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

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson St. Croix—Belleisle, NB

Mr. Speaker, as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation at the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance Conference entitled “The Canadian/U.S. Border--A Unified Focus” held from September 11-13 in Washington, D.C.

I am also pleased to present to the House a report, in both official languages, with respect to the meeting that was held in Mobile, Alabama from July 30 to August 3 .

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

John Williams Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts concerning Chapter 3, Passport Office — Passport Services, of the April 2005 report of the Auditor General of Canada.

In accordance with Standing Order 109, your committee requests a government response within 120 days.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The committee has studied Bill C-71, an act respecting the regulation of commercial and industrial undertakings on reserve lands and has agreed to report it without amendment.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

November 22nd, 2005 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure this morning to present a petition from constituents in New Brunswick and other areas who call upon the Government of Canada to assert its sovereign right and to declare no rights of passage for LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage based on Canadian law and the precedent set in 1976 when oil tankers were refused passage.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson St. Croix—Belleisle, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition respecting the same issue, that is the passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage. We have had many of these petitions presented by many members in the House.

The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to say no to the passage of LNG tankers through Head Harbour Passage for a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal on the American side of Passamoquoddy Bay.

The petitioners are saying that this passage is much too dangerous and it would put at risk our environment, our citizens and our economy. They are asking the Government of Canada to do as it did in 1976 and say no to the passage of those very dangerous ships.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present two petitions this morning from the citizens of Calgary. The first is in relation to the incidence of drug facilitated sexual assaults which occur on school campuses and the petitioners therefore call for immediate action to address this issue.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is with regard to the memory of the slain RCMP officers and the petitioners ask Parliament to withdraw Bill C-17, the legislation designed to decriminalize the possession and use of marijuana.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Thompson St. Croix—Belleisle, NB

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, members in this place are only entitled to four questions on the order paper and I think I am up to the maximum.

The point I am making is that the government does have its 45 day period to answer these and I have requested an answer within 45 days. Some of the questions that I have on the order paper could be answered by the Government of Canada today. We need that information to do our jobs for our constituents. There is no reason the government could not provide those answers today. I know the parliamentary secretary will get on his feet and explain why it will not answer but the truth is that this is a routine excuse that the government always uses.

I am asking the parliamentary secretary to put some pressure on the government to get the questions answered so we can do our job to hold the government's feet to the fire on some very important issues.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Mr. Speaker, the member for New Brunswick Southwest has, on a number of occasions, raised the issue of the timeliness of answers.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you are very familiar with our Standing Orders. Perhaps the Speaker had, at some point, suggested to the member for New Brunswick Southwest that the solution to his constant frustration here today should not be used on the House of Commons' time but maybe he should go to the procedure and House affairs committee and see if there is an interest in reducing the 45 day period to answer questions.

Two of the questions asked by the member for New Brunswick Southwest were received on October 27 and one was received on November 1. Those answers will be provided by December 10 and 15, respectively.

The member regularly uses this occasion to bring up what is clearly a very important issue, and I personally have a lot of sympathy for this issue, but this is not the forum and perhaps you could remind the member of that, Mr. Speaker.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would remind all members of the House that it is their privilege to contact the procedure and House affairs committee and put something forward. Perhaps that committee would choose to address that. However I do not believe there is a point of order here so much as perhaps a point of information.

Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

moved:

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.

Mr. Speaker, today is a great day for the farming community and particularly for the defence of what Quebec holds dear, namely supply management.

I will read the motion again, although you have done a great job of it—and I thank you for that—because I want to stress how important this is. I want those listening to us to clearly understand what today's opposition motion is all about. It reads:

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.

It is no great mystery. It is important to understand why the House is considering this matter today, on this opposition day: the messages that the Liberal government is sending about protecting supply management are serious cause for concern.

First, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, then the Minister of International Trade and also Canada's chief negotiator are sending perturbing messages, just before the sixth WTO ministerial conference, which will take place in Hong Kong from December 13 to 18.

So there are perturbing messages, and not for the first time either. In February 1992—so this is nothing new—40,000 farmers in Canada converged on Parliament Hill to stop the government from giving up its quotas under article XI of the GATT.

There was already a sense that the federal government's position on this was weakening. The Liberals were in the opposition at the time. This is not the first time that they have made us such promises. My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot said that he was here during the protest. He was among the 40,000 people who protested in order to defend this system. The Liberals, who formed the opposition at the time, had promised never to sign the agreement if article XI, which allowed a country to limit access to its market, was repealed. It was a wonderful promise, but it was not kept. So this is not the first time. As a matter of fact, after being elected in 1993, the Liberals did the same thing with this promise that they did with their promise to abolish the GST. They simply did not keep it. What did they do in 1994? They signed the agreement. This is an outrage, once again.

Let us come a bit closer to where we are now. In Cancun, in 2003, cabinet was given a secret brief. This brief proved that the federal government was preparing once again to abandon supply management. Here is an excerpt from this brief to prove what I am saying:

“The problem:—the document states— 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—I will say more on this a little later—and certain service sectors will probably object to any changes that would lead to increased foreign competition.”

This is a French translation of the text. In fact, the Council of Canadians disclosed this document that was meant for cabinet. It was all these signs that made us say that the Canadian government and the negotiators were quite prepared to sacrifice important elements of the Canadian but especially the Quebec agricultural sector for possible market openings.

History is repeating itself. That is why we are in this House today. The Bloc Québécois will continue to do what it has always done and that is to defend the interests of Quebec and the interests of the agricultural sector in particular.

The speeches by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister of International Trade and Canada's chief negotiator, as I was saying earlier, show that they are questioning their commitments to the unequivocal protection of supply management.

The ministers' commitments are a lot less firm today than they were in their speeches. In his responses to Bloc Québécois questions in the House, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food refuses to make a firm commitment to protect our marketing system and to get fair trade rules for agricultural products. The Minister of International Trade was quite pleased with the U.S. proposal to the WTO.

This proposal, and that of the European Union, it must be pointed out, imperil the supply management system. According to these proposals, Canada ought to cut its customs tariffs, while substantially increasing imports of milk, poultry and eggs. That is where we stand, and this is still a matter of interest for the 147 WTO member countries. Two powers, that is the EU and the U.S., want only one thing: to invade others' markets. It is not a matter of setting up extreme protectionist measures, but we do have to protect the way we have chosen to feed our population

As I have said from the start, the Liberal government's position is a source of great concern, and examples in support of that have just been given. While the U.S and the EU, which heavily subsidize their agriculture, can reduce their tariffs with no problem and thereby protect their markets, this is not the case for supply managed products. The federal government is trying to please the countries that wish to see the end of supply management and the opening up of our borders.

On the other hand, the Government of Quebec has a full understanding of the importance of this issue. Very recently, just November 16, all parties in the National Assembly adopted a motion unanimously. That motion was introduced by the Quebec Minister of Agriculture, a Liberal, but the Parti Québécois and the ADQ also voted in favour. It reads as follows:

That, with respect to the negotiations at the World Trade Organization, the National Assembly reiterate its complete support of supply management, an agricultural product marketing model that is fair to consumers, taxpayers, processors, and the producers whose livelihood depends on it; that it ensure that the federal government maintains its support of the current supply management system; and that the National Assembly call upon the federal government to give its negotiators a mandate that will ensure, at the end of the current round of negotiations, that Canada obtains results that ensure that the supply managed sectors are subject to no reduction in over-quota tariffs and no increase in tariff quotas.

I think that is clear. Here, the Government of Quebec is calling for what the Bloc Québécois has been calling for as well for a long time. It strengthens the position of the Canadian negotiators to know they have the support of a government with a very clear understanding of the issues currently surrounding supply management.

Let us also not forget that the Bloc Québécois motion presented on April 15 by the hon. member for Montcalm was unanimously passed. That motion provided that “in the current World Trade Organization negotiations, the government should not agree to any concession that might weaken collective marketing strategies or the supply management system”.

So, we are active in the protection of those interests that are important to us.

On October 23, a number of my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I participated in a rally, along with over 1,000 people in Montreal who were asking that the supply management system be protected. On that occasion, several prominent public figures expressed their support to agricultural producers. This was an extraordinary show of solidarity that was well worth witnessing. In fact, there is a reason why this march was held in the streets of Montreal. It was to make consumers, among others, aware of this issue. Needless to say, it is not in Montreal that the largest herds of cattle are to be found. However, people who buy their dairy products, their eggs or their poultry meat at a very reasonable price, thanks to the supply management system, may not realize what looms ahead, should the system be abandoned during the current negotiations at the WTO. Globalization may seem very far away or complex, but people are increasingly aware of what is going on.

If, some day, we find, for example, milk from Australia or New Zealand on our shelves, there is no guarantee that prices will be similar to those that are currently in effect under the supply management system. The government must very careful in making decisions, so that we do not, some day, become dependent for our food. After all, the way we feed ourselves is rather important in our lives. Therefore, we must avoid a situation whereby, some day, our food would come from other countries, market prices would fluctuate and consumers would have a hard time buying even just a litre of milk.

One must be very careful on this subject. When we were marching in the street, the people clearly understood why we were doing it. I know that we have the support of the entire population of Quebec on this subject.

I was also part of a cross-Quebec tour with two colleagues and the vice-president of the Bloc Québécois. This tour was about occupancy of the land in the context of globalization. We went everywhere—central Quebec, in my own riding where I met with people, the Gaspé Peninsula, Montérégie and Abitibi-Témiscamingue. We did a tour of Quebec, a tour which we intend to repeat after the next election campaign. The farmers were there and everyone was clear on this subject. They sent us a clear message for the federal government, the message that Canada must accept no compromise on the supply management system. Everywhere this was the unanimous verdict. All the people we met with were most definite about it. There was no question of touching a single strand of the supply management system. If that is not a clear message, I wonder what it will take for the government to understand the issue we are faced with today.

What I would like to know is whether the federal government has taken the trouble to listen to this message. Today we are going to have some fairly clear responses on this subject. This message has been sent by the 30,000 members of GO5—Coalition for a Fair Farming Model, Supply Management—as well as by its English Canadian counterpart, SM-5, the Supply Management Five, by the UPA, the Quebec Union of Agricultural Producers, by the Government of Quebec, as I was saying earlier, which tabled a unanimous motion on November 16, and by all the parties of the National Assembly as well as the Bloc Québécois.

This entire coalition is aware that we are now in a critical time for agriculture, particularly for Quebec agriculture as we know it.

We are not crying wolf. Many people are now standing up to send a cry of alarm to the federal government, which will be gone very soon. It is now November 22. From December 13 to 18 in Hong Kong, it will be time for the federal government to demonstrate that it is capable of standing up. That is what we ask of it. That is the mandate we give it and it will have our support if it does so.

The message it is sending us is that it is already prepared to cave in. That is why we want to have this opposition day today, so that the government, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, can rise and tell us that it has finally heard the message, that it will stand up and go to the WTO with this clear mandate not to touch the supply management system.

The danger of genuflecting to the WTO is that Canada will compromise its capacity to feed itself with what it produces. It will jeopardize our agricultural values and methods, which are on more on a family scale. That is what is happening. What we find in certain countries is mega-industrial agriculture. We need look no further than our neighbours to the south, with their mega-farms that are major industries. It is a choice. I make no judgment on the way that others do things. We have a different sort of farming here.

Supply management, moreover, is not even a subsidy. In the example I cited a moment ago, in the United States they subsidize farm production with Farm Bills and all kinds of outright subsidies which add up to billions of dollars. That is not the case here. I do not see why other countries would see fit to ask us to make concessions over a system which is not a subsidy. They have some work to do in the United States, notwithstanding the proposal they presented to convince us that they are going to abolish their farm subsidies.

There are some very interesting statistics on Quebec. There are 14,600 agricultural producers subject to supply management, whose production is worth at least $2.2 billion, and who provide employment, directly or indirectly, for over 62,000 people. That accounts for 40% of Quebec’s gross farm income. All these people demand that the Government of Canada take a firm position.

If what I have just described were to come about one day, Quebec’s agriculture would collapse, it is that simple. I am also talking about all the agricultural producers in Canada who are subject to supply management and whom the government, of course, also has an obligation to protect.

I am asking this House and the federal government to listen to this clear message by supporting our motion. If the government refuses, the consequences will be very serious.

I was speaking previously about subsidies and I wanted to stress this: several countries are attacking the supply management system for no reason. These are not subsidies and moreover, there is room to manoeuvre.

There is a framework agreement which dates from 2004 and the federal government knows that there is already access to an average of 5% of the market. If one takes all the types of produce subject to supply management: namely milk, poultry and eggs, there is a 5% window in which other countries can sell their produce. Canada currently imports 6% of the dairy products consumed here, 5% of the eggs and 5% of the turkey, 7.5% of the chicken and 21% of the hatching eggs sold. By comparison, again taking the example of the United States, they give only 2.75% access for dairy products, and Europe allows a mere 0.5% access for poultry. Canada is one of the few countries in the WTO to open 5% of its market for each product under supply management. We thus already have a good line of defence for the Canadian government to say to other countries that our market is not totally closed, that it even compares advantageously to the United States and Europe, if only someone would pay attention to the figures I have just outlined.

I have the framework agreement here in my hand, and it contains some very interesting provisions on treatment. Section 32 talks about the principle of substantial improvement that will apply to each product, while section 33 states, “'Substantial improvement’ will be achieved through combinations of tariff quota commitments and tariff reductions applying to each product. However, balance in this negotiation will be found only if the final negotiated result also reflects the sensitivity of the product concerned”. Finally, section 34 reads as follows:

Some MFN-based tariff quota expansion will be required for all such products. A base for such an expansion will be established, taking account of coherent and equitable criteria to be developed in the negotiations. In order not to undermine the objective of the tiered approach, for all such products, MFN-based tariff quota expansion will be provided under specific rules to be negotiated taking into account deviations from the tariff formula.

That is already in the framework agreement on sensitive products. I fail to see where there might be a problem of any kind in protecting our system as it currently exists.

I will conclude by reiterating what I said about the serious consequences if the government drops this protection that assures us stable incomes and also ensures that consumers pay a fair price. If it were to decline to support this motion today, it would be abandoning the Canadian agriculture industry outright, just as it has abandoned the regions since it came to power. It has also abandoned the textile industry, and I know a thing or two about that. It is appalling what we have had to deal with in my region in this regard, even though we have known for a decade what was going to happen on January 1, 2005, with the elimination of quotas.

There may be laughter on the government side, but that is a fact. Talk to people in Huntingdon and ask them what they find funny about what has happened in the textile industry. This government also abandoned the garment industry and the furniture industry, which I can talk about at length. Globalization led to the closing of a Shermag plant in Victoriaville.

Everything is a mess in this government. The government would at least have a chance to get back on track if it protected our agriculture industry. We are going to give it that chance. It has also abandoned the unemployed, older workers and the list goes on. It ought to make amends today.

I can say in closing that a sovereign Quebec will have a place at the bargaining table, that it will be at the WTO and will strongly defend its agriculture industry. Because we are stuck with Canada in the meantime and the Government of Canada is the only government able to defend us, we call on the government to stand up and do it. It has to be firm and not abandon our farmers.

Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment for the member. I could have agreed with nearly everything he said in most of his speech, at least for the first 10 or 15 minutes. It goes without saying that, due to his comments in the last 4 or 5 minutes, I and most Canadians think less highly of his speech. But never mind all that.

I want to start by saying that I support this motion.

Last week, I wrote a letter to the government House leader. This letter was co-signed by the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, who chairs my party's rural caucus, and the member for Kitchener—Conestoga, who chairs the dairy caucus. I myself chair the group of MPs interested in the poultry industry. The purpose of this letter was to ask for such a debate, which was set to take place this evening. As we now know, in light of today's debate, this evening's debate has been abandoned.

Here is my problem with what is happening. I must admit, I had hoped to be among the members going to Hong Kong. I think that members on both sides of the House were preparing to go too.

We are in a situation where, in a few days, the government could be defeated, causing an election during the holidays. There is no doubt that having this happen in the midst of these negotiations unnecessarily weakens our position. There is also no doubt that parliamentarians scheduled to attend will not be able to do so, including those who, like me, are about to retire. Usually, members about to retire are not sent to represent Canada, although I would be willing to go anyway.

Although I support his motion, would the member not agree with me that the timing—since his party is preparing to force an election in the midst of these negotiations where we all need to work together to defend the interests of Canada's agricultural industry— and the message he and his party are sending are contradictory? On one hand, they support farmers, but on the other, they are pulling the rug out from under the very government that is trying to defend those farmers. The member's statements are somewhat contradictory.