House of Commons Hansard #203 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was milk.

Topics

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

May 17th, 1995 / 3:25 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today, pursuant to Standing Order 52, and move:

That this House do now adjourn for the purpose of an emergency debate on a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration.

Both the council for the James Bay Cree and the Yukon Indians have agreements with the federal government which are appendages to the Constitution of Canada. Both groups claim their constitutional rights demand consultation with the federal government prior to the enactment of federal law touching on hunting, trapping or food gathering.

The testimony of both groups before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs claims unequivocally that no consultation took place in the prescribed manner regarding Bill C-68 and therefore their constitutional rights have been violated by the federal government.

I believe the allegations of the violation of the constitutional rights of the aboriginal people are so pressing that the public interest will suffer if this issue is not given immediate attention. The foremost responsibility of members of Parliament is to uphold the Constitution of our country and that can only be done in the House.

The public interest and the interest of aboriginal people demand this matter be dealt with immediately.

Request For Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I listened with great attention to what the hon. member had to say. The matter raised is important to Canadians. However, in my view the hon. member would probably have other avenues to explore this topic, in committee and otherwise here.

At least at this time it would seem to me the hon. member's request does not meet the requirements for an emergency debate.

The House resumed from May 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-86, an act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, yesterday when debate resumed I was the first speaker following a rather bad movie unfolding in the House called "milk wars" between the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois over what would happen to the dairy industry should Quebec separate. It was rather amusing at times.

The Reform Party supports the tariff levels agreed to under GATT. However, we should become proactive in this area and address future concerns.

I am concerned about the health of the dairy industry down the road. The trend toward more open and competitive global markets is happening whether we like it or not. Failure to adapt will undoubtedly result in the destruction of an industry that has provided Canadians with a quality product for many years. Dairy farmers must move to a more efficient means of producing milk.

I would like to address a few aspects of Bill C-86. I have already mentioned that the Canadian government had no choice but to make alterations to the supply management commodities. As with many of these programs that were initially developed by the Liberals, they, the creators of the system, are reluctant to change them or drop them entirely. Sentimental feelings are driving the government's agenda.

All we have to do is look at the GATT negotiations and the Liberals' position, who at that time were not the government, with regard to the GATT negotiations and article XI. They said that article XI was non-negotiable. They told people in the dairy industry to support them and they would defend article XI and it would be in the new GATT agreement.

A few days after the Liberals took office, history shows us that in fact article XI had to be negotiated away. We had no support in the international community for article XI. Tariffication was put in place to replace that article.

I might add the Reform Party anticipated this event. We said in our election platform that we believe the structure of national supply management agencies need not change at all as long as

these agencies continue to have the support of their producers. They should continue in any manner in which they feel best serves their interests. Tariffs will be reduced as other countries reduce their support. This will allow Canadian producers to remain competitive and will ensure that these sectors are able to adapt to the new market driven environment.

The point that we raised was that tariffs should initially be set at levels sufficiently high to protect the domestic market and industry. We said that supply managed producers should have access to our comprehensive income stabilization program. We went on to say that import control regulations as a defence against foreign dumping should be rationalized and strengthened.

We said that licensing and arbitration regulations as an improved safeguard against business which might engage in unfair practices should be strengthened. We also said that competition and anti-combines legislation intended to place limits on the power of buying groups should be strengthened and vigorously enforced. We concluded by saying that the impact to the sectors during the tariff reduction period should be carefully monitored.

The Reform Party believes that this approach will not only ensure the continued viability of supply managed sectors, but will build a bridge to a new era of opportunity and expansion.

Bill C-86 fails to address the problems it has set out to correct. While the intent of the bill is to help the Canadian dairy industry to comply with the GATT regulations, it is almost certain that industry will be open to other trade sanctions, especially from the United States.

The pooling market system which replaces the existing system of levies has long been a bone of contention with the United States. We have seen the response of the U.S. over the last five years to the effect of the Canadian Wheat Board. While the Canadian Wheat Board has been functioning in the manner it should and we have been winning the trade disputes, nevertheless the pooling is an irritant. If we are looking at pooling in the dairy industry we need to be very careful that we do not structure it in such a way as to become a trade irritant with the Americans, or at least not a trade irritant that we would lose a scrap over.

The Reform Party is concerned that this government has not been honest and open with those farmers that are within the supply managed areas. I believe this government has not reacted to the global trend toward a more open and a more competitive market. As we know, Canadian dairy farmers are capable of competing in these competitive markets.

More and more, Canadian farmers are going to have to compete in a global marketplace. As we see trading blocs forming, currently NAFTA is expanding with the inclusion of Mexico and negotiations with Chile and other Latin American countries, we realize that there will be more and more observation of our own trading practices here in Canada. We will have to be very careful as to how we design our marketing and our trade deals so that we do not jeopardize industries which at the current time are very sustainable and are functioning very well.

The Liberal messages to the industry have been misleading in the past and we are concerned that they may be misleading in the future. We will be scrutinizing the bill very carefully to ensure that we are not sending the wrong signals to the dairy industry with respect to what it can expect in the future from agreements such as the NAFTA and the GATT.

There have been some good questions brought forward in the House as to whether the NAFTA supersedes the GATT or the GATT supersedes the NAFTA. Those are important questions and we need more clarification from the government that in fact the legislation which it is proposing will not be challenged under the NAFTA and we will not lose the challenge.

The question I ask of the government is whether Canadian dairy farmers will be given the tools and the time to adapt to a new market driven economy. We need not look any further than the current fiasco with the WGTA and the Crow buyout. Imagine a government which would discontinue the Crow benefit and replace it with a one time payout and then talks about a transition period and a transition program which would take place one year following the conclusion of the Crow benefit. That is not very good planning in my mind and I am getting the same message and the same signal from my constituents and other Canadians who are affected by the elimination of the WGTA, the Crow buyout and this transition program.

It would seem to me that it would be much more logical to have a transition program spelled out before implementing legislation to end the Crow benefit and introduce a buyout to producers. We wonder about the logic of a government which would eliminate something and then a year later introduce an unspecified program to help the industry make the transition from transportation subsidies to an unsubsidized system.

We have the same concerns about the dairy industry. We are concerned that the government is not looking at the long term. It is not considering carefully the outcome of its policies with respect to the dairy industry. It is not looking at the need to access new markets. It is not thinking long term; it is continuing to look only at the short term situation.

Another important issue which needs to be addressed is whether supply managed industries should have access to income stabilization, in particular, a whole farm income stabilization plan. Many spokespersons in the dairy industry and other supply managed industries are suggesting they would not like to be a part of any income stabilization plan or a whole farm program.

I think part of the reason they are suggesting that is because the Liberals have made guarantees to them about the current supply managed system which perhaps are not supportable in logic. In fact, perhaps if the industry was given the true picture of what awaits it in the future it might be more interested in looking at belonging to some kind of income stabilization plan, something along the lines of NISA.

Again I would communicate to the House that the Reform Party envisioned the need for that to happen. We suggested that an income stabilization plan should be a shared federal-producer program having universal application, which means all sectors. It would include the supply managed sectors. This would be made available at the whole farm level. If a farm produced many commodities all those commodities would be recognized by the plan. Supply managed sectors would have access to the program upon the introduction of tariffication.

Of course, that was written before the tariffication was introduced. We were correct in anticipating that. I believe we were correct in anticipating that there will be a need for the supply managed industries to have access to a NISA type income stabilization program, given the market trends and the formation of a global economy in which eventually supply managed industries will have to participate and be in a competitive position.

I would like to conclude my speech by asking the government to be more honest and more open with the Canadian dairy farmers. The government promised that it would be very open and honest with the public. It is in its red book. We sense that those pages are being torn out of the red book and it concerns us very much. It should concern dairy producers across Canada as well.

Before the Liberals were elected it was very easy for them to say they would be open and honest, but they seem to be having some difficulty now fulfilling some of those red book promises. We are concerned that one of the casualties may be supply managed industries, in particular the dairy industry if the true situation of international negotiations and of course the jurisdiction of the NAFTA versus the GATT are not correctly and very clearly communicated to the industry. The Reform Party would like to see that honesty and openness with regard to this situation.

Hopefully, the House will get away from the milk wars I spoke about in my remarks yesterday. I think we should quit talking about marriage and divorce and start talking about birth and death. Let us let the old system die and let us see a new Canada formulated in which we all get along well and where we do not have milk wars and turf wars over just about every other issue in Canada. To be competitive in the global economy we certainly cannot be scrapping within the borders of this great country.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to provide a little background on the dairy industry in Canada. In the 1960s, there was no supply management in the dairy industry. Farmers were producing as much milk as they wanted.

In the summer, when they were out to pasture, dairy cows produced three or even four times as much milk. The milk was put into containers commonly called milk cans. To keep the milk fresh, these cans were placed in the spring or the river nearest to the barn. At 9, 9.30 or 10 a.m., depending on the transporter's route, the cans were picked up on tripods along the road.

The truth be known, freshness left something to be desired. Processing plants were drowning in milk in the summer, but come winter, farmers were having a more difficult time; in order to produce the milk, they had to buy meal, ingredients, inputs. It was not really worthwhile to produce milk in the winter. So they produced the maximum in the summer and stopped producing in the winter.

That is what was happening on our farms during the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1970, 1971 and 1972, milk producers got together with government officials and set up standards, agreements. They said that there is no use producing too much milk if we are not able to use it and if we cannot sell it outside the country.

They came up with supply management, that some people are decrying so strongly here in the House. Supply management requires a farmer to now produce 12 months a year, on a monthly basis. Our dairy farmer cannot keep the cream and give the whey to others. He has to produce milk in summer, fall, winter and spring. Therefore he must manage his herd in such a way that cows will calve all year long. He can non longer take advantage of geographical or climatic factors.

In that regard, I would ask my Reform colleague to explain the second point that his colleague and friend so brilliantly explained yesterday in this House. The agriculture critic and member for Vegreville outlined the four points his party's dairy policy. I would like to have the second point explained further this afternoon.

I quote: "Second, Reformers acknowledge that the agriculture industry, including supply managed sectors, is moving toward a more competitive market driven system". Where can there be any competition if a farmer is told that he has to produce 1,000 litres of milk for the local dairy, while one of his neighbours has to produce 1,100 litres, and the other has to produce 900?

Where can there be competition when, for milk of the same quality, one farmer is paid 47 cents a litre and another 46 cents, because he is a member of the Liberal Party, the Reform Party or the Bloc Quebecois? How can producers compete with one another under such circumstances, if they have to produce milk

of the same quality? I would like my Reform colleague to explain his view on competition.

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Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Frontenac for his question.

He began by talking about what farming used to be like back in the 1960s. While I was not a grown man at that time, I remember what farming was like. I remember my parents shipping cream back in those days, not quite the way the hon. member described it, but it did bring back some memories hearing his comments.

As the hon. member for Frontenac is aware, agriculture has changed substantially in the last 35 years. The industry and the producers are always far ahead of government. It is not government regulation or legislation that causes progress in industry, including the agriculture industry.

Whether it be a supply managed industry, a free market industry or the growing of wheat under the Canadian Wheat Board, which is in neither of the aforementioned categories, we have seen dramatic changes in the industry over the last 35 years as world and domestic conditions have demanded better operating practices from farmers no matter what the commodity is that they produce.

The member talked about the need for a consistent supply of milk over a 12-month period by producers. I understand what he is saying. He seemed to be indicating that my colleague from Vegreville was suggesting something that would be in conflict with that requirement. I was not in the House to hear what my colleague said yesterday on this issue, but he related to me that he talked about a need for a more competitive environment.

The hon. member for Frontenac indicated that would pit producer against producer. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are talking about the need to be competitive as a Canadian industry. We are looking at the industry versus the needs of the consumers and what consumers expect of the industry. We are also looking at what will be required both internationally and interprovincially with regard to the dairy industry.

For the most part international agreements have already been signed. We know that Bill C-88 will be before the House very soon. It deals with internal trade in Canada. There are some real problems with internal trade, particularly in the dairy industry. Some things have to be dealt with. Part of that was the cause of the bickering between the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberals yesterday.

I am sure what my colleague was suggesting and what I would reiterate is that the industry needs to be competitive. However it needs to be competitive as a whole industry, not producer against producer. In this way we can compete in the new climate under GATT and NAFTA and break down the barriers to internal trade within Canada so that our agriculture industries and other industries flourish under that scenario.

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3:45 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate Bill C-86, an act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act, especially as I was invited to do so by the member for Frontenac.

As the member of Parliament for Matapédia-Matane, a rural riding, I have several reasons to be greatly interested in everything that concerns farmers. My interest in agriculture is not motivated by political or partisan reasons.

My region owes its existence primarily to this industry. Nearly all the villages and towns in my riding were founded by settlers, who were farmers, of course.

I like to remind people that, at the turn of the century, over 80 per cent of inhabitants of Matapédia-Matane eked out a miserable existence in the country. They worked from dawn to dusk, but they were happy. I do not want to wax nostalgic, but I am one of those who do not deny their past, being very proud of their origins. Without agriculture, the riding of Matapédia-Matane would probably have never been developed. These farmers are responsible for building what we have here and the best of what we have.

The result of their efforts is that the Lower St. Lawrence now boasts over 400,000 hectares of farmland and 2,600 agricultural businesses with sales in the order of $190 million a year. As I was saying, my contribution to the debate on Bill C-86 is motivated by several reasons.

The first reason is probably that the farmers in my region, like those elsewhere in Quebec and Canada, have become real entrepreneurs and built real businesses over the years. They have built small, medium-sized and even large businesses, with all the risks involved. While subsistence farmers at the beginning of the century did not lead very risky lives, the same cannot be said of today's farmers who face fiercely competitive international markets. It is difficult to live beside a giant neighbour such as the United States of America with its formidable economic power and its climate, which is much more suitable than ours, especially in the Gaspé region. Last week, I went snowmobiling, because there are still two feet of snow in the sugar bush, so there were not many farmers out in the fields.

Some farmers now administer thousands of dollars, and many jobs depend on their economic health and the continued development of their businesses. Bill C-86 should secure the future of milk producers for a while. This means that many farmers in my

riding will enjoy a better future and may even ensure their succession, something which is particularly difficult in my region.

Without the farmers, our small communities will not survive. They were built thanks to the solidarity and the strong will of ordinary people who, over the years, have become great men and women, the builders of our country. Bill C-86 is proof that Quebecers always show solidarity, including with their neighbours, when necessary and when they do not feel pressured by the big federal machine, which often blindly imposes its will.

If each region could plan its own development without having to meet countless standards, we would obviously have a more prosperous country which would surely work a lot better. If the federal government did not impose its standards and, instead, let the provinces decide freely and independently among themselves, the country that you call Canada would undoubtedly work a lot better.

In any case, when Quebec becomes sovereign, it will show solidarity with its neighbours. As I said earlier, virtually all the small villages in my region and my riding were built around agriculture, and they continue to depend on that industry for their livelihood. Should agriculture disappear, a very large number of them would be abandoned overnight. It would be unfortunate to see a country, which our ancestors worked so hard to build, slowly disintegrate because people, who have given so much, have had to leave their regions.

I am also pleased to discuss Bill C-86 because my region is one of Quebec's major dairy production centres. It took almost 50 years of efforts to get to the enviable position that we, Quebecers, now hold in that market. Moreover, we invested large sums of money over the years to diversify, to produce more finished goods, and to fight effectively against outside competition. We are used to defending ourselves, and Bill C-68 once again confirms our leadership, our vision and our courage.

Moreover, Bill C-86 contradicts the federalist big names who wrongly assert that the rest of Canada will reject any agreement with Quebec, if it were to become sovereign tomorrow. On the contrary, an economic union is crucial for both parties, and everybody knows it.

Bill C-86 embodies this principle. Six provinces have signed an agreement, and others will undoubtedly join in when they realize that it is in their own interest.

In my area, dairy production alone generates 75 per cent of farm income and the dairy sector accounts for over 50 per cent of the farm businesses. The other main sectors are cattle, sheep and pork. That tells us a lot about the importance of the dairy sector.

Looking at employment, that sector provides over 7,500 permanent jobs, and thousands more seasonal jobs. Forty-eight per cent of the workers are under 40, which is truly remarkable.

In spite of this, figures for the Matapedia Valley show a 22 per cent drop in farm acreage between 1981 and 1991. Over the same period, the number of farms fell from 420 to 285, a 32 per cent drop.

While many factors can explain these drops, the main one also applies to other sectors. Raw materials from the regions go to major cities for processing, and the finished goods are then sold back to regions. Bill C-86 sets up a national pooling system of market returns that will help the sale of milk products abroad. That goal is praiseworthy, because it will enable us to counter the constant threat of foreign competition.

GATT and NAFTA do not give us much choice. I think we should also consider the same approach in other areas, particularly research and development in agriculture, without any federal involvement. We could research and develop new farm products that could be processed in the regions. Specialized small regional businesses could revitalize rural areas.

I congratulate the proponents of the agreement that is incorporated in Bill C-86 and more particularly Claude Rivard, the president of the federation of dairy producers, and a resident of my region of Matapedia Valley. I urge them to go even further and consider the future of agriculture in regions, including mine, because strong regions make for a strong country and a strong Quebec. Our survival and prosperity depend on a strong and diversified agricultural industry at the regional level. Thanks to specialized producers evenly and fairly distributed throughout the country, we will be able to successfully compete on world markets.

There is no point trying to grow oranges in northern Quebec, but we sure can try to produce something else. There is no point trying to produce milk on a large scale on farms that are not suited to this type of production, but we sure can try our hand at something else. What I am trying to show through these examples is that the agreement underlying Bill C-86 is excellent, and that we should continue in this way. In Quebec, pooling of our resources is where our great strength lies.

If farming is doing so well in Quebec, it is because we gave ourselves the means to succeed. Our farmers are independent, but have set up huge co-ops, pools and marketing boards which serve them well. Canada should follow suit and have independent provinces which still feel solidarity with each other. Unfortunately, the dinosaurs of centralist federalism have no options to put forward.

We, in Quebec, will make the right choice, just like Quebec farmers have done recently. A sovereign Quebec will stand behind its Canadian neighbours. I want to tell you that, in my

rural riding, the people are very proud of this agreement, and I am particularly proud that one of my constituents, a resident of Matapédia, is behind this initiative.

Canadian Dairy Commission Act
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4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Questions and comments. I will recognize a member of another party, the hon. member for Durham.

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4 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Richelieu, QC

Point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am convinced that I was on my feet before the hon. member, and I thought that the custom here was to recognize the first member to rise.

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4 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member is absolutely right, but as he may already know, it makes for a much more interesting debate if the Chair gives a member of another party the opportunity to ask questions or make comments.

So, I recognize the hon. member for Durham.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Matapédia-Matane for his dissertation on this bill.

As I listened to the member's speech I was taken aback by how he used a federal agreement to argue the case of an independent Quebec. Actually, as I read this piece of legislation it occurred to me that this is one of the powerful things of a federal state like Canada, which can actually come to national agreements in the best interests of all the people of Canada, including the farmers of Quebec.

The signatories in this agreement are not other independent countries. They are not states of the United States. In fact they are people who have agreed to make this arrangement within a federal state. Indeed, if my memory serves me correctly the whole concept of pooling and marketing board systems was created by the federal government in the first place.

Most of the farmers in Canada recognize the importance of the federal government in the area of marketing and in establishing national marketing standards. My riding is also a very important area of milk production, contributing 2 per cent of the total milk production for the province of Ontario. I can tell the hon. member that if things were different, if things were as he would like them to be, the people in my riding would do the economic thing and start producing more milk to service our own domestic market, excluding the people of Quebec.

Forty per cent of the industrial milk quota has been allocated to the province of Quebec. I want to assure the member that the people in his riding are very much taking advantage of the federalist system. I would like to bring that to the member's attention.

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4:05 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a fact that we are interdependent and that Ontario has a production level of 40 per cent. It is a fact that one province can reach agreements with other provinces, but that does not necessarily mean that these agreements will be overseen by the federal government.

Many agreements have been reached with Ontario, on a department to department basis, and both provinces have benefited from then. There were also agreements with New Brunswick. That is how I see the situation. The day we are sovereign, we will be able to negotiate our agreements without having to ask for permission from the head office, the federal government.

We noted that six provinces came to an agreement, and we hope that the other provinces will understand, because it is in their interest to operate with the other provinces. Under such circumstances, they will be ready to move on their own initiative, at their own speed. That is how I see things. This is how the federation should have been operating for a long time, but this is not the way things turned out.

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4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by congratulating my colleague for his remarks. I think it was very appropriate for him to talk about the contribution of the people who built his region, Quebec, and several other regions of Canada. The builders of both our nations, Quebec and Canada, are mostly farmers.

Agricultural development gave birth to small villages, some of which later became larger villages and then grew into towns, small and large. In this context, this historical review seemed important as part of my colleague's speech. He also used a rather harsh word to describe the federal government when he talked about the federal monster.

I want to ask him a question about that. What bothers farmers and the majority of people in both our nations, Quebec and Canada, the most is to see the federal government interfering in areas that are not under its jurisdiction. Whether in health, job training, environment or agriculture, the federal government has a tendency to become an administrative monster which sticks its nose everywhere and does nothing really to favour regional economic development.

Quebec would like to have a different kind of relationship with this federal monster. As my colleague mentioned, it would rather have direct agreements with the provinces. Quebec has a lot in common with Ontario. It may have less in common with the western provinces, but it does have strong ties with the United States. So this new kind of state that Quebec would like to become would allow it to negotiate directly with any province that would be willing to make a deal.

Milk is a good example of the economic life of various regions of the country. Of course, Quebec has a higher percentage of milk production quotas, with close to 50 per cent.

However, if we consider the Alberta beef production for example, we can see that Quebec buys nearly 75 per cent of the total production. In that sense, Quebec is a good friend of Alberta since it is a consumer of some of its products. The same thing happens when Quebec makes a financial contribution to the federal state and this federal state distributes the money. When the federal gives this money to western grain producers so that they can produce wheat and sell it on the international market, Quebec is giving back quite a lot to that region of Canada.

The Quebec population represents 23 to 24 per cent of the Canadian population. If we were to receive 23 to 24 per cent of the federal budget for agriculture, we would be getting $800 million more each year. So maybe our quotas are in fact more generous, but as far as financial fallouts are concerned, and I am talking here about direct annual statutory programs, we are losing $800 million a year. This figure does not even include special programs like those announced in the last budget, the $1.5 billion for western diversification for example. However, as announced, Quebec will also suffer cuts of 15 per cent this year and 15 per cent next year, but I heard nothing about a financial compensation for our region.

All the special subsidies awarded to western Canada over the last seven or eight years amount to more than six billion dollars. Quebec contributed one fourth of that sum through its taxes. We have thus been extremely generous towards Canadian products and it would be only fair that, when the time comes to share in another form of economic activity like milk production, we get a larger share. By the way, when the system for western wheat was put in place, sales to China or eastern countries were subsidized by the federal government. This type of production was a lot more profitable than milk production. Farmers in that part of the country were not interested in producing milk.

In other words, if you were a farmer, dairy farming was a job which paid less and was therefore less attractive. We agreed to do it, to develop our industry and improve its efficiency. Now that it is doing well, we are told: "Maybe you got too much". I was surprised by some of the chauvinistic interventions I heard in this debate, yesterday and again today, especially when my colleague from Frontenac was giving us market examples, examples of competition , and also examples from the Reform Party.

Speaking of the Reform Party, and I will conclude on that, I would ask my colleague whether he agrees with what I just said, since he talked about Mr. Claude Rivard, the president of the Fédération des producteurs de lait who said, and rightly so, quoting a respected American editorialist, that the system we presently have is quite exceptional and that the United States would do well to implement one like it instead of trying to destroy it.

I fail to understand the attitude of certain Reform members, when they say: "Abolish it, let free competition take care of it. Let us do it the American way". The most eminent analysts, however, would tell you that the result of the current American system is that they are investing 34 cents on the dollar instead of 49 cents as we do in product development in the dairy industry.

Therefore, that would be far from free competition, that would be abandoning Canada and Quebec to the American market. Regarding this, Mr. Rivard put it nicely when he quoted American economists and he is delighted with the agreement reached between six provinces a short while back at a meeting with 190 delegates. He is delighted that they voted unanimously in favour of the agreement. Bill C-86 is a step in the right direction as far as the Bloc Quebecois is concerned. It is also, I think, what Quebec and Canadian dairy producers have always wanted. They have a very fair system.

It is acceptable to producers, and very inexpensive for the federal government when compared with other interventionist systems, such as the Crow rate, subsidies for western farm production or the eastern fishery. Yes, it is relatively cheap compared to other economic policies.

So, when something is not broken, why fix it? Hence, I congratulate my hon. colleague on his representation and I would be interested in hearing his remarks regarding my comments which could only expound on his speech moments ago.

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has described the situation very well. Over the last 50 years, all of Canada's agriculture ministers, or almost all, have managed to leave our farmers increasingly worse off. My colleague gave a brief description of the situation in Quebec's towns and villages in the 1960s. There were dairies everywhere. Each community processed its own milk, cream and butter. They were all self-sufficient, and there was some assistance from the federal government. Then, the government pulled out almost completely and left people to fend for themselves.

I am very pleased to see that the provinces today are trying to go back to the system of 20 or 30 years ago.

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4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before giving the floor to the member for Québec-Est, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is the following: the hon. member for Saint John-Infrastructure.