Libby supports food safety

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from British Columbia Southern Interior, who I have known for many years as a very great member of Parliament in the House, for bringing forward this bill. I know that the member is very diligent in his work. He is a member who has a long history in the agricultural industry. At one point, he was the agricultural critic for many years in the NDP and I know the riding he represents has a number of agricultural producers, so it is an issue that he is very familiar with.

    I also know he is a member who is very diligent in the research that he does and the issues he brings to the House. I was very interested when he first brought forward Bill C-571, an act to amend the Meat Inspection Act and the Safe Food for Canadians Act concerning the slaughter of horses for human consumption. I know he brought forward this bill because of the research he has done, the people he has spoken to, the concern he has that the status quo in Canada is very unsatisfactory, indeed is not safe, and something that needs to be debated in the House and looked at. It is very meritorious that this bill has been brought forward and we are having the debate in the House. We will vote on it, I believe, tomorrow.

    I would like to agree with my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party who spoke before me that for many people it is an emotional issue. He articulated very well the fact that he himself is a horse owner, his family comes from a community where horsemeat is eaten, and yet there are issues that we have to sort out. For parliamentarians, the primary issue to ensure that the safety of Canadians is paramount, that it is our first priority, and that the food chain is safe in this country.

    Due to some of the quite shocking cases of contamination in various plants across the country, we know this is something the federal government must not only have oversight of but strict laws, regulations and inspections must be in place to guarantee safety. It is not a chance thing, there has to be a guarantee that our food supply system, the production system, food processing, from beginning to end, is something Canadians can rely on. Our faith in that system has been shaken on a number of occasions, which is all the more reason we need to look at this issue in the cold light of day and examine whether the provisions we have in Canada that supposedly provide the required protections are actually working.

    Having read the material that has been sent to us from many different perspectives, certainly by the member for British Columbia Southern Interior but also by others, I would say this bill is needed. It is a bill worthy of being sent to committee for further examination. We have to recognize that the system in Canada in terms of horses going to slaughterhouses is not foolproof. There are many loopholes. We have an industry where horses, particularly those used in racing but in other activities as well, contain all kinds of medications and drugs that are unfit for human consumption. For those medications to be in our food chain is very serious.

    I agree with the underlying and fundamental premise of the bill that it is critical that we ensure there is a separation of streams. If horses are being raised primarily for the food chain, accompanied by a lifetime record such as we see in the European Union, in chronological order with all the medical treatments, that is fine. The issue is not about whether there is consumption of horsemeat and if it is good or bad.