Emergency Debate – Food Safety

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. friend for Prince George—Peace River.

There has been a tremendous amount of confusion tonight between various parties claiming for themselves different facts. I have gone through budget 2012 and tried to figure it out.

There was the suggestion by the parliamentary secretary that there was $100 million in new funding to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, but she referred to the 2011 budget. I have the 2012 budget, which clearly shows that the funding for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is to go down year on year to a $56 million decline, holding steady by 2014. Again, the money that went up was to three different agencies for a two-year period: $52 million over two years split three ways. Potentially it was as much as $8 million to CFIA, while that agency’s funding is going down steadily.

I want to put this to my friend. The Weatherill report made a couple of observations that seem not to have been acted on. One of them is found on page iv of the Weatherill report, and this is referring to listeriosis. It says there was a “lack of a sense of urgency at the outset of the outbreak”.

I think we are seeing that again. We are seeing misinformation and delays. The reality of the current crisis is that we do not seem to have learned from the last one.

Bob Zimmer: Mr. Speaker, again, speaking about the concerns for the Canadian public and the concerns about inspection, on this side of the House, we want to reassure Canadians that the inspection agency has caught the outbreak.

We are dealing with it as we speak and responding to it as it needs to be responded to. This is why the agency exists. It is to do this very thing and catch these potential outbreaks as they enter the market. It has done what it is supposed to do. Unfortunately, it happened. Of course, we wish it would not have happened.

To speak to the member’s question, I think she just added further confusion for all the people who are watching tonight. I do not think she made it any clearer. Again, I will speak to the fact that we have added 700 food inspectors since 2006. It is pretty simple. It includes 170 meat inspectors. At XL Foods there has been an increase of inspection staff there.

In essence, CFIA did catch it. It is still there and, again, we wish this did not happen. However, the CFIA has done its job and caught it. I think CFIA is doing what it is supposed to do.