Today in Politics: Children and Junk Food, Committees, and Podcast

Today in Politics: Children and Junk Food, Committees, and Podcast

Chris Young/The Canadian Press

December 12, 2017 6amET

A proposed ban on “unhealthy food” advertising aimed at children arrives in the House of Commons.

Bill S-228, introduced last year by Conservative Senator Nancy Greene Raine in September 2016, passed the upper chamber in late September.

The bill is aimed at preventing obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic conditions in children (defined in the bill as 17 years old and under).

Its main clause orders: “no person shall advertise unhealthy food in a manner that is directed primarily at children.”

Meanwhile, the government is looking at marketing, junk food, and children as part of a larger plan on nutrition and healthy eating.

Health Canada held a public consultation this past summer, reporting last week that its proposals were “well received by members of the public and health professionals.”

The government had proposed a ban that includes:

  • a strict definition for “unhealthy food” containing salt, sugar, and saturated fats. The list includes french fries, soda, potato chips, cheese, juice, chocolate, ice cream, frozen waffles, instant oatmeal, and “most cookies, cakes, pies and sweets.”
  • a focus on TV time slots more likely to have young viewers: weekdays from 6am to 9am and 3pm to 9pm, and weekends from 6am to 9pm.
  • regulation of all unhealthy food marketing on websites, apps, and Internet platforms popular with children.

Some of the 1,146 respondents called for stricter measures.

Opponents countered that such a ban would:

  • reduce revenue for children’s programming;
  • restrict freedom of speech;
  • harm Canadian companies while having no effect on foreign advertising seen by Canadian children;
  • remove responsibility and choice from parents;
  • have little effect on eating habits since children themselves have little spending power.

A 2016 Senate report called increasing childhood obesity rates a “crisis,” but “not the product of a collective loss of willpower”. Senators blamed in part a “proliferation of fast and processed foods”.

Quebec, meanwhile, has had a provincial ban on advertising aimed at children under 13 since 1980.

In the autumn of 2016, CPAC looked at the health minister’s mandate letter and a pledge to tackle child obesity:

Also on today’s Parliament Hill agenda:

  • The National Council of Canadian Muslims, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and the “No Fly List Kids” group all appear at the public safety committee on Bill C-59. LIVE ONLINE at 8:45am ET / 5:45am PT
  • Transport Minister Marc Garneau goes before the Senate transportation committee on Bill C-49. LIVE ONLINE at 9:30am ET / 6:30am PT
  • Bill C-24 is expected back on the House of Commons order paper at third reading.
  • Government officials brief the environment committee on the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
  • HuffPost Canada, La Presse, and Twitter have their say on leaders’ debates and the potential creation of an independent commissioner, with appearances at the Commons procedure committee.

-Andrew Thomson

Here’s Mark Sutcliffe with more Today in Politics — a daily podcast on the day’s top stories: