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Toy makers' pleas turn tide on safety bill in Senate

Liberal senators are attempting to amend new legislation on consumer product safety after lobbying by toy companies that fear it could damage their business.

A Senate committee examining the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, Bill C-6, this week proposed amendments that critics say would create significant delays and substantially limit the government's ability to remove lead-tainted toys or other dangerous products from store shelves quickly.

Some of the companies that oppose Bill C-6 were involved in the high-profile toy recalls that inspired the overhaul.

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Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the social affairs committee amendments - supported, for the most part, by Liberal senators - put the interests of industry ahead of those of ordinary Canadians.

MPs can return the bill to its original form when it goes back to the House of Commons for a final vote.

The Senate proposals would require the government to ask companies to conduct product recalls voluntarily and order a mandatory recall only if a company refuses. Under the amendments, mandatory product recalls would have to be approved by the health minister rather than product inspectors.

"We're disappointed if this actually takes hold because a number of the amendments are watering down the original legislation," said Pamela Fuselli, executive director of Safe Kids Canada.

"I think [the Senate committee's]concern is on the impact economically for manufacturers."

In October, the Canadian Toy Association urged the social affairs committee to make changes such as limiting the circumstances in which companies must report product problems.

They also asked that health officials be required to notify a company if they share information about it with other governments.

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Peter Irwin, director of the toy association's board, told the senators that the group fears the new rules could create massive amounts of red tape and "unintended consequences."

The Canadian Toy Association was not available for comment yesterday.

The government introduced the updated consumer safety law after several high-profile recalls in 2007 for products from companies including Mattel and Mega Brands, which are represented by the CTA.

Bill C-6 was recently approved by the House of Commons and has been under review by the Senate committee for several weeks.

Ms. Aglukkaq said the amendments would hamper the ability of federal officials to perform spot inspections, allow the industry to form a panel to review a potential hazard before the government could do a recall, and stop the government from taking preventive measures.

"A child has to die before the industry can react according to this legislation with the amendments," she said.

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Liberal Senator Joseph Day, who introduced the amendments, rejected such arguments, saying the changes would allow companies and government to work together.

"We were looking for the balance and I think we found it," Mr. Day said.

Even Liberal MPs joined the criticism of the changes.

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Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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