Ms. Penny Priddy (Surrey North, NDP):Once again, it's surprising that Clement seems to have managed to escape much attention for what strikes me as an alarming statement. After all, Canadians concerned that unsafe products have found their way onto store shelves can only have all the more reason to worry now that the minister responsible has made it clear that in his view, it's their responsibility to figure out whether they've unwittingly bought harmful products.
Mr. Speaker, there has been tainted carrot juice, spinach laced with e-coli, dog food that leads to severe health issues and death. Now we find that ordinary Canadians have been exposed to counterfeit toothpaste and other personal hygiene items. Canadians are quickly losing confidence in imported foods and personal items.
With bad trade deals and understaffed inspectors, the government does not seem to grasp the severity of the issue. Releasing warnings to the media is not enough.
Why has the minister not taken the Consumer Products Association's advice and made importers responsible for the contents of their goods?
Hon. Tony Clement (Minister of Health and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a serious situation. The hon. member is talking about the possibility of tainted toothpaste which has been available in the marketplace.
I can tell the hon. member that in fact we do have inspectors and investigators who are on the scene and who are busy analyzing the products to see whether there is any kind of health hazard. That is what we do. We are responding to this situation. Indeed, we do have staff who are involved in the counterfeit situation as well. They monitor to ensure that we have a response if counterfeit products do appear on our shelves.
The best advice I can give until that investigation is complete is buyer beware.
Of course, it could be that the opposition is largely holding its fire from Clement in hopes that he'll still be available as a juicy target when they need one later on. And it seems likely that if actually moved to the Defence portfolio, he'd give Gordon O'Connor a run for his money in headline fodder.
But it's hard to see how that potential for future attacks justifies letting the Health Minister off the hook for saying that Canadians are on their own when it comes to product safety. And it seems likely that if Canadians knew just how far the Cons' laissez-faire philosophy seems to go, then voters wouldn't hesitate to start wondering how quickly they can trade Clement and his ilk in toward a different government.