Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On foreseen delays

The CP reports on the Cons' latest decision to put U.S. pressure ahead of Canadian interests, this time by declining to regulate trans fats for years to come. And the Cons' excuse for not acting now only hints at a delay even longer than the one they're willing to admit to:
Health Canada will delay regulation of trans fats in Canadian food products for at least two years, calling instead for industry to voluntarily limit use of the heart-clogging compounds.

Critics blame the delay on opposition from the U.S. government, whose food industry would face complications exporting to Canada if Ottawa introduced binding limits...

Clement said regulations will be introduced in two years if the industry doesn't meet the targets...

"My point is this: let's keep on that track, let's make sure that the marketplace responds to consumer demand, but if in two years we do not meet our targets, the government will regulate. Even if we wanted to we could not regulate tomorrow anyway, because it takes time to do that in an appropriate way, especially because of trade issues and so on."...

NDP critic Pat Martin was furious with the delay, calling it gutless and cowardly. He alleged that Clement backed off due to concerns about falling out of step with the United States.

The two countries have been trying to harmonize their regulations in health, environment and other areas. Ottawa has repeatedly been accused of weakening regulations in areas such as pesticide residue and auto emissions for the sake of a harmonized Canada-U.S. approach.
In Clement's view, the fact that regulation takes time is supposed to offer some reason for not acting now. But based on the Cons' apparent strategy, there won't even be any start to the process until it's possible to determine whether the voluntary targets have been met - meaning that two years from now, there'll still be a need for a full consultation process to delay any actual regulations even further.

Which will presumably suit the U.S. and its exporters just fine. But for the good of Canadians whose health may be affected by trans fats, there's no excuse for refusing to at least get a framework ready and a process underway so that the reduction targets can be made binding immediately if they're not met voluntarily. And hopefully yet another example of how Canada's interests rank a distant second in the Cons' eyes will help ensure that Clement and his ilk are far from the levers of power long before their two-year snooze alarm goes off.

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