I am delighted to provide an update for South Asian Generation Next readers on product safety legislation in Canada. This week the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act passed through the Senate and received Royal Assent. This is good news for Canadian consumers, who have been waiting 40 years for an update to our product safety legislation, and over two years for the Conservatives to pass legislation that they have made repeated promises to enact, but have killed twice with prorogation.
Health Canada now has the ability to order mandatory recalls on products that are dangerous, and obliges companies to report dangerous defaults in products in a timely manner. Health Canada can also ask for companies to provide test results upon demand.
However, it is important for Canadian consumers to note that the work to ensure that we are buying the safest, highest quality products is not over. There is still much to be done to ensure that the public is not given a false sense of security that their products are now safe. Regulations will need to be continually reviewed and improved, and an adequate amount of funding must be provided so that there are enough inspectors within the department. In fact, the government is providing fewer resources for product safety assurance now than in previous years. The budget for consumer product safety at Health Canada has sharply decreased since 2007-08, as well as staffing levels. New legislation will do nothing if the appropriate resources are not put in place.
How can we continue to make product safety legislation better?
The majority of product flaws happen in the design stage, not in the production stage, meaning that knowledge of a problem should become apparent early in the process of getting a product to market. We need to have better incentives for companies to take more care in the design process, so that they are not making decisions with respect to the safety of their products versus the economics related to their product once products are actually in the stores. Design stage testing should be completed by third parties so that testing is independent and results are transparent.
The public must actually receive the message that a product has a flaw in it in order to be able to decide if it poses a risk to their families. They should also be able to search a regularly updated and easy-to-navigate data base to find out which products have problems. The current rate of products that are actually returned to companies is very low. It is important that the product is actually returned to the manufacturer, not just left for a consumer to dispose, because a product could still end up being used and putting another person in danger even if it has been put in the trash, or left on the curb to be picked up. Better communication on these issues will improve the return rates on products, but it is also necessary for Health Canada to monitor the rates of return and reissue product recall alerts if the rate of return after the original recall noticed is made remains low.
Further, it seems logical that companies be mandated to report all incidents associated with an entire product line, including each model of a product, rather than simply reporting the incidents discovered with a particular model within a product line, which is the case currently.
Product safety requirements have not kept pace over the last few decades with the changes in design, manufacturing, and most importantly the globalization of trade. The latest product safety legislation is a great improvement over the previous system, but it is not perfect and it can be improved upon. The legislation must be must be backed up by appropriate funding of resources, including an increase in number of staff, as well as regulations that keep up with the rapidity of product innovation and our increasing reliance on imports. If the current government does not take account of these factors, we will be no better off than we were before this bill became law.
Author: MP Megan Leslie is NDP Health Critic.
Harper Government’s Consumer Product Safety Act Receives Royal Assent
Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA), has received Royal Assent, and is now Canadian law.
“I am delighted our Government’s Consumer Product Safety Act is now the law of the land,” said Minister Aglukkaq. “This will give the Harper Government important new tools to deliver stronger, more effective protection for Canadian consumers and their families.”
The new CCPSA will better protect the health and safety of Canadians by:
· prohibiting the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of any consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety;
· requiring industry to report when they know about a serious incident, or death, related to their product to provide government with timely information about important product safety issues;
· requiring manufacturers or importers to provide test/study results on products when asked;
· allowing Health Canada to recall dangerous consumer products; and
· raising fines and penalties for non-compliance.
An accelerated implementation plan is being developed in order to facilitate the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act coming into force in the next few months. To make the transition from the Hazardous Products Act to the new legislation as smooth as possible, the Government will be actively communicating with industry to inform them of the coming-into-force date and their new obligations and requirements under the Act. The Government is also committed to keeping consumers informed as to how the legislation will affect them and the products they buy.
Over the past year, the Harper Government has demonstrated its ongoing commitment to consumer product safety through new regulations on lead, cribs and cradles, and surface coating materials. With the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, the Government will continue to provide a high level of protection for Canadians and will be able to do even more to address emerging consumer product safety issues.
For more information, please visit www.health.gc.ca/ccpsa