Libby talks about how Bill C-460 would improve Canadians’ health and save lives

House of Commons


May 3, 2013

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today at the end of the second hour of debate on Bill C-460 to have the last five minutes to respond to the debate.

First, I would like to thank all of the members on all sides of the House who have participated in this debate. Many members have participated with great passion and vigour, and certainly this is a very important issue before us.

In fact, I would argue that this is probably the most critical public issue that is facing us today. It is very interesting to note that there has been an incredible amount of media attention on the need for sodium reduction. There are major articles in the press every day. It is something that is of great concern to many people in Canada.

I am looking at a recent article in the Globe and Mail which says: “Health Canada’s voluntary unsupervised guidelines for the food industry aren’t adequate to the task, say health experts and advocates”. The article quotes Kevin Willis, the director of Partnerships at Canadian Stroke Network, who said:

“If we don’t have data available in a transparent way that we can monitor that these changes are actually taking place, it is a problem. The government could require companies to make that information available so it can be verified. It’s all part of the transparent monitoring process.”

I have to say that in the development of this bill there has been an incredible amount of support across the country, and some of the organizations have been mentioned here in the debate today.

I particularly want to thank Dr. Norm Campbell, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada CIHR chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control; and Bill Jeffery, the National Coordinator of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. These two individuals have been just incredible here on the Hill in providing information, education and awareness. I think they have spoken volumes about the critical need to have this bill move forward at second reading.

I have listened to the arguments from the Conservative members and I want to reiterate that this is actually a very straightforward bill. Again, this bill would implement the sodium reduction strategy that was developed, not by me or any member in this House, but by an expert working group in 2010. The purpose of this bill is to make sure that the guidelines and strategy that was devised are actually followed through.

As we have heard from many members in this House, the non-action, the pathetic lack of leadership from the government on the sodium reduction strategy and its disbanding the sodium working group has really been quite shocking. As many people I have spoken to in the community and some organizations have told me, at one point Canada was sort of the leader in the world and other countries looked to Canada to take leadership. However, that has now been completely reversed. We are so far behind on this issue and many other public health issues that it really is very disturbing.

We have heard arguments today and, in fact, we have heard members who wanted to ridicule the bill, make fun of it and come up with jokes, which is very perplexing. It makes me wonder if they know of the major organizations in support of this bill who have done the research, are the experts, and believe that this bill is sound. Do they not understand that the Canadian public want to see the Canadian government take leadership?

Some members referred to a survey that was done, and there is a very recent survey by the University of Toronto which was done in March of this year. It tells us that 78% of Canadians support setting maximum sodium levels in food sold in grocery stores and 76% agreed that there should be a warning label and statements that are displayed so that people have the real information that they need.

I want to end by saying that other countries are doing what needs to be done. Recently, South Africa announced that it is now going to require regulations that have to be met by June 2016 for sodium reduction. Many other countries have taken much more significant action than Canada.

At the end of the day I think we have to ask ourselves: Are we committed to the health of Canadians and preventing the deaths that are now taking place that can be prevented? Will we ensure the health of Canadians in the future? If so, then this bill is one concrete measure that would allow that to happen.