House of Commons Hansard #155 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

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12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for his comments.

I know that he will be retiring from this House, perhaps in a few days, if an election is called next week. His experience, and he has a wealth of it, will be missed in this place.

We may have disagreed on certain subjects from time to time, but no one can question his long experience and his past contributions to the House of Commons, especially since he has given every member of the House a copy of his new book. I will look through it with interest, if I have time during the election campaign; otherwise, I will read it immediately after the campaign, on the plane, while going back and forth between Vancouver and Ottawa.

The hon. member raised an extremely important point for consumers. As I said, according to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, compared to the U.S. market, Canadian consumers of dairy products enjoy lower prices, thanks to this supply management system. We can see, therefore, that it is not just farmers and rural communities that benefit. Consumers across the country also benefit, by having access to a better quality product at a lower price here than in the United States, where such a system does not exist. That is the Americans' loss. One day perhaps, they will be fortunate enough to elect a government that will set up this kind of system.

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12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very kind remarks. This may be one of my last days in this chamber, but I hope it will be a bit longer. Like the man at the garage said, “Them's the breaks”.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada sent a communiqué to many of us in which it expressed its concern and invited our support. Perhaps my colleague has had the opportunity to see it. The Dairy Farmers of Canada have had a particular bone to pick over the last little while. It is not just the issue of supply management for dairy farmers, but it is the fact that there seems to be no limit to the devious imagination of some in trying to bypass the supply management system to allow products to come into Canada that normally could not. The butter-oil-sugar blend issue is an example. Items are artificially sweetened to make them cross the border and then the product is removed. The sugar is more or less a container in that regard to make some product cross the border.

Would my colleague agree that is an abuse of the system, which is being perpetrated on Canadian dairy farmers? It clearly was not part of the deal when supply management was established or in the subsequent rounds of the GATT, subsequently the WTO.

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell. It is the death of a thousand cuts.

We are discussing a more serious issue right now, which is the potential for the government to sell out supply management in Hong Kong. The death of a thousand cuts is taking place with these loopholes, which very clearly contravene the supply management sector and undermine it.

I would agree completely with the member that we have to reinforce in Hong Kong. We have to ensure that no agreement is signed that would negatively affect supply management. We also have to deal with the loopholes and the undermining of the supply management foundation that is taking place through these imports.

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12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma.

This is a turbulent period, in many respects. Tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes have swept through 2005. The planet has mobilized to face these challenges. On the other side of the Atlantic, the rejection of the European constitution by a number of countries has had the effect of a cannon ball. Civil war is devastating Iraq; Afghanistan is collapsing beneath nearly a half-century of bullets, bombs and mines; the Middle East is ablaze with rage, aggression and hatred. Terrorism is plaguing the world.

The mad cow crisis has wreaked havoc that would have been unthinkable only four or five years ago. We are facing a probable flu pandemic which, for now, is targeting flocks of birds. All these problems are having a serious impact on a world of crucial importance to humanity: the world of agriculture, the world that helps preserve life.

The agricultural sector is suffering the adverse effects of natural and political storms.

Globalization has created a wider gap between rich and poor. It is also responsible for an extraordinary mood of solidarity which is gradually taking hold.

We now have the opportunity to show solidarity in helping the very persons who permit the world to feed itself and survive. That is the foundation. If we do not support the fragile balance that farmers have established to ensure the survival of their threatened world, all the riches of the planet will not be able to buy the wheat, milk or meat needed for health. There will be no more food.

Am I an alarmist? I am a realist. Every day brings us new examples of our obligation to share, at the national, continental and international levels. However, in order to share, one must have something to share. Will it always be enough to provide money and blankets? I believe that global trends indicate that it will soon be necessary to ensure that all human beings have access to water and food. Therefore it is imperative to do our very best to preserve the agricultural sector, which is the true basis of our well-being and our ability to participate in globalization.

As a rich nation on a rich continent, it is our duty to guarantee the sustainability of food sources, for who knows whether tomorrow, literally tomorrow, we may not be confronted with a pandemic famine. We are forced to consider this by the natural cataclysms shaking Asia and South America, and by the wars raging in the Middle East and Africa. We are forced to believe this by the environmental problems arising all over the world.

We have a fine opportunity for prevention, as opposed to cure. We can accept this opportunity by supporting the principle and implementation of supply management. This clever mechanism has been devised and established by the dairy, egg, turkey and chicken producers to bring about the greatest possible balance between supply and demand in their products. This is a system which avoids overproduction, which would inevitably lead to selling at a loss and thus diminishing market prices. For it to work, the system has to be combined with import controls, or else the market is flooded with products, forcing prices down beneath production costs, and the round of demand for subsidies begins.

That is understandable, which is why it is so sad. While Quebeckers and Canadians are ensuring the quality and quantity of their production and market supply, many countries skirt around the standard and subsidize their farmers in an unfair manner.

The United States, France and the Netherlands prop up prices by intervening in the domestic dairy market. We know that our sector of this market is particularly fragile.

The 2005 evaluation of the agricultural policies of the OECD countries states that Canada brought farm support back down from 1.8% to 0.8% of GDP between 2002 and 2004. According to the same source, farm support is 1.3% in the European Union, 1.2% in Mexico and 0.9% in the United States. Meanwhile, farm income there has increased by over 4% a year, while here the market is on the brink of collapsing, agricultural succession is decreasing at a catastrophic rate and the income crisis in this sector of the economy is disastrously complicating the situation.

Supply management is not a threat to globalization. On the contrary, it is a logical and effective way to apply it, since globalization must occur according to clear rules in this world where everyone has a hand to play.

By promoting supply management, which is a fair model, we are allowing local economies to expand without risk and to ensure the sustainability of their production. Every country should follow this model, since national self-sufficiency helps provide a significant contribution to the international market with a minimum number of fair rules.

Imagine a world in which eggs or dairy products could only be had through foreign markets because our domestic industry was ruined by a lack of interest among producers who no longer saw the potential for profit. Who would be able to have an omelette for breakfast? How many children would have a birthday cake? I believe I speak for my colleagues; perhaps they think I am kidding. The number of producers is decreasing right before our eyes. Yes, some farms are growing, but nowhere near enough to offset the decline.

Canada absolutely must support supply management in the upcoming WTO negotiations, and why not seize the opportunity to promote this principle? Canada must maintain its current customs tariffs on goods subject to supply management and not give up any of its ability to manage pricing policies.

It could propose that all WTO signatory states allow imports to make up 5% of their market. That measure alone would make it possible to increase the flow of goods on the international market by almost 80% with no customs tariffs. This would constitute a real improvement in market conditions and at the same time would restore balance in the rules and conditions of international competition.

If we look at the dairy industry alone, we see clearly that the norm is to regulate economies in developed countries. The problem lies in the way systems are regulated.

The United States, for example, is a long way from full deregulation, which is the trend we are seeing in Australia. Dairy producers in that country receive assistance in the form of a direct production subsidy program, while the policy of reducing the domestic support price is showcased.

In New Zealand, full liberalization of the dairy industry has been suggested, while a cooperative with state authority to maintain market capacity on the international market manages the system.

Should this conclusion not influence us and encourage us to promote supply management? I think it should.

Factoring in that the revenue of Quebec and other Canadian producers enjoys the best protection, while Canada’s financial contribution to dairy production is the lowest, we can clearly evaluate the positive effects of supply management as it is applied here.

We have a winning formula. It would therefore be irresponsible not to support it, not to develop it, not to promote it. It is not really wise to consider siding with requests that conflict with the well-being of our agricultural producers and consumers in Quebec and the rest of Canada on the pretext of a desire to make a mark on the international stage. We have a great opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are the foundation of our well-being.

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the hon. member and have a question for him on supply management.

After the mad cow crisis in 2002, and the resulting income losses for farmers, I would like him to explain why supply management is very important for those same farmers and for the survival of the farms of Quebec and of Canada.

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to my hon. colleague that I too represent a strongly agricultural riding and the bulk of its agricultural economy rests precisely on supply management. My riding is massively dominated by the dairy industry, and there are also many poultry and chick operations.

So we need look no further than our own areas. It is necessary that we continue to support this program, and it should even be tried by all of the developing countries. In fact, the supply management formula and its raison d'être starts with self-sufficiency. Setting quotas of self-sufficiency avoids our even having to think of flooding the market in other countries that may need our products, because our availabilities are very limited.

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate my colleague on his fine speech. It covered the main concerns of the Bloc Québécois. I would like him to provide me with some clarification on the situation in the regions.

I myself have a number of farms in my riding. I actually live in an area where there is a lot of agriculture. The farming community has seen some rough times over the last few years. There was the mad cow crisis, which resulted in major financial losses for farmers after the embargo was imposed on the export of beef, and so forth.

The farmers in the region even met with leaders of this government who will be at the negotiating table. There are a number of signs that supply management might be dropped.

I would like my colleague to provide me with some information that might exist, either in his region or in Quebec, about this loss or at least this government back-down from protecting supply management.

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to answer my colleague's question, I must mention what I heard a little while ago. The minister told us that when there is a negotiating process at the international level, certain difficulties can arise.

It must be recognized, though, that the main difficulty we will have to deal with, as Quebeckers and Canadians faced with any movement or relaxation in supply management, is that we will again be transplanting into our own backyard a difficulty that some other countries are already experiencing. I cannot see how a lessening of demand, in comparison with what is currently required to keep supply management as it is, could possibly have any other effect than to hurt us.

Our farmers have already been hurt enough by the mad cow problem. We must take the necessary action, especially in an area where we have the ability and the tools to control our production in an intelligent way, to ensure that we cannot be accused of flooding other markets. That is a winning approach. It is a winning approach that we can only recommend to all other countries, especially those that would like some day to be able to control their own farm production.

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12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House to speak to the motion brought forward by the Bloc Québécois, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should give its negotiators a mandate during the negotiations at the World Trade Organization so that, at the end of the current round of negotiations, Canada obtains results that ensure that the supply management sectors are subject to no reduction in over-quota tariffs and no increase in tariff quotas, so that these sectors can continue to provide producers with a fair and equitable income.

As I was saying, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to this motion because it shows once again how much we, the members of the Bloc Québécois, care about agricultural producers and about the regions of Quebec. Indeed, one of our priorities is to defend full use of the land in Quebec so that our regions cease to disintegrate. This can be done through various means, including by addressing major issues such as this one and by protecting certain industries.

Allow me first of all to salute the work of the men and women who, day after day, by their work on the farm or in businesses, provide us with this produce, this high quality food that adorns our tables every day. These people work very hard. Farming is not an easy profession, because it keeps people busy on the job 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I know what I am talking about, as I had the good fortune—and I do say the good fortune—to work for six years on a farm in my home town of Métabetchouan.

I would also like to take this opportunity of congratulating these farmers who work on their farms every day, in addition to making us, as members and parliamentarians, aware of these major issues through their representations.

I would like to mention by name in this House the people whom I have had the good fortune to meet recently, who have once again made us aware of this issue of protecting supply management: Daniel Côté, Réjean Maltais and Yves Lapointe. Mr. Lapointe is a young man around the same age as myself. He is not naive. He has chosen to work, day after day, at this noble calling, even though he has grasped all its inherent demands in terms of work and commitment, particularly in the current context, despite the major crises of recent weeks and years.

The aim of their representation was to raise our awareness of this supply management protection system. Allow me, for the benefit of our listeners, to remind us what supply management consists of.

The lion’s share of farm incomes in Quebec are generated by supply managed sectors, especially the dairy industry. This system offers the dual advantage of generating decent incomes for our producers and not causing distortion in world markets. In fact, it deserves to be better known abroad and could even constitute one element of a response to the world farm crisis.

Here again it is essential that Ottawa believe in it, as Ottawa is the player that is responsible for the negotiations. It is basic.

I will also address the concern that exists on the part of these producers. Why? First of all, because my own region, and probably several regions in Quebec, have experienced ups and downs related to the declining economy.

Let me explain. In Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, the softwood lumber industry has experienced serious problems. As we know, the Americans are imposing export duties which prevent us from exporting to our full potential to the United States: the countervailing duties. This region, which derives its living from three major sectors, lumber, aluminum and agriculture, has seen two of these industries hit hard: softwood lumber and specifically agriculture. As a result, people are right to worry about the problems to which they are exposed.

Let us look at the importance of agriculture in our region: there are 3,000 indirect jobs that depend on agriculture, meaning about 16,000 indirect jobs in this sector of activity. This is important for Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean: it represents some 12% of jobs.

It is interesting to see the producers who want to do more and who opt for other market openings, such as the cheese dairies and other agri-food sectors. We see a lot of vitality there. Yet this is not easy. These people need help in developing their farms. It is precisely through strong stands taken here, in this House, that these farmers can be given the confidence to engage in this industry and to pursue their activities with peace of mind.

But at present, that is not the case; they are worried, for all sorts of reasons. There are certain signs that are keeping them worried, and forcing them to take up this fight and intervene.

I cite the example of butter oils. The Ontario chemical ice cream industry wanted to stop using cream to make its ice cream, to reduce its production costs. It wanted to be able to buy an American blend of milk by-products and sugar, known as butter oil, as a raw material. Bowing to the industry lobby but abandoning Quebec dairy producers, the federal government decreed that these butter oils were not dairy products, thereby opening the border to these imports. The result was that in five years, between 1997 and 2002, imports soared 557%, representing a loss of a half billion dollars for Quebec’s dairy producers. That is a substantial loss of revenue.

A similar fiasco has also occurred with the importing of cheese sticks.

These are not our only concerns, concerns which the government has left hanging. I am referring here to a memorandum to cabinet which has galvanized the fears of producers, who felt betrayed. According to this memorandum, which dealt with the mandate for the WTO negotiations, Canada was prepared to get rid of supply management. That was the drift of certain of its comments. The secret document, made public by the Council of Canadians in September 2002, raised the ire of 10,000 Quebec producers of milk, poultry, hatching eggs and table eggs, four supply managed sectors.

Another concern has been raised by Mr. Steve Verheul, director of the International Trade Policy Directorate at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Mr. Verheul spoke at a special general meeting of the UPA for Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean. His presentation was in no way reassuring to the diary and farm producers of that region, even though he seemed to be softening the blow of the coming WTO negotiations in saying that they would try to minimize the losses that Canada might incur in that forum.

What this government has to do is to stand up once and for all and make sure that in no case does it give in to any compromise on the supply management issue. It has the chance to do this, and this is crucial. In fact, in this sort of negotiation, when you lose something, it is lost for a long time. The government therefore has the opportunity to report for the negotiations, be firm in its demands and positions, and show leadership. That is what we in the Bloc Québécois want for the farmers, and what they themselves want.

Today, in this House, I ask this government not only to support the motion of the Bloc Québécois, but to move from words to action and ensure that the protection of supply management is maintained.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, supply management is something that I support and with good reason. There are 500 dairy farms in Wellington County, the county within which I live in Ontario. They support thousands of people in related industries and provide a very good, high quality product of which we all can be rightfully proud.

I note with interest that despite the many detractors of supply management out there, over the course of the last year and a half, since I was elected in June 2004, I have not had one constituent, one consumer, complain to me about the price of milk, or eggs, or butter, or cheese, or complain about the price of chicken or turkeys. That is a very telling sign that the consumer is getting a very reasonably priced, high quality Canadian produced product. That is another reason I support supply management.

There are some concerns being raised in the community. I met with the Wellington dairy producers the other day. They highlighted concerns to me about the threat they perceive to be at the WTO trade talks and their fears about the over-quota tariffs being reduced to the point where the whole threat to supply management would be introduced because of lower tariffs allowing for the importation of milk, eggs, chickens and turkeys.

I wonder if my hon. colleague would comment on that. What would he see as the solution to the government's position at WTO? I know the Bloc is advocating that the government ensure that no reduction in over-quota tariffs are pursued, but what suggestions does he have as to what the government position should be at WTO regarding the non-supply managed part of the agriculture industry? In other words, how should Canada best pursue its trade objectives in terms of obtaining a level playing field for those farmers in non-supply managed industries?

In my neck of the woods, the farmers in non-supply managed sectors of agriculture are probably facing some of the worst financial circumstances that they have seen in a generation, if not in two or three generations. I note that the price of corn in Ontario is below the price of production. I think it is around $2.80 a bushel, which is quite a bit below the price of production. These farmers are suffering because of unfair subsidies and unfair tariffs in other jurisdictions like the U.S. and Europe.

I wonder what suggestions my hon. colleague has as to what position the government should pursue in order to obtain a level playing field for those farmers in non-supply managed sectors of agriculture.

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12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to salute my colleague and to thank him for his support for this motion.

First, in his question, he raised some concerns. I found an excerpt from a cabinet document that, at the time, confirmed farmers' fears that they were being betrayed.

Allow me to quote briefly from this document:

Negotiations involve compromise. Sectors of the economy benefiting from protection which shelters them from foreign competition will object to any change in the status quo, particularly if it comes during an economic downturn. Supply managed producers of eggs, poultry and dairy products, the textile and clothing industry, and certain service sectors will probably object to any changes that would lead to increased competition.

Here is what the government strategy was:

The government will recognize that multilateral trade negotiations require Canada to consent to certain measures to open up markets to its trading partners. The government is working in close collaboration with the sectors most likely to be affected in order to define the priorities and objectives for negotiations. A more thorough examination is also required of how to manage the ongoing transition to a more globally integrated economy and the related costs of adaptation. At the same time, we will emphasize the overall gains the new negotiations will bring for Canada's economy, businesses and consumers.

What this means is that the government is prepared to compromise, but it will try to make us pay the price in other ways.

My colleague asked what solutions we could ask the government to put in place. At least this motion reinforces Canada's position in this House. We are also asking the government to ensure that the supply managed sectors can continue to provide producers with a fair and equitable income. To this end, the motion says that supply managed products must be included on Canada's list of sensitive products and that Canada will accept no increase in tariff quotas. This means that there can be no increase in the percentage of supply managed products subject to free trade, which is about 5%. The motion furthers asks that Canada refuse to negotiate a reduction in tariffs imposed at the border for foreign supply managed agricultural products. These over-quota tariffs are those tariffs imposed on imports that exceed the 5% quotas.

Those were three ways of showing a certain degree of assertiveness. However, this system is way too fragile for us to start negotiating it and taking it apart. Therefore Canada's position must be firm.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel.

I am pleased to rise in the chamber today to speak to this motion on supply management. Agriculture in general is an always important topic that requires our attention. The basic necessities of life and well-being should remain at the highest level of importance for government. Being able to feed our people should always be a primary responsibility.

In that vein, we as a government and as a Parliament have the responsibility to ensure that our agricultural producers, all of them, have the tools they need to farm and supply the market with quality and wholesome foods at a reasonable price while getting a return from the market that covers their costs of production.

In Canada, we have been able to achieve this in the dairy, poultry and egg industries through supply management, a fair agricultural model. Canada's dairy, poultry and egg industries contribute $12.3 billion to the Canadian GDP. They generate $6.8 billion in farm cash receipts, sustain more than $39 billion of economic activity and employ more than 215,000 Canadians throughout the country.

Whether we represent a rural riding, an urban riding or a cross-section of both, ensuring that producer concerns are heard and acted on is the responsibility of all members of Parliament. That is why in 2003 I started the Liberal dairy caucus as a vehicle to ensure that producer concerns on issues such as labelling and use of dairy terms, dairy product standards and import controls were heard by the innermost levels of the federal government.

It is also why at the start of this Parliament I introduced Bill C-264, an act for the recognition and promotion of agricultural supply management. The purpose of the bill is to establish and implement the Government of Canada's policy respecting agricultural supply management. Simply put, it is intended to recognize and promote supply management and ensure that supply management is preserved in Canada.

I was also very pleased earlier this year when the Liberal Party of Canada passed a resolution at the national biennial reaffirming our party's long-time support for supply management. It also called on the Government of Canada to “recognize and reflect formally in agriculture and trade initiatives the three pillars of supply management” and “defend and promote supply management, the Canadian Wheat Board and all single-desk selling during negotiations at the WTO”.

This brings me to why we are discussing this important issue today. Next month, the sixth ministerial is taking place in Hong Kong. While it is not expected that full modalities will be achieved, decisions could still be taken that could jeopardize Canadian producers' choice of domestic marketing systems.

The WTO negotiations have reached a level where specific proposals have been tabled by the most influential members. These proposals are not in the interests of supply management.

The Canadian government needs to go to the negotiations with the strongest negotiating mandate possible. We support the objectives of the Doha round, but we cannot put Canadian agriculture on the table when no other country is willing to do the same.

The proposals currently being discussed would result in Canada having to reduce our over-quota tariffs and increase access to the Canadian market for imported dairy, poultry and egg products. The loss of Canadian market and the loss of price stability will compromise Canadian farmers' ability to receive a fair return from the marketplace. This is simply unacceptable.

Canada's strategy to seek the creation of a fair and equitable trading environment is not supported by the most dominant and most trade-distorting WTO members, the United States and the European Union. It is clear that the Government of Canada must take a strong stand in WTO negotiations on agriculture.

A recent study prepared by trade expert Peter Clark for the Dairy Farmers of Canada suggests that the current WTO agricultural negotiating framework will not ease the imbalances among the participating countries. The EU and the U.S. have bought flexibility to reduce their over-quota tariffs by providing huge amounts of domestic support to their farmers.

For example, the new study demonstrates that U.S. dairy farmers had access to $13.8 billion U.S. in direct and indirect support in 2003, meaning they can get about 40% of their income from federal, state and local government subsidies. These subsidies effectively limit access to the U.S. market. The U.S. advocates tariff cuts because it can limit access while trying to increase U.S. exports to other markets.

Our dairy, poultry and egg producers are demanding this as our negotiating position because, first of all, cuts in over-quota tariffs will eliminate farmers' ability to predict the level of imports coming into Canada. In turn, farmers will be unable to match supply with demand and thereby ensure that there are enough domestically grown products to meet the needs of Canadians from coast to coast. Farmers and consumers alike deserve stability. We cannot allow any cuts in over-quota tariffs.

Second, farmers negotiate fair prices for their food based on what it costs to produce it. The income farmers receive is made without relying on taxpayers' dollars, unlike in the United States and the European Union, where farmers are subsidized to a staggering degree. We cannot limit the ability of dairy, poultry and egg producers to receive a fair price from the marketplace.

Next, we cannot accept a cut in our over-quota tariffs nor can we offer more access for our dairy, poultry and egg sectors. Canada is already giving more access for dairy, poultry and eggs than the U.S. or the EU.

Canada offers import access to about 4% of the market for dairy products, 5% for eggs and turkeys, 7.5% for chicken, and 21% for hatching eggs. In contrast, the U.S. currently offers 2.75% access for dairy products and the EU offers only 0.5% for poultry. If we cannot achieve an equitable minimal market access of 5% in all countries, then we should not allow any increase in market access commitments in Canadian dairy, poultry and eggs.

This Parliament owes it to Canadian farmers to think beyond our own interests and send a strong message to the governments of the other 147 WTO members that we are for, first and foremost, a fair and equitable rules-based trading environment. Second, and very important, we are for achieving a level playing field with real market access that is fair and equitable across the board. Finally, and equally important, we are for recognizing that we all have areas that are more sensitive and we need the ability to offer some protection to those areas, but in an equitable way for all our member countries.

By way of conclusion, I note that this is a very important debate today. This is a very important motion in support of supply management across this great country of ours. It is something that all parliamentarians should take heed of, should note and should defend to the nth degree. It is something that we owe our farmers and our producers. It is something that we owe our rural communities. It is something we owe all consumers by way of choice in terms of having a solid and good supply managed system in place.

It is something that all parliamentarians and indeed all Canadians should support and actually feel quite good about, because it is a system that has worked well in the past. It is a system that we must defend and preserve. It is a system that we must carry forward into the future because a lot of communities and this country's economy depend on a strong supply managed system.

I applaud all of those members of Parliament who are speaking on this important initiative today. I applaud everyone who is in support of supply management, because it is a good system. It is worth promoting, defending and carrying forward.

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1 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for articulating the situation very clearly and also for his sentiments about how important the agriculture industry is to Canada, particularly how important those agricultural producers are who provide Canada with safe, good quality food. We want to maintain that.

I know that our turkey, chicken, egg and dairy farmers are a key part of keeping Canada's food products safe. The products are of great quality. In fact, the quality and the safety of our food are the best in the world. We have to continue to ensure that we do this in Canada, and we can do this here in Canada.

We have to also ensure that we have a sustainable agricultural sector. Right now we are discussing the WTO negotiations that are about to be undertaken. We have heard about the impact that a reduction in over-quota tariffs or an increase in the tariff quotas would have on our farmers.

I have had meetings with many of the farmers in Durham, but even prior to that, I note that these are my neighbours. In fact, dairy cows trespass on my lawn occasionally. These are the people I meet at the grocery store. I want to make sure the House understands that I have heard from every sector of the supply management farmers.

I would like to ask the member if he could help us by giving us a little more reflection on this. I spoke about my neighbours. I have actually lived beside a dairy farm for about 10 years, which unfortunately coincides with the decade or more than this government has been in power. I have seen the agricultural community get further and further into reduced incomes, struggles and challenges.

I would like to ask the member how we can make sure that the supply management approach to our industry is maintained. The member is quite right when he says that this is not a subsidy. This is a way to ensure that we have good quality and safe food at an affordable price for Canadians, yet there seems to be a perception among other countries that are against supply management that it is a subsidy. It is not a subsidy. We have to maintain it. We have to ensure that we have strong representation in Hong Kong to ensure that we have the continuation of supply management in this country.

Could the member explain why the government is unable to correct the perception that supply management is a subsidy program when it is not?

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite raises a couple of very good points, primarily and first of all the notion that in this great world of ours we have a supply managed system in Canada that has excellent quality and safety and also has the ability to make sure that people get quality and safety of food at a reasonable price, as does our whole food system, for that matter. I think that is worth highlighting.

As the member points out, I too think we need to make sure that at the next negotiations we take a very tough position in support of supply management. I think that is paramount.

With respect to her direct question about changing perceptions, it seems to me that it is important in a debate like this one today in the House, and also elsewhere where we can make those kinds of inroads, to tell farmers, producers, the agricultural community and consumers, for that matter, that we are standing firm with them in this very important sector. Supply management is something that we hold dear. We will continue to protect and promote it. We should all be part of that in terms of making it happen.

I see this as a non-partisan issue, quite frankly, in the sense that we have to stand by our farm people. I still live on the family farm and I feel strongly about that. I think it is important to maintain those kinds of links and that kind of initiative, which supports not only farmers in general and their families but the supply managed system in particular.

I think back, for example, to Eugene Whelan, who sat in the House for many years. He was the agriculture minister who started this whole process of supply management and in fact was one of the pioneers in enabling this system to be put into place in a very meaningful way. We cannot let that legacy fall by the wayside. We have to stand firm on it. We will stand firm on it and we will continue to promote supply management as the good system that it is.

Supply
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also appreciate the opportunity I have been give today to participate in the discussion on global farm income and to describe some of the steps that this government has taken to support our agricultural producers.

Specifically, I would like to address the issue of the World Trade Organization negotiations on agriculture and highlight the efforts by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food and the Minister of International Trade to establish equitable rules of the game for international markets, rules that will allow our farmers—already among the most productive on the planet—to compete more equitably and effectively in international markets.

Achieving the expected results in the World Trade Organization negotiations is absolutely vital to ensuring the future prosperity of our agricultural sector and, in fact, to ensuring the prosperity of the entire country.

Every year, agriculture contributes between $5 billion and $7 billion to the nation’s trade balance and represents some 10% of our annual trade surplus. In 2004, we exported more than $26 billion worth of agrifood products to over 180 countries.

The agriculture and agrifood sector represents approximately 8% of Canada's gross domestic product and one out of every eight jobs in the country. There can be no doubt that this industry is absolutely essential to the economic well-being of Canada.

In addition, the members of this industry have performed strongly during a difficult economic period. Although farm incomes are declining, Canadian agricultural products are internationally recognized for their superior quality. In fact, Canada is the world’s third-ranking exporter of agrifood products—convincing confirmation of the high esteem in which Canadian agricultural products are held.

Nonetheless, to derive maximum benefit from this reputation, to be able to compete in international markets and also to allow our producers to continue to earn their living in their chosen career, we must ensure that all the nations on the planet play by the same clear, enforceable rules.

Canada has attempted, in the current round of negotiations on the Doha agenda, to encourage the creation of a trading system that will allow all countries, irrespective of their relative political or economic power, to compete equitably in compliance with rules that are accepted by all.

Now, as we are coming up on an important milestone in the current round of negotiations for the Doha agenda, that is, the ministerial conference in Hong Kong, we are focusing even more on the attainment of those objectives. These negotiations are our best opportunity to work with other countries to develop an level playing field by eliminating tariff barriers that until now have limited the ability of Canadian producers to compete fairly in international markets.

Since the very beginning of the negotiations, we have had our sights set on three specific objectives that should make the level playing field possible. Canada's objectives consist first in eliminating all export subsidies for all products; second in substantially reducing domestic support that distorts trade; and third and last, in significantly improving access to foreign markets for all our products.

Attaining these objectives and creating fair rules will provide real benefits for our producers. For example, the elimination of export subsidies, which is a longstanding Canadian objective, would allow Canadian exporter to compete more fairly and more effectively in international markets. This is especially true for the grain and red meat industries, which have to compete against subsidized European producers.

Significant measures to reduce and harmonize domestic supports that distort trade—that is, the countries that subsidize the most would make the biggest reductions—could go a very long way toward establishing fair rules and would benefit Canadian producers, who have to deal with European subsidies for grain and red meat and American subsidies for grain and oilseeds.

Moreover, an ambitious harmonization formula for tariff reductions should give Canadian exporters better access to key industrialized and developing countries, especially for products like beef, pork, oilseeds and special crops, as well as for various processed goods.

At the same time, Canada continues to defend the right of Canadian producers to make up their own minds as to the best way to market their products, including the use of structured marketing systems like the supply management system and the Canadian Wheat Board.

We are making every effort to present our ideas as the best way of achieving a level playing field for international trade, which our producers need to be able to compete fairly in international markets.

I would like to point out that these actions are not intended to benefit our agriculture industry alone. The health and prosperity of our entire economy are directly dependent on our ability to compete effectively in a context of increasing globalization.

The Government of Canada has made these negotiations a priority, and Canada plays a very important role in the international negotiation process. We are working with many countries to present our ideas as the best way of establishing fair rules for the world trade system.

Canada is known for its propensity for presenting practical, credible ideas that facilitate negotiations. Many important Canadian concepts have been incorporated into draft agreements, along with proposals from other countries in the WTO. We intend to continue working very hard to achieve our objectives in close consultation with provincial and territorial governments and industry representatives.

In addition to our efforts during these especially long and difficult negotiations to finally arrive at fair, equitable rules for our farmers, I would like to remind the House of the major achievements of the Canada agriculture and food international program, also known as the CAFI program.

It is a key part of Canada's international strategy, which was specifically put in place to support our agriculture and agri-food sector by facilitating the development of long term international strategies.

We will be able to ensure, therefore, that this sector is well placed to succeed on the largest markets and to respond to both the increase in consumer demand and any increased competitiveness on international markets.

The CAFI program provides matching funds for every dollar invested by the industry in support of activities that enhance Canada's reputation as a world leader in safe, high quality agricultural and agri-food products, beverages and seafood in order to respond to the constantly changing demands of international markets.

In promoting its own ideas on international trade, the Government of Canada tries to enhance the profitability of farmers and farm families all across the country.

Similarly, by being more successful on the international level, that is to say, by improving the recognition of its brands, facilitating market access, and eliminating technical barriers to trade, Canada ensures that its agricultural and agri-food sector will continue to grow and prosper. This will translate in turn into a stronger national economy that benefits all Canadians.

We will do everything in our power to ensure that this proud Canadian tradition continues, for both our current generation of farmers and the generations to come.