Evidence of meeting #32 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was food.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Robert Seguin  Excutive Director, George Morris Centre
  • David McInnes  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute
  • Michael Burt  Director, Industrial Economic Trends, Conference Board of Canada

5 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you.

Here is another question for you, Mr. McInnes.

In your report you talked about current policies and practices in the sector, and fear of changing the status quo, and holding Canada back. What can we do to make sure we change that status quo and move Canada forward?

5 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute

David McInnes

Thank you for the question.

At the very bottom, it is a question of a mindset shift. We have been making incremental change, and investments in science clusters and so forth are positive, but we need to be aiming high; we need to be beating out our competitors in markets. I think having objectives and using metrics will help drive our performance.

We have incredible potential as a country—even more. So what is going to change that dialogue?

5 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Thank you.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Mr. Lobb, you have the last five minutes.

March 28th, 2012 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

My first question is to Mr. McInnes.

We've heard a lot of talk today about whether the government should or shouldn't intervene, and a whole range of ideas about research and everything else. At the end of the day, though, as far as I'm concerned, the supply chain question is about getting a consumer into the grocery store to buy the goods.

If a producer in Ontario, for example, comes up with a great idea or a great product and wants to sell it, using Loblaws or Sobeys or whoever, there is quite likely a zero percent probability that they will be able to acquire space to put it on a grocery shelf.

Is that correct, or am I incorrect with that statement?

5:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute

David McInnes

I can't speak to a specific grocery store practice about a specific product, of course.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

But generally speaking...?

5:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute

David McInnes

I think we have two things. The first is that we have established supply chains that allow us to have great choice in grocery stores now.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Let's just back up for a second.

A producer in my riding, the Ontario Dairy Goat Cooperative, collectively produces 15 million units of dairy goat milk every year. From there, they ship it to Quebec and do a whole number of things.

Literally, they had to buy another company that had existing shelf space in grocery stores to gain access. My point is that we can come up with all the world's best products and programs and everything else, but if the grocery stores don't want to put their products on the shelf, what can we do about it? This happens time and time again; let's just face it.

5:05 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute

David McInnes

I think there is a dynamic happening out there in which consumers are really driving “local”.

For example, a restaurant association of 500 chefs revealed that sourcing locally was the number one trend this year. Retailers, grocery stores, and restaurants are responding to this in a major way. I know of a number of major grocery chains that are developing local sourcing policies right now to respond to that trend.

Is the market working the way it should? Is it perfect? Perhaps not.

Are they trying to be responsive? I think the indication is that it looks as though it's starting to change.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

To me, that's a big problem. I look at Loblaws. I'd like to say “good work” to the people at the Ontario corn-fed beef program, but they basically had to give the beef away to Loblaws to convince them to put it on their shelves. They resisted and hesitated. Once they embraced it, all of a sudden they found out that there was a huge demand for the product, because it's a great product, and all of a sudden it's flying off the shelves.

The same argument can be made—I'll use the farm I'm on—for Ontario pork. If you go to your local Zehrs or Loblaws, you'll have a heck of a time trying to figure out where it's from.

The grocery stores, in my opinion, are the biggest to blame for a lack of locally grown initiatives and a local brand awareness. I guess I'll just leave it at that.

Mr. Burt, would the Conference Board of Canada consider supply management a core pillar of producing your own food locally in a supply chain? Would the Conference Board of Canada agree that there is value in supply management?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Industrial Economic Trends, Conference Board of Canada

Michael Burt

We are on record; we have done a couple of studies on supply management, particularly on dairy.

It does provide some benefits in terms of price stability and return on investment for dairy farmers, but it also has a lot of negatives associated with it. Consumers pay more for their supply-managed products than they probably would otherwise. It impedes the innovation process in the industry; it makes it difficult for new young farmers—

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

What about just on supply, though?

5:05 p.m.

Director, Industrial Economic Trends, Conference Board of Canada

Michael Burt

In terms of...?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Just on supply, have we ever had a dairy shortage in Canada? Has there ever been a shortage of milk, butter, or cheese?