Debates of Nov. 22nd, 2005
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 supply.
- Question Period
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- Committees of the House
- Auditor General's Report
- Mining Industry
- Tsunami Relief
- Order of Nova Scotia Recipient
- Le Clap Cinema
- Coalition of African Canadian Organizations
- Office of the Ethics Commissioner
- Gun Violence
- Albert Bégin
- North Central Family Centre
- Students from Brome-Missisquoi
- Youth Entrepreneurship
- Françoise Mongrain-Samson
- Government Policies
- Rotary International
- Government Contracts
- Government Policies
- Softwood Lumber
- Automobile Industry
- Government Appointments
- Automobile Industry
- Public Safety
- Royal Canadian Mounted Police
- Employment Insurance
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Parliament of Canada
- Softwood Lumber
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Government Contracts
- Ridley Terminals
- Foreign Affairs
- Agriculture and Agri-Food
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Points of Order
- Canada Labour Code
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for announcing that he will be supporting our motion. That is a very good sign. I hope that his minister and his government will listen to him. I also hope that his Prime Minister will do likewise, as requested.
I find it rather ironic that such a spectre be raised concerning the election when, yesterday, in this House, all parties except the government party supported the NDP motion asking precisely that the government call an election after the holiday season.
Had his government supported this motion, as the Bloc Québécois did, from December 13 to 18, the minister would have gone to Hong Kong, but he will go anyway, even in the midst of an election campaign. This kind of scaremongering will not have me believe that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of International Trade will lose any legitimacy because we will be in an election campaign. If they take part in negotiations in Hong Kong, they should hold their own. As I said earlier, we will stand behind them even if an election campaign is under way. We will say that the minister is doing a fine job, if he does what is asked of him.
I imagine that, among the 147 WTO member countries, there might be some besides ours that will be holding an election around the same time. Will that take any legitimacy away from their ministers participating in the negotiations? Of course not. As if other countries would care about how long the minister will remain in office. Should his time be short, another minister will take over. That is not a problem.
I find that the hon. member is brandishing a totally ridiculous spectre, especially since he and his party had the opportunity, yesterday, to support, as we did, a motion that would have allowed an election to be called after the holidays.
Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)
Mr. Speaker, in reference to the hon. member's remarks I would like to put on the record the fact that the Liberal Party, the governing party, has been the party of supply management. We introduced the system some 30 years ago.
While the separatists continually talk about what they would do if they were to have a separate country, the fact of the matter is that ours is the party that put in the supply management system. Ours is the party that has constantly supported supply management at negotiations. Ours is the party that makes sure primary producers in Quebec in the supply management commodities can in fact have decent incomes. We were the makers of the supply management system.
I take the member's motion to mean that our negotiators should be absolutely inflexible, or in other words, that we really not negotiate. Through the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the UPA, the farm organization in Quebec, has taken a balanced position. It has put forward to the Government of Canada that yes, we do have a number of different commodities in the country and we need to take a balanced position at the WTO negotiations. In terms of that, there already is a motion in the House that in negotiations the negotiators support and uphold the supply management system.
Let us talk about the reality of the world and being absolutely inflexible at those negotiations. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has fought hard for this industry. He has been one of the leading people at the negotiations. He put forward a proposal whereby each country would have the right to protect its sensitive commodities. That would in fact protect their supply management system. We might have to open up a wee bit of access, but for doing that we move to the balanced position for all commodities so that all farmers in Canada can benefit.
If the member's position by this motion is that we be absolutely inflexible and do not move at all, then I believe that kind of position would be shooting our industry in the foot and would lead to a lose-lose situation. I believe we have to go forward with the position that the Minister of Agriculture put forward.
Is the member saying that we should be absolutely inflexible with no movement at all in terms of these negotiations?
André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC
Mr. Speaker, we have no choice but to demand firmness of the government, because it has given us a multitude of signs that indicate to us its readiness to abandon the supply management system. I have spoken of this on numerous occasions over the years. This is the kind of approach the government of the day was using back in 1992, which led to the disappearance of GATT article XI. We have some historical examples which lead us to believe, indeed oblige us to believe, that our concerns are well founded.
This business of the need to be flexible is exactly what we do not want to hear. Why should we be flexible? This is not a subsidy. Let the other countries toe the line if they wish, but our negotiators have all they need with the framework agreement to defend our position without any problem.
The parliamentary secretary likes to keep bringing up the UPA. I can tell him that the UPA also has some serious concerns with the current situation. I will read an excerpt from one of the Union des producteurs agricoles press releases:
Laurent Pellerin, president of the Union des producteurs agricoles and spokesperson for the GO5, has voiced serious concerns. He said “On the eve of the renewal of the Canadian negotiators' mandate, if what is currently on the WTO table is to be agreed to—that being the lowering of over-quota tariffs and increased access to our milk, egg and poultry markets—this would be a death sentence for any productions that are under supply management”—
These are not the words of the evil sovereignists, but of Laurent Pellerin.
—“Yet, judging by the signals we are getting from the Canadian government, it appears they are prepared to sign an agreement in Hong Kong, whether or not it is acceptable to agriculture. That is why we are so concerned.”
I would like the hon. parliamentary secretary to stand up again and tell us what he is in the process of doing, and what little marginal details he is prepared to let drop. I, and the UPA, the 30,000 supporters of G05, and Quebec as a whole, all would like to know. The Government of Quebec has in fact presented a pretty clear motion to the government. I would just like to know what are those little details they are prepared to let drop.
November 22nd, 2005 / 10:40 a.m.
Andy Mitchell Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise in debate on what is indeed a very important issue, the WTO negotiations. It is obviously a very important issue for those one in ten producers who happen to use the supply management system. It is important for the other nine out of ten Canadian and Quebec producers who in fact do not operate under supply management. Indeed, as I am sure colleagues in the House and those who are watching know, these negotiations cover a much broader range than simply agriculture. These are negotiations about a whole range of issues, all of which are critically important to Canada, to Canadians, to our economy and to producers.
My view is that there are politics involved in things. There are a lot of politics on this floor, there is no doubt about that, and we are seeing a good amount of that here today, but this has to be about a little more than politics because we are talking about people's livelihoods. We are talking about people's futures. We are talking about the well-being of our economy. We are talking about the well-being of Canadians.
This cannot simply be a tossing back and forth of political rhetoric. There is a lot of that taking place. We just saw an exchange between the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell and the mover of the motion. It was a discussion about the timing of the negotiations. We can go back and forth one way or the other about what will or what will not happen, but we cannot deny the reality.
If the government of the day is voted down in regard to the confidence of the House, it is impaired in its ability to negotiate in international fora. It does not mean that it will not negotiate. It does not mean that the government will not be there, but this does impair its ability to do that. Anyone who wants to argue otherwise is simply exercising political rhetoric.
Yes, Canada will be there to defend its interests. Obviously it will be. We are not going to abandon our producers. We are not going to abandon the other sectors of the Canadian economy, but I ask opposition members not to try to suggest for a minute that they have not added one more handicap onto our ability to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of all producers and in the best interests of all Canadians. They have done that.
They cannot have it both ways. They cannot profess to be the defenders of something and then take actions that make it more difficult to exercise that defence. That is what the opposition members have in fact done.
My parliamentary secretary, who has been a farm leader in this country for so many years that he probably does not want to even count them, made mention of the fact that supply management is, at least from the governmental perspective, a Liberal Party and a Liberal government invention. Certainly it was done with producers and for sure they need to take the credit for the system that is there, but it was a Liberal government that provided the regulatory framework to allow it to come into force. It has been a Liberal government that for 35 years has defended the supply management system in this country. The Liberal government was there at its birth and has been there for the last 35 years defending it.
People can throw out all kinds of historical references to what may have happened in the past, but the reality is that there is a supply managed system in Canada, it is a robust system, and it works. Otherwise, those members over there would not be defending it. The reality is that we have a strong supply managed system and what the government has done in the past is what has in fact led to that system.
The hon. member said that he is unsure of where the government is. Let me take the member back to not too long ago and make mention of the last election campaign, which unfortunately was not that long ago. At that time, the SM5, which the hon. member mentioned, asked for a certain pledge in respect of supply management. In fact, the Prime Minister was asked to provide that pledge.
I will read that to the House. It stated that we will ensure:
--that at end of the WTO negotiations, producers under supply management can continue to meet the needs of Canadian consumers and obtain all their revenue from the marketplace, based on their costs of production, including a fair return on their labour and capital.
Those are not the words of the government. Those are the words of the SM5.
The Prime Minister signed that pledge. He signed it on behalf of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party stands by exactly that comment and is being governed by that in its negotiations.
Is that still not enough? Let me go to a motion in this House from earlier in this session. It stated:
That, in the opinion of the House, in the current World Trade Organization negotiations, the government should not agree to any concession that would weaken collective bargaining strategies or the supply management system and should also seek an agreement establishing fair and equitable rules that foster the international competitiveness of agricultural exporters in Quebec and Canada.
We supported that. We supported that because we believe in a strong supply managed system in this country.
The point I am making here is that it has not been simply rhetoric. Rather, it has been members from this side, and others, coming into the House and defending the interests of Canadian producers, including those who are supply managed producers. That is on the record. That is fact. That is what is there.
As I mentioned, the WTO negotiations are a broad based set of negotiations. Yes, they include agriculture. They include non-agricultural market access. They include rules governing services. There is a wide range of issues being negotiated in the Doha round. The Doha round is also dealing with the whole issue of developing countries and the Minister of International Development is here in the House for this, because out of that round, we must also be dealing with the needs of developing nations. This is not something that is simple. It is something that is complex. It is not something that is one-dimensional. It is multi-dimensional.
As we defend the interests of the supply managed systems in this country, which we do, we will also be defending and promoting the needs of large segments of Canadian society and, indeed, those around the world, particularly those in the developing countries.
Let us talk specifically about the agricultural negotiations, because what we are trying to accomplish here is something that works for all Canadian producers, 100% of them, those who are in supply management and those who are not. We do not want to leave any Canadian producers out at all. We want to strike a deal. We want to come to an agreement in Hong Kong, and beyond if it takes beyond that, an agreement that works for Canadian producers in general. This is an obligation that I take very seriously. It is an objective that my colleagues in cabinet and caucus take very seriously. It is one that we will stand by.
There are things in the proposed agreement that Canada very much wants to see supported. The framework agreement of last July called for the elimination of export subsidies. That is a good thing for Canadian producers. When we see the Europeans put an export subsidy on their wheat so that they can compete unfairly with Canadian producers, that is not fair, it is not right and it should be stopped. This agreement, which is calling for the elimination of those export subsidies, is positive for Canadian producers. Those in the grains and oilseeds sector need that kind of initiative. They need that kind of thing in the agreement. That is why we were pleased to see it in the framework agreement of last July.
Let us take the whole issue of domestic supports. So far in these negotiations, we have had an agreement whereby those who provide the largest domestic supports, the United States, the European Union and the Japanese, will be required to make cuts in their domestic supports in a much larger proportion than the rest of the developing countries, and that includes Canada. That is appropriate because they are providing domestic supports way out of proportion to what the rest of the world's countries are providing and they are doing it in a way that is distorting the marketplace to the detriment of Canadian producers.
When our corn growers in Quebec and Ontario and elsewhere find that the commodity price of their product is dropping through the floor, it in part is a result of the domestic supports being provided in the United States. An agreement whereby we can bring an end to the counter-cyclical payments and the deficiency payments that are provided to the United States is something that we ought to be working for and negotiating in Hong Kong, because it is absolutely essential for Canadian producers. It will give them a real tangible benefit and increase their ability to create wealth for themselves, their families, their communities and this country. That is what we are working for in this Doha round. That is what we are working for in the negotiations.
At the same time, we are working to maintain a supply management system in this country, as I mentioned in our support of those resolutions. We are making sure that the three pillars of supply management are viable and strong so that the system can be maintained. That is our goal and our objective. That is what we have been working on.
We achieved a very important milestone in July in the framework agreement, because that agreement called for the establishment of a sensitive products regime. Why is that important? It is important because it will allow countries like Canada to have the ability to treat its sensitivities, its sensitive products, differently than it treats other products.
That is exactly what we want to do with supply management. We want to designate as sensitive those products that we deem as supply managed products. They could then be treated in a sensitive way that responds to the needs of our producers and our country. That is what we achieved in the framework agreement. Every nation agreed that sensitive products will be part of this agreement.
In the same way that I will work to make sure there is no backtracking on the agreement to eliminate export subsidies, and in the same way that I will work to make sure that there is no backtracking on the agreement that countries will reduce domestic supports in the proportions talked about, I will also make sure that we do not backtrack on the July framework agreement that allows for and calls for a sensitive products regime as part of market access. That is absolutely essential to protecting supply management. It was this government that achieved the agreement of the other 147 nations in the WTO that there would be a sensitive products regime.
That is what negotiating is all about. That is--
An. hon. member
That's what governing is all about.
Andy Mitchell Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON
My hon. colleague says that is what governing is all about. That is what we mean when we talk about achieving results that will work for our producers, and in this case in particular our supply management producers.
I want to make an important point here, because sometimes it gets lost in the international community. I thought that my hon. colleague across the way would have mentioned this. It is not just Canada that wants sensitive products. We have our sensitivities, indeed, which we usually refer to as our supply managed products. Other countries around the world also have sensitivities and also want to have sensitive products. I want to make it clear that Canada has indeed made the point with those countries that we need to have a particular regime for sensitive products. Indeed, we do not want to see countries trying to hide their treatment of sensitive products within their general tariff reduction formulas. The European countries suggested this and we rejected it because we think it is inappropriate. We do not think that ought to happen.
There needs to be an aggressive tariff reduction formula on non-sensitive products, one that would actually provide market access. There needs to be a separate sensitive products treatment, which the framework agreement calls for and which we were pleased to see was agreed to in the July framework agreement.
It is clear from both our actions in those negotiations and what we supported, including what the Prime Minister supported, that we are supporters of supply management.
As I mentioned, we need to have flexibility in how each country protects its robust sensitive products regime. How we may want to do it in Canada may not be the same way they want to do it in Japan. It may not be the same way they want to do it in the European Union or in the United States but, my goodness, we have to ensure we have the flexibility in there so we can choose to defend our sensitivities in a way that makes good sense for us, and that is the position we have taken at the WTO.
What we are trying to accomplish is something that works for all of agriculture, for our exporters and for those who decide to use a supply managed system. We want to make absolutely certain that is the case.
In taking my last few minutes, I want to speak directly and personally to the members in this House, which is not always done.
We are going to have some very significant and challenging negotiations in the WTO. We have already had them with Hong Kong and probably beyond Hong Kong, and they will continue. The timeframe for achieving an agreement is the end of 2006 and these will be challenging negotiations.
I, along with my colleagues, the Minister of International Trade, the Minister of International Cooperation and others, understand very clearly our obligation to all Canadian producers. We understand our obligations to reach a fundamental agreement that works in the best interests of those producers. We understand the importance of supply management. We have said that over and over again.
The reaction that I have taken in the negotiations has been there to ensure we have an agreement that will allow for the continuation of a robust supply managed system, as well as provide that environment, both in terms of domestic support reductions and in export subsidies, that will be in the best interests of producers generally.
In my view, it will be important that I have the opportunity to be provided with every potential tool that I can have in terms of achieving that outcome. It is my responsibility and my obligation because those negotiations fall to me. I say to the House that it is absolutely essential and important that I be given every opportunity and every tool to achieve a result that all of us want to achieve.
This is not about whether or not there is support for supply management. My goodness, this House has spoken over and over again in support of supply management. This is about the way we go about doing it and it is about providing, in my view, the opportunity for myself and those who will be negotiating with me every possibility for success. That is what I am asking the House to do.
Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska for giving us this opportunity this morning to discuss a highly important and highly delicate topic, namely the trade negotiations that are to begin in December.
The minister has just said that we were right to raise this issue. The answers he just gave in his speech make Canada's position during the Doha round all the more worrisome. Why? Because when we ask him why he is not taking a firm position on production methods and supply management, he tells us that is precisely what he is doing. He just said so again.
We are not talking about a list of sensitive products. We are talking about milk, eggs and poultry. These are not sensitive products. These are products that come from farmers through a supply management system, which ensures strict domestic production and stabler prices than in the United States or elsewhere. The prices are based on production costs.
The minister just said that is not the principle he will defend. He will not defend this principle whereby Quebec and Canadian farmers are strict with their production, do not flood international markets and do not create major surpluses like the United States and Europe do on several markets including the cereal market. He is presenting a weak position at the Doha summit, a position which consists in saying that there are sensitive products. These are not sensitive products.
The only ones who respected the international agreements since the last accords in 1994 are the farmers from Quebec and Canada. Even for milk, a $6.30 subsidy was abolished a few years ago to satisfy international needs. During that same time, the Americans and the Europeans doubled their subsidies.
The minister must ask the United States and Europe to reduce their subsidies, which are causing imbalance, and to stop creating these so-called systems that are indefensible. What he must clearly defend is a management approach, a strict production system and a strict approach to imports.
Andy Mitchell Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON
Mr. Speaker, let me make three points.
First, the member refers to these negotiations to begin in December. No, these negotiations are not beginning in December. We are not stepping into something right at the beginning. We are dealing with something that has been going on for a lengthy period of time, years. I would suggest that the hon. member recognize that the defence of Canada and the defence of Canadian producers has been going on for all of that time.
The hon. member makes a valid point but he is just reiterating my point, which is the importance of the Americans dropping the level of subsidies that they and the Europeans provide. That is exactly the position we have taken at the WTO negotiations and exactly the point where the 148 countries in the WTO came together last July and said, first, that all export subsidies will be eliminated at a date specific. That date is part of the additional negotiations that are taking place. That is a very positive thing for Canadian producers and something we are working toward.
The hon. member talked about the increase in domestic supports. Absolutely, that is not something that we believe is appropriate. It is in fact distorting the marketplace. It is what is causing our grains and oilseeds folks a great amount of difficulty and it is something that we are indeed working on in the negotiations and again, why, in the framework agreement, there was an agreement that there would be higher reductions.
In terms of supply management, this is not a debate about whether the House believes that supply management is a good and valid system for Canadian agriculture. It is. The House has stated that over and over again. It is about the best way to achieve that result and the government is committed to achieving a positive outcome for all of Canadian agriculture, including the supply managed sectors.
James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the difficulty the government has in dealing with the World Trade Organization. I know talks have been going on for quite some time and I know about the unsuccessful talks that we had in Cancun and Seattle. This has been a very contentious issue for a long period of time but our agriculture producers right across the country, whether they are in grains, oilseeds, red meats or in the supply managed commodities like milk, eggs and poultry, want Canada to take a very strong position in the WTO talks.
One of the problems we have, and I think a lot of it is in the way producers see it out in the field, is that we have these mini ministerials that are happening on an ongoing basis across the globe. Some have been done in China and Korea and numerous ones in London and Geneva. I had the privilege of accompanying the minister on a trip to Geneva not that long ago, along with my colleague, the agriculture critic from the Bloc, and we saw those discussions first-hand. We appreciate the difficulty in the negotiations, especially with the hard line that has been taken by the European Union.
However the one thing producers here want and have been advocating for is that we have an official Canadian position, that we go in and take a leadership role. I know the minister, the Government of Canada and our very skilful trade negotiators have been doing a great job in talking to all the players at the table. This is a poker game to some degree and it is time for us to lay our cards on the table and say what we stand for on the aspect of sensitive commodities. The European offer of 8% does not go far enough to have full protection of our supply managed commodities. It needs to be over 10% and, as has been suggested by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, as high as 14% of our farm cash receipts need to be protected as supply managed and be fitted into that sensitive commodity definition and how they work that out.
We still need to have a very aggressive role in reducing subsidies, trade distorting programs for red meats, grains and oilseeds. When will the minister finally table that position to show the leadership that we are the third largest agriculture trader in the world and we want to take that leadership role in these discussions?
Andy Mitchell Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON
Mr. Speaker, I want to express my appreciation for the hon. member's assistance when he accompanied me to one of the negotiations.
Canada has taken a very clear position on many of the issues that are part of these negotiations. As members may know, three separate pillars are being discussed, one on export competition. As I mentioned earlier, Canada had been very clear in saying that export subsidies must be eliminated by a date specific and we have promoted that the date be earlier rather than later.
On the whole issue of food aid, we are very supportive of legitimate food aid but we do not want to see it being used to replace commercial production. We have been very clear on that. In terms of domestic supports, the next pillar, we have been very clear on the ratio in that the largest providers eliminate it in greater proportion. We have been very clear on the U.S. proposal. Although we believe its suggestions on the AMS are reasonable suggestion, it needs to go further in terms of its overall cuts.
Although we appreciate the fact that they have suggested dropping the blue box from 5% to 2.5% of production, we have said that there needs to be some firm rules around that blue box so that it really is less trade distorting than the amber box. We have been very clear on that. We have been very clear that we want a robust tariff reduction formula so we can provide new access to Canadian producers. We have, at the same time, said that if that is going to happen we need to have a sensitive products regime, one that is sufficiently large enough to cover the needs of Canadians and that there needs to be flexibility in how individual countries deal with that.
As we move through the negotiations, we will use our best judgment as to how we make and deal with each specific issue as they come up. However we are very clear in our specific positions on the three pillars that I have outlined and in our overall position, which is to protect the interest of Canadian producers.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, having listened to the minister, I cannot help but think we are starting to see the same kind of sell out that we have been seeing with softwood lumber. I come from British Columbia and very clearly the government has done nothing to stand up for Canadian interests.
The minister congratulated himself for the sensitive product regime. I have heard this from the horse's mouth, his chief negotiator for the WTO. At that time, he estimated that 11% of our products were part of the sensitive product regime and the Americans were pressing for 1%. His chief negotiator said that the compromise would be somewhere in between. This indicates the minister is willing to sell out half of supply management or perhaps three-quarters of it. He will stand up for the sensitive product regime, but we will end up with a decimated supply management system.
Therefore, would the minister confirm to the House today that his government will not sign any agreement that has a negative impact on the supply management sector and on communities across the country which depend on it?
Andy Mitchell Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON
Mr. Speaker, we have a very serious topic about protecting Canadian producers and the hon. member chooses to throw rhetoric onto the House. That is his choice.
I am sure my negotiator said nothing about softwood lumber because he does not deal with that file. The hon. member's rhetoric about softwood lumber is absolutely wrong.
In terms of the American proposal on 1% of sensitive products, Canada clearly has rejected that and so too have most other countries. I will reiterate that we will work to an agreement that protects all of Canadian agriculture, including supply management.
Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to advise the House that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Macleod.
I rise today to speak to an issue that concerns all agricultural producers in our country. That is the critical importance of positive outcomes from the current Doha round of negotiations at the WTO. All sectors of our agricultural community are anxiously awaiting the results of this current round of talks. Enough cannot be said about how much is on the line for all sectors of agriculture in this round. In fact, all sectors of agriculture in the country deserve our support, and I mean every one of them.
I am pleased to be part of a caucus that is determined and committed to supporting and defending all Canadian farmers.
Why are we here today? The WTO negotiations are underway and producers in all sectors should feel secure that their concerns and priorities are being kept in mind by their government. For the record, I wish to make clear what the Conservative Party position is in this round of negotiations.
The Conservative Party of Canada supports the goals of the Doha round, those being substantial improvements in market access, the phasing out of export subsidies and substantial reductions in trade distorting domestic support. This position is affirmed in the Conservative Party's international trade policy, which reads:
In future rounds of trade negotiations, a Conservative Government will vigorously pursue reduction of international trade barriers and tariffs. A Conservative Government will pursue the elimination of trade-distorting government export subsidies within clearly established time limits. A Conservative Government will seek a clear definition of what constitutes an export subsidy.
The Conservative Party is also strongly in support of supply management. This support is reflected in our party policy, which states:
The Conservative Party of Canada believes it is in the best interest of Canada and Canadian agriculture that the industries under the protection of supply management remain viable. A Conservative government will support the goal of supply management to deliver a high quality product to consumers for a fair price with a reasonable return to the producer.
Furthermore, our leader, the member for Calgary Southwest, has expressed his strong support for supply management by signing a declaration in support of this system.
Producers under supply management should know that the Conservative Party will continue to stand by dairy, poultry and egg producers. Further to that, we also passed a resolution at our convention in Montreal that forms our party's guiding principles when dealing with agricultural issues. It forms the foundation for how we will deal with agriculture in the future. It states:
The Conservative Party views the agriculture industry to be a key strategic economic sector of Canada. We recognize that various regions of Canada and sectors of the industry hold competitive advantages in agricultural production. National agricultural policy will reflect our belief that one size does not fit all.
When it comes to that last bit about one size does not fit all, I will explain that. I am sure at some point or another members have been in one of the fancy hotels where they provide nice fluffy robes. Unfortunately, no matter whether it is the member and his or her spouse who check in, the hotel only provides one robe, but it says that one size fits all. On average, it probably does fit, but it may be too small for the member and too big for the spouse. Really it suits no one but on average it fits everyone.
This is our approach to Conservative agricultural policy. One size, one solution will not fit all. We have to recognize that as we develop solutions, they must be tailored to the needs of the various sectors of the agricultural industry. We will recognize that when we form government.
Canada's agriculture sectors are as diverse as Canada itself, and I believe our policy reflects that. It is in light of this diversity that we wish to work, and are trying to work, with our Bloc colleagues on an amendment to the motion that would reflect the wide diversity of agricultural interests in Canada and in Quebec.
The amendment we will be seeking is intended to protect producers under supply management, while seeking the enhancement of agricultural exports that are so needed by so many sectors in our country. I am not talking just about the grains and oilseeds, or the corn producers, or cattle producers or any others, I also am talking about those producers who operate under supply management.
In my riding of Haldimand--Norfolk I have been approached by many producers, many dairy farmers, who were very frustrated by the closure of the border to the U.S. as a result of BSE. Even though they are supply managed, they depend heavily on exports of their replacement heifers. There also is the issue of several other products from supply management that these producers want to export to increase their production and therefore their profitability.
When we talk about supporting the export-oriented agricultural producers, we include the dairy and the poultry producers, all those under supply management, in this category.
We know no one agricultural sector wants to profit at the expense of another and regardless of the sector, agricultural or other, Canadians deserve to be treated with respect by their government. They should have confidence that their representatives will stand tall for them and stay true to their commitments.
We will not be drawn into a discussion of the merits of one sector over another, but this whole thing boils down to accountability. The biggest challenge that supply management faces is the international pressure to reduce tariffs on all agricultural commodities. Without tariffs, Canada's supply managed industries are unable to predict the amount of imports and the whole system is disturbed. Predictability is a key component of supply management and that is managed through the board of controls, one of the three pillars of supply management.
During this round of talks at WTO, the Prime Minister and his Liberals are once again promising to protect supply management. Frankly, based on the record of the Liberals and their complete lack of accountability, as demonstrated most glaringly by the sponsorship scandal, I have to wonder if Canadian dairy, poultry and egg producers can trust them.
The last time around, Liberals sold out Canada's farmers by signing away article XI which protected the industry with quantitative import restrictions. These were replaced with tariffs which have proven to be a failure in protecting Canadian producers from international competition. A case in point is we are witnessing substitute products designed to get around the tariffs, displacing Canadian dairy products in the production of ice cream.
Again, I cannot reiterate the critical importance of ensuring that all Canadian agricultural producers are fairly represented at the WTO so as to ensure that their best interests are looked after.
My concern is, having spoken with a number of producers in Haldimand--Norfolk, they are very frustrated. It is true that they need more access, but our supply managed farmers have seen over the last 12 years various components in protection measurements of supply management chiseled away at, like water eroding a rock. It does not happen overnight, but a lot of damage can be done over time. They recognize now it is not a coincidence that this erosion has taken place over 12 years, the same amount of time the Liberal government has been in power. That is too much of a coincidence.
The Liberal government has been at the negotiations, conducting the negotiations and selling supply management out at those negotiations. It is one more example of the low regard with which the Liberal government holds agriculture across this country. We have seen it in many ways. We have seen them poke the U.S. in the eye with a stick on one issue and then ask for a favour on the BSE.
We were scheduled to have a debate this evening on the very real crisis in farm incomes, but it had to be cancelled at the request of the Liberal government.
These negotiations in the Doha round are important to all Canadians, not just our farmers. One in eight Canadian jobs is a result of agricultural production. That is how important this is.
Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC
Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the hon. member's speech.
We are just a few weeks away from the WTO negotiations, in Hong Kong. There is a gloomy feeling among producers in my riding, in Quebec and in Canada. Supply management, which is a great system for the marketing of agricultural products such as milk, eggs and poultry, is being threatened. Right now, producers do not have confidence in this government.
Back home, the president of the UPA is worried. He said:
On the eve of the renewal of the Canadian negotiators' mandate, if what is currently on the WTO table is to be agreed to—that being the lowering of over-quota tariffs and increased access to our milk, egg and poultry markets—this would be a death sentence for any productions that are under supply management”.
My question is for the hon. member. The latest American proposal during the negotiations is that what are known as sensitive products in the WTO negotiations not be accessible to more than 1% of the tariff lines. If that measure is implemented, 80% of the supply managed products would be threatened.
What does the Conservative member think of the government's position, which has not been openly critical of the American proposal?
Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON
Mr. Speaker, we have to make sure that we have all the details and that we do not just look at one aspect of the negotiations.
I had the opportunity to be involved in a number of different negotiations in my career prior to entering this House. We must always keep the perspective of the big picture. We must pay attention to the details but look at the whole picture. If we talk about one issue like this in isolation, we are not considering the broader picture. We have to make sure that we look at the whole picture; otherwise, we would just be chiselling away at ourselves. This is just common sense in any negotiation.
To discuss any one particular phase, as the hon. member is asking me to do, would be irresponsible without looking at what else is happening in terms of market access that is being granted to us and what our counterparts in Europe and the U.S. would be doing. Already over the last 12 years we have accelerated the decrease in our tariffs whereas they have not kept up. We have to make sure that Europe and the U.S. accelerate their timelines to catch up with us.