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 producers.
- 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
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the comments from the Conservative Party's agriculture critic. She put forward a very impassioned defence of supply management. This is important, because in this House we need to stand four-square. All four corners of this House need to support supply management institutions and the communities across the country that depend on them.
She signed a letter in July 2005 which said something quite different. I will read it into the record:
It is absolutely not the position of the Conservative Party that the Government of Canada leave the WTO negotiations if over quota tariffs on sensitive products are reduced.
She concludes her letter by saying:
Again, I believe it would be irresponsible for Canada's negotiators to walk away from the WTO negotiations.
Here we have a situation where we know the Liberal government is prepared to at least sell out half of supply management, if not three-quarters or four-fifths, and the Conservative Party was saying, at least in the summer, that it would not stop that process of selling out half, three-quarters or 80% of our supply management sectors.
I am asking the hon. member which is the Conservative Party's position, what she said today in an impassioned defence of supply management, or what she said in July?
Diane Finley Haldimand—Norfolk, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have heard of trade distortion, but that was a classic example that really set a new record.
What I said in July in the letter was perfectly consistent. I do not understand how the hon. member across the way would pretend to defend supply management if he were to walk away from the table, which is what he is suggesting I should do. If we are going to protect people in negotiations, we have to be at the table. We cannot defend them by walking away, because who would be there to defend their interests? No one. It is in everybody's best interests to remain at the table and continue with the negotiations, not to take a hard-line position, throw a hissy fit and walk out. That will not accomplish anything for anyone. For the hon. member to suggest otherwise indicates that he does not understand the sophistication of this process.
Ted Menzies Macleod, AB
Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge my hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska for bringing forward this motion. I have had the privilege of travelling with the member and recognize his understanding of the agricultural issues.
It is a great opportunity for us to rise in the House and represent our constituents. Many of my constituents are farmers, as am I.
I have some concerns with how narrowly focused the motion is. It certainly speaks to one sector of agriculture, but we need to recognize that there is more than one sector of agriculture in Canada. Despite the rhetoric we are hearing from the other side, the Conservative Party is very adamantly supporting supply management, as it is supporting all sectors of agriculture. In fact, 24 of the members from this side of the House are farmers themselves. They do not just represent rural ridings, they are farmers themselves. I think we understand of what we speak.
As we approach the federal election campaign, and we all recognize there is one soon to be upon us, I would like to contrast the ambitious Conservative approach to agriculture and trade policy to the utter failure shown by the Liberal government on trade and agriculture.
The motion should be broadened, as I have mentioned, to show the government's failures not just regarding supply management, but also regarding our export oriented sectors. The grains and oilseeds sector, beef and value added products have been left completely out of the motion.
The Government of Canada should reiterate its support for supply management. We have heard a bit of the rhetoric, but I am not sure that can be classified as solid support for this sector.
The Government of Canada must ensure sufficient flexibility to retain supply managed production after the conclusion of the current WTO round. The government must also recognize that nearly 90% of Canadian agricultural producers rely on exports. The Government of Canada must mandate our WTO negotiators to ensure the elimination of export subsidies by a specific end date and ensure substantial reduction of trade-distorting domestic support under clear definitions of what constitutes a subsidy. We must get clear rules for tariff rate quota administration, with the goal of increasing clear market access for Canadian agriculture products in foreign markets.
The Liberal government has not supported supply management. It has not supported any sector of the farming community. Liberal support has resulted in probably the largest farm crisis that we have faced in decades. It is not much to be proud of.
Liberal support has resulted in repeated trade challenges from our closest trading partners. With this kind of Liberal support, the farm industry could probably do quite well without it.
There are politics in all things, according to the Minister of Agriculture, but farmers cannot afford to wait while the Liberal government gives out untendered contracts to the likes of David Herle so he can poll to find out what international trade policy might win the Liberals the most votes.
It is clear that the Liberal government is not up to the job any more. The Liberals have lost the moral authority to govern and we on this side are ready to take up the reins of government and bring policy back to the best interests of Canadians.
Farmers, agri-business and average Canadians just are not buying the Liberal hype any more. They see through the Liberal threats and they are ready for change. They will not accept the crass politicking from the Minister of International Trade, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of International Cooperation having threatened Canada's farmers, non-governmental organizations and business communities by saying they will not attend the WTO meetings in Hong Kong in December. That is unacceptable.
The Conservative Party stands four-square behind Canada's farmers. We have members such as myself who have actually attended ministerial meetings before. I was a farmer representing the agricultural industry at the Seattle trade talks in 1999 and again in Cancun in 2003. That of course was before I was a member of the House. We have actually made an effort to talk to other countries. We have tried to build bridges with no backup from the agriculture minister.
On this side of the House we have the experience and commitment to negotiate free trade agreements that benefit, not harm, Canadian agriculture. A Conservative government would not threaten to boycott WTO meetings for partisan political gain. The Liberal government has consistently played the interests of Canadian farmers against each other to achieve its objectives.
The Conservative Party does not believe that consulting our trade partners is an acceptable negotiating ploy. The Conservative Party of Canada would mandate Canadian negotiators to table proposals at the WTO, not hang around simply on the margins hoping to ride on someone else's coattails.
The Conservative Party of Canada is committed to making Canada a good faith broker on the international stage. According to former Liberal trade ministers and negotiators, it is embarrassing to see how little Canada counts at the WTO. According to former Canadian trade negotiator Bill Dymond, Canada has become essentially marginalized.
It took 12 years of Liberal government to destroy what hard-working Canadians have achieved in almost 150 years. It is time to stand up for Canada. That means it is time for a Conservative government.
The Liberal government has been in power for over 12 years. Farm incomes have dropped all the while. Trade irritants have grown and have been grossly mismanaged by the Liberal government. Producers in agri-business have rejected the Liberal farm support programs, have questioned the Liberals' lack of trade vision, and have demanded real action on policy reform. After over 12 years, things are just worse for everyone. Canada needs a Conservative government to clean up this mess.
Because the Minister of Agriculture refused to come to the House of Commons on November 22 and account for Canada's farm income crisis, Parliament is unable to debate what solutions might be available for this crisis.
The Minister of Agriculture voted against a Conservative motion to drop the deposits on the CAIS program. We were willing to accept that this may work, but the minister, recognizing its failure, would not support a motion because it did not come from his side of the House. The Minister of Agriculture voted against a Conservative motion to return the lands appropriated for Mirabel airport to Quebec farmers.
Canadian farmers have suffered from poor ministerial representation at WTO negotiations. An example of the Liberals shirking their duties to Canadian farmers was the absence of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of International Trade at the mini ministerial meeting in Kenya on March 2 to 4 of this year. At this meeting member countries discussed their commitments to the Doha round of the WTO. The international trade minister and agriculture and agri-food minister were not at the meeting because they were attending a Liberal convention. Under the rules of the mini ministerial meeting, without a minister present, no other representatives of that country are allowed to speak officially.
The Liberals have done a poor job of showing other countries that Canada's supply managed sectors ought to be exempt from WTO negotiations. The proof is that many other countries believe that supply management is purely a government subsidy program when in fact it is not.
These ministers' poor showing at the WTO imperils the livelihoods of all farmers. Canada is the third largest agricultural exporter in the world. Given that the two ministers have given mixed messages at the WTO and member countries, it is not surprising that Canada is losing its credibility among WTO countries.
A former Liberal international trade minister, Roy MacLaren, went on the record in the Globe and Mail on November 8 by saying, “Canada has mysteriously disappeared from the global trade arena”. He also said:
Canada's current policy of ambivalence--offering little in terms of liberalization, free-riding on what others negotiate, and implicitly protecting our preferential access to the U.S. market by not pushing for an ambitious global deal--may buy short-term political peace.
I leave members with one final question: do we not all deserve better than the Liberal government has given us?
Wayne Easter Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)
Mr. Speaker, what a ridiculous rant and so far off today's motion. Talking about standing up for Canadian farmers, this government and this minister have stood up for Canadian farmers consistently inclusive of supply management.
That is why the payments to Canadian farmers have never been higher in Canadian history. The member opposite knows full well that the real reason why commodity prices remain so low is as a result of the global situation that exists out there. Both the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have negotiated extensively and put Canada on the map. In fact, they punched far above their weight in terms of those negotiations.
However, the party opposite talks about undermining the credibility of a government and its members are trying to defeat the government in the House when the most important international trade negotiations ever are taking place. We would not have a minister there with the confidence of the Canadian people. That party is undermining our ability to do our job at the WTO.
I have a question on the specifics of the motion today. This was the policy of the party opposite in May 2002. It stated:
We will ensure that any agreement which impacts Supply Management gives our producers guaranteed access to foreign markets, and that there will be a significant transition period in any move towards a market-driven environment.
That was the policy as of May 2002. Is that still that party's position?
Ted Menzies Macleod, AB
Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy questions from my hon. colleague on the other side of the House. I know that he has a great deal of agricultural experience, growing potatoes in Prince Edward Island, and representing the socialist side of agriculture that does not believe that there is a future in agriculture without protection.
The rest of us understand that we are a trading nation and that the future of Canada being able to compete on an international scale is providing opportunities for those farmers, opportunities that market access can and will be negotiated in Hong Kong whether or not our agriculture minister is there. There is no reason on earth why our agriculture minister, our trade minister, and our Minister of International Cooperation cannot be in Hong Kong. The precedent has been set.
The Prime Minister travelled to a G-7 conference in the middle of the last election. I would ask any hon. member in the House to give me a reason why this meeting in Hong Kong is not important enough for the government to defend not only agriculture but all industries in this country? If the Liberals are not willing to stand up for Canadian industries, they better not expect to ever govern again.
Committees of the House
Raymond Simard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the recorded division scheduled to take place later today on the motion to concur in the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I believe that you would find unanimous consent to the following motion: I move:
That the motion to concur in the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, be deemed carried on division.
Committees of the House
The Deputy Speaker
Is there unanimous consent?
Committees of the House
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to)
The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Jeff Watson Essex, ON
Mr. Speaker, in talking with producers in my riding and supply managed sectors, there is growing anxiety and it has been happening over the past decade under the Liberal government's rule. Producers are looking at Hong Kong and quite frankly, it is make it or break it for their future right now.
We have a minister who does not show up at a mini-ministerial meeting. Instead, he was at a Liberal convention. What does that speak about the government's priorities in protecting supply managed sectors?
My hon. colleague was in my riding not that long ago to talk to producers, to talk to supply managed producers, and I have this question for him. Is it any cold comfort that the government is representing us at the WTO for them, when instead the Liberals prefer going to conventions instead of to meetings to talk about what is going to happen in Hong Kong?
Ted Menzies Macleod, AB
Mr. Speaker, I would like to publically acknowledge the warm reception I received when I visited with some of the farmers that the hon. member represents. Certainly, we heard some concerns from corn producers who are looking at the government and asking what it is doing to stop the dumping of U.S. corn that has dropped prices incredibly low. We met with dairy farmers and we reassured them of the strength in this caucus on this side of the House that will stand up, even if those ministers claim they cannot go to defend the interest of supply management. We would be proud to do that.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of the NDP caucus on this motion by the hon. for Richmond—Arthabaska. It really strikes to the very heart of both the agricultural crisis that we are currently living through and the government's repeated sellout of Canadian interests.
I would like to begin by reading for the record the motion itself:
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.
This is an important point because the motion calls for, and we will be supporting the motion in the House, full protection for the supply management sector. There are no ifs, ands or buts. It calls for full protection for the communities from coast to coast that depend on supply management to provide that equitable and fair income to which the motion refers.
We have heard in just the last few minutes both the Liberal Party position and the Conservative Party position. When I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food directly whether he would refuse to sign any agreement that would diminish our supply management sector and hurt communities from coast to coast, he did not answer. He did not for one very good reason because he is prepared, as is the rest of his government, to sell out supply management.
As the negotiator for the WTO clearly indicated in a briefing a few weeks ago, 11% of our products are in the sensitive product regime. The Americans are demanding that it be reduced to a ceiling of 1% and the negotiator felt that the compromise would be somewhere in between.
We see very clearly from the negotiator, and the motion refers to a solid mandate that would be given to the negotiator, that the figure is going somewhere between 1% and 11%. What that percentage will be, we do not know. Is he prepared on behalf of the government to sell out 50% of our supply management sector? We do not know. Is he prepared to sell out 75% of our supply management sector? We do not know that either. Is it 90% of our supply management sector that will be gone after these negotiations?
The truth is that we do not know how much of our supply management will be sold out. We do know that the negotiator and the government are prepared to sell out a huge chunk of it. We know that there will be enormous ramifications in communities from coast to coast that depend on our supply management institutions and expect our government to stand up for those institutions.
I will be coming back later on to the whole issue of the repeated sellouts of the Liberal government. However, it is important to note a couple of comments that the trade minister made in a recent interview a few weeks ago on other aspects of essential parts of Canada's economic institutions that support communities from coast to coast.
In an interview with the National Post , the international trade minister, in referring to the fact that the Americans are coming after the Canadian Wheat Board, said, almost bragging, that we have made concessions to the Americans with respect to the financing of the Canadian Wheat Board and in respect to underwriting losses.
He was asked if he could articulate our position on softwood and energy, if there was a linkage or not? He said very clearly that there was no linkage. We have an international trade minister who has signalled not only with supply management but obviously with the Wheat Board, and obviously with NAFTA, and the privileged and proportional access to our energy resources that we continue to give even though we no longer have a functioning dispute settlement mechanism, that the government's intent is to sell out again. We have a very clear indication from this Liberal government that it is ready to sell out a huge chunk of supply management.
How many communities would be impacted? How many farmers would be shut down? We do not know at this point. It is all in the fog. However, very clearly, the intent is there. The negotiator is going with the intent to sell out supply management and this government, coming back from Hong Kong, will try to spin it by saying it saved 4%, or it saved 5%, or it saved 6%, or 2% of supply management and in some way claim that as a victory. That is completely unacceptable.
With this parliamentary motion, that we hope would be adopted with support from all four corners of the House, we would hope to move forward, so that the negotiator understands that he is not to sell out any portion of supply management institutions that maintain our communities from coast to coast.
The next question should be: If the Liberal government is prepared to sell out supply management, what are the Conservatives prepared to do?
We had an answer from its agriculture critic just a few minutes ago in this House. Indeed, even though the Conservatives are ready to make the speeches in the House saying that they support supply management in principle, very clearly, the Conservative Party, as it stated clearly and concisely this summer, is prepared to allow our supply management institutions to be gutted and it will stay at the table and sign whatever agreement is put forward.
With the Liberals and the Conservatives both ready to sell out a significant proportion of our supply management institutions, it appears, certainly outside Quebec, that there is only one party standing up for the communities from coast to coast that depend on supply management, and that is sad.
I am hoping the Conservatives will adjust their fire, will support the motion, and will speak very clearly that they will not sign a WTO agreement that guts our supply management institutions. The Liberals have clearly signalled that is where they are going.
The Conservatives are going to have to change their statements and change their attitudes if they hope to keep seats in rural Canada because, as we know, this is a significant issue. Rural Canada will not accept half measures, will not accept half of the gutting of supply management, and will not accept a three-quarters gutting of supply management.
Rural Canada will accept complete protection of our supply management institutions and will not support a government or a party that will simply allow those institutions to be gutted. That is the essential issue that we are talking about today. We are talking about the fundamental support for supply management.
Why would we support supply management? We know fully that communities from coast to coast depend on it. We are talking about supply managed industries that add a net $12.3 billion to our GDP. Why this government would mess with that formula is beyond me, but very clearly, it has signalled the intent to do that.
We are talking about supply managed industries that support $39 billion of economic activity and the government, like some drunken sailor on shore leave, is ready to gamble all that at the WTO in Hong Kong, ready to sell out and gut what is an essential part of rural Canada and an essential part of the Canadian economy.
Our supply management industries, as well, sustain more than 214,000 jobs: 75,000 on the farms, almost 48,000 in farm supplies, and over 91,000 in the processing sector. A total of over 214,000 jobs dependent on our supply managed industry. We are talking about one out of every five jobs in Canada's food industry.
When we are talking about something that plays an essential role in the Canadian economy why would the government be prepared to sell off a huge chunk and gut our supply managed sector?
It is important to note that it is not just Canadians who have jobs and rural communities from coast to coast that benefit from the supply managed sector. It is also consumers who benefit. One of the recent surveys done by the Dairy Farmers of Canada reveals that Canadian consumers pay 6.5% less for a nutritional basket of dairy products in Canada than for the same basket in the United States. It is a very important point. Consumers in Canada benefit from our supply managed sector as well.
We are not just talking about the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on it, the thousands of farms and communities from coast to coast that depend on the supply managed sector, we are also talking about the benefit to Canadian consumers, this distinct structure that Canadians have which other countries would like to emulate, which I will come back to later in my presentation. This distinct sector benefits consumers as well as farmers and it helps supply hundreds of thousands of jobs to the Canadian economy.
We are talking about something that is fundamental to rural Canada. It is extremely important for the Canadian economy. I am absolutely flabbergasted by the fact that the government is prepared to auction off this critical and vital sector of the Canadian economy.
Last month, Jean-Robert Sansfaçon wrote an article in Le Devoir , in which he mentioned the benefits of the supply management system. He said:
Because of the higher costs generated by maintaining reasonable size farms in a rigorous climate such as ours—
Such as the climate with which we are very familiar in Canada.
—the supply management system adequately meets our needs, while ensuring decent revenues to producers. To accept to abolish this system and replace it with a free trade initiative would result in thousands of farms being abandoned, and in thousands of others being consolidated under large size operations, and we would all lose. Nothing justifies such a dismantlement of the agricultural sector, which is already very affected by anarchic modernism, and the hog industry is a sad example of that.
We are talking about something that benefits rural Canada, all of Quebec, western Canada, northern Ontario, Atlantic Canada and the whole country. Our communities all depend on this vital and critical sector.
Why would the government be ready to sell out? The chief negotiator has clearly signalled that the government is ready to sell out most, if not all. It has certainly drawn the line at 1% or 1.5%, so it would be conserving some sort of symbolic presence in supply management.
This has been the tendency of the government over the last 10 years. We have seen this with softwood lumber. In August the dispute settlement mechanism was arbitrarily ripped up by George Bush. Since then, the government has done nothing, albeit, make one phone call.
We have heard lots of speeches about getting tough and doing something, but that has been for domestic consumption only. We have not seen one concrete action by the government to bring resolution to this and to bring back the now $5.5 billion that is sitting partially in Washington because of the Byrd amendment, but as we know, millions of dollars have been paid out under the Byrd amendment that we have lost forever.
The government did not recall Parliament early, even though we called very clearly for that action to occur. The government continues to negotiate concessions under NAFTA-plus in such key areas as food safety and air safety. The government is negotiating right now with the Bush administration to lower our standards to American ones. We wonder why the Bush administration does not take the government seriously when it is negotiating other concessions.
The government continues to give proportional and privileged access to our energy resources. We are the only country in the world that provides a foreign country a supply of energy before Canadians have the right to access that and, as we know, in the event of a national shortage, a national emergency, we still have to ship most of our energy supplies across the border to the United States in the framework of NAFTA.
We have proportional and privileged access on energy continued to be granted to the Bush administration at the same time as the reason we granted that proportional and privileged access, which was to have a dispute settlement mechanism that would actually be binding, no longer exists. The dispute settlement mechanism has been arbitrarily ripped up by the Bush administration. The government has done nothing about that and continues to provide proportional and privileged access to energy resources that are the birthright of Canadians but they are sent abroad to the United States.
As we saw last week, the government allowed a Bush bagman, Richard Kinder, to purchase Terasen Inc., the most important utility in Canada and in British Columbia. We allowed him to rubber stamp approval on Terasen, despite the fact that thousands upon thousands of British Columbians had said no to that sellout. This is one of 11,000 takeovers that have happened under the Liberal watch. Ninety-seven per cent of foreign direct investment coming into Canada now takes over and guts Canadian companies with the corresponding loss of jobs and loss of benefits to the Canadian economy.
It is no surprise that 15 years later we are seeing that over 60% of Canadian families are earning significantly less in real terms than they were 15 years ago. Could there be a clearer indication of the massive Liberal failure on the trade policy and with the economy than the fact that most Canadian families are now earning less than they were 15 years ago?
Most jobs created in this economy, as we know, are now temporary or part time in nature. Statistics Canada told us in January that most jobs come without pensions now.
What we have seen over the last 15 years of Liberal failure and Liberal sellouts is that for most Canadians the quality of life is continuing to fall. For the lowest income, 20% of Canadians, their incomes have collapsed by 10%. Working class and middle class Canadians have lost the equivalent of three weeks salary a year on the Liberal watch.
Liberals can stand up in the House and say that everything is fine but, except for corporate lawyers and CEOs, the reality is that Canadians are having a tougher time of it than they were 15 years ago. It is because of the complete failure of the Liberal government on not producing a job strategy and on its complete failure on trade policy.
We have seen the Liberals' complete failure on softwood lumber and, with Terasan Inc. and 11,000 other sell outs, a fire sale of Canadian resources and Canadian companies. Now we are seeing in Hong Kong that the government is getting ready to sell out a significant proportion, if not a majority, of our supply management sector.
We also, and this will be the subject of another debate, see the government preparing to sign a general agreement on trades and services to sell out our public services as well. There does not seem to be any limit to the Liberal government's capacity to sell out the country and to not think of the consequences that it will have on Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
I am proud to support the motion, not only for Canadian farmers and Canadian rural communities from coast to coast and not only for Canadian consumers, but for those elsewhere in the world, particularly in developing nations, who are looking for supply management to change and improve their quality of life. It is not just for Canadians. It is for people around the world that we have to stand up for our supply management sector.
Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC
Mr. Speaker, I commend my hon. colleague for his remarks and I agree with the important points he made.
I come from Berthier—Maskinongé, a rural area. In that rural area, agriculture is very important of course. Our rural areas have been affected by this problem. The furniture industry is currently ailing. And there have been plant closures in the textile industry.
Negotiating for supply management entails a bargaining relationship. One enters negotiations to gain something and prepared to give something in return. We consider that supply management in this case is not negotiable because, without it, our regions are likely to shut down.
The government of the day will have to be very sensitive to this situation where regions are having their lifeblood drained away. Indeed, rural areas are shutting down. Agriculture is one of the ways to ensure the vitality of our rural areas. So, the concern raised by the hon. member very much strikes a chord with the Bloc Québécois.
That is why hon. members have to support the motion we have put forward. It is important for our region, for Quebec and for many other regions across Canada.
Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for his words and his question. I had only 20 minutes, but I could have continued and spoken about the lack of a government policy on the textile industry too, as the member very well knows.
This is not simply about the softwood lumber industry, or the textile industry, or Canada's rural and agricultural sectors. This government is prepared to sell off our heritage and the very foundations of our Canadian economy. That worries me very much.
The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food just said that he is not prepared to sign an agreement at the WTO that will result in supply management being reduced by half, by three quarters, by 80%. But we do not know what limit he will set because he did not tell us today. We questioned him, but he did not tell us what his limit is.
We know that he is prepared to sell off supply management, sell off the communities that depend on it, and sell off the farmers who rely on it. He is ready to sell off jobs. He is ready to do all that. But we do not know whether it will be one third—if we are lucky—or 50%, three quarters or more. That is what is so disturbing. This government and its ministers are prepared to sell out rural Canada, its communities and its jobs. Ultimately, as the member well knows, Canadian consumers will also suffer. To the extent that prices are better in Canada, it is consumers who will pay.
Our concern is obviously all the greater today since we just heard the minister refuse to say categorically that he would not sign an agreement that negatively affects supply management. I know that the hon. member will continue to work very hard at this in order to protect the communities that would be affected. We will do the same, and we hope to make this government, which is prepared to sell everything at a low price, listen to reason.
November 22nd, 2005 / 12:10 p.m.
Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON
Mr. Speaker, after listening to the hon. member's remarks, I prefer to make a comment. I am among those who espouse the theory that not only does Canada's supply management system allow us to provide extremely high quality products to our consumers at reasonable prices but it does so almost entirely without subsidies. The only subsidies that enter the picture might be for some inputs, if the feed eaten by animals under the supply management program was subsidized. This is not a subsidy. So we can say that there are virtually none.
Some consumer groups have sometimes propagated a myth. It is heard less often today than it was a few years ago. Nevertheless, it was said that supply management increased product prices. This is not true.
I want to ask my colleague if he recognizes, as I do, that, under supply management, we often end up with almost identical prices. I have checked this myself. For example, I compared the price of a litre of milk, or rather a pint of American milk in Florida to the price of milk sold here in an Ottawa suburb. If there is any price difference, I cannot see it. The same goes for a dozen eggs. We have even seen on several occasions that the same products cost more in various American cities than they do here in Canada.
So it is important for us to state not only that there are no subsidies involved and that the system is self-sufficient, but also that it ensures good products at good prices for Canadian consumers. It is important that consumers support us in this. I invite my colleague to respond.