Wednesday, July 09, 2008

SPP : Outsourcing food safety to industry

A Canadian Food Inspection Agency employee was fired on Friday for sharing with his union information he found in a Treasury Board document that CFIA planned to make a 5% cut in its operating budget by outsourcing responsibility for food inspections and the labelling of products to industry.

5%, you say. Well that definitely seems worth dumping the CFIA mandate and adopting the U.S. industry-based approach to food safety instead.

Luc Pomerleau, a 20 year public service employee and shop steward, found the info on a shared CFIA computer last May. The union contends that Pomerleau was fired not for "breaching security" but because of what he found.
Michèle Demers, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada : "It is not industry's role to protect the health of safety of Canadians, it's the agency's role."

While the document - a November 2007 Treasury Board meeting at which ministers approved the proposed cuts - is once again secret, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Report on Plans and Priorities for 2007-2008 webpage displays an emphasis on profit you would not normally expect from a government department whose primary purpose is ensuring food safety for Canadians :
"Canada is working with the United States and Mexico on the regulatory aspects of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America to eliminate redundant testing and certification requirements when it is beneficial to Canada. The CFIA co-leads with Health Canada, Canada's participation in the SPP initiatives for food and agriculture regulation and protection. Through the SPP, the CFIA is pursuing common approaches to better protect North America from offshore and domestic risks to food safety and animal and plant health."

Only in North America, you say? Pity.
"Working to achieve a better life for Canadians is the highest priority of the government. Long-term prosperity requires increased productivity and competitiveness which means making sure Canadians can compete in a global economy by creating a stronger economic union, reducing red tape and making sure borders stay open for business."

Because when I think about food safety, my thoughts immediately turn to the main preoccupation and slogan of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives : "making sure borders stay open for business".

A side note : the "leaked" document also mentions spending cuts on equipment for the Avian Influenza Preparedness Program. I thought the bird flu scare was the major rationale for that NorthCom "Defending Our Homelands" pact which allows troops from Canada and the U.S. to operate in each other's countries now.


jennifer said...

Outsourcing is a good option and while the leakage about the decision is not the right mode, the decision is not so negative. Outsourcing to companies like Cleave Global etc is a good option and should be explored.

Paul said...

The decision is "not so negative"? For some reason, my confidence in outsourcing food safety is not roused.

Alison said...

Hi "Jennifer"
Whatever made you think that leaving a link to a company that advertises "We offer you a virtual office in India" would in any way drum up support for your company or outsourcing food safety regulation in Canada?
Piss off.

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