by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Ontario’s proposed Animal Health Act could be approved by early December, if the provincial legislature approves a motion to move it from second debate to public hearings.
But Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives say the timeline in the Monday motion is too fast.
If passed, the motion would reduce industry stakeholders’ opportunity to deliver feedback to four hours during a Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly session, scheduled Nov. 25. It would also return the proposed Act to the legislature Dec. 2 for its final reading, warns Tory agriculture critic Ernie Hardeman in a news release.
“Four hours of committee hearings on one afternoon in Toronto is an insult to the thousands of farmers who are going to pay the cost of this bill,” the release quotes Hardeman.
Provincial Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky says the proposed Act, Bill 204, “is receiving the same due process that I believe the majority of bills that have been passed by this government has received,” and after 6.5 hours of debate in the provincial legislature, “it’s time to get some public input.”
Dombrowsky says although the time for presentations is fixed, the public can submit comments in writing. The Committee will consider these while reviewing the bill.
Hardeman “should know that,” she says.
Hardeman could not be immediately reached for comment.
His release states the Tories support the bill’s principle - to protect animal health and food safety - but has concerns. These are:
• Compensation for orders under the Act, such as destroying animals, is discretionary;
• It permits inspectors to enter and search properties without a warrant; and
• It creates red tape and expenses for farmers through licenses and fees.
Dombrowsky says the bill is consistent with what the province’s agricultural industry has said it wants and the Liberal government sees it as “a very important piece of legislation.”
She notes that similar legislation is in effect in other provinces. A power such as warrantless entry is not commonly used but “is a provision that’s there when the (province’s) chief veterinarian would be of the position that to not to enter would compromise the safety and security of the food system.”
Have concerns about H1N1 motivated the legislation?
Diseases such as H1N1, avian influenza and BSE were considered in the development of animal health legislation, Dombrowsky says. But the bill is “a reaction to the industry saying we need to have measures in place” to enable the province’s chief veterinarian to take action to protect food safety standards and “animal health on farms.”
Tackling the specifics of handling H1N1 outbreaks is the kind of detail that is left to regulations and these haven’t been written yet, she adds.
“I am not going to at this point in time presume what’s going to be in any regulation,” she says. BF