OTTAWA (June 25, 2004) The non-partisan Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today revealed responses from four of the five major federal political party leaders to key food policy questions. The Conservative Party of Canada did not respond to CSPI's questions.
The Liberal, NDP, Bloc Québécois, and Green parties disclosed positions on proposals to:
- Ban advertising directed at children (like the two-decade-old Québec ban);
- Publicly fund preventative nutrition counselling services;
- Expand mandatory nutrition labelling rules to include information at chain restaurants and percentage ingredient disclosures on processed, prepackaged foods;
- Ban partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (food ingredients that contain dangerous trans fats);
- Reform GST rules governing food to eliminate tax incentives to consume junk foods and disincentives to consume healthful foods; and
- Implement a national chronic disease prevention strategy.
"We were disappointed that the Conservative Party was unable or unwilling to provide positions on these important health promotion proposals," said Bill Jeffery, National Coordinator of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. "The Conservative election platform is silent on these issues but, for instance, the Conservatives aggressively opposed the truth-in-food-labelling reforms in three House of Commons debates and a recent Health Committee hearing, despite a clear statement of support during the 2000 general election campaign." said Jeffery. (See: http://cspinet.org/canada/nutritioninfo_chain.html)
The Liberal, NDP, Bloc Québécois, and Green parties all emphasize the importance of disease prevention measures for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the health care system, including acknowledging the value of ensuring timely access to publicly-funded preventative nutrition counselling services when necessary.
The NDP, Bloc Québécois, and Green parties agree to explore reforming rules governing GST to remove tax incentives to purchase nutrient-poor foods and disincentives to consume healthful foods.
The NDP and Green parties favour prohibiting advertising directed at children (similar to the ban already in place in Québec). The Bloc Québécois states that this is a matter of provincial jurisdiction.
The NDP, Bloc Québécois, and Green parties support improvements to food labelling laws that would mandate disclosure of the percentage-by-weight of ingredients in processed food labels and require key nutrition information on menus at large chain restaurants, as well as taking extraordinary measures to eliminate partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the Canadian diet. (PHVO is a food ingredient that contain dangerous trans fats that increase the risk of heart disease and may be responsible for up to 2,000 deaths annually in Canada.)
"The three smaller parties were clearly more responsive to specific, innovative policy proposals to reduce the human and economic toll of diet- and inactivity-related disease. But, the Liberal Party's stated commitment to this issue simply must translate into concrete policy reforms and far-sighted spending decisions in the coming Parliament to help improve the health of Canadians and ensure the long term sustainability of the public health care system," said Jeffery. "Canadians likely won't know where the Conservatives stand on these issues until after the election," he added.
For more information, call: Bill Jeffery, National Coordinator of CSPI at 613-244-7337.
Background: Every year, diseases that could be prevented through public policies and programs supporting proper diet and physical activity cause 21,000 to 47,000 premature deaths, cost the Canadian economy approximately $6 billion to $10 billion in health care costs and lost productivity, and exacerbate delays in receiving diagnostic and treatment services.
CSPI provided questions to all five parties in both official languages. The complete text of all responses received to date, in the official language(s) provided by parties, is available on CSPI's web-site: (http://www.cspinet.org/canada/).
The Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a non-partisan, independent consumer health advocacy organization with offices in Ottawa and Washington, D.C. CSPI's Canadian advocacy efforts are supported by over 100,000 subscribers to the Canadian edition of its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI does not accept industry or government funding.