Opposition Motion—Health and safety of Canadians

That, in the opinion of the House, the government, and specifically the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of the Treasury Board, has failed to learn the painful lessons from Walkerton which proved that cuts to essential government services protecting the health and safety of Canadians are reckless and can cause Canadians to lose their lives; and further, that the House condemn the government for introducing a budget that will repeat the mistakes of the past and put Canadians in danger by reducing food inspection, search and rescue operations, and slashing environmental protections, and call on the government to reverse these positions.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have a chance to take this up with the parliamentary secretary. I have voluminous comments on Bill C-38 because it touches on so many aspects of environmental protection.

In relation to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency facility in my own riding of Saanich–Gulf Islands, the Centre for Plant Health, I really hope to gain the co-operation of government members to keep this facility open. This facility has been in place since 1912.

The following is from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency material. “…in 1965 a plant quarantine function was added on the advice of the Advisory Board of the Destructive Insect and Pest Act to protect the Agricultural Industry from disease risks of international importations of propagation material which could spread to other crops in Canada.”

I heard my hon. friend say that the facility in Summerland to which this quarantine function is being moved has “a better equipped facility”. At this point, several greenhouses would need to be built to have anywhere near the capacity that the Centre for Plant Health has on the Saanich Peninsula. Moreover, it would be a risk to all the economic crops of the Okanagan to move a quarantine facility into the heart of that region. I urge the government to reconsider.

Pierre Lemieux: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, none of the places where we are finding savings affect food safety. Efficiencies can be realized, particularly with the relocation of personnel or functions. For example, the activities at the Centre for Plant Health in Sidney, B.C., as I mentioned in my speech, will be moving to the research station in Summerland, B.C. Labs and expertise will be combined to make sure that the important work is carried out in a better equipped facility and with a critical mass of expertise. There will be a larger pool of scientists on which to draw. Some modification might be required but the overall efficiency would make this a worthwhile endeavour.

Canadians have looked at the expenses of government. They see that we are in challenging economic times and they expect savings to be found. We have proposed some savings. These savings would not affect food safety, and Canadians know that. The only people who do not know that are members of the opposition.