Report of the committee
Thursday, June 6, 2019
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has the honour to table its
Your committee, which was authorized by the Senate on Thursday, 2 May 2019, to examine the subject matter of those elements contained in Subdivision C of Division 9 of Part 4, insofar as it relates to food, and in Subdivision J of Division 9 of Part 4 of Bill C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures, has, in obedience to the order of reference, examined said subject matter and now reports as follows:
Subdivision C of Division 9 of Part 4, insofar as it relates to food
Subdivision C contains clauses 163 to 184, which propose several amendments to the Food and Drugs Act (FDA). These amendments would affect the classification of products regulated under the FDA, add measures for monitoring the conduct of clinical trials and a framework for innovative therapeutic products, and implement new inspection powers.
Witnesses from the agriculture and agri-food supply chain expressed concern about the potential implications of the proposed changes; however, Health Canada informed the committee that the provisions under Subdivision C of Division 9 of Part 4 are primarily focused on reducing regulatory burden in the healthcare and bio-medical sectors.
On Subdivision C of Division 9 of Part 4, Health Canada indicated that they held public consultations with bio-medical stakeholders, which were focused on understanding needs and requirements of those stakeholders that are working to develop and improve the market for advanced therapeutic products in Canada.
While Health Canada could have done more to inform those in neighboring sectors – such as the agriculture and agri-food supply chain sectors – of the true intent of these regulations, your committee is satisfied with the substance and intent of Subdivision C of Division 9 of Part 4, insofar as it relates to food.
Subdivision J of Division 9 of Part 4
On 28 May 2019, your committee studied the subject matter of Subdivision J of Division 9 of Part 4 of Bill C-97, which contains clauses 217 to 219. These provisions would amend the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA) to specify limits to the scope of the Minister of Health’s special reviews and the circumstances under which the minister may choose not to initiate a special review.
As the legislation is currently written, each time a country of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) prohibits, for health or environmental motives, all uses of an active ingredient in a pesticide, Health Canada must initiate a special review of the product (subsection 17(2) of the PCPA). Witnesses from the agriculture sector argued that such special reviews are redundant, add no benefits in terms of health and environmental protection, and create bottlenecks in the regulatory system. The proposed amendments to the PCPA would provide the Minister of Health with more discretion to decide to expand the scope of an existing review, or not to initiate a new special review, in relation to a pest control product under specific circumstances.
Agricultural stakeholders highlighted that the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) has limited resources to conduct special reviews, which currently results in significant backlogs in the review process. Hence, they were all in favour of the proposed amendments to the PCPA as it would optimize the special review processes by reducing their duplication.
Environmental stakeholders highlighted the importance of public consultation and maintained that the Minister of Health’s decision to not initiate a special review and the reasons for that decision should be made public.
They indicated that section 17(7) should be amended to specify that any decision made pursuant to it must be made before publication of the public consultation statement that is required under section 28.
Environmental witnesses also recommended that the bill be amended to provide decisions made under 17(2) pursuant to special review to afford the same public consultation processes and transparency requirements that exist for other aspects of the act.
Your committee agrees with the witnesses’ amendments and that public consultation and transparency are necessary to maintain trust in the regulatory system.
DIANE F. GRIFFIN