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Canadian Food Inspection being downgraded to US level.

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Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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Southern Manitoba
Limits needed on CFIA power: MPs
this document web posted: Wednesday March 30, 2005 20050331p05

By Barry Wilson
Ottawa bureau

Opposition MPs, encouraged by industry witnesses, say Canadian Food Inspection Agency legislation must be amended to include tougher controls over the agency before it can be approved.

The legislation, now before the House of Commons agriculture committee, is designed to strengthen the authority of the agency, giving inspectors more uniform and greater powers across the country to police the safety of the food system.

But opposition politicians, who control the committees and the Commons in this minority Parliament, say there must be greater controls over and accountability by the CFIA than are in the present bill.

"There clearly is a need for an oversight committee, whether it is parliamentary or industry, and I expect to see amendments on that," Saskatchewan Conservative and committee member David Anderson said March 24.

At committee last week, Manitoba Conservative James Bezan complained that the legislation, Bill C-27, would create "a group of super inspectors. These guys are going to have a pile of ability to go not only into plants but on farms to enforce regulations."

New Democrat committee member Charlie Angus complained that while the legislation may be giving CFIA more power, it also is giving them weaker, American-style regulations to enforce.

"We already have a higher standard in many areas than the U.S. and if we are going to mesh our standards to theirs, I think we are tying ourselves to a sinking ship," he said in an interview.

Industry also has some criticism of the legislative proposals to consolidate a number of bills that governed various departmental inspection branches that were amalgamated into the CFIA almost a decade ago.

Bryan Walton, vice-president of the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors, said his members support the legislation's proposals to get tough with people who tamper with food products or who claim to have tampered.

However, the bill needs more balance, he told MPs March 22.

"We make specific references to one of the clauses that we felt was too broad and to the point where the inspector could ask for anything," he told the committee.

Betty Green of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association said there had been little consultation with the industry when the bill was written. She worried about the training and competence of CFIA inspectors who are being given more powers to seize goods and to close down businesses suspected of breaking the rules.

She said oversight and an appeal process are necessary.

"We have asked for a committee involving industry."

Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Bob Friesen said farmers are nervous about increased CFIA costs being passed to producers. And he complained that the proposed legislation often is too vague about the powers being conferred on inspectors and the obligations of the industry.

"Several clauses are employed within the bill which grant wide sweeping powers to inspectors, seemingly without appropriate oversight mechanisms or culpability on the part of the inspector or officer," he said in a brief presented to MPs. "There are no stipulations surrounding the misuse of such powers, no built-in accountability that inspectors-officers need to demonstrate, nor any manner in which the person subjected to the inspection could appeal or mediate the process."

Friesen said checks and balances must be added to make sure powers are not abused.

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