday and another today, and the remainder, we anticipate, will go home tomorrow.
Again, it was a bit of a disruption, but it did ensure that we did not send some measles on a plane that would potentially infect other people.
First of all, fortunately there is no disease that has ever been seen before that works like it did in 28 Days Later
, but often that is people's image of how these things work.
Certainly we think that the amendments add to our repertoire, they don't take away from that. I think there are some opportunities. We can never guarantee against everything.
We have a situation with the TB case where he just didn't let people know and he didn't have symptoms, so no Quarantine Act would catch that.
So we'll work on all the various aspects of the system to continue to improve that. But nature is constantly inventive, and that's why we need to be flexible, responsive, and be thinking not just in terms of disease X, like H5N1, but of any potential disease and how we could respond, and to anticipate not simply what the best science teaches us but what we would do to mitigate if we were wrong, by any chance.
Thank you, everyone, for your presentations.
Today we're hearing that the federal government isn't considering making changes or increases to limits for allowable pesticide residues on food, although at a previous meeting we did hear witnesses say to the committee that it is possibly being considered, which I believe were the words. So there is a bit of a discrepancy there. Could you clarify that? And also, if this possible change or increase isn't coming from the food and agricultural regulatory group or any other of these working groups under SPP, where specifically is it coming from?
And secondly, specifically to Dr. Butler-Jones, are you considering prosecuting the individual who did not report the TB under our current Bill amendments to our Quarantine Act?
Those are the two questions, Mr. Chair.
I would like to come back to the case of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chair. In a case like that, whether the travelling is done by air or land, there is still a flaw in the system.
Do you think the bill should be improved to ensure that this situation does not happen again? For example, if the information is not known to the Canadian authorities, is that protection included in the bill? Who is responsible? If nothing happens, fine, but if there are complications with other people who were infected, legal proceedings would be brought against the individual and could even be brought against the country with which... In any event, there has to be a mechanism in place. What could be included in this bill that is not in the bill now, to give Canadians assurances that they can have confidence in the mechanisms and in the bill we are enacting today?
For example, for land travel, how can an individual be stopped? Is there information that could be included in a passport that would make it possible, when the passport was presented, to determine that the person who holds the passport is not even authorized to travel within the country, whether by land or by air, because the person has to go immediately to hospital?
There is no solution in the law. The solution is the result of arrangements with other governments and the World Health Organization. The solution also lies in communicating and transmitting information in this regard to the others, as we do.
We do this; we do notification. If we have someone we're concerned about, we talk to the airlines, etc., to reduce the chance of that person flying.
The international health regulations come into effect later this month, and there is a requirement on each country to do everything they can to prevent people leaving for another country while they have a risky infectious disease.
So there will be many lessons learned. We don't have all the answers in terms of what actually happened and who knew what, etc. We may never have all of them, but certainly we will be working with our American counterparts and others to make sure we have....
I actually sent a letter last week. Dr. Gerberding and I have been in conversation about what we're going to do next about this, and I've made a formal request so that we have more formal agreements in terms of information-sharing, to help prevent this in the future.
Honourable colleagues and friends—hopefully you're one and the same—I am proposing two amendments to , an act to amend the Quarantine Act.
When was developed, a decision was taken to remove the requirement for advance notification by land conveyance operators, such as buses and trains, and to focus only on air and marine conveyances. This decision was based on an assessment that land conveyances posed a limited threat to Canada. Advance reporting by land conveyances could have been prescribed by regulation at a later date, should it be deemed necessary.
Ensuring the safety and security of Canadians is vital to the importance of this government. As you know, outside Asia, Canada was the country hardest hit by SARS. Hundreds of people became seriously ill and dozens of those people died. In addition, SARS had a considerable negative social and economic impact on Canada. Protecting the health of Canadians is our primary concern.
Upon reflection, in keeping with the government's desire to have the most comprehensive public health protection legislation possible to protect Canadians, I am proposing two amendments to . These amendments will reintroduce the requirement for advance notification by land conveyance operators, before they arrive in Canada, and will address another matter relating to notification efforts by all conveyance operators.
The first amendment will require advance notification by commercial land conveyance operators, such as trains, buses, and trucks, so that Canadian authorities can be as well prepared as is reasonably possible to respond to health threats at Canadian borders. The advance notification obligations of land conveyance operators will be identical to those of air and marine conveyance operators.
The mechanism for meeting the requirement will be simple. A 1-800 number will make it easy to contact a quarantine officer 24 hours a day. Conveyance operators will simply need to call before arriving in Canada if they have reason to suspect a person, cargo, or thing on board could cause the spread of certain listed communicable diseases or a person on board has died. Advance notification by operators of all conveyances will give Canada the best public health protection measures at our borders in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
I'm also seeking a second amendment to clarify that all these operators can invoke the common-law defence of due diligence, meaning that if they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with proposed section 34, they will not face penal sanctions.
We are doing this because we are concerned about the use of the expression “if it is not possible” in proposed subsection 34(4). The subsection states that no conveyance operator contravenes the advance notification requirement if it is not possible to inform the quarantine officer before arriving.
Our intention has always been to require conveyance operators to make reasonable efforts to notify in advance. The amendment is necessary to remove any risk that proposed section 34 is setting a higher standard; that is to say, requiring an operator to take all steps short of the impossible. We wish to make it clear that conveyance operators who take reasonable efforts to meet advance notification requirements will have fulfilled their legal obligations. As such, the second amendment will clarify that the due diligence defence continues to be available to all conveyance operators who have made all reasonable efforts to comply with the advance reporting obligations.
These amendments will ensure Canada will be better aware of the public health threats approaching our borders and aboard commercial conveyances. The adoption of this requirement would ensure that Canada has in place better legal protection, in respect of these types of conveyances coming into the country, than any other state in the world. These amendments complement the international health regulations and go one step further in order to offer Canadians the best protection possible.
These proposed amendments strike the necessary balance between protecting Canadians from the threats of dangerous communicable diseases and facilitating the movement of persons and goods across international borders. They provide a clear public health benefit and are not expected to have a significant impact on cross-border trade.
Honourable colleagues and friends, I ask for your support in amending Bill as I have outlined.
The first amendment that I'm proposing is that Bill C-42 in clause 1 be amended by replacing line 8 on page 1 with the following:
(a) a conveyance that is used in the
The second amendment reads is that Bill C-42 in clause 1 be amended by replacing line 2 on page 2 with the following:
it is not reasonably possible for the operator to inform a
I'm quite happy to do both amendments. They sort of go together. I compliment the parliamentary secretary and you for communicating the concerns of the committee to the minister, and for your achieving this result of restoring something to a bill that we only passed a while back.
I want to also thank my colleagues on the committee. It may have seemed at one time that I was making a big fuss about this bill, but you will recall from today's conversation that there are many committees, many working groups, meeting around regulatory change, all attached to this SPP, and the fact of the matter is that unless an earlier committee of some sort--be it the health committee or some other committee--requires that regulations come back to a standing committee, the normal modus operandi is that any regulatory changes are simply put in the Canada Gazette. They do not come back.
Because this was a change in legislation, we got wind of it. It had to come to us, but had it been only a change of regulation, my guess is none of us would have known it was happening.
In terms of this bill, it's not only going to be a good thing that we got to look at it, but it's also alerted us and, I hope, some of our colleagues on other committees to have the researchers keep their eye out for the Gazette when regulatory changes are published there and to bring them to our attention, because we may choose to call a meeting to call the departmental officials who are proposing such a regulatory change to come and explain it to us. We have gone through an exercise here that I think is very worthwhile from the perspective of keeping the parliamentary oversight on top of this whole SPP process.
I would like also to say, Mr. Chair, that I'm not opposed to certain regulatory harmonization. I can certainly see the value when it has to do with manufacturing and those kinds of things; however, it seems to me we should be on top of anything that has to do with the health and safety of Canadians every step of the way.
Thank you for your patience. I will be supporting these two amendments and the bill as amended.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.