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MPs in Maple Ridge to publicize ‘threats’ to natural health products

New fees and red tape would close businesses, raise prices, limit products say Conservatives
Conservative MPs Marc Dalton (left) and Blaine Calkins (right) are drumming up support for a bill that would keep the status quo for regulation of natural health products. They are seen here with Ashley and Greg Muir who own the Roots Natural Organics store in Maple Ridge. (Neil Corbett/The News)

Federal charges and regulations around natural health products could hurt or close local businesses, and create higher charges for consumers, according to Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Marc Dalton.

He was joined by Blaine Calkins, another Conservative MP representing Red Deer-Lacombe, as they toured businesses in Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, and elsewhere in the Lower Mainland that are worried about the looming changes.

One could expect the Conservatives to fault any new legislation brought by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government, but the MPs were singing from the same song sheet as the owners of the Roots Natural Organics store on Dewdney Trunk Road in Maple Ridge.

“It’s huge,” said Ashley Muir of the new legislation, Bill C-47.

She has been in the business for 23 years, as an owner for 10, and says it would threaten the store by increasing product prices and limiting the choices available.

“We wouldn’t go down without a fight,” she pledged, and said her customers are well informed about the issues, and the threats to health products they want.

“It’s not just our vitamins and supplements, it’s also things like natural toothpaste, natural deodorants – all of it will be impacted.”

As they talked, Calkins said the new Health Canada regulations take away “freedom to make our own health care decisions.”

“It affects traditional Chinese medicine, it affects homeopathy, it affects everybody, and what they’re trying to do, is they’re trying to regulate this the same way as if you go to the drug store and get a prescription,” said Calkins. “It’s the same umbrella. They’ve actually changed the definition of a natural health product to be that of a therapeutic product – like a drug.”

He said all manufacturers and retailers will be impacted. They will pay higher fees to distribute or manufacture products.

“It’s going to make it harder for Ashley and everybody here at Roots to actually order the products. You’ll have less selection that you’ll be able to offer your customers, and at the same time it will be more expensive for the consumer.”

His proposed Bill C-368 would eliminate portions of C-47 that impact health products.

“Restore back to the status quo what this industry is doing, because I’m not afraid to eat a single thing in this store,” he said. “And I don’t think anybody else is either.”

“This is more closely aligned with food than it is with drugs, and it should be regulated that way.”

“Why are we doing this?” asked Dalton

“Money,” answered Muir. “Big pharma has so many people in their back pockets, I do think it all comes back to money.”

She gestured at the health products and noted “This is cutting into their sales.”

Dalton said it’s another example of government interference and red tape, and increasing costs for people who are already facing hardships in affordability in many ways.

The MPs are hoping to put public pressure on the government.

“There’s 117 Conservative MPs who are going to vote for my bill. We need 52 more – we need 52 Liberal and NDP MPs to change the way they vote and vote in favour of Bill C-368, so Ashley can stay in business, so that everyone who uses this store has as much choice and as many options as possible,” said Calkins.

He said there is an opportunity for MPs to change their vote. The entire bill C-47 is a confidence matter, because it is a budget implementation bill, so the government would fall if it failed. But C-368, would remove the changes to natural health products from C-47, and would not be a confidence matter.

“The House is not going to fall. There’s not going to be an election,” he said.

The natural health products regulations define NHPs as probiotics, herbal remedies, vitamins and minerals, homeopathic medications, traditional medicines, and products such as amino acids. All are assessed before their sale is allowed in Canada.

According to Health Canada, natural health products are “generally safe and have fewer side effects than medications,” but they are not risk-free.

The risks include contamination, incorrect dosage, unproven claims that lead people “to delay proper treatment,” interactions with prescription drugs, and unwanted side effects such as allergic reactions.

Health Canada says 12 per cent of Canadians who use NHPs report they have experienced adverse reactions.

Consumers can identify products that have been licensed for sale in Canada by looking for the eight-digit Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM) on the label. These mean the product has been authorized for sale in Canada, and is safe and effective when used according to instructions.

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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